Tuesday was the final day that teams could use disabled player exceptions, meaning a combined total of nearly $14.307MM in salary cap flexibility has gone by the wayside. The NBA granted the relief to the Pacers, Lakers, Heat and Cavaliers this season, but only the Cavs put their disabled player exception to use. The Lakers forfeited the most flexibility Tuesday, watching two exceptions worth a total of more than $6.349MM disappear.
Coincidentally, the Lakers used another injury-related provision Tuesday, signing Jabari Brown to a 10-day contract via hardship, which allowed the team to add Brown to the roster without dropping another player even though L.A. was already carrying 15 players. The hardship provision only gives teams an extra roster spot, however. It doesn’t allow them any grace as it relates to the salary cap. That’s what disabled player exceptions are for. They allow teams that are already above the salary cap a means to add players for more than the minimum, up to the value of the exception. That same amount can be used to claim a player off waivers, and teams may trade for a player who makes the value of the exception plus $100K.
But, there are a couple of stipulations that help explain why so many disabled player exceptions went unused. They can’t go toward any player whose contract runs beyond this season. So, teams with disabled player exceptions can’t sign anyone to a multiyear deal or claim or trade for a player who isn’t on an expiring contract. Also, the exception doesn’t absolve a team of any luxury tax burden it might incur if using the exception would take it over the tax threshold. That’s probably why the Heat and the Pacers, both of whom would cross the tax line if they used the full amounts of their exceptions, decided to stand pat.
Unlike other exceptions, the disabled player exception may only be used on one player. So, even though the Cavs used only a partial amount of their $4,852,273 exception to trade for Iman Shumpert‘s $2,616,975 salary, they weren’t allowed to spend the rest on another player, meaning the exception disappeared as soon as Cleveland put it to use.
For more detail on disabled player exceptions, including information on how their values are determined, check out our Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Here’s a look at this season’s exceptions and the ones that expired at the end of Tuesday.
- Pacers: granted to offset the injury to Paul George — ($5,305,000) EXPIRED UNUSED
- Cavaliers: granted to offset the injury to Anderson Varejao — ($4,852,273) USED: Iman Shumpert
- Lakers: granted to offset the injury to Steve Nash — ($4,850,500) EXPIRED UNUSED
- Heat: granted to offset the injury to Josh McRoberts — ($2,652,500) EXPIRED UNUSED
- Lakers: granted to offset the injury to Julius Randle — ($1,498,680) EXPIRED UNUSED