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Bill Me Later: 6 NBA Teams In Payroll Pinches

By / 06.16.11
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Photos from Getty Images

The recent success of the Mavericks proves it pays to be competitive in the NBA. The latest NBA champs currently have the second highest payroll in the league at roughly $90 million. Granted, plenty of the franchise's contracts subside on July 1, but they'll still have to re-sign important members like Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea to potentially build their trophy case.

Talks of the new collective bargaining agreement and it's proposed "adjusted" salary cap will put the clamps on spending and player movement for more than a few teams. Plenty of franchises are looking like Lane Bryant chicks in skinny jeans already so imagine how a hard cap would complicate things. There's little doubt franchises league-wide will feel the pinch. Speculated lockout talks won't alleviate their spending dilemmas. More importantly, the move towards stricter payrolls will greatly exacerbate issues for the following organizations.

Leave it to Carlos Boozer to ruin everything...even fun group photos.

1. Chicago Bulls -- Carlos Boozer's contributions for a $70+ million deal really stifles the changes Chicago needs to make towards improving. The Madhouse on Madison looks like they'll see a lot of Boozer over the years so it's in their best interest to train him into being a better low post scorer and defender. Luol Deng's also up there at $11 million and about $39 million owed through 2013-14. Deng's been a consistent second option so he doesn't necessitate an exit. Chicago's a touch over the cap under the current CBA but they'll be in a bind if it considerably lowers.

The Bulls would be much better off with a reliable starting 2 guard and a consistent bench scorer. Free agents such as swing man Jason Richardson and noteworthy backups in Jamal Crawford or J.J. Barea can help fill those holes. They'll expectantly look for nice paydays considering their track records. Too bad Boozer's check goes a long way in impeding free agent additions for the Windy City.

2. Portland Trail Blazers -- Take a look at their yearly salaries and you'll see why they might've encouraged Brandon Roy to hang it up. His five year, $82 million agreement on top of his absent meniscus will have him as Blazer property for years to come. Roy can still play but not at the premier level of years past. Aldridge's deal also eats up considerable cap room but he's finally budding as one of the Association's best big men. Wesley Matthews, Roy's starting replacement, has some big shoes to fill but he's coming around at about $6 Mill a year through 2015. Gerald Wallace adds an interesting dynamic to Portland's starting lineup as an all purpose defender with some offensive prowess. Fans can only hope he gets more accustomed in his role at about $10 Million a year until 2013. Andre Miller knows his way around Portland's offense but I doubt they'll re-sign the 12 year vet for more money next season. He'll be 36 by then and Patty Mills could break in the starting line up in the same time frame. Marcus Camby faces a similar fate considering he's even older and his defensive presence in the paint declined.

The Blazers talent pool reassures fans they can work with what they have: especially considering how the NBA's in a transitional phase. Roy's deal puts them in arrested development since he lamentably lost more than a step. The money could be better spent building a more balanced bench but them's the breaks. Also Portland, as a concerned NBA fan, please don't consider re-signing Greg Oden.

3. Atlanta Hawks -- The birds down South are in a somewhat similar rut. Joe Johnson's whale of a contract should feed his family for generations to come. The difference lies in Joe's superior health and perennial All-Star status. Keeping Jamal Crawford will be huge when free agency starts and thank goodness Al Horford's satisfied at $11-12 million a year until 2016. Larry Drew may have finally found his point guard for the future in Jeff Teague so his maturation will be vital towards their success down the line.

Atlanta already has big intentions for Teague and, if he improves, will likely give him a pay raise from his rookie contract. Their assortment of role players has to progress somehow if they look to make a deep playoff push. Atlanta surprised a few heads despite their usual second round exit via Johnson's inspired play, Teague's unexpected output and their front line's concerted effort on Dwight Howard in the quarterfinals. Cultivating the squad, unfortunately, will be a high wire act considering Joe's due nearly $100 million over the next five years.

"Memories, don't live like people do!!" © Mos Def

4. Orlando Magic -- Orlando's got some hefty books through 2012-13 with only three expiring contracts this summer: Jason Richardson, Jason Williams and Malik Allen. Gilbert's a mere shadow of his former self even though he'll make over $62 million by 2014. Otis Smith can only hope Agent Zero can find his way back to All-Star form. Hibachi, in reality, would be more effective in finding his way in their offensive schemes somehow.

Meanwhile, Hedo's due about $33 million in the same time frame and also looks like he's past his best days. Best believe Turkey's Glue won't opt out of his contract wherever he ends up. All this money spent on a squad with little chemistry means Dwight Howard has enough reasons to skip town. Let's hope Superman's next hometown will have good pizza and karaoke bars for the sake of Turkey's Glue. Their deals compliment each other in a big trade since Dwight said he'll explore free agency next summer. Orlando might as well find a fair deal involving those players unless the team manages to gel and get a decent backup center on the cheap.

5. Miami Heat -- I tried to ignore these fools since they soak up so much media space nowadays. Too bad their financial situation begs discussion in terms of assessing their conceivable future. Three max contracts soak up nearly 60% of the roster's salaries. Solid role players, at the same time, can't come sooner to South Beach. They'll likely have to come at the price of seeing Bosh, Wade or NorBel go unless Riley exchanges one star for another. The Water Heaters don't have much leeway in trading pieces other than the trio. Besides, as seen in the Finals, their lacking supporting cast and inconsistent interior defense demands attention if they aim to win a title. Their team makeup won't get it done as it stands and, in all likelihood, no teams are looking at Miami's bench to contemplate a come-up. Ergo, one of musketeers has to go if they still can't get over the hump season after season.

Popular consensus says Bosh has to pack his bags. Then again I'm not sold on many teams clamoring forf his skill set. This leaves Wade and James up for discussion. I'd personally ship James out if he doesn't improve in a few years since Wade's a better crunch time player. They play good two man basketball but their duties are redundant as long as James sports a wayward J and doesn't develop a post/turnaround game. And I bet Tins got his glasses fogged up after reading that sentence.

6. Los Angeles Lakers -- The Lakers's starting line up has boatloads of talent. It's also extremely top heavy in terms of payouts since it constitutes the majority of LA's league leading $91 Million payroll.LA also has to endure Andrew Bynum's seemingly yearly health problems with $31 Million owed through 2013 and their bench is still in shambles. A combination of Pau Gasol, Bynum and/or Lamar Odom are likely suspects when it comes to potential exports for you know who. The issues also lie in money tied up in Kobe owed upwards of $82 Million in the next three years and extra millions barely mid-level players like Luke Walton and Steve Blake.

A revamped front line and a deeper second string will go a long way for Kobe's kids. The ball is in Mitch Kupchak's court should he want to destroy and rebuild. LA, in honesty, may have had the wrong mentality and can do right with what they have. They're also not getting any younger and will become predictable without incremental changes. Some new faces could remedy things quickly and get Los Angeles back in title contention. However, and this isn't even a fiscal problem, I'm curious to see if Mike Brown will get along with some of the ball club's bigger egos.

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