NBA teams are tossing millions at postseason spots that might not be there

Brian Windhorst and a team of Sportzshala insiders dig into life and news in and around the NBA world, including teams that have spent huge amounts of money to win, the buyout market that’s already making a splash, and the New Orleans Pelicans, overcoming the losing streak.

The last time Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wrote a luxury tax check, Kyrie Irving celebrated winning Rookie of the Year in 2012.

Nikola Jokic was 15 when the Denver Nuggets last paid.

Last Thursday alone, the Boston Celtics spent more on luxury tax than they paid for back-up center Mike Muscala than in the past nine seasons combined.

Counting billionaire money is not the most important thing when assessing the readiness of teams for the playoffs. But it demonstrates the pressure that is building up within franchises as the postseason approaches.

After another round of star movement on the February 9 trade deadline, this spring promises to be a busy one for several teams that have moved their chips into the middle in ways not seen in years.

“We are talking about this year, this is not about [trades] It’s going to pay dividends in two or three years,” Celtics owner Vic Groesbeck told the team last week. “Stretch and do your job. This [team president Brad Stevens’] instructions, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Muskala’s move cost the Celtics an additional $6 million in luxury taxes – though that was offset by Noah Wonlech’s recent pay cut deal – and now Grosbeck and his associates are expecting more than $60 million in taxes this season. with a salary of $175 million.

The Celtics have never spent like this. In the previous nine seasons, even when they were rivals in the late 2010s, the Celtics spent a total of $3 million in taxes. They were regular taxpayers during the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era between 2008 and 2013, but not at that rate—even adjusted for inflation.

This story is playing out across the league, and the question arises about the consequences next summer, when disappointments are inevitable. (The new media rights agreement is thought to change the spending landscape, but that is still at least two years away.)


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