‘Cap Space’ Isn’t Always What It Seems


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In some places they are the magic words, the path to a new future and,  hopefully, championship glory somewhere down the line.

Go ahead, say it out loud. “Cap space.”

It’s all people talk about during free agency. Who has it? Who’s trying to get it or at least create a little more? And who is going to have it next summer?

The better question is when you do get it, can you make anything out of it? Because we’ve all learned over the years that cap space isn’t always what it seems, especially when it is misappropriated or even worse yet, unused altogether.

There was an estimated $300-plus million in cap space available across the league on July 1, the day free agency began. With Chris Paul ($107 million with Los Angeles Clippers), Dwight Howard ($88 million from the Houston Rockets) and Josh Smith ($54 million from the Detroit Pistons) chewing up the bulk of that cash, that left some teams flush with cap space scrambling to find an impact player to spend that money on.

The Dallas Mavericks, who struck out on their main targets for the second straight summer, and Atlanta Hawks stand out as the two teams who had their free-agent dreams dashed immediately. Howard choosing the Rockets and Paul deciding to stay with the Clippers days before free agency began, basically the moment Doc Rivers left the Boston Celtics for his new gig as coach and senior vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers, ended any parties before they began.

“That was the game-changer for free agency,” a Western Conference executive said. “The moment Doc made that move, anyone that was trying to find a way to lure CP3 away from the Clippers had to wipe their white board clean and start from scratch. Dwight was a wild card until he made his choice. And those were clearly the top two guys on the market. Once they’re off the board it becomes a free-for-all to get value out of that cap space. Given the circumstances, Houston pulled off a hell of a move by getting Dwight.”

The Hawks are a prime example of a team that spent the better part of the past year preparing to make a splash in free agency this summer only to get here and barely make a ripple.

They came into the process with champagne wishes and caviar dreams, Howard and Paul as a package deal, sporting in excess of $34 million in cap space and four Draft picks. They were fined by the NBA for tampering after mention those two impending free agents by name in a letter to season-ticket holders in June.

Instead of fine dining, the Hawks are trying to salvage their summer by grabbing a quality free agent in Paul Millsap but nothing else that sets off fireworks around the league. In fact, for all the resources the Hawks sported heading into the process, they are not a better team right now than they were when last season ended for them with a first-round playoff loss to the Pacers.

Champagne and caviar plans turned into a quick stop through the drive-thru. Al Horford is still stuck playing center, when his preference and natural position remain power forward. And two of the top players on the market, Smith and restricted free agent point guard Jeff Teague, who has signed a four-year, $32 million offer sheet with the Milwaukee Bucks yesterday, never got so much as a formal offer from the incumbent Hawks.

Two of Hawks general manager Danny Ferry‘s biggest potential assets could walk for essentially nothing, not even a second-round Draft pick. (The Hawks do have two days to match the offer sheet to Teague.) They’ll still have Horford as the face of the franchise and a player to build around, but they won’t be anything close to what they could have been, if all of these resources had been used differently.

Building for a brighter future is always the mantra of teams flush with cap space. And the Hawks, Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and other teams that missed out this summer or are scheduled to have cap space a year from now will point to the loaded free agent summer of 2014, when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade could all potentially be available. Those teams will also keep an eye on a stout 2014 Draft class that could include Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon, Andrew Harrison, Marcus Smart and several other elite-level prospects.

The disappointment of the summer of 2013 has a silver lining in the daydreaming being done about the summer of 2014, as my main man Fran Blinebury of NBA.com pointed out recently.

But all of those teams need to beware. Cap space isn’t always what it seems … especially when you can’t find a superstar willing to take some of yours.


  1. Drago says:

    I think Dallas LA and Boston should go for the lottery this year.Heat does not have the health for another title but they are the n1 Seed in my book still.San Antonio OKC Pacers Nets and say Memphis are there, around,hoping xaxa.

    • eyo says:

      Heat Does have the health for another title, but spoelstra must rest his big three a little more during the regular season. Lebron and bosh can play big minutes, but wade`s knees are a bit concern.

  2. MIck says:

    A shattered Denver fan, my bet is that LBJ will head back to the Cavs and join Kyrie and Bynum. Being from Australia, it would be rude not to support Kyrie and the Cavs in the 14 season… Unless Denver actually do something actually positive in the offseason…

  3. Laker4Life says:

    As much as I hate it, this brings about the end of an era and the beginning of the next. The last 10 years have been remembered yet again with our rivalry with the Celtics, and now that both teams are rapidly shifting in perspective, I doubt we will confront one another on the same scale as before. I’m interested in what the pacers, heat, and nets will be doing in the next few years along with possibly the clippers. Each team brings about a unique style of play and can withstand the few more years it takes for them to win a title.

  4. Filipino Idiot says:

    The Heat should get rid of Bosh, they don’t need him, they showed that in Game 7, Bosh scoreless and they still beat the Spurs.

    • razorwolf says:

      and your typical heat heaters

    • Drago says:

      You know nothing about basketball if you think Bosh is not a key component to that Heat team.Only an idiot would be blind to the sacrifice in personal stats that guy has made to make it work.He is still a 20,10 player on any other team except one that has Lebron and Wade in it.

  5. snub says:

    do people really expect the heat to break up next season??? I know the nba is fickle but here are some truths

    1.the only player they should let go is wade but wade will wanna finish his career there
    2.they are a close knit team they like eachoter *no homo* lol
    3.they all about the same age
    4.they all get paid the same

    i say they take a 4 year deal with option on the 4th year

    • ShawnDee says:

      really let Wade go, buddy Bosh would get traded before Wade not a EAT fan, bosh would be a good fit for Chicago or LA heck even the Mavs could use him.

  6. kenny says:

    If it was me I would look to keep the salary low but still try to keep some talent that away maybe you can lure james from the heat think about Durant, James, and westbrook playing on the Thunder and I know it’s not realistick it’s just a example

  7. Chez says:

    Dirk Nowitzki is not gonna win a title in dallas anymore next year he has to sign with a team like okc which needs post scorer

    • Nbaguy says:

      Dirk does need to leave nobody likes Cuban and Dallas. If he want those rings go with Kobe that would be fun to watch or Chicago with d rose

      • Sid 6.7 says:

        Kobe is done why would Dirk go play with a guy that just tore his achilles tendon, Kobe aint getting no more rings there is no great team to carry him again, Mark Cuban is a great owner, haters gonna gate

      • hellfest416 says:

        Dirk doesn’t need to leave Dallas to have more rings. HE already won a championship and its all worth it. He doesn’t need to be like the “chosen one” who can’t win a title alone and needs to “bring his talent” somewhere along with a couple of huge names. Dirk doesn’t need to be like a “superman” who cries to the media and demand a trade anything he feels his team can’t give him a ring.

    • Sid 6.7 says:

      Haters gonna hate, why would Dirk go join the enemy, Dirk and Cuban aren’t done, everyone doubted when the Mavs picked up Tyson how did that work out

  8. Knickfanforlife says:

    melo is never leaving NYK. its his team and he fits in with the guys there although andrea barnani will tamper with his leadership role.

  9. lee says:

    the have to use 90 percent of the cap room but honestly id sign a bunch of 1 year players or player options and tank the season get a high draft pick if you can get 1 really good player on your team a high draft pick and cap room you have options because then free agents will be wanting to come to you and you can draft or trade your choice in most cases id trade have a good 3 stars and build around them with defenders and 3 point shooters which is why miami and the spurs are doing so good its what the rockets need to do but it doesnt look like its happening and the thunder still need to get a 3 point shooter to stretch the floor and a better center to block shots the might be number 1 seed again next year but the still want do that much in the playoffs

  10. John Wayne says:


  11. jaoromero says:

    i find it stupid when teams that made cap space for big time free agents feel the need to use that cap space when they fail to land the big time free agents they are targetting. why not just preserve that cap space and stay financially flexible and just sign short deals to complete the team and then when the next big time free agent period comes, swing at it again?

    look at the nets, the rush to spend all that money just because the team owner doesn’t give a hoot about how much money they spend is just reckless. yes, spend to win. but don’t spend simply for the sake of spending.

    • dfgdfg says:

      I think the Nets owner does give a hoot about spending a lot of money… but he has to do this in order to make his franchise a contender in a short period of time. Spending lots of money make the signing of players like Joe Johnson possible, which makes D. Will want to stay. I’m not a Nets fan but the Pierce and Garnett trade made the Nets scary for next season. Although they are old, they are still huge threats on the court. In the final minutes of a game, with Pierce, Garnett, D Will, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez (who was AMAZING in the playoffs by the way) on the court … let’s just say I wish those guys were playing for my team…

    • SHANE says:

      …thats not how cap space works….
      you think you are the only one to realize it is stupid to spend all the free cap soace?
      you dont think professional gms have thought of saving it for the next year instead of using all the cap space?
      its because they have no choice….

    • Slim says:

      Sounds good in theory, but ask the Dallas Mavericks how that worked out for them. How many years in a row do you think a team can tank before the fans start turning on the franchise?

  12. johnny aces says:

    if they make finals at least,they all would stay,but if they lose before,some changes are possiblle,and LBJ will stick with heat prolly,you never know,but thats HIS team,no offense to DW,he is GREAT player,but LBJ is a MONSTER…some intresting season is coming for sure…

  13. Nbaguy says:

    First off nobody will team up with Kobe in LA the only big name I see is Chris bosh that’s because he has had to deal with Lebrun and wade down his throat sometimes but even then with Kobe personality he by himself in LA. Miami will keep wade for sure and Lebrun will stay bosh as much as I don’t want him to leave will go IF we can’t get any young prospects or a few willing vets for the low. Our team will be completely different after this three peat. Carmelo can’t work with Kobe both are ball killers. I hope Pat Riley can work his secret stuff next year and keep this team intact. What a great year of basketball this will be probably the greatest in a long time especially when playoffs start bunch of new teams waiting to pounce on the heat. Lets Go Heat

    • PIpsqueak48 says:

      Lol typical heat bandwagoner. Last time I checked the Heat almost lost to the Pacers in a pivotal game 7, and with a healthy Danny Granger on the court the Heat will not be able to stop the offensive firepower delivered by George Granger Hibbert and West. The Heat barely made it out of the grasp of the Spurs with an agig Tim Duncan, a hurt Tony Parker, and a Manu Ginobili who barely made a dent in the stat sheets. The Heat aren’t getting any younger, and honestly without a legitimate center the Heat stand no chance against a stacked Pacers team, and who isn’t to say the Nets couldn’t get them either, last time I checked their lineup has 5 all stars with two superstars of KG and Paul PIerce. The Heat can’t handle 5 players who can come up clutch and won’t be able to run with a young Pacers team who can hurt you from everywhere. I don’t see a three peat is very unlikely…..

      • Nbaguy says:

        Yea heat fan since 1997 when I understood what basketball was so no bandwagon here. What I do hear is heat hater since 2010 lol. It’s ok though could have would have should have stuff doesn’t account for us winning the championship again. Sorry pacers and spurs better luck next year. With Pat Riley hiring people I’m sure we will have our center by all star break even sooner. Bring on those trash talking pacers and bully bulls. It’s funny how when we play everyone game they want to cry all of a sudden like the bulls and pacers

      • Sid 6.7 says:

        The Heat have proven that they can win without a legitimate 5, 3 straight Finals appearances so we can throw that out as an argument, a lot of teams have new and revamped rosters and will give the Heat a run for there money but the Heat are still the 2X defending champs and are still the team to beat so until they are knocked off the speculation is merely just speculation.

      • Ripcity says:

        Paul George and granger together isn’t going to work. If you havnt noticed they play a lot better when its only one of them on the court. Also the heat are a team based around stand up shooters spacing the floor while LeBron james shoves the ball down your throat and james shows no signs of slowing down or aging. If anything hes only going to be better next year. Now im not a fan of either team but if I had to put my money on one it would be the heat. Especially since they beat the pacers by 20 plus points in a game seven than just shows inexperience. Neither team got any better this offseason so its basically a straight up rematch and doesn’t matter if Duncan is aging the spurs are and have been one of the best teams in the league for the past decade and I bet if it was pacers vs spurs last year the media would have been saying how your young core isn’t ready to face the aging spurs!

      • manie says:

        you said the key words ” legit center” Indiana and spars are very good but if you look at their center numbers against the big teams I can safely say that if the heat acquire a 7 footer they problems with Indiana and spars will disappear over night.

  14. now do you guys really think LeBron will be looking to shoot off next year?

    If he can three peat, that will be interesting. I certainly hope so. But it does take a lot out of the guys, and we shall see.