This past season the NBA salary cap for each team rose to $94.1 million per team and it was projected to rise to $101 million per team next season.
But the "super teams" in the East and West could actually have hurt the NBA and may cause that number to fall which could throw the proverbial monkey wrench into the plans of some GMs.
Even if the Warriors/Cavaliers finals goes to seven games, this year would still be tied for the second fewest total NBA playoff games since the first round was expended to the best-of-seven game format we have today. Fewer games means smaller gate revenue/profits. That might sound like a drop in the bucket to some fans but it will have an effect on every NBA team, not just those that made the playoffs this year.
The NBA has this thing called "revenue sharing" that shifts some of the financial wealth of big-market NBA teams to the league’s neediest teams and this revenue sharing plays a part in determining the salary cap. With fewer playoff games the NBA gets less revenue and subsequently less money to spread around the league which will have some effect on the salary cap.
How does this affect the Suns?
It probably won't affect them much as they have a lot of younger players and fell well under the salary cap this season ($85,138,847). It could actually help them as the maximum salary contract numbers that can be offered will be smaller if the cap size is smaller.
From the CBA regarding future contracts on what a player can be paid: "For any player who has completed fewer than seven (7) years of service, the greater of 25% of the Salary Cap in effect in the first season of the contract, renegotiation, or extension, or 105% of the player’s salary for the prior season."
Also: "A rookie scale player who has four years of service at the end of his Rookie Scale Contract, or a second-round pick or undrafted player who has four years of service as of the June 30 following the end of the last season of his contract, who meets any one of the “30% Max Criteria” and re-signs with his current team (either a Rookie Scale Extension or as a free agent) may receive a starting salary of up to 30% of the Salary Cap."
A lot of this is “lawyer speak” and there is a lot of complexity involved in it all but in short the rules basically say that the maximum amount that a player can be offered on a new contract is tied to a percentage of the salary cap. That means that the maximum offers that can be made to restricted free agents - like the Suns' Alex Len and Alan Williams - will be lower than previously projected. It also means that any contract extension that the Suns might offer a player like T.J. Warren would have a lower maximum this year.
It's actually fairly good for the Suns although it could hurt some of the teams that are already over the salary cap... especially teams that are already way over the salary cap... or will be in order to re-sign certain players (Cleveland, Portland, LA Clippers, Golden State, OKC, Milwaukee, Washington and... Charlotte?).
And that could help the Suns and some other rebuilding teams in the free agency market this year. Teams with already high team salaries might balk at going even further into luxury tax territory and some teams that were planning on a $101 million salary cap this year could be forced into paying a luxury tax that they weren't previously planning on.
I doubt that the Suns are going to be big players in this year's free agency market but anything that potentially hurts the teams that are already over the cap could only help the Suns moving forward. That means that maybe a few free agents that the Suns wouldn’t have considered before might actually be on their radar depending on how the salary cap numbers turn out. The Suns are in a position to be financially flexible so a lower cap number just isn’t going to have the impact on them that it could have on teams that already have a lot of salary on their books.
At this point there is no way of accurately predicting what the salary cap will be next year or what effects its change may have on the NBA. It may only be a small change which will cause only small ripples across the NBA landscape.
Or it could have a massive effect upon the future plans of some teams... including the Suns.