Last month, we published an updated glossary entry outlining how the NBA’s disabled player exception functions. As we explain in that article, the disabled player exception can be granted when a team has a player go down with an injury deemed to be season-ending. The exception gives the club some additional spending flexibility, functioning almost as a cross between a traded player exception and a mid-level exception.
We go into more detail on how exactly disabled player exceptions work in the glossary entry linked above, and in a piece from earlier in the season on the Celtics’ DPE. Essentially, a DPE gives a team the opportunity to add an injury replacement by either signing a player to a one-year contract or trading for a player in the final year of his contract.
Because the rules related to disable player exceptions are somewhat restrictive, and the exceptions themselves often aren’t worth a lot, they often simply expire (this year’s deadline is March 12). According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, only about one in four teams granted DPEs since 2007 have used them.
However, the Celtics are one team well positioned to take advantage of their DPE this season — it’s worth the maximum allowable amount ($8.4MM), the Celtics aren’t close to the tax line, they have an open roster spot, and they have a collection of extra draft picks that could be used to accommodate a trade.
While Boston may be the team most likely to use its DPE this season, there are several other clubs that have those exceptions available. Here’s a breakdown:
(Note: List updated on 2-9-18)
Teams that have been granted disabled player exceptions:
- Boston Celtics: $8,406,000 (Gordon Hayward) (Update: Used on Greg Monroe)
- Brooklyn Nets: $6,000,000 (Jeremy Lin) (Update: Used on Dante Cunningham)
- Miami Heat: $5,500,000 (Dion Waiters)
- Detroit Pistons: $5,248,660 (Jon Leuer) (Update: Used on James Ennis)
- Los Angeles Clippers: $2,756,757 (Patrick Beverley)
- Utah Jazz: $2,625,000 (Thabo Sefolosha)
- New Orleans Pelicans: $2,480,899 (Alexis Ajinca)
As noted above, the Celtics are the best bet to use their disabled player exception, and not just because it’s worth the most (and can therefore accommodate a wider range of potential trade targets). Even if teams like the Clippers or Pelicans identify a modestly-paid player worth acquiring, they’re unlikely to use their DPEs because of how close they are to the luxury tax line and hard cap, respectively.
Teams ineligible for disabled player exceptions:
- Phoenix Suns (Brandon Knight)
- Memphis Grizzlies (Mike Conley)
- New Orleans Pelicans (DeMarcus Cousins)
- Oklahoma City Thunder (Andre Roberson)
The Grizzlies, Pelicans, and Thunder had the misfortune of having their key players ruled out for the season after the January 15 application deadline. Since they can no longer apply for a DPE, they’ll have to make do with any remaining exceptions they have. As for the Suns, a DPE to replace Knight would have been worth about $6.8MM, but Phoenix remains nearly $9MM below the cap, rendering that exception unnecessary.