The Player: Marcin Gortat
The Team: Washington Wizards
The Contract: 5 years, $60 million
How does it affect the cap situation?
Via Basketball Insiders, Washington will have roughly $58 million in guaranteed money already committed to 7 players next season, along with cap holds from Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin’s qualifying offer (not to mention the rogue’s gallery of random cap holds still on the books from players like Mo Almond and Maurice Evans.) With some intelligent jockeying and ordering of deals, Washington should have the full $5.3 million mid-level exception available to it.
The Wizards likely agreed to a fully guaranteed five years in exchange for Gortat accepting a lower annual salary. These early year savings could prove helpful when Bradley Beal comes up for an extension prior to next season or enters restricted free agency following the 2015/16 season.
How does it affect the luxury tax?
Assuming Washington has Ariza budgeted to make around $10 million in 2014/15, the Wizards would have around $9 million to fill out the remaining 5 roster spots without hitting the luxury tax threshold. This includes the ability to use some or all of the non-taxpayer MLE, but doing so would hard cap the team at $81 million and could lead to the roster carrying fewer than the allowable 15 players as even minimum salary players could nudge up against the tax apron/hard cap.
Ariza, plain and simple. Even if Ariza signed elsewhere, the Wizards would not be under the salary cap by more than the mid-level exception anyway once roster charges were accounted for. But given how far from the luxury tax threshold and apron they would be if Ariza came off the books, his disposition will be key to determining Washington’s next move. If Ariza signs, especially for a big number, Washington might seek to piece together one moderate salary player on a partial MLE and some minimum contracts or simply re-sign Booker or Drew Gooden to modest deals. If Ariza bolts, the Wizards can aggressively pursue full MLE-level players.
One thing that is almost certain is that the Wizards will rescind the qualifying offer to Seraphin before the ink is dry on Gortat’s new contract, as $6.9 million is an expensive insurance policy they turned out not to need.