When the Rockets so quickly reached an agreement to sign Aaron Brooks after the point guard was bought out by the Kings yesterday, cost-conscious management in Sacramento may have let out a sigh of relief. Unless another team snatches Brooks up by claiming him off waivers before the Rockets can sign him, the Kings will still be on the hook for whatever remaining portion of Brooks' contract they consented to pay as part of the buyout. But, if he signs with the Rockets, Sacramento may not have to pay out quite as much.
That's because of a provision in the collective bargaining agreement known as set-off rights. If a player signs with another team after he's been waived, his original team gets to reduce the amount of money it still owes him. A team may reduce the salary it owes a player by half the difference between the salary the player earns under a contract with a new team and the minimum salary for a one-year veteran. If the player is a rookie, the rookie minimum is used instead.
We don't yet know the financial details of Brooks' buyout with the Kings or his pending contract with the Rockets. The Rockets could sign Brooks for more than a prorated portion of the minimum salary, since they're under the cap, but let's say they sign him only for that amount. If they finalize the deal Monday, he would be on the team for 45 of the regular season's 170 days, so he'd receive $234,296, or 45/170 of the $885,120 minimum for a three-year veteran. The minimum salary for a player with just one year of experience is $762,195. The prorated amount of that figure is $201,758. The difference between $234,296 and $201,758 is $32,538, and half of that is $16,296 — the number the Kings could subtract from their cap and their payout to Brooks. That's a tiny amount in the world of NBA salaries, but to owners who count every penny, it's not insignificant. That figure would only increase if Brooks signed with Houston for more than the minimum.
Brooks would still benefit from signing with Houston, even if it's for the minimum, since he'd be giving back only a small portion of his new salary. Teams and players can waive the right to set-off as part of their buyout agreements, so perhaps that's what the Kings and Brooks have done in this case — though given the Kings' thriftiness of late, I wouldn't bet on it.
Interestingly, set off applies if a waived player signs a deal with a professional team in any league while his last team is still paying off his old contract. It doesn't have to be an NBA team — it can be a D-League squad or an overseas club. In many cases, though, a player's non-NBA contract is for less than the one-year veteran's NBA minimum salary, making the set-off provision moot.
Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.