Nets must spend around $15 million in 2011-12 free agency

According to Tom Ziller of SB Nation, the NBA salary cap will be pro-rated at $58 million for the 2011-12 season, allowing a “grandfathering in” of the new system. Players won’t actually make the entirety of their salaries — they’ll make about 20% less, since the season will be roughly 20% shorter — but for cap purposes, they’ll be listed under their full contracts.

Assuming that the Nets amnesty Travis Outlaw’s remaining $28 million and guarantee Sundiata Gaines’ one-year contract, The Nets currently have $32.8 million committed to seven players. That jumps to $34.3 million when you include the cap holds for MarShon Brooks and Jordan Williams. For MarShon Brooks, that’d be $1.14 million.{{1}}[[1]]That’s actually 120% of the cap hold for rookies, the maximum they’re allowed to sign for, and almost always the actual amount.[[1]]

Spending

That puts the Nets at around $34.3 million in salary, with at least three players to add to their roster. However, they can’t just store that $23 million in cap space: under the new tentative CBA, teams are required to spend at least 85% of the salary cap, as a “salary floor.” Barring trades that add to the cap, that means the Nets have to spend around $15 million this year in free agency.

Considering that they need starters at the two forward positions and could stand an upgrade at shooting guard, they should be able to find a place to spend that money. But hopefully not too much:

The summer of 2012

The Nets aren’t looking to spend money in this offseason; with a meager NBA free agency class, they’d be better off looking for short-term contracts in 2011 that leave space open in 2012. According to Ziller, that cap figure could stay at $58 million for the 2012-13 season.

As the Nets stand now, they’ve got just two players under guaranteed contract — Johan Petro and Anthony Morrow. Jordan Farmar and Deron Williams have player options, while Damion James has a team option.

Let’s go with the best-case realistic scenario. Let’s assume that Deron Williams exercises his player option for 2011-12 at $17.8 million. Let’s also assume Jordan Farmar and Damion James get retained as well. That makes for somewhere in the range of $32-$33 million, guaranteed to seven players, plus Brook Lopez’s cap hold.

That leaves more than enough room for the Nets to sign some lower-tier free agents, and one maximum contract — equivalent to 30% of the salary cap, or $17.4 million. (Any ideas?)

But for now, all of that is moot unless Billy King can figure out a smart way to spend $15 million this offseason, in a way that doesn’t leave him cap-committed long-term.

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