LeBron James is so last week. Today, the small forward on the tip of D.C. tongues is Kevin Durant.
On the heels of Stephen A. Smith’s comments regarding a Durant homecoming, it’s only fitting that we take a look at where the Wizards’ salary cap commitments will be in 2016, the year Durant is slated to become an unrestricted free agent.
Part of the reason that Paul Pierce is a better fit than Trevor Ariza is his two-year contract will come off the books that summer, freeing up more space for Bradley Beal’s new contract and a possible max contract for Durant.
The Wizards will have just two players under contract in 2016— freshly-signed Marcin Gortat and John Wall. Gortat’s contract will reportedly increase by the maximum amount each year, which would place his cap hold at $12 million, while Wall will earn $15.7 million.
Now here’s the tricky part: That summer there will be a new media deal, which could double the current media revenue, causing an unprecedented increase in the salary cap, making it difficult to project an exact number.
But we can offer a rough estimate based on the cap increase this season, which was a record $5 million, or 7 percent. Using that same percentage increase year-on-year, the cap could be $73 million going into the 2017 season.
Let’s be a bit more conservative and use $70 million as the projected salary cap. If the Wizards followed the 2010 Miami Heat model and renounced all of its free agents—leaving just Wall, Bradley Beal and Gortat on the roster, the Wizards would have just $30 million in committed salary, not counting Beal’s extension and factoring in $4.5 million in veteran minimum cap holds to round out the roster. This would also mean cutting ties with Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. and it also doesn’t factor in future draft picks.
The Wizards could have anywhere from $30 to $40 million in cap room, depending on where the salary cap winds up. Some of that money will probably go to Beal, assuming the team gives Beal a new contract, which could be around the $10 to $12 million a year range depending on how the Wizards navigate his free agency.
Even with Beal on the books at the higher end of that scale, the Wizards could have almost $30 million in cap space, using the $70 million cap figure. Even if we take that projection down to $65 million, the Wizards should still have enough cap space to offer Kevin Durant a maximum contract.
Given ascension of Beal and Wall, coupled with Russell Westbrook’s recent injury history and the Thunder’s stringent approach to spending, the Wizards could be an appealing option for Durant in two years.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that an NBA lockout could be coming in 2016, it wouldn’t happen until after the 2016-17 season.