The trade deadline underwhelmed this season, but a robust buyout market followed, and the effects of the changes linger. Hoops Rumors has taken a team-by-team look at the financial ramifications of all the movement. We examined the Southwest, Pacific, Central, Northwest and Atlantic divisions earlier, and we’ll conclude with the Southeast Division:
Atlanta didn’t make the sort of landmark trade involving Jeff Teague, Al Horford of Dennis Schröder that reports suggested the Hawks might, but they made a swap that saved a bit for this season and next and later put the savings toward a buyout market signing of Kris Humphries. The Hawks shed a combined $384,601 in money against the cap when they sent out Justin Holiday and Shelvin Mack for Kirk Hinrich, and even though Chicago took responsibility for Hinrich’s $141,068 trade bonus, Atlanta’s real savings came to less than that $384,601 figure, since the players involved had already received the majority of their paychecks from the teams that had them before the deadline. The swap was more about moving off Holiday’s $1,015,696 guaranteed salary for next season. That gives the Hawks slightly more cap flexibility, reducing their commitments to about $51.7MM for 2016/17, but it also provided funding for Humphries’ $1MM salary, an above-minimum amount that came via a prorated portion of the room exception.
Perhaps no team had a wilder financial ride through the deadline and buyout season than the Heat did, ducking the tax line with three salary–shedding trades, going back over to sign Joe Johnson, and finally slipping back beneath the tax threshold when they worked a buyout with the injured Beno Udrih, an arrangement that raised eyebrows. Miami began $5,627,059 above the tax threshold as deadline week got underway. Two days before the deadline, the Heat artfully constructed a three-team deal that allowed them to exchange Chris Andersen‘s $5MM salary for Brian Roberts‘ $2,854,940 pay without having Memphis or Charlotte take back too much incoming salary for matching purposes. That still left them millions into the tax, so they pulled off the Jarnell Stokes deal with the Pelicans on the day of the deadline, sending out one of the vestiges of the early-season Mario Chalmers trade along with $721,300 cash for a phantom second-round pick. That cash was essentially the fee that New Orleans charged for agreeing to pay Stokes’ remaining salary, and it represented all the money the Heat had left to trade, by rule. Miami had already spent the rest of its $3.4MM allotment in the Zoran Dragic and Shabazz Napier deals, meaning the Heat had to find another way to pull off their second deadline-day trade.
Fortunately for them, the Trail Blazers valued Roberts as someone worth having on their roster, and his contract helps them toward the salary floor. So, they were willing to give up $75K for Roberts, an amount of cash less than the financial benefit of absorbing his contract for salary-floor purposes, and the Heat kicked in their 2021 second-rounder. That left Miami $218K below the tax, and it seemed the Heat could declare victory after a season-long effort to avoid repeat-offender penalties. All they had to do was wait until March 6th to sign anyone, and they’d be OK.
Miami was not content to sit out the buyout market, however. The Heat scored the prize of buyout season on February 27th, signing Joe Johnson that day to a prorated minimum salary contract and sending themselves back over the tax by $136,106. Thus, it was time for team president Pat Riley to once more work his magic.
It remains unclear what convinced Udrih to forfeit $90K of his salary in a buyout deal when the right foot injury expected to sideline him until late May made it unlikely he’d recoup that money through signing with another team. It’s conceivable that Riley made Udrih promises about a new contract later on, though that would be against the rules, and it’s likely the reason why teams around the league scrutinized the Udrih buyout. Still, the Heat didn’t get all that they might have wanted, since the failure of the Sixers or Blazers to claim Udrih off waivers, a move that would have helped them toward the salary floor, left Miami just $46,106 under the tax. That’s not enough to sign anyone until next month, short-circuiting the apparent mutual interest between the Heat and Marcus Thornton, who went to the Wizards instead, as we touch on below.
Somewhat remarkably, all of the four players involved in the three-team trade that brought Courtney Lee to Charlotte are on expiring contracts. The Hornets simply absorbed an extra $1,618,620 in cap hits for this season, the equivalent of the difference between Lee’s salary and the combined salaries of Brian Roberts and P.J. Hairston, and the $542,714 cash Charlotte received in the deal essentially wipes out the real monetary cost, since Memphis already gave Lee most of his paychecks. Charlotte has since poured a little more money into this season, signing Jorge Gutierrez to a pair of 10-day contracts and a subsequent contract that Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders confirms is a prorated minimum-salary deal for just the rest of this season. The total expenditure on Gutierrez, with his 10-day contracts and rest-of-season deal put together, is a paltry $300,899, a figure that, like the trade, doesn’t touch the team’s cap flexibility for the summer ahead.
The primary asset Orlando scored at the deadline was cap flexibility for this summer, sloughing off $23,793,029 from next season’s guaranteed salary commitments, a chunk almost large enough to represent a middle-tier max slot by itself. Less widely noted was the team’s creation of a $8,193,029 trade exception for Channing Frye‘s salary, the league’s second largest such exception behind only Cleveland’s newly created $9,638,554 Anderson Varejao trade exception. It would disappear should the Magic officially open cap room this summer, as expected, but it remains a valuable tool that Orlando can use to accommodate trades around the draft. It appears the Magic already used a small portion of it to claim Chris Copeland‘s $1.15MM salary off waivers last month in a move that helped them reach the salary floor.
Markieff Morris could ultimately prove a bargain, given a contract that’s below the market value his production from previous seasons would suggest, but this season was a disaster for him in Phoenix, and Washington paid dearly to trade for him, adding salary for both the present and the future while also relinquishing a protected first-round pick. The $1.37MM difference between the salary for Morris and the combined salaries of DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries doesn’t matter much because all three already received most of their pay from the teams they were with before the trade. The greater concern is the $24MM over the next three years that’s coming Morris’ way, and particularly the $7.4MM he’ll see next season, when the Wizards would love to have Kevin Durant playing alongside him. The salary Morris makes for next season is not enough to knock Washington out of the projected cap flexibility necessary to afford a max contract for Durant, even with Bradley Beal‘s cap hold, but the trade is still a long-term bet on a player who regressed disconcertingly this year amid constant trade rumors.
Washington wasn’t done spending, scoring J.J. Hickson in the buyout market on a prorated minimum-salary deal and later doing the same with Marcus Thornton, who serves as an injury replacement for the waived Gary Neal. That’s an extra $473,638 for this season. Still, the Wizards elected not to spend their disabled player exception left over from Martell Webster‘s injury, allowing it to expire last week. That’s no surprise, since the Wizards are only $448,438 shy of the tax line after their recent spree.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.