‘Curtain Clause’ could force Spurs’ hand on Jefferson

Monday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst wrote a column about why the Heat will likely have to amnesty Mike Miller. He writes that the Heat had know they would have to for months, but wanted to find a way to keep him. Miller also saw the writing on the wall and put his house in Miami on the market.

Here’s Windhorst’s explanation on why the Heat will likely have to part ways with Miller:

“Then in the 11th hour of talks the owners agreed to give teams a $4 million “apron” to go into the tax and still use the full mid-level. This gave the Heat a chance to keep Miller, which by all accounts is what they would prefer. But once the literature got to the teams it became known that this “apron” clause has some pretty significant strings attached. Those strings probably will force the Heat’s hand.

The most important item is that any team that uses its $5 million mid-level exception and goes over the luxury tax line cannot exceed the $4 million apron for the entire season. In layman’s terms, it means that if the Heat use the mid-level exception they cannot spend over $74.3 million this season. In effect, this is a hard salary cap even though neither the union or the league sold it that way. Simply, the Heat need to add some free agents and they can’t keep themselves under that threshold with Miller’s $5.4 million on their books.”

The San Antonio Spurs are likely going to find themselves in a similar situation with Richard Jefferson. Right now the Spurs payroll sits at roughly at $73 million not counting Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph’s pending rookie deals (add about $2.5 or $3 million to the number).

If the Spurs roster stays as it is, the Spurs can only use the $3 million mini mid-level exception for team’s that go over the $4 million cap window Windhorst outlined above. If the Spurs want to use the full mid-level exception (and there’s nothing out there that says they do), they would have to get under the luxury tax threshold of $70 million. Parting ways with Jefferson would take the Spurs down to around $67 million, meaning they could use the full mid-level exception.

Another option would be to amnesty Matt Bonner and buy out Antonio McDyess’ partially guaranteed contract. That would save them roughly $8 million and get them at a point where they can use the full mid-level, but letting Bonner go would leave the team with three big men on the roster and one of them is 6’7″ and loves cheeseburgers. 

I wrote last month that the Spurs should wait till next summer to use their amnesty option on Jefferson. I still think that, but this $4 million curtain certainly complicates things and means the Spurs are probably only going to sign a big man that provides roster depth and not a clear difference maker.

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