Cap & Trade: 2010-11 Cap May Dip to $50M

Buried at the bottom of Ric Bucher’s “3 Seconds” feature on page 84 of the November 16th issue of ESPN the Magazine, was this little blurb:

It’s early, but league officials estimate the NBA salary cap will dip from $53 million to $50 million.

Yet another piece of bad news to the beleaguered franchises around the league, most notably, your Indiana Pacers. John Hollinger first noted this back in January, and Marc Stein echoed those sentiments in July.

The passage most germane to the Pacers is this:

If BRI [basketball related income], as it is referred to in the NBA, decreases by 5 percent, teams would be looking at a $50.4 million salary cap and a luxury-tax line of $61.2 million in 2010-11.

As I had noted in my column about dumping Droopy McTinsleberry, the Pacers were already perilously close to the luxury tax threshold when it was projected at $65 million. Now, despite all of their wrangling the last two years, they are back in cap hell.

According to, the Pacers already have $60.2 million tied up in contracts for only 12 players next year. Two of those contracts are partially unguaranteed (McRoberts & Price), but they’re minimum level contracts and would have to be replaced by other mininimum level contracts. Adding to the Pacers’ misery is the fact that they have to pay Jamaal Tinsley another $5.5 million on top of that number.

So, all told, they’re basically committed to roughly $65.7 million in payroll next year at this point. Add in another roughly $2.5 to $3.0 million for their draft picks next year, and the Pacers are sitting between $7 and $8 million over the tax threshold. Once you factor in the distribution that they won’t receive for being under the tax (an average of about $3.0 million), this news could cost the floundering Pacers $10 to $11 million next season.


In order to avoid this, the Pacers would have to find someone willing to take one of their large contracts in exchange for an expiring. Jeff Foster was a likely candidate, but his $6.7 million may not be big enough. Unless you want to throw Danny on the table, that leaves the Pacers going around, hat in hand, trying to find a taker for T.J. Ford ($8.5 million), Mike Dunleavy ($10.6 million) or Troy Murphy ($12.0 million).  Unfortunately, they’ll be jostling with several other teams trying to do the same thing — possibly with even better players being offered for peanuts — and knocking on the doors of teams who won’t be anxious to take on salary — even for good players. Plus, let’s admit that the players they’ll be offering, at those prices, aren’t exactly enticing even in a healthy fiscal environment.

It seems the best of the very, very long shots might be working out a deal with Cleveland, trading Murphy for Big Z. This has been floated around the internet, but there’s really no reason to believe there’s any substance to it.  However, Murphy would make a nice complement to both Shaq and LeBron, and if Cleveland continues to unimpress, it might be do-able. Then again, Cleveland has already been mentioned as interested in trading for Stephen Jackson with the Warriors, but some reporters have noted the Cavs reluctance to give up Big Z due to both him being a big expiring deal ($11.5 million) they could use for something else later and “Shaq insurance,” meaning a back-up plan for the team in case Shaq gets hurt/doesn’t work out.

Ultimately, the Pacers can see the shore of cap relief ahead in the Summer of 2011, but the seas are getting rougher — and it is getting harder for the Pacers not to drown, financially, in sight of it.

pacers salary cap

The 2010-11 Salary Cap: Here Thar Be Monsters.

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