The NBA's salary cap and luxury tax threshold was set Wednesday afternoon, with both numbers coming in higher than anticipated. The salary cap for the 2010-2011 season will be $58.044 million. The luxury tax line will be $70.307 million. That second number, in particular, should have a significant impact on how the Grizzlies conduct themselves the rest of this offseason. The team had declined to extend a qualifying offer to free agent Ronnie Brewer ostensibly because of fears of Brewer's $3.7 million QO combining with Rudy Gay's new contract (estimated $13.3 million in year one) to push the team perilously close to a luxury-tax threshold that was thought to potentially be as low as $66 million.
But, with the tax line coming in more the $4 million more than that, the Grizzlies now have a decent amount of wiggle room to add more pieces to the roster, including, possibly, Brewer, whom CNNSI's Chris Mannix reported Wednesday night the team was still interested in signing. Where exactly do the Grizzlies stand in relation to the cap and tax lines heading into the rest of the offseason? As a rule, teams do not disclose salary information, so this is an approximation based on the best available information, but the currently the team's player payroll for the 2010-2011 season looks something like this:
Zach Randolph $17,333,333
Rudy Gay $13,300,000
Marko Jaric $7,000,000**
Mike Conley $4,913,007
Hasheem Thabeet $4,793,280
OJ Mayo $4,456,200
Marc Gasol $3,480,000
Xavier Henry $1,851,000
Hamed Haddadi $1,600,000
Darrell Arthur $1,123,680
DeMarre Carroll $1,085,400
Sam Young $886,000
Greivis Vasquez $949,000
** HoopsHype.com lists Marko Jaric at $7.6 million, but I've been told by someone with knowledge of his buyout that the cap hit is closer to $6.5. I split the difference in order to form a conservative estimate.
So now it looks like the Grizzlies could have more than $7 million under the luxury tax. Though the team didn't extend a qualifying offer to Ronnie Brewer and thus have relinquished their matching rights, they have retained their Bird Rights to him and can go over the cap to sign him. The team can also use exemptions to target outside free agents. The Grizzlies are certainly not in position to pursue major free agents, but are well-positioned to fill out the roster by adding one or two needed veterans to the bench without exceeding the luxury tax. The question: Is Michael Heisley willing to do that? We all know that his financial concerns are not fixated solely on not paying the tax, but after sinking an $80 million contract into Rudy Gay, it would be foolish not to take comparatively smaller steps that still give this team a much better shot at making the playoffs next season.
I'll follow up in a future post about free agents, beyond Brewer, the Grizzlies might want to look at.
Free Agency: Whatever your feelings about how the Grizzlies' have handled their own free agents so far, there's little doubt that activity in the rest of the association has been good for the Grizzlies so far. The Phoenix Suns have lost Amare Stoudemire and replaced him with former Griz journeyman Hakim Warrick, a downgrade that puts their chances of a playoff repeat in doubt. The Houston Rockets failed in their attempt to acquire Chris Bosh via a sign-and-trade deal. The Rockets could still be terrific next season, but a Bosh acquisition might have sealed it and now they'll be depending on good health from Yao Ming, which is an iffy proposition. And the Utah Jazz appear to be on the verge of losing Carlos Boozer with no return. And while Stoudemire and Boozer have headed East, no significant free agent has gone from East to West yet.
Rudy on the Record: Dime magazine highlights 10 quotes from a recent Rudy Gay interview. There's some interesting, candid, but not unexpected stuff here about the player and coaching turnover he's experienced with the Grizzlies. And I've spent enough time in the locker room to vouch for his profession that he's not the gaudy type. (Gay's more of a t-shirt and jeans guy post game.) But it's a little disappointing to hear his brashness and goal-stating put strictly in offensive terms, when defense is the area where he's most capable of improving his game and helping the team. We'll see if Rudy offers a different emphasis when the Grizzlies announce his signing publicly Thursday morning.
Must read: This is not Grizzlies-related, but all NBA fans should check out this fierce column from Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski on the Lebron James farce airing on ESPN tonight.