New, Higher-Than-Expected Salary Cap Gives Pacers Some Wiggle Room — But Not Much

The official salary cap number for the 2010/11 season was just announced — and it is provides some good news for Pacers fans.

Most recently projected to be about $56 million, the final tally is actually $58.044 million.

Indiana is already well above the cap, but this means the luxury tax threshold (the number that is essentially a hard ceiling for a cash-strapped team like the Pacers) is also higher — which, at $70.307 million, gives the Pacers a few more options this Summer to add talent.

It doesn’t allow them to be real players in the free agent market, but they now have at least $2.35 million to mess around with, according to ShamSports. Now, this number does include the rookie deal for Paul George, but does not account for the Pacers’ looking-more-and-more-like-a-steal, second-round pick Lance Stephenson or looking-like-he-could-make-the-team-maybe, second-round pick Magnum Rolle. Second-round pick contracts can be negotiated individually so it’s tough to tell exactly how much more those two, if signed, will account for, but we can expect them to each make well under $1 million. (For reference, Spurs 2009 #37 pick Dejuan Blair reportedly made $850,000 last year, Hornets 2009 #43 pick Marcus Thornton reportedly made $457,588 and Rockets 2009 #44 pick Chase Budinger reportedly made $725,000.) This number also does include some non-fully-guaranteed money for Josh McRoberts and AJ Price, however — although cutting both players tomorrow would only save Indiana about $1.1 million combined, so I wouldn’t expect Larry Bird to axe two fan favorites for such measly savings (unless AJ’s injury isn’t progressing at all by opening night).

If you do all that math (seriously, don’t bother) basically, what this all means is that the Pacers are free to use as much of the mid-level exception (worth $5.765 million) as they choose to sign new players. This is no different than before, but if they can pull off a trade or two in the next few weeks that has them shedding a few million dollars and inching further and further away from the dreaded luxury tax, they might now actually be able to use most of that figure instead of less than half of it.

If they make, I dunno, the completely hypothetical and terrible deal of, say, Troy Murphy and Jeff Foster for Elton Brand, the Pacers would free up another $2.3 million in cap room. Add this to the, say, $1.4 million left over after signing the rookies and the Pacers would have $4 million to try to entice Ray Felton, JJ Redick, Anthony Morrow or Nate Robinson. Trade TJ Ford for someone else who makes a little less than he does and Indy could even get up to around $5 million to play with. Obviously, it would also free them up to make any trade where they took back a little salary rather than just sign someone outright as well.

In short — and I’m completely burying the lede here — this higher-than-expected cap number gives the Pacers a little bit more flexibility to improve this Summer in free agency, if they start getting creative, but it doesn’t really do all that much.

Still, it’s a good thing.

As my pappy always used to say, having an additional few million dollars of salary cap flexibility is better than not having it.

baltic avenue

Don’t get too excited — the Pacers are still highly hamstrung by the salary cap. But, still, putting some houses on Baltic is better than owning the Water Works.

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Tags: Cap & Trade

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