nerlens noel
The Raptors are reportedly trying to pry Nerlens Noel from the 76ers in the hopes of clearing cap space for free agent guard DeMar DeRozan. Getty Images

On the eve of free agency and the new league year, NBA finalists, top playoff contenders, and the league’s bottom dwellers are hoping to lock down several trades before player contracts skyrocket.

With the salary cap rising exponentially to $94 million for the 2016-17 season, the league, and in particular players at both the superstar and even middle tier levels, will see contracts soar and soar.

Yet, even with the cap rising by $22 million and expected to go even higher before the 2017-18 season, many teams are trying to clear even more cap space to either retain or lure top free agents.

Recent trade chatter has the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, and the defending Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors vying for players already under contract with the hopes of clearing their books.

Specifically, the Raptors are reportedly talking with the 76ers about a deal that would ship budding big man Nerlens Noel and other players and or assets to Toronto in an effort to make space for unrestricted free agent shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and to gain some leverage over free agent center Bismack Biyombo, according to ESPN.

DeRozan, who’s entering his eighth season and will receive maximum-level contract offers, reportedly has interest in staying in Toronto but the Raptors will have to offer him the full max in order to keep their prized primary scorer.

However, the Raptors are already over the new $94 million cap at $101.6 million, and even though they own DeRozan’s full Bird rights (which allow it to go over the cap to retain its own players), general manager Masai Ujiri may need to create more space to keep the Eastern Conference finalist squad together for the foreseeable future.

Rebuilding Philadelphia currently leads the NBA with $46.7 million in cap space, but it’s tried for the better part of 2016 to uncouple Noel and center Jahlil Okafor, since their styles clash and they can’t seem to play together.

A dominant athletic rebounder, Biyombo came up huge for Toronto in the postseason, helping it beat the eventual NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers twice while Jonas Valanciunas was hurt. However, he made only $2.8 million last season, a figure that will rise to potentially as much as $10 million or more per season due to the new cap. Toronto doesn’t own Biyombo’s Bird rights because he only just joined last year.

The deal makes sense for the Sixers since they have plenty of cap space, and would in theory take back a pick or two to help Toronto shed its cap.

The Warriors, meanwhile, appear ready to drop starting center and rim protector Andrew Bogut for the sake of landing prized free agent Kevin Durant.

CSN Bay Area reports Golden State, still recovering from losing a 3-1 finals lead to Cleveland, are “frustrated” with the Australian 7-footer due to his injury history as well as his uneven production during the playoffs.

A former No. 1 overall pick by the Bucks, Bogut’s served the Warriors well for much of his time with the club and played a strong role in the 2015 title run. However, dealing Bogut and his expiring $12.6 million contract, the third highest on the team, helps Golden State make room for Durant and other role players.

General manager Bob Myers is expected to have a busy offseason. Multiple teams are expected to pursue restricted free agents Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezili, as well as unrestricted free agent Marreesse Speights.