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Wednesday, 17 July 2019 15:01 Written by Ben Johnson
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OBWL Safari Season: 2025 FA Preview


2025-FA-PREVIEW
Colby Allan is just one of many free agents in the crosshairs of OBWL general managers during 2025 free agency. 

 There are three primary ways that OBWL general managers build their teams: the draft, trades, and free agency. Free agency is arguably the most exciting option of the three, it is definitely the one with the highest ratio of risk to reward. Dollars spent via cap space are the most powerful money a team can spend. A GM's choice of players is limited by draft position... the player is either available or he's not. Trades can be even trickier. There is salary matching, budget restrictions, and -- of course -- finding a willing trade partner and a fair deal.

In comparison, cap space can be used to acquire free agents regardless of Bird rights. Teams over the cap can only offer limited exceptions to outside players, otherwise they have to spend on their own Bird free agents. Cap space provides many more options to a team. A team with enough cap space for a max contract can acquire virtually any player available... if they can only convince the player to sign.

This why OBWL GMs go to great efforts to keep their books clean, even trading players to dump salaries in order to maximize their cap space. Teams can plan for seasons to get ready and finally make their big splash in free agency and get the most out of those precious cap space millions.

The competition is fierce. There are always more teams with cap space burning a hole in their pocket than there are elite free agents available. This year there 17(!) teams with cap space available. Of those, 10 have enough cap space to offer a max contract to a player with less than 6 years' experience (see below). There are 8 teams that can offer a "true max;" a maximum offer to a player with 10 or more years of experience.

2025 OBWL Maximum Contracts

0-6 years of experience -- $15,654,481
7-9 years of experience -- $18,785,377
10+ years of experience -- $21,916,273

Non-Bird FA Contract: Up to 5 years with 8% raises
Bird FA Contract: Up to 6 years with 10.5% raises

With so much at stake and competition strong, many teams who fail to land that franchise-changing talent often opt to "keep their powder dry." Teams will either sign players to one year deals (or 1+1) or simply choose not to use their precious cap space and roll it over for next season.

Once again, the thrilling free agent season is upon the OBWL. General Managers are locked and loaded and ready to fire off their max contract offers in an effort to bag one of the big name, big game free agents. It's the time of year when strong (rich) teams prey on the weak (poor) and hunt for trophies that will hopefully bring home the ultimate trophy, the Heikkinen Cup. The OBWL Free Agent Safari has begun.

Below we take a look at each of the teams with cap space, assess their situation heading into free agency, and speculate on what targets they might be after.

 

LAS VEGAS BLACKJACKS: $42.9 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: With nearly $43 million in cap space the Blackjacks are the only team in free agency that could theoretically sign two players to contracts starting at $20+ million in the first year. The problem is that would probably be the absolutely worst move they could make. Despite all that cap room they have only a little less than $47 million in total budget available. They currently have only six players under contract and of those the only significant contributors are 33 year old Stephen Lee -- who played only 48 games last season due to injury -- and his replacement, rookie Kenny Gott who played at just about average replacement level for an OBWL rotation player and is likely overmatched most nights as a starter. Signing two veterans in their 30s to massive contracts would handcuff a franchise that needs to look towards rebuilding their future after not having a 1st round pick in the recent rookie draft.

The Hunted: The Blackjacks would be best served taking a look at young talent just coming off their rookie scale contracts. Players like C Blair Call, PG Cecil Means, SF Frank Gifford, SG Aaron Baum, or even a flyer on talented-but-erratic PF Daniel Herb. The important thing is to spend wisely and not sling max deals to multiple targets just because they have the cap space. The ideal would be signing a couple of players like these to less than the max. Players of this type (less than six years of experience, signable for $10-$13 million starting) could help replenish Vegas' talent base while being young enough that GM Gerry Tessier can add pieces around them carefully over the next three seasons as they enter their prime.

Another option, if the Blackjacks miss out on grabbing a young, affordable blue chip talent would be to roll their cap space over to next season. In that scenario they would sign solid, quality players to one year or "1+1" contracts (one year plus a team option) to retain maximum flexibility while remaining respectably competitive on the floor. Those players could be considered as auditioning for a future role with either the Blackjacks or a team interested in trading for them. Keeping some cap space open going into the regular season is also a good way to facilitate trades by taking on salary in exchange for additional assets or picks. "Renting" short-term cap space to other teams in a financial bind is a good way to turn that space into tangible returns while still keeping your options open down the line.

In any event, there is no rule saying a team with a lot of cap room has to burn through it all in one offseason by signing expensive long-term contracts.

 

BOSTON BUZZARDS: $35.1 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: The Buzzards have patiently slogged through an aging and expensive roster the last couple of seasons and have arrived at the light at the end of the tunnel. The team features a handful of talented and inexpensive young players like James Wall, Sheldon Perkins, Jesse Yoshida, and 12th overall pick Rubin Davis. Around them are a number of decent but unspectacular role players and minor prospects on cheap, short contracts. With leading scorer and rising star Sheldon Perkins entering the final year of his rookie contract, the time is now for GM Jason Warnke to add some premiere free agents and try to launch the Buzzards back into contention.

The Hunted: Warnke has made no secret of his intentions to go hard after PF Jean Larry. Whether those public statements are a smokescreen is debatable, but Larry is exactly the kind of player the Buzzards should be targeting in free agency. With many talented young perimeter players on the roster, Boston needs to upgrade its front court in a major way. Jean Larry is probably the best defensive player the OBWL has ever had and will be highly courted. I suspect London will offer him every penny of a "super max" contract so the odds are stacked against the field when it comes to signing him. Alternatives for Boston include former #1 overall pick PF Gary Williams (albeit on a less expensive contract the the one he is coming off of) or criminally underrated C Darin Deans, who as a nine year veteran has a max contract value of "only" $18.8 million starting. More cost effective options might include PF Jasper Hughes or bringing back the enigmatic Daniel Herb.

 

SAN DIEGO STORM: $33.8 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: It seems like forever since the Storm last made the playoffs (2017) and all San Diego has to show for all the losing is long-suffering SF James Nichol and SG Scot Gauvin, who while a serviceable player has been a disappointment for a former #4 overall draft pick. That said, the Storm have shed nearly $48 million off their payroll this offseason and control all of their first round picks moving forward. If you like mixed metaphors, the cupboard is bare but the slate is clean in San Diego. Much like the Blackjacks, the Storm should spend wisely and patiently now that they're in position to rebuild properly.

The Hunted: While the playbook should look much like the one described for the Blackjacks, the Storm have an additional variable to consider: the future of James Nichol. Nichol is entering the final season of a 5 year, $81.2 million contract he signed with San Diego in 2021. During that period Nichol has been pretty much the only bright spot for the Storm. Nichol will be 31 by the time this season begins so it is imperative that GM Prince Amour weigh the pros and cons of resigning, trading, or letting Nichol walk next season. Even if San Diego managed to sign two young players to the max ($15.7 million starting each) they'd have virtually no budget left to fill out the other 6+ roster spots. Even a relatively young superstar like 28 year-old Colby Allan would probably be past his prime by the time San Diego could assemble a strong supporting cast around him. San Diego could also look to just sign the best player available in free agency and figure the rest out later, but that strategy can be risky. Even if the signing becomes a big impact player, a large contract could hamper efforts to build a winning team around him (basically Nichols 2.0). Flipping such a player for future assets is definitely an option, but the trade market can be fickle, especially if the player is perceived as overpaid. Many GMs will willing overpay to "get their guy" in free agency, but for some reason many of those same GMs are unwilling to acquire the same player, at the same price, via a trade.

 

ARIZONA THUNDERBIRDS: $28.5 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: The Thunderbirds have averaged 50 wins per season since GM Nick Simpson took over in 2017, including an OBWL championship and two trips to the conference finals during his first four seasons. Simpson has done great work keeping the T-Birds competitive in Harry White's sunset years, patching together a consistent playoff threat with strong rebounding, defense, and three point shooting despite an aging roster. White's contract is off the books now and after seasons of digging up good shooters on minimum contracts, the Thunderbirds have the excellent interior duo of Elton Carnahan and Carl Terwilliger, a pair of high-ROI veterans in Jacquez Becklin and Arnulfo Brown, and $28.5 million in cap space to retool the team for its next era. More so than the teams higher on this list, Arizona has the opportunity to spend money on free agents to win now because they have a good number of core pieces already in place.

The Hunted: Arizona has the pedigree, in terms of front office, coaching staff, team history, and roster to be an attractive destination for a top free agent. With Carnahan and Terwilliger holding it down inside while many of the teams with cap space are lusting after Jean Larry, the Thunderbirds could focus their attention on perimeter players like Colby Allan, Blaine Fitzwater, Claud Lassiter, or Aaron Baum. The Thunderbirds could max out one of those players and still have money to spend on a second tier guard like Brian Montes, Michael Keyes, or Larry Kersey -- and still have budget remaining to resign the underrated Timothy O'Connor and possibly bring back White to finish out his career.

Alternately, Arizona could choose to stick with the "team effort" philosophy they currently employ and focus only on spreading their money on multiple tier 2 free agents. The Thunderbirds could spend $7-9 million on three or four perimeter players in an effort to upgrade the overall talent level of their plug 'n play wings.

 

CHICAGO BLAZE: $28.2 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: The Blaze haven't made the playoffs in five seasons, weighed down by a roster full of aging players with bloated contracts. As they began to bottom out as the last of those heavy contracts dropped off, they have drafted 5th overall in 2022 (Luitpold Hippeli), 1st overall in 2023 (Daniel West), 5th overall in 2024 (Herschel Pettway), and 1st overall (Erasmo Dryden) in this summer's rookie draft. The Blaze now have a raw, young roster -- average age is 20.8 years old -- and a much more manageable payroll. With $28.2 million available to spend in free agency, the talk around the water coolers in OBWL front offices is that Chicago will not be looking to spend much of it; at least not on long term deals. It's the right strategy at this point for the Blaze.

The Hunted: With their extremely young cadre of prospects on roster, even targeting talented young players coming off their rookie contracts doesn't make a lot of sense for Chicago -- at least not this season. Signing a 24 or 25 year old free agent to a long term, big money deal would just hamper the Blaze's financial flexibility and that player will probably be pushing 30 years old by the time the team's future stars are contributing at a high level.

With two years left on Daniel West's rookie deal it seems likely Chicago will continue to rent its cap space to other teams (taking undesirable contracts in return for picks or prospects) or sign free agents to short term deals with an eye towards flipping them for more assets. Look for the Blaze to be more aggressive in free agency once West is secured to a long term contract.

 

HONOLULU INFERNO: $22.9 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: GM Sascha Zerwas has done a great job of building a competitive team almost exclusively through the draft. The Inferno have made the playoffs three straight years now and are in a great position for the future. They have talented young players who are growing every season (Udo Bach, Michael Weathersby). Their payroll has no "dead money" in the form of overpaid or unproductive players -- outside of Keven Kowalczyk, acquired in trade from the Snipers, who will be shopped as an expiring contract and has zero chance of returning next season. Finally, the team built by the draft still has in their possession 7 first round picks over the next three drafts.

The Hunted: Those future 1sts are a very valuable and necessary resource for Honolulu because the payroll bill is coming due. Last season Michael Weathersby came off his rookie deal and was rewarded with a 6 year, $114.8 million contract. Despite having cap space for a max contract, expect the Inferno to focus on resigning their own free agents such as SG Aaron Baum, C Zachary Roush, and PF Darin Tsai. That array of future 1sts gives Honolulu the luxury of resigning their homegrown heroes while being able to fill out the rest of their roster with cost-controlled rookie scale talent.

 

LONDON KNIGHTS: $22.5 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: Among the many unsung virtues of GM Jian Lan's outstanding leadership of the London Knights is this: Despite having one of the biggest budgets in the OBWL year after year, the Knights have paid luxury tax only ONCE in Lan's 9 seasons. And that one time was way back in 2016 when Lan took over the Knights following former GM Jason Bogart's firing. Four of the best players in the game, three trips to the Finals, and two championships... all without paying a single dollar in luxury tax. How have the Knights done it? Primarily by paying their core players such as Val Crumley, Jean Larry, Jose Owens, and Colby Allan (and Mack Lavoie before him) handsomely while surrounding them with effective role players on rookie contracts or near league minimum contracts. GM Lan knows his team is star-driven, pays them as such, and then works wonders with a supporting cast that the rest of the league has cast aside.

The Hunted: Everyone knows the Knights have probably the two top free agents available in Playoff MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Jean Larry and five-time All Star and four-time All-OBWL guard Colby Allan. The Knights have made it clear they'll open the vault as soon as free agency opens and offer Larry what will be a 6 year, $142 million contract. London has Larry's Bird rights, the financial capital, and the will to produce an offer that no one in the OBWL can match. Larry is known for his loyalty and desire to win so it would be an upset of historic proportions if he signs elsewhere.

What is less clear is how far London is willing to go to resign Allan. While he was a vital piece of last season's championship team, it remains clear that Crumley and Larry are the heart and soul of Knights basketball. Allan is asking for a 5-year max contract and league sources say he won't take a penny less and might be willing to go elsewhere to get it. The good news is that, again, the Knights have Bird rights and the budget to accommodate both Allan and Larry. Signing both to max deals will (barely) push the Knights into the luxury tax for the first time in nearly a decade but it seems a small price to pay for continued dominance. London's fantastic four of Crumley (31 years old), Larry (30), Allan (28), and Owens (27) are just entering their collective peak so the chance for more titles in the future is very high.

In the highly unlikely event that both Larry and Allan were to get away in free agency, the Knights would at least have a max salary slot to try to recover and sign another star.

 

NEW JERSEY EVOLUTION: $16.9 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: Evolution GM Marco Heinrich is well known for making bold moves and thinking outside of the box. Unfortunately it has yet to pay off in getting New Jersey turned around but there are still things to look forward to in the Garden State. The Evolution has pieced together, via draft and trade, three former Top 5 draft picks in the form of C Ronald Richardson (#3 overall in 2021), SF Luis Engram (#3 in 2023), and SF Jose Gaynor (this year's #4). The potential appears to be there but Gaynor has yet to play an OBWL game and both Richardson and Engram haven't shown much yet in their careers playing backup minutes. There are questions around the Evolution's decision to trade for veteran PF Justin Malone. Does this mean New Jersey is in a "win now" mode? Justin Malone and $16.9 million in cap space isn't going to get the team out of rebuild mode so it's a little puzzling. Chicago has the Evolution's 1st round pick in the next draft so maybe they feel motivated to boost their win total this season. In any event Malone at least gives them an established veteran and his contract runs out the same year as Engram's, so his cap number is keeping a max salary slot warm until it's time to lock in the kids long term.

The Hunted: Trying to predict GM Heinrich's plans is nearly impossible. There are a couple routes the Evolution could go. They could play the "maintain cap flexibility" card described for many of the teams above: Sign vets to 1+1 deals and look to flip them, rent out cap space in return for assets, act as a salary match facilitator in a three way trade in return for a pick, etc.

More likely, New Jersey will swing big in free agency and hope to catch a bargain tier 1 / tier 2 free agent who slips through the cracks as money dries up or while other teams are focused on the really big ticket names. And why not? If they strike out New Jersey can still fall back on short term contracts, flipping vets, or utilizing cap space in trades. Heinrich loves to try to exploit market inefficiency in order to get a better return on investment -- a good strategy for a low budget team -- so do not be surprised to see the Evolution try to steal a undervalued free agent or unearth a diamond in the rough.

One name to watch for is SG David Kitchens. League sources indicate that the Evolution were keen to acquire the dynamic 6'3" scorer last season via trade but it remains to be seen how much they would be willing to pay considering Kitchens was on a veteran minimum contract at the time.

 

QUEBEC COYOTES: $16.4 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: Suffering under some serious financial issues, the Quebec Coyotes bottomed out last season, going 16-64 (.200) and seeing another $3 million shaved off their budget by unhappy owner Gerald Miguel. The 63-year old Miguel doesn't mind spending -- as demonstrated by the hefty contract handed out to C Wesley Lefler in free agency last season -- but he expects wins in return. Instead the Coyotes won 11 fewer games than they did in 2023 as they pivoted away from the Ottinger / Williams era and towards a future led by prospects like Horacio Vega and this year's lottery rookies, PF Daniel Garretson and SG Kirby Cohen. While these prospects have very promising futures, the impetus is still squarely on GM Josh Biddle to do more with less.

The Hunted: Yet another case where the team is better served not spending much in free agency, the Coyotes' budget is actually less than this year's salary cap. Quebec needs to get more wins this season and they have to do it cheaply. The Coyotes don't even have enough cap available to sign free agent with less than 6 years of experience to a max contract so it seems highly unlikely there is any one free agent out there that could come in turn it around quickly. GM Biddle should probably be on the lookout for a bargain veteran point guard he can plug into the lineup to guide and mentor all the young prospects on the team. The front court of Lefler, Johnson, and Vega showed some ability last season and the drafting of Kirby Cohen should provide some offensive spark at the 2. If the 'Yotes could snag a veteran like Phillip Gluck, Darell Edwards, or Todd Butterfield at around the MLE price they would have someone to help offset the team's collective inexperience. The point guard market is highly competitive though so Quebec may have to settle for a short term, low dollar deal on a less proven guard like Edward Niemi or Charles Stith.

 

VANCOUVER HIGHLANDERS: $16.3 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: After being rewarded for their success under GM Darryl Suber with an increase in budget, the Highlanders signed wing Jerrold Dean to a 4 year, $56 million contract in free agency. Carrying more payroll than they have in years, unfortunately Vancouver fell back a bit from the previous season, going from 48 wins in 2023 to 42 in 2024. The Highlanders rallied and shockingly swept the Denver Demons in the 1st round of the playoffs, but were in turn swept themselves by the Toronto Huskies. The net result was less regular season wins, a shorter run in the playoffs, and less revenue than the year before so owner Mack Delgado pulled back slightly on authorized spending for 2025. The Highlanders have a little more than $16 million in cap to spend in free agency but have important decisions to make regarding their own free agents: SF Richard Sturgeon, C Daniel Black, and future Hall of Famer PG Michael Keyes.

The Hunted: Keyes, the face of the franchise, is still the premiere playmaker in the OBWL but after 11 seasons and nearly 30,000 career minutes is beginning to show signs of decline. Keyes posted career lows in points (9.6 ppg), shots (7.9 fga), as well as free throws attempted and made. Keyes remains a great defender and passer, leading the league in assists and posting a career-high 46.7 assist rate. Keyes has plenty left in the tank however and remains an excellent spot-up shooter, knocking down 40.3% on nearly five three point attempts per game.

Bringing back Keyes would seem like an easy decision for the Highlanders but the questions remain: for how much and how long? Keyes could be in hot demand for a team looking for a veteran floor leader so Vancouver might see Keyes' price driven higher than they may find palatable. If that is the case GM Darryl Suber does have the option to use his $16 million in cap space to invest in a younger player to go along with the duo of Dennis Pichardo and Jerrold Dean. PG Cecil Means has the most upside of the available free agent point guards, but doesn't completely fit into the Highlanders' mold of stifling defense.

 

SOUTH FLORIDA SHARKS: $15.3 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: With the trading of PF Justin Malone, the retirement of PF Quinten Bryson, and the free agent status of SG Claud Lassiter, new Sharks GM Jay Amado is clearly intent on hitting the reset button on the franchise. Amado has already made a number of trades to bring in inexpensive, low-risk, high-reward prospects like PG Julius Atherton, SF Joe Spurlock, and C Joshua Bierman. The Sharks have no long term contracts and currently project to have about $45 million in cap space in 2026.

The Hunted: Don't expect the Sharks to make any lengthy financial commitments any time soon. The Sharks are in the market for a starting point guard but will likely limit themselves to short term 1+1 offers to veterans over investing heavily in a younger player. The Sharks will likely spend this season using their cap space as a clearing house to facilitate trades, acquire assets, and flip players to other teams. With less-than-max contract money available to them and a relatively thin free agent market, South Florida will not be in the hunt for big names in free agency. At least not this season.

 

DETROIT MUSCLE: $15.2 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: GM Mark Sands has been patiently building the Muscle through the draft and shrewd, under-the-radar trade pickups. The Muscle have made the playoffs each of the last two seasons and have been scrappy in both appearances despite losing in the first round each time. The Muscle are at a critical point in their team development with two important starters -- young and blossoming SF Quintin Bergquist and veteran scorer Blaine Fitzwater -- entering free agency just as top prospects like PG Xander Remington, PF Van Lefevre, and SG Mark Olivas appear poised to take their games to the next level.

The Hunted: Retaining Bergquist and Fitzwater should be the top priority for Detroit. Fitzwater and Bergquist were a very effective wing tandem last season, ranking first and second respectively on the Muscle in scoring. GM Mark Sands has enough budget to bring both back on reasonable contracts so do not expect Detroit to go looking at other free agents with their $15 million in cap unless Fitzwater and Bergquist decide to sign elsewhere.

 

MINNESOTA MARAUDERS: $12.0 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: GM Jason Rouse did a great job righting the pirate ship in his first season in Minnesota, improving from 27 wins in 2023 to 42 wins and a playoff appearance in 2024. Rouse drafted a potential future franchise player in SF Andrew Evans, signed a number of useful tier 2 free agents (SF Joey Short, SG George Ellis, PG Stanley Bobo) to smart 1+1 contracts, and traded away former All Star PF Richard Burke II to Portland in return for a package that included great young prospects PF Tony Pence and SG Andrew Lawler as well as a future 1st round pick. In a move that is probably best for the future of the team, the Marauders effectively punted on this year's free agency when they picked up the options on the contracts of Short and Ellis, who were the best performers of the 1+1 players they had signed. Those contracts reduced their available cap space from $22.6 million to just over $12 million.

The Hunted: Minnesota should stick to the plan that worked well for them last season. Starting point guard is a position of concern but Stanley Bobo's option was not picked up and Minnesota still has Albert Mitchell, playing out the string of a 5 year, $52.7 million contract he signed with the Lumberjacks. With Mitchell still on the roster and soaking up over $10 million of their budget, the Marauders have to figure he wouldn't be any worse than Bobo was last year. If Mitchell were to perform well (or adequately) as a starter it might even enhance his trade value to other teams.

GM Rouse should stand pat this offseason, and with 13 players on contract should probably avoid even offering any one year or 1+1 contracts in free agency. As it stands right now the Marauders have shed almost $11 million from last season's payroll without losing anyone of real consequence -- a situation which bodes well for next year's budget. Rouse such hold on to his checkbook tightly with an eye towards next year's free agency, where the Marauders could have as much as $50 million in cap space available. Not spending this summer can ensure the Marauders that they'll have plenty of money to extend or re-sign C Ervin Holmes and PF Tony Pence and still have a lot left over to build the roster around Evans, Lawler and rookies Francis Ellender and Darwin Weisman.

 

KENTUCKY STALLIONS: $11.2 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: After a scintillating run to the Finals last season, the Stallions' owner rewarded GM Robert Sheppard by increasing the team budget from $77.6 million to $85.1 million for 2025. Sheppard will need that money in free agency because four key members of that Finals team are now free agents including starters Cecil Means and Geoff Sullivan and reserves Frank Gifford and John Lenior. With only $11 million in cap to spend on other team's free agents, the Stallions most likely will focus their resources on retaining their own guys.

The Hunted: According to league sources, none of the Stallions' free agents -- outside of knucklehead Chris Graves -- is asking for a huge payday and most have shown signs of wanting to return to Kentucky. The key for the Stallions will be doing their work early; if they can act quickly and make progress in negotiations while teams with cap space are focused on big names like Jean Larry, Colby Allan, Gary Williams, and Darin Deans then the Stallions have a good chance of retaining all of their guys on affordable deals. If other teams start turning their sights on the Stallions' players however, Kentucky may have to prioritize one or two of them at the expense of the others. In any event GM Sheppard is a resourceful GM and has shown he knows how to fill roles without spending a lot of money.

 

SEATTLE SEA DOGS: $10.9 million in Cap Available

The Hunter: The rebuild continues on schedule for GM Andrew Retz. After winning the Heikkinen Cup in 2018 the Sea Dogs have been faced with tearing down an aging, expensive team and rebuilding from scratch. The Sea Dogs have missed the playoffs the last four seasons and with only $10.9 million in cap available for free agents, this does not appear to be the year Seattle takes a huge leap forward.

The Hunted: Seattle will likely stay put or fill in roster spots along the margins this offseason. The Sea Dogs will shed nearly $23 million in salary next offseason, including expensive veterans such as Carl White and Howard Richey. Moving forward next year Seattle will have a talented core group of prospects (Erik Langlois, Joseph Hales, Chester Rangel), one of the best two-players in the league (Long Foote), a potential franchise point guard (Charles Ackerman), anywhere from $34 to $55 million in cap space, and all of the their 1st round picks for the next three seasons.

 

PORTLAND LUMBERJACKS: $10.6 million in Cap Space

The Hunter: Ooof. The Lumberjacks are actually nearly $17 million under the cap but their budget limits them to just a little over $10 million to spend. The good news is that GM Trent Callus invested in some veterans (Richard Burke II, Charles Barnett) in order to breath some life into a star-crossed franchise and the team improved from 18 wins in 2023 to 28 wins last season. The bad news is that owner George Smith didn't seem very impressed: he raised the team's budget by less than $1 million this offseason. The source of the owner's displeasure has got to be the lack of revenue. Portland sold only 39% of their available seats and drew less than 9,000 fans per game. Despite having only $54 million in payroll, the Lumberjacks made just $11.6 million in profit -- $8.2 of that was directly from revenue sharing.

The Hunted: Sheldon Cortez and Isaac Lafollete are the only notable names who are free agents for Portland. Lafollete was throw-in in the Burke trade and can definitely be allowed to walk. Cortez had a decent season for Portland but unless he signs for last season's $5 million or less, it's questionable whether bringing him back is worth the effect on the bottom line. The Lumberjacks could probably replace his 11 ppg and 12.2 PER for cheaper from the leftover free agents this season.

What Portland needs to do is keep costs low, stick with the veterans they have, hope their youth develops, and try to win 25+ games again this season. The Lumberjacks haven't made the playoffs in 11 seasons, and prior to last season they had five consecutive seasons with fewer than 20 wins. The fan base has been completely alienated. It's going to take more than one season of semi-competence to win back their loyalty.

 

FORT WORTH DRAGOONS: $7.2 million in Cap Space

The Hunter: The Dragoons made the playoffs last season after a three year absence from the postseason and although they lost in the first round as expected they put up a good fight against the defending champion St. Louis Sun Kings. GM Kevin Hitch's reward was a budget increase of $6.2 million. Combined with Edward Newhouse's expiring $12.2 million contract, the Dragoons now have $7.2 million to spend. Much like the Lumberjacks, the Dragoons are actually $17.7 million under the cap but are held back by a small budget.

Unlike the Lumberjacks, the Dragoons have a solid core of young players -- PF Ethan Budd (22), Edward Baranowski (22), Rufus Motley (26), and Norbert Cottingham (24) -- that is now playoff tested and will have Heikkinen Cup-winning head coach Kolby Kurzyna at the helm this season. Despite the financial limitations, things are trending in the right direction for the Dragoons.

The Hunted: The Dragoons need to think long and hard about their spending this offseason. While a playoff appearance and increased budget seems like a green light from ownership to spend more to improve the team, starting center Ray Granger and starting small forward Baranowski will either ask for extensions or become free agents after this season. Baranowski in particular is headed for a big pay increase over his rookie scale $3.6 million salary this season.

The Dragoons can use that extra $7.2 million to improve the team this season but should avoid any long term commitments. A one-year, $7.2 million contract might entice a disgruntled veteran looking for more years but getting low-balled by other teams. Keeping flexibility on the books in order to lock down the young core is the most important thing for the Dragoons right now

 

 

 

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