The Player: Spencer Hawes
The Team: Los Angeles Clippers
The Contract: 4 years, $23 million (Player option on fourth year; 15 percent trade kicker)
How does it affect the cap situation?
It depends on how the Clippers end up acquiring Hawes. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, who broke the news of Hawes’ signing, noted that the Clippers were planning on using their full mid-level exception on him. However, both he and USA Today‘s Sam Amick suggested that L.A. would pursue a sign-and-trade with Cleveland in an attempt to preserve their MLE (perhaps for Paul Pierce?).
Regardless of whether the Clippers use their MLE on Hawes or sign-and-trade for him, they’ll be hard-capped at the apron ($4 million above the luxury-tax threshold) for the remainder of the season. Assuming the Clippers renounce the rights to Glen Davis (cap hold of $915,243), Danny Granger ($915,243), Ryan Hollins ($915,243) and Hedo Turkoglu ($915,243), they’ll have $72,719,577 in cap space committed for 2014-15 before the Hawes signing. (That calculation factors in Darren Collison leaving for the Sacramento Kings, resulting in three incomplete roster charges totaling $1,522,008).
With Hawes’ 2014-15 salary likely starting in the $5 million range, signing him with the MLE leaves just $3 million and change in cap space for L.A. to use before hitting the apron (based on the projected tax threshold of $77 million). Unless the Clippers can convince the Cavs to agree to a sign-and-trade for Hawes, thus reducing their salary commitments for 2014-15, acquiring him severely restricts L.A.’s ability to sign Pierce outright, as D.J. Foster explained for Bleacher Report.
How does it affect the luxury tax?
The exact financials of Hawes’ deal have yet to be released, but it’s safe to assume that the Clippers will be over the luxury-tax threshold after signing him if they’re forced to use the MLE. Renouncing the rights to Davis, Granger, Hollins and Turkoglu still wouldn’t keep the Clippers out of the tax.
Realistically, unless L.A. can either sign-and-trade for Hawes or find a taker for Jamal Crawford (who’s reportedly being dangled in sign-and-trade talks, per Wojnarowski), Jared Dudley, or Matt Barnes, they’re going to be paying the luxury tax next season. In that sense, being hard-capped may be a blessing in disguise for Steve Ballmer, who’s set to take over the franchise once the Donald Sterling fiasco blows over once and for all. (He won’t be racking up a Mikhail Prokhorov-esque luxury-tax bill during his first season as owner of the franchise.)
If L.A. can convince the Cavs to agree to a sign-and-trade for Hawes, Clippers coach Doc Rivers will likely push to sign Pierce using the MLE. Brooklyn can offer more money, but Pierce may prefer a reunion with Doc and a chance to compete for a title with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
If the Clippers are forced to use the MLE on Hawes, however, he’ll be their one major free-agent splash, barring any trades. They’ll be stuck filling out the roster with guys on veteran’s minimum contracts, mindful of their proximity to the apron at all times.