There are a handful of teams that could generate significant cap space in 2023 but could operate over the cap instead.
The Nets seem like the biggest wildcard depending on what happens with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. If they were to trade Durant for draft picks and expiring contracts, and they do not re-sign Irving, they could be in a position to generate maximum cap space.
The Cavaliers are currently in a position to generate around $25 million in cap space despite extending Darius Garland to a maximum extension. However, they seem likely to extend or re-sign at least one of Caris LeVert, Collin Sexton, and Kevin Love, which would eliminate their cap space.
The Lakers are currently projected to generate over $60 million in cap space since they’ll only have Anthony Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker, Damian Jones, Max Christie, and their 2023 first-round pick on the books. However, that cap space would immediately get eliminated if LeBron James signs a maximum extension. Also, it would likely be eliminated if they trade for one of their reported targets like Kyrie Irving, Myles Turner, or Buddy Hield, since they would presumably look to extend or re-sign them.
The Timberwolves could be looking at around $20 million in cap space if they do not extend or re-sign D’Angelo Russell, Jaylen Nowell, or Naz Reid. They would also need to decline the team option to Nathan Knight, and waive the non-guaranteed salaries of Taurean Prince and Jordan McLaughlin. They could get to around $30 million in space if they were to also offload Kyle Anderson, which could put them in a position to pursue a new starting point guard.
The Kings are currently projected to generate around $20 million in cap space if they do not re-sign or extend Harrison Barnes. They could get to around $30 million if they got off Richaun Holmes’ contract, which could allow them to pursue one of the top wings in free agency.