How Deadline Trades Worked Financially

A source told the Plain Dealer on Thursday that in the hour leading up to the deadline, the negotiations are 10% about basketball and 90% about accounting (Twitter link). Much of the math has to do with trade exceptions, whether the deal involves using one, creating one, or both. Just about every trade that teams make provides the opportunity to create at least one new exception.

Teams can structure deals as they see fit, and sometimes there are multiple ways to create exceptions. We’ve sorted out seemingly the most favorable scenarios from each of this year’s deadline trades, as explained below. Teams don’t always take the intuitive path, so that’s why we’re treating these as exceptions a club CAN make or use, rather than ones they definitively have made or used.

For more information on how these exceptions work and the difference between a simultaneous and non-simultaneous trade, check out our Hoops Rumors Glossary entry on trade exceptions right here.


  • The Nets can’t create an exception from this trade, since the salary-matching rules for taxpaying teams are stricter than for non-taxpayers. That prevents Brooklyn from structuring the swap of Jason Terry for Marcus Thornton as a swap of its own, which the Nets could do if they weren’t in the tax. Such a move would have created an exception equal to the full salary of Reggie Evans.
  • The Kings can create an exception worth $2,424,687, equal to the difference between the salaries for Thornton and Terry. They can absorb Evans and his $1,695,635 salary into the Patrick Patterson exception worth $2,316,429. That would reduce the Patterson exception to $620,794.


  • Steve Blake‘s $4MM salary fits perfectly into Golden State’s $4MM Brandon Rush exception. That allows the Warriors to structure the offloading of MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore as separate, one-player non-simultaneous trades. That creates a pair of exceptions, one worth $1,210,080 for Brooks and another at $788,872 for Bazemore. The ability for Golden State to send out Brooks and Bazemore individually is what makes this deal legal in the first place, since the Warriors couldn’t have aggregated the salaries of Brooks and another player in any deal. That’s because it’s been less than two months since the Warriors acquired Brooks via trade from the Celtics.
  • The Lakers can create a $2,789,920 trade exception representing the difference between the salaries for Blake and Brooks. They can structure that part as its own transaction because Bazemore’s minimum salary can go into the minimum-salary exception.


  • This one is straightforward. The Heat can create a $884,293 exception equal to the amount of Roger Mason Jr.‘s cap hit.
  • The Kings don’t create an exception, but they used the minimum salary exception to absorb Mason without giving the Heat any player in return.


  • The Nuggets can absorb Jan Vesely‘s $3,340,920 salary into their Andre Iguodala exception worth $9,868,632, reducing the Iguodala exception to $6,527,712. That allows Denver to create a $5MM exception that’s equal to Andre Miller‘s salary. They could also leave the Iguodala exception alone and create a $1,659,080 exception equal to the difference between the salaries for Miller and Vesely, but that seems a less likely course.
  • The Wizards can treat the Miller-Vesely swap as its own transaction, and while they can’t create an exception from that, since Miller’s salary is greater than Vesely’s, Washington can get an exception that’s equal in value to Eric Maynor‘s salary of $2,016,000. Structuring the offloading of Maynor to Philadelphia as its own separate deal allows the Wizards to create that exception.
  • The Sixers don’t get any exceptions, since they didn’t relinquish any assets in the trade at all. The Wizards simply used Philadelphia as a dumping ground for Maynor, since the Nuggets didn’t want him. Keeping him while swapping Miller for Vesely would have left Washington over the tax line. The Sixers wound up with a pair of second-round picks for their trouble, and the deal also helped them exceed the league-minimum payroll of $52.811MM, which they’d been under all season. That’s of greater consequence to the Sixers players than the team itself, since the team would have had to split the difference between its payroll and the minimum payroll among the players if it hadn’t met the minimum by season’s end. Thus, Philadelphia’s four deadline moves mean the Sixers players will miss out what might have been tidy bonus checks.


  • The Bucks can create an exception worth $3.25MM, the equivalent of Gary Neal‘s salary. They can do this by structuring their offloading of Neal as its own trade, with the swap of Luke Ridnour for Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien as another.
  • There doesn’t appear to be a way for the Bobcats to gain an exception through this trade, since the deal as a whole increases their payroll, and from their perspective, there’s no way to split the deal into workable separate transactions.


  • The Spurs can fold Austin Daye into the minimum-salary exception, creating an $1,463,000 exception worth the equivalent of Nando De Colo‘s salary.
  • The Raptors add salary in the two-player swap, so there’s no way for them to create an exception short of absorbing De Colo into their existing $4,583,432 Rudy Gay exception. That would reduce that exception’s value and create a diminutive $947,907 exception for Daye’s salary, which wouldn’t serve much of a purpose. So, it’s unlikely the Raptors are using or creating an exception here.


  • The Nuggets can take Aaron Brooks into the minimum-salary exception to create a $1,169,880 exception equal to Jordan Hamilton‘s salary.
  • The Rockets add salary in the two-player swap, and they have no existing exceptions that would facilitate the creation of another, so there’s no way for them to gain an exception in this trade.


  • This deal involves only one player, so the Clippers can simply create a $947,907 exception that’s equal to the cap hit for Byron Mullens.
  • As mentioned above, this trade and Philadelphia’s other moves helped the Sixers exceed the minimum team payroll.


  • Much like L.A.’s trade with the Sixers, this trade involves just a single player under contract. The Clippers create an exception worth $884,293 that’s equal to the cap hit for Antawn Jamison.
  • The Hawks don’t create an exception, but they used the minimum-salary exception to absorb Jamison without giving the Clippers any player in return.


  • The trade wouldn’t work for the Cavs if it were split into smaller parts, and Cleveland adds payroll from the deal, so there’s no exception for the Cavs here.
  • The Sixers remain under the cap, so they don’t create an exception for the players they’re sending out. As mentioned above, this trade and Philadelphia’s other moves helped the Sixers exceed the minimum team payroll.


  • Indiana can’t split the deal into individual parts and still have it work, but the Pacers nonetheless gain a sizable $4,281,921 exception from the difference between Danny Granger‘s salary and the combined salaries for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen.
  • The Sixers remain under the cap, so they don’t create an exception.

Basketball Insiders and ShamSports were used in the creation of this post.

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