The LA Clippers are facing an intriguing cap situation with both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin hitting the market as unrestricted free agents on July 1. Teams don't always have the financial capability to replace a player with someone of equivalent value when they leave, and that's the case in this particular instance.
This could cause the Clippers to enter "maintain mode" once free agency officially begins on Saturday.
LA would be well over the cap if both Paul and Griffin returned. If that happens, you shouldn't expect that much of a different roster from last season unless a trade occurs.
If one of the two players leave, the Clippers would have little to no cap space available to find a similar replacement. If they both leave, the Clippers would have $34.4 million in cap room, which isn't nearly enough to replace two stars of Paul and Griffin's caliber.
And that doesn't even factor in unrestricted free agent JJ Redick, whose $14 million cap hold would count against the Clippers' available space should they opt to bring him back.
Here's a breakdown of how the Clippers' cap situation would look based off each scenario that could take place:
What can the Clippers offer Paul?
LA can offer a projected five-year, $201 million deal to the nine-time All-Star. Other teams can offer four years at $149 million. In both scenarios, Paul would have a 2017-18 starting salary of $34.65 million, which is the amount of cap space another team would have to carve out to sign him.
What can the Clippers offer Griffin?
They could offer the 28-year-old a five-year, $172 million deal. All other teams can offer four years at $128 million. In both scenarios, Griffin would have a 2017-18 starting salary of $29.7 million, which is the amount of cap space another team would have to carve out to sign him.
If both Paul and Griffin return
The Clippers can pay each player the max because both have Bird rights (a mechanism that allows a team to go over the cap to re-sign its own player) but that would take them $28 million over the cap, meaning the most the Clippers would likely be able to pay a free agent outside of their own would be the taxpayer mid-level exception, which has a starting salary of $5.2 million.
If Paul returns and Griffin leaves
If Paul returns and Griffin heads elsewhere, the Clippers won't be able to simply go out and replace him because they'd be left with under $1 million in cap space. Should that occur, LA would likely operate as an over-the-cap team, meaning the most they'd be able to offer a free agent outside of their own would be the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which has a starting salary of $8.4 million.
If Griffin returns and Paul leaves
A similar situation would occur should Griffin return and Paul leave, as LA would be left with just $5.5 million in salary cap space. Again, the Clippers would likely operate as an over-the-cap team and would be able to offer an outside free agent a starting salary of $8.4 million.
If both Paul and Griffin leave
Should both Paul and Griffin leave, the Clippers would have about $34.4 million in salary cap space.
How does Redick factor into this?
If the team hopes to bring back unrestricted free agent JJ Redick, his cap hold of $14 million would count against the Clippers' available space. Because Redick has Bird rights, the Clippers can offer him a contract up to the max regardless of their cap situation.