The effects of the trade deadline and buyout season are still being felt around the NBA as teams negotiate with new free agents and fill open roster spots. Hoops Rumors will be taking a team-by-team look at the financial ramifications of all the movement. We began earlier with a look at the Southwest and Pacific divisions, and we’ll continue with the Central Division:
The trade deadline is usually the last opportunity for disappointing teams like the Bucks to lower their payrolls, but Milwaukee still managed to cut costs even without making a swap, thanks to some help from the Magic. The Bucks were in position to end up adding to their salary obligations when they waived Chris Copeland to sign Steve Novak to a prorated minimum-salary deal, but when the Magic claimed Copeland off waivers, the full $1.15MM salary on Copeland’s one-year contract went from Milwaukee’s books to Orlando’s. That left the Bucks with only their $295,327 obligation to Novak, and it takes some of the sting away from having lost Novak for the rest of the season when he suffered a sprained MCL just days into his Milwaukee tenure.
The Bulls made a trade for the first time since July 2014, and in so doing they created a credit that will help them make another swap come the summer. Chicago wound up with a trade exception worth $2,854,940, the equivalent of Kirk Hinrich‘s pretrade salary. That’s even though the Bulls brought in Justin Holiday via the swap. Holiday is on a two-year contract for the minimum salary, so Chicago absorbed him into the minimum salary exception. That allows the Bulls to treat the offloading of Hinrich as its own, “non-simultaneous” deal, in the parlance of NBA trade regulations. The Bulls also realized a savings of $1,907,664 in payroll and $2,861,496 in projected tax penalties, though the $141,068 trade kicker they had to pay Hinrich takes away from that. Chicago took a nibble from its cap flexibility for next season, since Holiday’s $1,015,696 salary is guaranteed.
It remains to be seen whether the separate trades that sent out Anderson Varejao and Jared Cunningham and brought in Channing Frye gave Cleveland better production on the court, but it’s certain that they saved the team heaps of money, at least in the short term. Frye’s $8,193,029 pay is $2,392,801 less than the combined total of Varejao’s $9,638,554 salary and Cleveland’s $947,276 obligation to Cunningham. The Cavs saved a whopping 3.75 times that amount in projected luxury tax payments, a figure that comes to $8,973,004. That’s a total savings of $11,365,805 in combined salary and payroll, less the $1,176,824 trade kicker Cleveland had to pay Varejao. Still, the ability to save about $10MM all told explains why the Cavs swallowed hard and traded away Varejao despite his close relationship with LeBron James and long tenure with the team. Frye will still have $15,227,883 over two years left on his contract after this season, while Varejao was only guaranteed $9,361,446 beyond this season and Cunningham was on a one-year deal. So, it’s an investment of long-term money for the Cavs, but it’s understandable, since it’s unlikely they’ll be so deep into the tax in years to come, when the salary cap and tax threshold will be much higher. The Cavs spent a tiny fraction of their savings on a 10-day contract for Jordan McRae, who’ll see $30,888 at a total cost to the team of $146,718 in combined salary and projected tax.
The math for Detroit became considerably simpler when the Donatas Motiejunas trade came apart. That left only one swap, and the Tobias Harris deal was about as even an exchange of salaries as can be as far as this season is concerned. The Pistons dropped $244,497 from their payroll when they sent Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to the Magic for Harris and his precisely $16MM salary, but the long-term effects paint an entirely different story. Harris is due $48MM over three years after this season, while the only guaranteed obligation to the players Detroit relinquished was a $400K partial guarantee for Ilyasova. The Pistons seemed likely to pick up Ilyasova’s full guarantee of $8.4MM had they kept him, but the deal is nonetheless a significant expenditure for the long term. Detroit has been quiet in the buyout market, investing in only a $49,709 10-day contract for Justin Harper.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.