Trade activity should perk up around the league as December 15th, the date when most (but not all) offseason signees become eligible to be traded. Three teams have extra motivation to make a trade within the next three weeks.
That’s because they have trade exceptions that are about to expire. The Nets have the most sizable among those exceptions, and they face the most urgent deadline. Their exception worth more than $3.3MM, a vestige of the trade that sent Andrei Kirilenko to the Sixers last year, expires December 11th, four days before dozens of players will become trade-eligible. That puts Brooklyn in a tough spot, and the team’s position within $2MM of the $84.74MM tax line makes it even harder to envision the Nets using the exception. Still, it’s a tool the team has to facilitate more complicated trades that would add a negligible amount of salary or even reduce the payroll, and as the Grizzlies and Heat showed this month, it’s not impossible to work a multiplayer trade before December 15th.
It’s more conceivable that the Timberwolves will use the exception they have left over from trading Corey Brewer to the Rockets last year, in part because they have until December 19th to do so. Minnesota already used it once, to absorb Adreian Payne‘s salary from the Hawks, so what once was an exception of nearly $4.703MM is now worth only about $2.847MM. It’s still sizable enough to give the Timberwolves an enticing mechanism to add another piece to their sizable collection of recent former first-round picks or to supplement that group with a veteran who can help them maintain their strong early-season play. Minnesota is 8-9 and tied with the Suns for eighth place in the Western Conference. The team also has a $350K trade exception left over from shipping an injured Ronny Turiaf to the Sixers in the Brewer trade, but it’s so small that it’s virtually unusable.
Brooklyn has a smaller exception available, too, though the $816,482 exception the Nets have for sending Jorge Gutierrez to the Sixers in the Kirilenko trade is somewhat more valuable than Minnesota’s Turiaf exception. It’s worth less than this season’s one-year veteran’s minimum salary, but teams are allowed to trade for players making up to $100K more than the value of an exception, so a deal for a player making the one-year veteran’s minimum of $845,059 would work. Of course, the Nets could simply use the minimum salary exception for a player making that amount, but the trade exception is valuable in case the player they want to trade for is on a contract that extends beyond two seasons, as is often the case with players signed as second-round picks. The minimum salary exception only accommodates one- and two-year deals, while trade exceptions carry no such restriction. Just this month, the Grizzlies used a trade exception of similar size left over from the Jon Leuer deal to take on James Ennis, who’s making the minimum on a three-year contract.
The Rockets are in much the same position with the $816,482 exception they created as part of the Brewer trade with Minnesota. Struggling 7-10 Houston could use a shakeup, but with less than $2MM left against the team’s $88.74MM hard cap, the Rockets must tread carefully. Still, the addition of a player making less than $1MM would work, and the Rockets have an open roster spot to play with.
Here’s a look at each of the trade exceptions set to expire in December:
Obtained: Andrei Kirilenko (Sixers)
Obtained: Jorge Gutierrez (Sixers)
Obtained: Troy Daniels (Timberwolves)
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.