The 2019 NBA offseason has been perhaps the craziest in league history. Since the 2018/19 All-NBA teams were announced in May, six of the 15 stars from that group (Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, and Kemba Walker) have changed teams.
Current and former All-Stars like Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, D’Angelo Russell, and Al Horford also have new homes. So do impact players such as Mike Conley, Danilo Gallinari, and Malcolm Brogdon.
[RELATED: 2019 NBA Free Agent Tracker]
As NBA teams revamp their rosters, many of them have gotten particularly creative in how they’ve acquired players within the rules of the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Cap space has been maximized. Trade exceptions have been created, used, and re-used. And sign-and-trades have made a comeback in a major way, with 10 players having been dealt via sign-and-trade this offseason (a total of four players were signed-and-traded during the previous four offseasons).
[RELATED: 2019 NBA Offseason Trades]
We’re still stepping back and taking stock of all of this summer’s salary-cap machinations, but there are a few maneuvers in particular that have stood out to me, which I think are worth highlighting.
These aren’t necessarily the cleverest cap maneuvers of the offseason, and these five teams certainly aren’t the only ones that have employed creative tactics to acquire players. However, the moves listed below are five of my favorites of the offseason so far.
Let’s dive in…
1. The Nets create space to sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan without using the room exception.
When the free agent period began, the Nets didn’t have quite enough cap room to accommodate maximum salaries for Durant ($38.2MM) and Irving ($32.74MM). Another move appeared to be required to carve out that space.
However, not only did the Nets avoid making that extra move, but they also found enough cap room to sign Jordan to a four-year, $40MM deal.
Cap expert Albert Nahmad first broke down the Nets’ sequence of events last week, explaining that by retaining their rights to D’Angelo Russell, Shabazz Napier, and Treveon Graham, the Nets were able to sign Irving to a near-max contract and give Jordan a starting salary close to $10MM before going over the cap to acquire Durant in a sign-and-trade.
Irving signed a contract that featured a starting salary just $1MM below his max, though he can make up the difference in unlikely incentives. Once the Nets signed Jordan and second-rounder Nicolas Claxton, the team used nearly every dollar of its leftover room to sign Russell to his new four-year contract.
Because Russell’s deal was signed using cap space, base year compensation rules for salary matching didn’t apply, meaning the Nets had the ability to use D-Lo’s full $27,285,000 first-year salary for matching purposes. However, Brooklyn needed to send out $30,479,200 in order to satisfy the matching rules and take in Durant’s new $38,199,000 salary.
In order to bridge that gap, the Nets included Napier and Graham in the deal. Both players had non-guaranteed contracts, which don’t count toward a team’s outgoing salary total for matching purposes, so Brooklyn gave each player a partial guarantee worth $1,597,100. Combined with Russell’s cap hit, those partial guarantees pushed the Nets’ outgoing salary total right to the required $30,479,200, essentially allowing them to “sign” Durant to a full max deal without having nearly enough space for it.
Throw in the fact that the Nets managed to get the Warriors’ 2020 first-round pick (top-20 protected) in the Durant sign-and-trade, and it turned out to be a very nice piece of business for GM Sean Marks and Brooklyn’s front office.