Salary cap situations: West

The Houston Rockets are the team to watch in terms of cap management

Updated: July 20, 2012, 9:55 AM ET
By Larry Coon | ESPN Insider
 Daryl MoreyAP Photo/Pat SullivanHouston GM Daryl Morey flipped over his entire roster to escape the NBA's salary cap middle class.

Updated as of July 18, 2012

The NBA's annual free agency signing period opened last Wednesday, and teams wasted little time committing vast sums of money to available free agents.

Now that the initial onslaught is over, some teams are now done with their major shopping and are settling down for the summer. Other teams still have significant moves to make, and will continue to burn the midnight oil as the second week of free agency gets under way.

Cap space and exceptions are the poker chips of the NBA free-agent market -- teams need them in order to play. With the free-agent market now in its sixth day, we take a look at the cap situations of all 30 teams.

Restricted free agency and the league's amnesty clause continue to shape the landscape. A restricted free agent is free to sign an offer sheet with any team, but his original team can match the offer and prevent the player from leaving. Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik are two restricted free agents that can alter the fortunes of whichever team they end up with -- both are subject to the Gilbert Arenas provision, which allows a team to offer them contracts with massive raises in the third season. This "poison pill" could shake both players loose, but it could also complicate the Rockets' quest to land Dwight Howard.

The amnesty clause allows teams to drop one contract and clear the players' salary from the team's books -- potentially giving the team additional cap space to chase free agents. Elton Brand, Brendan Haywood, Darko Milicic and Luis Scola have already been set free through amnesty, and players like Jose Calderon and Andray Blatche could follow.

Another new rule that impacts the free-agent market is the new "room" midlevel exception. Teams get to use this exception (worth about $2.6 million this season) when they sign free agents using cap space and are now near the salary cap. A team's maximum cap room indicates the amount of cap room the team will have if it signs any unsigned first-round draft picks, and renounces all other free agents and exceptions.

This is how the Western Conference shapes up. For the Eastern Conference, click here.

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