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How Salary Matching Affects Kevin Love Trade

The Kevin Love trade agreement seemed like a straightforward two-team swap Thursday, when Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Wolves would send Love to the Cavs for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round pick. That structure came as something of a surprise, since rumors had indicated that a third team would be involved. There will indeed be a third team in the mix, according Mark Perner of the Philadelphia Daily News, who wrote that Sixers will jump in the deal to send Thaddeus Young to the Wolves and that Bennett will be rerouted to Philadelphia. Still, fellow Daily News scribe Bob Cooney indicates that the Young-Bennett exchange will take place as a separate transaction after the Love deal is official, a report that leaves the precise structure of the Love trade in flux.

Regardless of where Love, Wiggins, Young and the rest end up, all the moves will have to meet the NBA’s salary-matching requirements. The Sixers are unbound by the rules, since they’re under the cap, but the Wolves and Cavs are over the cap, so they must adhere to them. The stipulations germane to the Love-related moves hold that teams under the tax but over the cap, like the Cavs and Wolves, can receive 150% plus 100K of the salary that they trade away, as long as the salary they part with adds up to no more than $9.8MM. Should the Cavs or Wolves trade away more than that, they can receive up to $5MM more than the salaries they give up. A further rule applies if either the Cavs or Wolves relinquish $19.6MM or more. In that case, they’d only be able to take back 125% plus $100K of what they give up, but this limit is unlikely to come into play.

The two-team deal in the form that Wojnarowski originally reported works because the salaries for Wiggins and Bennett add up to $11,074,560. That’s more than $9.8MM, so it triggers the $5MM rule for Cleveland. Love is set to make $15,719,063 this coming season, which is $4,644,503 more than Wiggins and Bennett will make put together. It’s a tight squeeze beneath $5MM, but it still fits.

The addition of the Sixers and Young would add a layer of complexity, but it would still make for a legal trade. The Wolves would be taking back Wiggins and Young, whose salaries add up to $14,921,509, simply moving them closer in line with the salary for Love that they’re relinquishing. The only salaries the Cavs would be giving up would be those of Wiggins and Bennett, and they’d be acquiring only Love. It doesn’t matter that Bennett would be going to a different team in this scenario, as long as it’s all part of the same transaction. The Cavs would still be taking back less than $5MM more than the amount they’re giving up, which exceeds $9.8MM, so it’s kosher. The Sixers would be reducing their salary with this trade structure, dropping them farther beneath the cap.

What wouldn’t work is if the Wolves and Sixers simply swap Young and Bennett after making the Love trade that Wojnarowski originally outlined. Bennett’s $5,563,920 salary is less than $9.8MM, so Minnesota could only trade for 150% plus $100K of what Bennett makes, which would come to $8,445,880. Young’s $9,410,869 salary exceeds that, so the Wolves and Sixers couldn’t make this deal.

Minnesota is hoping to trade J.J. BareaLuc Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved, as Wojnarowski added when he reported the Love agreement Thursday, and Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune said the Wolves would like to unload Barea and Mbah a Moute in a deal for Young. Still, NBA rules would prohibit the Wolves from packaging Bennett along with Barea, Mbah a Moute, Shved or anyone else on the roster for two months after acquiring Bennett from the Cavs. Capped-out teams like the Wolves can flip a player for whom they just traded, but only if they send the player out by himself. Since trading Bennett alone for Young wouldn’t work, either, the Cavs and Sixers would have to wait until the two months pass for Minnesota to add enough salary to the deal to make it work.

Any trade involving Wiggins can’t be complete until August 23rd because of the 30-day waiting period the Cavs must endure after signing him, as has been much publicized. So, a separate deal that sends Young to Minnesota and Bennett to Philadelphia couldn’t be consummated until late October, weeks after the start of training camp. That wouldn’t make it impossible, of course. But it would be less than ideal.

The Sixers and Wolves could try to split the Bennett-Young deal into parts, so that Bennett would go out on his own for a draft pick. If they attempt that, there’s a decent chance the league would object on the grounds that such a maneuver would be an attempt to circumvent the rules, as Tom Moore of Calkins Media explains.

If the Sixers would consent to taking Barea, Mbah a Moute, Shved or some combination of those players back in a deal that sends out Young and nets them Bennett, Minnesota and Philadelphia could more easily accomplish this as part of the Love trade. It wouldn’t muddy the salary-matching waters for the Wolves or Cavs, and the Sixers have enough room to give up Young and take Bennett and the entire trio of Barea, Mbah a Moute and Shved without going over the cap. The Sixers probably wouldn’t agree to taking all of them, but regardless of how many of them, or even if any of them, were involved, it would be much easier for Young to end up in Minnesota and Bennett to wind up with the Sixers if it happened as part of the Love trade. If the Wolves and Sixers have that aim, expect them to accomplish it at the same time Love heads to Cleveland.

ShamSports and Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ were used in the creation of this post.

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