The NBA has announced the salary cap and luxury tax totals for the 2009-10 season. The salary cap has dropped from $58.68 million down to $57.7 million. More importantly for the Denver Nuggets the luxury tax level also decreased from $71.15 million to $69.92 million.
Baring some unforeseen roster overhaul that is another $1.23 million in luxury tax the Nuggets will owe the league after the season. After the Nuggets resign Chris Andersen and fill out the roster their payroll is likely going to be in the neighborhood of $80 million and after the luxury tax payment the payroll will be over $90 million. That is a pretty hefty commitment from Stan Kroenke.
Keep in mind, the luxury tax is based on their final payroll at the end of the 2009-10 season so Denver has plenty of time to make a deal to lower their payroll. Once the final roster shakes out I think we will see Denver working very hard to trade Stephen Hunter. Unfortunately, it will probably take (at least) a future first round pick in order to get someone to take on his salary.
Things get even more crazy in 2010-11. It is entirely possible the cap and tax levels drop yet again and the Nuggets are looking at a payroll of over $70 million with only eight players under contract (Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Nene, J.R. Smith, Chris Andersen assuming he is signed for around $4-5 million in salary next season, Sonny Weems and Ty Lawson). That is assuming the Nuggets do not sign Kleiza to a long term deal and they do not offer Renaldo Balkman a qualifying offer worth over $3 million.
When Kroekne agreed to the Billups trade it became clear the Nuggets would be spending big money for at least the next two seasons. The question is how much more can/will Kroenke spend to put a championship caliber team on the floor? I think we will know the answer to that question in the next few days.