The New York Knicks proved they are looking to make noise during the 2019 NBA Free Agency period due to their recent blockbuster deal including Kristaps Porzingis. New York added valuable pieces in Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, and two future first-round picks from Dallas, and also dumped contracts to open more cap space this upcoming summer.
Numerous teams around the NBA also bought out or made cap-space-influenced trades prior to Feb. 5’s 2019 Trade Deadline to add more spending dollars in the summer of 2019. With players making over $100 million deals for max contracts, free-agents like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Kawhi Leonard, and others, will try to earn as much as possible. With the cap jumping to $109 for the 2019-20 season, expect a crazy offseason where players will be earning tons of money. It will be like 2016’s offseason where unworthy players were making millions because of the cap jump.
Big market teams, as well as small market teams, have lots of money to play with and are capable of bringing in franchise-changing players. Many teams will throw max-contracts at players to build a team to take the Golden State Warriors off the NBA mountain of championships.
The five NBA teams who have the most cap space heading into the summer of 2019.
6. Indiana Pacers – $48.8 million
The Indiana Pacers took a huge blow in late January when All-Star guard Victor Oladipo suffered a season-ending ruptured quad tendon in his right leg. Indiana, who sits 3rd in the Eastern Conference with a 38-19 record, was having their best season in recent years as they are finally building a strong foundation for success.
Winning means luring free-agents and so does offering max contracts—even if that means joining a low-market team in Indiana. With $48.8 million to spend this summer, as well as pacing to make the playoffs, the Pacers will have no problem landing a big-name free-agent to join their young core of Oladipo, Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, and Tyreke Evans.
5. Atlanta Hawks – $53.4 million
Beside Dallas’ duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen, and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the Atlanta Hawks have one of the best young duos in the league in Trae Young and John Collins. Atlanta is at the bottom end of the Eastern Conference standings with an 18-38 record good for the 12th spot.
The team will likely have a top-five pick in the draft and with $53.4 million, they can offer a max contract and still have space for other free agents. What Atlanta lacks is a go-to scorer at the shooting guard or small forward position to put around Young and Collins. If Philadelphia 76ers free-agents Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler decide to chase a contract, expect Atlanta to be in the running.
4. Brooklyn Nets – $54.6 million
The Brooklyn Nets are way ahead of the Knicks development wise and are in the same market. With D’Angelo Russell being named an All-Star, he is officially the team’s cornerstone piece. Other stars on the club include shot-blocking center Jarrett Allen, Sixth Man of the Year nominee Spencer Dinwiddie, and guard Caris Levert.
Brooklyn may have less cap space than New York, but their 29-29 record (6th in East) proves they’re a team on the rise and capable of making the playoffs. A free-agent who is looking to get paid and join a winning situation may end up in Brooklyn.
3. Sacramento Kings – $58.7 million
The Sacramento Kings are in a similar position to both Atlanta and Brooklyn—they have a strong young core, need a top tier player in free agency and are on the cusp of becoming a winning franchise.
Sacramento’s big three of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Willie Cauley-Stein can be one for the ages once they develop even further. The team traded for Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes prior to the 2019 Trade Deadline to add depth as well as a veteran presence. Sacramento is currently fighting for a playoff spot as the 8th seed with a 30-26 record.
2. Los Angeles Clippers – $61.7 million
The Los Angeles Clippers were the busiest team at the NBA Trade Deadline making a number of trades to build for the future. Although they traded their star forward to Philadelphia in Tobias Harris, the Clippers added Wilson Chandler, Landry Shamet, JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple, Michael Beasley, Ivica Zubac, two first round picks, and two second round picks in return.
Los Angeles did also lose Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, Avery Bradley, and Mike Muscala in deals, but are valuing their future rather than the present. A big plus for Los Angeles is that they held on to Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander through the deadline. The team is still contending for the playoffs with a 31-27 record, 9th in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles has $61.7 million to spend in the offseason and picks. Things are looking up for the Clippers.
1. New York Knicks – $74.5 million
Last but not least, the New York Knicks. New York, who has the league’s worst record at 10-46, is pacing to have the best odds for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft in what may be Duke phenom Zion Williamson.
After years of mediocrity, New York has the most cap space in the NBA and is rumored to offer Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant max contracts come free agency. If they land one of them, they still will have lots of money to spend on lower tier stars.
A winning culture may be coming back to New York City very, very soon.
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