- Marc Stein, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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The NBA has informed teams that it is projecting a rise in the salary cap of nearly $5 million for next season, which could aid clubs such as Chicago and Houston in their attempts to steal free agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks, according to sources familiar with the forecasts.
Sources told ESPN.com that all 30 teams were informed this week via league memorandum that an increase in the cap from this season's $58.6 million to $63.2 million in 2014-15 -- thanks to increased revenues -- is now expected. A corresponding rise in the luxury-tax threshold from $71.7 million to $77 million is also projected, sources said.
It must be noted that these are non-binding forecasts that have been circulated roughly three months before the official cap ceiling and luxury-tax threshold for next season are announced in early July following a league-wide audit.
But the latest projections will undoubtedly be welcomed by numerous teams that are planning to be active in free agency this summer. If the projections hold, several clubs will find themselves with more spending money and financial flexibility than they initially planned.
The Knicks remain unquestioned favorites to re-sign Anthony after the March hiring of the decorated Phil Jackson as team president and given the fact that only New York can offer the 29-year-old a five-year deal -- one year longer than any other team -- in the $130 million range.
But sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that the Bulls -- even before these developments came to light Friday night via noted NBA salary-cap expert Larry Coon -- were already feeling increasingly optimistic behind the scenes about their chances of convincing Anthony to leave the Knicks in the wake of New York's failure to make the playoffs. This is the first season Anthony has failed to reach the playoffs in his 11-year career.
It's believed that the Bulls would still have to shed some veteran salary in addition to releasing former All-Star forward Carlos Boozer via the amnesty clause this summer to be able to make a competitive offer that could persuade Anthony to leave the new Jackson-led Knicks and the Madison Square Garden stage he loves so dearly. But a higher cap figure than anticipated would naturally make things easier for Chicago.
And Houston has quietly expressed confidence for months that it could make the moves necessary -- such as trading center Omer Asik and/or guard Jeremy Lin -- to thrust itself into the heart of the Anthony bidding depending on how the forthcoming playoffs play out.
The new cap projection for 2014-15, if it comes to fruition, would represent a 7.7 percent increase over this season. The NBA, according to ESPN.com contributor Coon, typically expects a season-to-season rise of 4.5 percent.
Coon reported in a blog on his NBA Salary Cap FAQ website that this is actually the third time already this season that the league has increased its projections for 2014-15.
Yet another spike would suggest that NBA revenues are rising at record rates, which is a notion Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban seemingly echoed earlier this week when he called the $550 million sale of the small-market Milwaukee Bucks "a bargain."
The NBA has informed teams that it is projecting a rise in the salary cap of nearly $5 million for next season, according to sources.