The Brooklyn Nets’ deal to acquire Dwight Howard in order to shed Timofey Mozgov’s contract has the team near the top of the NBA in dead salary cap space.
The Brooklyn Nets are currently second in the NBA in a dubious category — dead salary cap space.
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Dead money is what a team is left with when it opts to waive a player with a guaranteed contract.
Brooklyn’s dead money thus far has come from just two sources — the nearly $5.5 million cap hit for using the stretch provision in 2015 to buy out Deron Williams and almost $19 million from the buyout of Dwight Howard early last month.
The Nets acquired Howard, who had one year and $23.5 million remaining on the three-year deal he had signed with the Atlanta Hawks in 2016.
The trade with the Charlotte Hornets represented short-term pain for long-term gain — by getting Howard, the Nets were able to move the remaining two years and $32.7 million still owed to Timofey Mozgov.
Charlotte later flipped Mozgov to the Orlando Magic, who now are holding the bag Mozgov received during former Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak‘s ill-advised spending free in the summer of 2016, when the salary cap spiked from $70 million to $94.1 million.
That coincided with the NBA’s newest television contracts taking effect.
Dumping Mozgov’s $16.7 million for 2019-20 opened up a huge chunk of cap room for next summer, when the Nets — you might have heard — could potentially open up $50 million to $70 million to pursue a high-powered list of free agents.
Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard each have player options for 2019-20 they are expected to decline in order to hit the open market. Other potential free agents next summer include Kemba Walker, DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant (player option) and Goran Dragic (player option).
Eleven teams are currently carrying no dead money, but that will change as the season approaches and training camp roster decisions are made — any player on a guaranteed contract who is waived during the season counts against the dead money number.
Atlanta and Brooklyn are lapping the field in dead cash, with the Milwaukee Bucks third on the list at almost $7.4 million.
The Nets are currently almost $16.2 million over the $101.9 million cap for this season, but are nearly $3.7 million below the luxury tax threshold of $123.7 million.
That allows Brooklyn to still make moves — signing free agents to minimum deals, such as they did with Treveon Graham last month.
The Nets have 15 players — the active roster maximum — on guaranteed deals for this season after reportedly guaranteeing the $1.65 million contract of Spencer Dinwiddie, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
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Three players — Theo Pinson, Jordan McLaughlin and Mitch Creek — are on rookie minimum deals that are non-guaranteed, with McLaughlin and Creek having Exhibit 10 attachments that allow their contracts to be converted to two-way deals.
It had earlier been reported that undrafted rookie Tyler Davis, who played with the Nets entry at the Las Vegas Summer League last month, had also signed a training camp deal with an Exhibit 10 attachment, but the club has yet to formally announce a signing.
Allen Crabbe holds a $18.5 player option for next season, while the Nets have team options for the fourth year of Caris LeVert‘s rookie contract ($2.6 million) and the third year of Jarrett Allen‘s first deal ($2.4 million).
D’Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would become restricted free agents if they are not signed to rookie-scale extensions by the start of the regular season, while five players are set to become unrestricted free agents next summer — DeMarre Carroll, Kenneth Faried, Jared Dudley, Ed Davis and Dinwiddie.
Looking further ahead, the only Net with guaranteed money for 2020-21 is Kurucs at $1.8 million.