When an over-the-cap NBA team sends out more salary than it receives in a given trade, that team can generally create a traded player exception. As we explain in our glossary entry, a traded player exception serves as a way for a team to acquire talent without using cap room to do so.
Traded player exceptions last for one year from the time they’re created, and can be used to absorb a player’s contract in a trade without sending out any salary in return. Trade exceptions can’t be combined with another exception or another contract, but they have $100K worth of wiggle room. So, a team with a $9.9MM TPE could trade for a player earning $10MM without any outgoing salary involved in the deal.
In recent weeks, a handful of teams – including the Hornets, Clippers, and Cavaliers – have seen trade exceptions created last July expire without being used. However, none of those TPEs was substantial. All of this year’s biggest TPEs are still available, though some are more likely to be used than others.
Here’s the current list of the top 10 traded player exceptions available around the NBA, along with each TPE’s expiration date:
- Chicago Bulls: $15,311,329 (6/22/18)
- Portland Trail Blazers: $12,969,502 (7/25/18)
- Toronto Raptors: $11,800,000 (7/13/18)
- Toronto Raptors: $7,630,000 (7/14/18)
- Los Angeles Clippers: $7,273,631 (6/28/18)
- Milwaukee Bucks: $5,000,000 (2/23/18)
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $4,936,529 (11/1/17)
- Cleveland Cavaliers: $4,837,500 (1/7/18)
- New Orleans Pelicans: $3,517,200 (2/20/18)
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $2,550,000 (7/6/18)
While some of these TPEs are quite sizable, there’s a good chance that most of them will go unused. Many of the clubs on this list are near or above the luxury tax threshold, and will be reluctant to acquire an expensive player without dumping any salary as part of the deal.
The Blazers, Raptors, Clippers, Bucks, Thunder, and Cavaliers all fit that bill, though some of those clubs may be willing to bite the tax-penalty bullet, while others could wait until next July when some contracts expire to use their respective TPEs.
As for the Bulls, no team has a more significant TPE than the one Chicago created as part of June’s Jimmy Butler trade. But that exception is somewhat hollow at the moment — the Bulls only have $73.25MM in guaranteed salaries on their 2017/18 cap, so the club could actually create an even greater chunk of cap room by renouncing its trade exception, along with its other cap holds and exceptions. Still, there’s no reason to do that now. That TPE could come in handy later if the Bulls re-sign Nikola Mirotic and much of that potential cap space disappears.
The full list of current NBA trade exceptions can be found right here.