Most fans have been looking forward to NBA free agency and the draft as the majority of teams have been out of contention for months. NBA free agency begins July 1st, but players cannot sign contracts until JULY 6. According to Basketball Insiders, the salary cap for 2018-19 is projected to be $101 million, which would just be a $2 million jump from last season.
This summer is all about LeBron James, and even the other top free agents will be waiting to see what James decides as he tends to have a domino effect on free agency when he is on the market. Other notable free agents include Paul George, Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins, Clint Capela, DeAndre Jordan, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon. Kevin Durant will technically be a free agent, but has already stated he is committed to re-signing with Golden State.
We are just two years removed from the 2016 off-season when the cap took a massive jump thanks to the new television deal. Teams opened their checkbooks to overpay marginal players, and are now suffering the consequences. Fast forward to this summer where top players are in danger of being forced to take pennies on the dollar with very few teams having cap space. Real GM's capologist Keith Smith provides a great summary for what is likely to happen this summer.
"Approximately 80 percent of the league will be over the cap," Smith writes. "The cap spike that caused multiple teams to have copious amounts of cap space each summer from 2015 through 2017 has now flattened out. Large contracts the were handed out over the previous three years, combined with the cap flattening and the increase in rookie scale deals, will see the NBA back to its regular state."
According to Smith's projections, only seven teams will have cap space this summer: Hawks, Nets, Bulls, Pacers, Lakers, Sixers and Kings. The Lakers ($58.3 million), Pacers ($32.8 million) and Hawks ($29.3 million) are projected to have the most cap space. These teams can be players in free agency as well as be in the market to absorb contracts if there is something desirable attached to it (i.e. young players and draft picks).
The lack of teams with cap space will not impact major players like James or George as they can likely force a sign-and-trade to the team of their choosing if they desire. The NBA's middle class is likely to suffer the most, which could either lead to players signing contracts for less than they expected, or a lot of one-year deals where players look to go back on the market in 2019. Basketball Insiders reported the cap number is expected to jump up about $7 million to $108 million for the 2019-20 season.
Anytime King James is on the market, free agency receives increased attention, but there are a lot of additional subplots with the remaining free agents. Heavy has ranked the top five NBA free agents for 2018. Here are a few players who just missed the list: Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel, Tyreke Evans, Jusuf Nurkić and Marcus Smart. We did not include Durant given his public commitment to the Warriors.
Click next to see our list of the top 2018 NBA free agents.