The NBA’s huge salary cap spike this summer impacted the free agent market most significantly and most obviously, with second- and third-tier free agents landing larger contracts than they ever otherwise would have. But the cap increase has also had some under-the-radar side effects, including having a significant impact on our list of traded player exceptions.
Traded player exceptions allow over-the-cap teams to acquire a player whose salary is equal than or less to the TPE amount, without sending out any salaries of their own in the deal. However, in order to create a trade exception in the first place, a team must be over the cap. All but three of the league’s 30 teams went under the cap this summer, meaning they renounced their previous TPEs and were unable to create new ones until they went back over the cap.
Now that the majority of the NBA teams have used up their cap room, we should see things normalize — there’s a good chance many clubs will create new TPEs with in-season deals, and perhaps they’ll be able to make use of those exceptions before or during next year’s draft, before contracts come off their books in July. For now though, there are only seven TPEs available around the NBA, and only one of those seven has a real chance to make an impact before the 2017 trade deadline.
As our list of outstanding TPEs shows, the Hornets, Clippers, and Bucks each hold a trade exception, but they range in value from $1.2MM to $1.75MM — it’s possible those teams will find a way to use their exceptions, but many of the players whose salaries would fit within those constraints are on minimum salaries, and the minimum salary exception allows over-the-cap teams to acquire those players in trades anyway.
The Cavaliers are the only other team with any TPEs on their books, and Cleveland holds four of them. Three of those exceptions will likely go unused — they’re worth $845K, $947K, and $1.33MM. However, the fourth TPE, created in last year’s Anderson Varejao deadline swap with the Blazers, could come in handy for the Cavs this season. It’s worth $9.64MM.
Of course, given the rising NBA salary cap, more players than ever are earning more than $9.64MM, and wouldn’t fit into Cleveland’s trade exception. By our count, there are 105 NBA players – not including the Cavs’ own players – whose 2016/17 cap hit is too pricey for the Cavs to acquire them using that TPE. Still, while that number may sound high, it works out to just three or four players per squad, which leaves a long shopping list of potential targets for the Cavs, including everyone who is still on a rookie contract.
Will the Cavs end up using that Varejao TPE before it expires on February 18? That remains to be seen, and there are reasons why the team may let it go unused — bringing on additional salary is pricier than it appears on the surface for the Cavs, who will pay a premium as their cap number increases due to the luxury tax. But having that exception gives Cleveland options, and perhaps gives the team a leg up on its competition, since no other over-the-cap club has that sort of potential flexibility in trades.
What do you think? Will the Cavs make use of that trade exception? Which players whose salaries would fit into that TPE do you think Cleveland could target prior to 2017’s trade deadline?