What’s the Best Team You Can Create Under the NBA Salary Cap?

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As the Cleveland Cavaliers are finding out, staying within the confines of the NBA salary cap and competing for a league title usually don’t mix, which means paying some form of a luxury tax. In the Cavaliers’ case, it will be a steep bill to pay, but owner Dan Gilbert knows that he has little alternative.

That begs the question what type of team could be put together if that cap threshold couldn’t be broken, in this case past the $70 million limit. ESPN.com had one list recently, but we’ve decided to try out five different ones with roster of 13 players apiece. We’re veering away from their restriction of not being able to use rookie contracts, simply because in the real world, those rookie deals are part of any payroll. While most fans love to play general manager, moving within such a restrictive structure will test the mettle of any would-be GM.

Team No. 1 ($69,373,064)

Anthony Davis of the Pelicans


Tim Duncan, C, San Antonio Spurs

2015-16 Salary: $5,250,000

2014-15 Stats: 13.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.0 BPG

Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Hornets

2015-16 Salary: $7,070,730

2014-15 Stats: 24.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 2.2 APG

Trevor Ariza, SF, Houston Rockets

2015-16 Salary: $8,193,030

2014-15 Stats: 12.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.9 SPG

Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards

2015-16 Salary: $5,694,674

2014-15 Stats: 15.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.2 SPG

Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors

2015-16 Salary: $11,370,786

2014-15 Stats: 23.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.7 APG, 2.0 SPG


Jordan Hill, C, Indiana Pacers

2015-16 Salary: $4,000,000

2014-15 Stats: 12.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG

Chris Kaman, C, Portland Trail Blazers

2015-16 Salary: $5,016,000

2014-15 Stats: 11.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Paul Pierce, SF, Los Angeles Clippers

2015-16 Salary: $3,376,000

2014-15 Stats: 11.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.0 APG

Harrison Barnes, SF, Golden State Warriors

2015-16 Salary: $3,873,398

2014-15 Stats: 10.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 APG

Luis Scola, PF, Toronto Raptors

2015-16 Salary: $3,000,000

2014-15 Stats: 9.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG

Manu Ginobli, PG, San Antonio Spurs

2015-16 Salary: $2,800,000

2014-15 Stats: 10.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.4 SPG

Courtney Lee, SG, Memphis Grizzlies

2015-16 Salary: $5,675,000

2014-15 Stats: 10.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.0 APG

Devin Harris, PG/SG

2015-16 Salary: $4,053,446

2014-15 Stats: 8.8 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 3.1 APG

Next: Team No. 2

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.