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 is taking a team-by-team look at the financial ramifications of all the movement. We examined the Southwest, Pacific, Central and Northwest divisions earlier, and we’ll continue with the Atlantic Division:
It became clear that the Celtics had no use for David Lee, and he didn’t want to spend another season lost on the bench, particularly with his free agency coming this summer. So, the sides engineered what’s been perhaps the most mutually beneficial divorce, at least in financial terms, of buyout season. Lee is averaging 19.6 minutes per game for the Mavericks on a deal that gives him $2,085,671, the prorated remainder of his new team’s room exception. It’s about five times more lucrative than what he could have earned on the standard prorated minimum deal that most players sign for this time of year.
Its size is helpful for the Celtics, too. Teams and players typically agree to waive the right of set off in buyout arrangements, but Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports indicates that didn’t take place here. So, according to the league’s formula for set off, the Celtics get to subtract half the difference between Lee’s new salary and the one-year veteran’s minimum from their remaining obligation to Lee. That’s $2,085,671 minus $845,059 divided by two, or $620,306. That, put together with the $458,575 Lee gave up in the buyout itself, means the Celtics reaped a $1,078,881 benefit from offloading a player who’d only appeared in three games since Christmas.
Boston used some of that savings on a 10-day contract for D-Leaguer Coty Clarke, but it only costs $30,888. They could re-sign him for the rest of the season and it would cost only $86,486, provided he’d take the rookie minimum, which would be expected.
It was no surprise to see the Nets fail to make a trade last month, since they hired a new GM just hours before the deadline in a strangely timed front office move reminiscent of when the Trail Blazers fired GM Kevin Pritchard just before the 2010 draft. New GM Sean Marks didn’t pull off a quick trade, but he swiftly struck a buyout with Andrea Bargnani and did the same with Joe Johnson shortly thereafter. The Bargnani negotiation was tricky because he had a player option for next season. He wound up forfeiting $323,599 of what had been a $1,362,897 salary for this season and $1,228,060 of his $1,551,659 player option. The combined total of what he gave up was equivalent to the original value of his option, meaning, in essence, he declined it. It’s not entirely clear why the sides didn’t simply arrange for Bargnani to have his full-season salary this year and wipe out the option year, a move that would have helped the Nets clear cap space for this summer’s free agents.
Regardless, Brooklyn added to its savings when Joe Johnson gave up an even $3MM, allowing the Nets to pocket $4,551,659, a savings that, added to the $16MM they reaped in their summer buyout with Deron Williams, underscored the sober financial decision-making of the Nets in the wake of their failed high-dollar ventures of years past. They spent a $99,418 pittance of that savings on two 10-day contracts for Sean Kilpatrick.
New York Knicks
The Knicks didn’t pull off a trade or buyout, but that didn’t stop them from making noise on the market the past couple of weeks. They invited all sorts of attention with their 10-day contract for Jimmer Fredette, but the former BYU’s enduring popularity from his college days does a much better job of explaining the hubbub than does the $55,722 the Knicks spent on his contract.
More interesting and impactful from a financial standpoint is the pending two-year deal with Tony Wroten. He’s been adamant about not signing a 10-day contract, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link), which helps to explain his absence from the NBA since the Sixers waived him on Christmas Eve. So, too, do apparent concerns about his injury that make it highly unlikely he’d actually play in a game for the Knicks this season even if he does indeed sign. Thus, New York seems to be poised to spend the prorated minimum of about $200K simply for the privilege of an up-close look at him to help them decide whether to keep him for next season, when the deal reportedly wouldn’t include a fully guaranteed salary. It’s by no means a staggering outlay, but it’s nonetheless one more way a large-market team like the Knicks can throw its financial weight around.
The Sixers irked other teams with some of their moves during their unconventional rebuilding project, so it’s worth wondering if a degree of schadenfreude existed in front offices around the league when Philly essentially became an innocent victim in the voided Donatas Motiejunas trade. The deal caused them to lose JaKarr Sampson for nothing when they waived him to accommodate the arrival of Joel Anthony via trade. Sampson signed with the Nuggets while the trade remained in limbo, a period when the Sixers couldn’t waive Anthony to reopen the roster spot that had been Sampson’s because it wasn’t clear whether they’d be getting Anthony in the first place.
They weren’t going to keep Anthony anyway, but losing the ability to take on his $2.5MM cap hit and draw closer to the salary floor left the Sixers at the mercy of the buyout market. The presence of Anthony’s salary wouldn’t have taken the Sixers all the way to the $63MM floor, but it would have brought them to just $130,651 short, an amount the team easily could have made up with a prorated minimum contract for a free agent who’d go into Anthony’s roster spot, preferably Sampson.
The Sixers took a pass when Beno Udrih and his $2,170,465 salary were on waivers, as that would have left them $460,186 shy of the floor, a gap larger than they could make up with a prorated minimum-salary deal for someone else. Phoenix’s decision to waive Sonny Weems was a stroke of luck for the Sixers, who pounced with a claim on him and his $2.814MM salary. That put the Sixers over the salary floor. They’re obligated to pay Weems only a fraction of his $2.814MM, since the Suns already gave him the majority of his paychecks, even though his entire salary counts toward the floor.
The timing wasn’t perfect, since the Sixers had just signed Christian Wood to a 10-day contract worth $30,888 three days prior to the claim. So they had to waive a rookie they’re clearly fond of for a second time this season and eat the entire 10-day salary. Still, they avoided shelling out $2,599,763, which was the amount of the team’s shortfall beneath the cap before Weems claim, at the cost of just $660K, which is the amount of Weems’ salary that the Sixers will pay, according to Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).
The Raptors entered the deadline and buyout season on a roll, so it’s no surprise they were relatively inactive. The release of Anthony Bennett had more of a historical impact than a financial one given his status as the No. 1 overall pick less than three years ago. Bennett remains unsigned and seems unlikely to make more than a prorated minimum salary if he does join another NBA team, so his $947,276 salary remains glued to Toronto’s books with little hope of a set off. The Raptors added the prorated minimum of $245,177 for Jason Thompson, who’ll receive an additional $83,778 from the league because he is a seven-year veteran, but they’re still more than $2MM shy of the tax line. The team owes neither Thompson nor Bennett any money beyond the end of the season, so the Raptors haven’t meddled with their long-term flexibility.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.