After a finish to the 2020 NBA season, there are so many questions that need answers and so many obstacles to overcome before we get the 2021 season underway. In the 2019-2020 season, the salary cap was set at $109.14 million; now, things will look a lot different. There is word out that of the 30 NBA teams heading into next year, only 6 of them will be expected to have salary cap space, which given the global pandemic we are in, does not seem that surprising. The league lost over $1.5 billion in revenue after the shutdown and bubble transition, and this will clearly put more teams in trouble than not. The cap is expected to drop anywhere from $3 to $12 million.
This could be a problem for teams who need to make some big signings during free agency. For example, the Toronto Raptors have to pay Gasol and Ibaka around $72 million this year alone; this could put them in cap jail for years to come. Teams like the Pelicans might have to wait another year to sign players like Lonzo Ball to an extension; that may have already been the case seeing that the #1 priority in New Orleans right now is extending Brandon Ingram.
The Lakers are still stuck in a pretty sticky situation as well. They are still paying Luol Dang from 2016 and will have to pay Anthony Davis a huge extension this winter. Don’t expect them to make any other expensive signings as they will be doing most of their business in the trade market rather than the free agency market.
In terms of dead cap space, the Memphis Grizzlies will be going into the 2021 season with the most of that. They are currently sitting in around $13 million in dead cap thanks to some expensive contracts they have taken on in the past couple of years. This situation will not get any better for them, however, since the extension of star rookie, Ja Morant will be on the horizon in the next 1-2 years. The Lakers, Heat, Knicks, and Spurs are in similar situations, but not to the extent that Memphis is in. It will be very interesting to see how these teams handle the heavy contracts they are carrying.
This all carries over to the owners as well. It’s well known that the owners want a start right around Christmas day, while almost all of the players want to start around MLK day in January. If the players do get their way, it’s going to cost the owners even more money, and the revenue will also take another huge drop. There are plenty of problems for the league to figure out between now and the start of the season.
If the league does find a way to figure all of this out, it would be a great moment for all of us as fans, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Expect to see something other than the regular 82 game season this time around. The salary cap is a major concern for the large majority of teams in the league, but that only is the start of the problem; hopefully, in the next few weeks, we will get some clarity on what type of season we are going to witness. Keep in mind, this may have a severe impact on the league for years and years to come, in terms of free agency and league revenue in general.
Stay tuned for updates on the upcoming NBA season!