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Expiring contracts to watch in NBA trade talks

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After consecutive offseasons when most NBA teams were operating with salary-cap space, that is no longer the case. Expiring contracts could become trade pieces as teams look to avoid luxury-tax issues, move any impact players before they hit unrestricted free agency or open up flexibility to make moves in 2019.

Let's look at the potential sellers and trade pieces.


Brooklyn Nets

For the first time since 2013, Brooklyn controls its own first-round pick, and the Nets can look for more assets in deals for Jeremy Lin ($12.5 million) and DeMarre Carroll ($15.4 million).

Of the two, Carroll has more value despite his higher salary. After two uneventful seasons in Toronto, Carroll resembled the player the Raptors originally signed to a $64 million contract in 2015.

The question for Lin has not been about his on-court contributions but whether he can stay healthy. Lin has played in only 37 games since signing his deal in Brooklyn because of a left-hamstring injury in 2016-17 and rupturing his right patellar tendon in the first game of the 2017-18 season. With the emergence of Spencer Dinwiddie and the acquisition of D'Angelo Russell, Lin is the odd man out.

The Nets might not be able to swing a good deal now, but if both players can stay healthy, they should have value when it comes closer to the February deadline, particularly if Brooklyn is heading to the lottery and a playoff team is looking for established veterans.


Charlotte Hornets

Hornets management finds itself in a delicate place with All-Star Kemba Walker, who is entering the final year of a $48 million rookie extension. Charlotte can bring back a franchise player for his final season with the hope that the current team (with no flexibility to add in free agency) returns to the playoffs. That might be enough to persuade Walker to sign a long-term pact in 2019, though it would more than double his salary and leave Charlotte even more strapped. The Hornets would also run the risk of losing Walker for nothing if they head back to the lottery.

However, moving Walker presents obstacles. A star player on an expiring contract has proved to have less value unless there is a long-term commitment given to the acquiring team. While extension-eligible, Walker can receive only a 120 percent increase from his current deal, and a $14.4 million starting salary is a non-starter.


Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love is on this list and our potential extension list. Love can opt out of his $25.6 million player option and become a free agent in 2019. The forward, who turns 30 this September, is not guaranteed to get more than that on the market next summer.

Turnover on the Cavs roster could start with JR Smith, Kyle Korver and George Hill. Despite being owed a combined $41 million in 2018-19, the veterans will be treated as expiring contracts this offseason due to small guarantees in 2019-20. One potential obstacle for Cleveland in those trade talks: taking back salary that stretches past the 2019-20 season, especially for a team that could be rebuilding if LeBron James leaves in free agency.


Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic's max contract will put the Nuggets in the luxury tax before free agency even begins. Jokic's first-year cap hit combined with $108 million in committed salary leaves Denver $8 million over the line, with a tax penalty of $18 million.

Because of the projected cost, the Nuggets are likely to lose Will Barton to free agency unless they are able to shed the expiring contracts of Kenneth Faried ($13.7 million), Wilson Chandler ($12.8 million) and Darrell Arthur ($7.5 million).

Signing Barton to an annual $10 million contract -- something he turned down before the season started -- would leave the Nuggets with a $40 million tax bill.

To save costs, Denver could attach the Faried salary to a future first-round pick (which was the asking price at the draft) and stretch the $7.4 million owed to Arthur over three seasons. The Nuggets would be under the tax by $8 million and could stay under by filling out their roster with minimum contracts. Signing Barton as well would still put the Nuggets into the tax but save the team $33 million.


Indiana Pacers

Indiana is expected to guarantee the contracts of Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison once free agency begins Sunday. After all, why cut two starters from last season's playoff team only to go through free agency once again looking for one-year rentals?

With both players on the roster, the Pacers will likely enter the offseason having a league-high eight players on expiring contracts. Besides the two guards, Thaddeus Young ($13.7 million), Cory Joseph ($7.9 million), Myles Turner ($3.4 million), Al Jefferson ($10 million), Joe Young ($1.6 million) and Alex Poythress ($1.5 million) are entering the final year of their deals.

Considering that Indiana projects to have $60 million in room next season, don't expect the Pacers to take back salary unless it comes with a significant upgrade to the roster.


LA Clippers

Over the salary cap and with a focus on their youth movement, the Clippers will have two options with the current group: play out the season and take advantage of a projected $60 million in cap space in 2019 or entertain trade offers at the risk of losing flexibility next offseason.

Like the Pacers, LA could have eight expiring contracts on its roster when the season begins. That number could shrink to six if DeAndre Jordan opts out of his $24.1 million player option and Milos Teodosic is waived by July 15.

Even if Jordan does opt in, the center's tenure in LA could be short-lived. Because of the lukewarm market in free agency, the best option for Jordan would to be opt in and ask to be traded (similar to what former teammate Chris Paul did last June).

Beside Jordan and Teodosic, Tobias Harris, Marcin Gortat, Boban Marjanovic, Wesley Johnson, Sam Dekker and Patrick Beverley are in the final year of their contracts.

Because Beverley was signed under the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the guard's $5 million contract would be used in a trade and not his smaller guaranteed amount.


The Morris twins

After signing team-friendly extensions with the Suns in 2014, Markieff ($8.6 million cap hit with the Wizards) and Marcus Morris ($5.4 million with the Celtics) now enter the final year of their contracts.

In the case of Marcus, the Celtics' future finances could play a role if the forward is mentioned in trade rumors. With Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier both up for new contracts in 2019, Boston will be a tax team, and retaining Morris would be considered a luxury and not a priority.

The Wizards are two years ahead of where the Celtics will be in 2019: a team with a high payroll forced to make roster decisions based on finances. Because the Wizards do not have cap flexibility for the foreseeable future, the trade discussions centered around Markieff should not be about limiting finances but about finding his replacement for 2019. If they let him walk in unrestricted free agency, they won't have the flexibility to capably replace him.


Milwaukee Bucks

One would have thought that Eric Bledsoe found a home in Milwaukee. The disgruntled guard, traded from Phoenix in November, was considered a perfect complement to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

Now, after a disappointing postseason that saw Bledsoe struggle and the arrival of first-round pick Donte DiVincenzo, Bledsoe is on a $15 million expiring contract and might not remain in Milwaukee.


Orlando Magic

The Magic are in a similar position to the Clippers but with fewer expiring contracts.

How much Orlando values its cap flexibility in 2019 could determine the futures of Nikola Vucevic ($12.75 million) and Terrence Ross ($10.5 million). Despite the Magic having the potential for $30 million in space next summer, they can do their free-agent shopping one year early and turn both contracts into something of value even if it does reduce spending in 2019.

Vucevic has appeal not only because his salary ranks outside of the top 20 among starting centers but because of his consistency since his arrival in Orlando. Still, the addition of Mohamed Bamba signaled that the Magic are focused more on the future.


Philadelphia 76ers

The first week of free agency will dictate how Philadelphia handles the expiring contract of Jerryd Bayless.

If the 76ers are in play to land a max free agent, Bayless and his $8.5 million salary will need to be traded to a team with room, with Philadelphia not taking back salary. If Philly misses out on its targets, Bayless could be used as filler in a future trade, or the team can be patient and let his salary come off its cap ledger next summer.

One under-the-radar name to keep an eye on is guard T.J. McConnell.

With five point guards on the roster -- not including second-round pick Shake Milton -- McConnell could be squeezed out. McConnell has value in a trade based on a receiving team inheriting his Bird rights in 2019 and his low $1.6 million free-agent cap hold. A new team could chase free agents and eventually sign McConnell to exceed the cap. McConnell is also renegotiation- (starting in September) and extension-eligible.


Phoenix Suns

What is the value of veterans on expiring contracts? That is the question Phoenix has to answer regarding Tyson Chandler ($13.5 million) and Jared Dudley ($9.5 million).

With the Suns looking to be aggressive this offseason in free agency, both players could be moved for Phoenix to clear cap space, creating more than $40 million in room.

However, both players are the perfect mentors for rookies Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. On the court, Chandler (despite playing only 93 games the past two seasons) continues to be one of the most efficient rebounders in the NBA. Plus, Phoenix won't be able to move both players without attaching an asset in the deal.