NBA's best salary cap teams

The Celtics, Pacers and Suns will all have ample cash to spend this summer

Updated: March 19, 2012, 3:24 PM ET
By Larry Coon | ESPN Insider
Steve NashAlbert Pena/Icon SMIIf Steve Nash is going to continue dishing out assists in Phoenix, the Suns need to spend.

The 2012 NBA trade deadline has come and gone and will always be better known for who wasn't traded than for who was. The trade deadline was many things to many teams. For some it was the chance to add needed pieces for the upcoming playoff run. For others it was the chance to shed unneeded salary in preparation for July's free-agent market.

This summer, 19 of the 30 teams could enter free agency below the salary cap. Insider's Tom Haberstroh took a look at the top free agents who could be available when the floodgates open in July. Here's the flip side of that coin: where every team will stand in relation to cap space.

These figures are only approximations based on each team's current cap profile for the 2012-13 season. It doesn't take into account upcoming first-round draft picks (which count against the cap), nor does it include various cap holds for things like unfilled roster spots, free agents and salary cap exceptions. But since the draft lottery has not yet been held, draft picks can change hands between now and July, and teams can renounce free agents and draft picks, it's pointless to try to be more accurate this early in the year. So consider these figures to be upper limits; each team's actual cap number will likely turn out to be a few million dollars lower than what is listed here.

One other variable is the salary cap itself. This offseason will be the first under the new CBA with a new formula for calculating the salary cap -- one that's based on the players receiving 50 percent of league revenues rather than 57 percent. For 2012-13, the cap is guaranteed to be no lower than this season's $58.044 million. This is where it likely will end up, although the rules do allow for it to be higher.

With a nod to Grantland's Bill Simmons, the teams fall into several groups. Here we will look at the first three groups -- the teams in the best salary cap shape.

Group 1: If cap space is king, then fit me for a crown

These teams will have the most cap room to spend this summer. But the cap room for this group alone totals $140 million -- and there's not that much talent to go around. Even though many teams will be budget conscious like never before, this will be a seller's market, which will inflate prices.

Larry Coon is the author of the NBA Salary Cap FAQ.