Last week’s trade deadline was a dizzying affair, with 39 players and 17 teams involved in adozen trades, including a trio of three-team transactions. The day had wide-ranging effects on the salary structures of those 17 teams, and we’ll examine the aftermath for each of them in this multipart series.
Today we’ll look at the Central Division, where a pair of teams made fairly significant moves. The salary figures listed here denote this season’s salaries, though we’ll also discuss salary for future seasons.
The Pistons pulled the rare trifecta of lowering their payroll for this season and clearing $3MM from their books for next season while adding a player who’s more well-regarded than any they gave up. Detroit accomplished much of this in its side of the three-team swap with the Thunder and Jazz, relinquishing D.J. Augustin and his $3MM guaranteed salary for next season along with Kyle Singler‘s expiring contract for soon-to-be restricted free agent Reggie Jackson. Of course, the team will have to pay to keep Jackson this summer. However, the way president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy and GM Jeff Bower structured the trade left the team with only about $27.9MM in commitments for this summer’s efforts to re-sign Jackson and Greg Monroe.
It also allowed the Pistons to create a trade exception worth the equivalent of Singler’s $1,090,000 salary, since the salaries for Jackson and Augustin are a close match. It also appears as though the Pistons could have created a smaller exception worth $795,631 for the difference between Augustin’s and Jackson’s salaries. Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders shows the Singler exception but no Augustin exception on his Pistons salary page, so it’s possible Detroit wound up without that one. Still, such an asset, which comes to less than the two-year veteran’s minimum salary, would be unlikely to come into play.
Jackson goes to a team willing to give him the starting point guard job he’s coveted, at least until Brandon Jennings comes back healthy next season, and that role carries a side benefit for Jackson, too. The trade makes it highly likely that he’ll trigger the starter criteria to lift the value of his qualifying offer from nearly $3.223MM to almost $4.434MM. He was reportedly willing to sign that qualifying offer while he was a member of the Thunder, but it nonetheless appears as though it won’t come to that for him in Detroit, which just watched Monroe ink his qualifying offer last year.
Detroit’s other trade was a shuffling of expiring deals, with Tayshaun Prince coming in and Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome going out. Any long-lasting financial effect depends on whether the Pistons want to bring Prince back for next season, which his outsized cap hold would complicate.
The Bucks take a collaborative approach to player personnel, with coach Jason Kidd having as much say as GM John Hammond, but it seems clear that they both understand the value of the rookie scale contract. Yes, Milwaukee gave up a productive player on one of those bargain deals, but they gained three other promising young players, and unlike Brandon Knight, all three new Bucks have at least one season left after this one on their contracts. Knight is headed for restricted free agency this summer, and Grantland’s Zach Lowe estimated in December that he’d wind up with a deal that gives him $10-12MM per year. Michael Carter-Williams, Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis combine to make $6,170,694 next season. Carter-Williams is under contract through 2016/17, and Ennis, a rookie, can’t elect free agency until 2018, meaning there’s long-term cost-certainty at discount prices.
The flip side is that all three represent guaranteed salary on the books while Knight’s restricted free agency would have given the Bucks flexibility if they wanted to pivot in another direction. Yet that’s offset by the team’s buyout with Larry Sanders. It looks like they reduced his salary to $9MM this season and will owe him only $4.4MM next season and each year through 2017/18, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). That’s instead of the yearly $11MM payout he was to receive. Sanders gave up enough in the buyout deal that it appears as though the team eschewed the stretch provision, which would have allowed Milwaukee to take seven years instead of three to pay off his contract.
So, the team entered the deadline with roughly $46.6MM in commitments for next season and emerged from this weekend, when Sanders’ buyout became official, with about $46.4MM in money on the books for 2015/16, essentially a wash. The Bucks, who appear poised to do more than just sneak into the playoffs this spring, have a chance to be a significant player this summer, with near-max money to burn against a projected $68MM cap.
The team felt a twinge of pain in parting with Kendall Marshall, a move it was reluctant to make, since that cost Milwaukee the Early Bird rights to a 23-year-old former lottery pick who’s only a year removed from having averaged 8.8 assists per game. However, his value presumably took a hit in January when a torn ACL knocked him out for the season, and so long as another team doesn’t sign him to a multiyear deal before the Bucks become eligible to sign him again in July, Milwaukee can just use its cap space if it wants to bring him back.
The Bucks don’t receive any trade exceptions since they’re still under this season’s cap. The team’s amnesty payout to Drew Gooden of more than $6.687MM, which counts toward the minimum team salary, helps ensure Milwaukee will exceed the $56.759MM threshold.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.