In comments and the FanPosts, there's been talk about the idea of frontloading a contract for Marcus Thornton to help the Sacramento Kings getting closer to the payroll minimum ($49 million) without blowing all of the team's cap space on a bad free agent class and keeping the cap sheet a bit cleaner going forward as Tyreke Evans approaches a lucrative extension. It's a great idea.
Unfortunately, assuming that the new collective bargaining agreement limits frontloading in the same fashion that the old one did, it's not going to make a massive impact.
The old CBA limited frontloading for cap purposes to the inverse of the maximum raise. For instance, teams could sign another team's free agent to a contract with maximum raises of 8 percent. The CBA allowed contracts to decrease that same amount -- 8 percent.
The new CBA will limit Bird rights free agents (of which Thornton is for the Kings) to maximum raises of 7.5 percent. Assuming the frontloading rule is not adjusted under the radar, that means that Sacramento -- if Thornton agrees to it -- could invert the traditional contract.
Say Thornton and the Kings agree to a five-year, $34.5 million deal. (That's just a hair under $7 million per season.) A normal contract with 7.5 percent raises would start at $6 million. In 2012-13, it'd go up to $6.45 million. In '13-14 (when Evans' extension kicks in), it's $6.9 million. In '14-15 (when a prospective DeMarcus Cousins extension would kick in), it's $7.35 million. In '15-16 (Jimmer time), it's $7.8 million.
Under the old rules that we can assume will remain the new rules, the best the Kings could do as far as frontloading on the cap sheet on a five-year, $34.5 million deal is ...
$7.8M | $7.35M | $6.9M | $6.45M | $6M
Again, that helps. But the team can't pay him $10 million this deal and $4 million in 2016. Not unless the rules change dramatically.
This is all separate from the signing bonus, which doesn't have a real salary cap impact but forces the team to pay more of the actual salary up-front. I imagine the Kings would oppose such a deal based on the team being kinda broke.