Can the Jazz Use Their Remaining Cap Room in Trades?

January 9th, 2014 | by Dan Clayton
Marvin Williams is popular and effective, but a likely candidate for cap-motivated trades. Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Marvin Williams is popular and effective, but a likely candidate for cap-motivated trades. Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

If a week’s worth of Andrew Bynum speculation wasn’t a strong enough clue, we’re in the thick of the NBA trade season. And it appears the Jazz are more than willing to sell the chunks of flexibility they have left.

The Jazz wanted Bynum for precisely the same reason Chicago did: so they could waive him, save some money and improve their cap situation going into trade season. That didn’t work, so let’s reset on the Jazz’s financial position and goals heading into trade season and figure out what types of deals they might swing.

The Jazz’s Situation – Cap & Goals

The Jazz shaved about a half million from their cap sheet by waiving Mike Harris last week. He had already received $388K of his minimum salary, but the remaining half million is now money the Jazz have to operate with.

However, that doesn’t do a lot. The Jazz now have roughly $2.45 million under the cap, which doesn’t go a long way.

As far as what their goals are, I think the Bynum rumor (if even 10% true) just reaffirms what we all assume the Jazz’s goals are: to stock up the asset supply heading into this summer. All signs are that the Jazz will be aggressive this summer in pursuing a franchise-changing talent, and it seems like just about anything and anyone is on the table if it accomplishes that.

Let’s break down the possibilities. This is sort of an updated version of November’s trade likelihood series, but specifically for the trade deadline season.

Who’s not moving by February 20

I can’t see the Jazz trading any of the five recent lottery picks unless it absolutely assures them a better shot at drafting a generational talent. No deadline trade will come with that type of guarantee since they’re pre-lottery, and in fact we won’t know until May if the Jazz even need help landing a top three spot or if they got one on their own. So don’t expect the Jazz to move any of Los Cinco (the new core nickname I thought of while on the air on Spanish radio on Tuesday) for a slightly increased chance at June success.

Nobody’s off the table in general terms, and in fact I think a couple of these guys should keep an open line for their agents leading up to June 26, but it’s just not advantageous for the Jazz to move any of those guys before the February deadline.

The one caveat is if they think they’ll lose Gordon Hayward to restricted free agency over the summer, but I’ve already explored that contingency and think it’s highly unlikely.

Expirings w/ large salaries

Here’s where having $2.45M in cap room doesn’t help that much. Teams under the cap can acquire more salary in a trade in two ways: by using their remaining cap space (plus 100K) or by following the traded player exception rules.

For players making north of $5M, the Jazz can get more mileage by conducting the trade according to typical exception rules than they can by using their cap space. For example, if they found someone who wanted to trade for Andris Biedrins in a salary relief trade, the Jazz could only take 11.55M back by using their cap space (9M + 2.45M cap space + 100K), where they could take 13.6M otherwise (9M * 150% + 100K).

Still, Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson and Biedrins remain as likely as any Jazz player to be traded, specifically because their salaries can help a team in an asset-producing salary dump. Traded alone, those three could allow Utah to absorb $11.35M, 16.1M and 13.6M, respectively. There are three different types of trades the Jazz could facilitate here.

  • Cheap expiring for slightly less cheap expiring. If the Jazz want to use one of their expiring guys to facilitate a dump without cutting into 2014 cap space, they can find a tax team needing to cut a few million or a playoff team that has an injured or seldom-used big expiring contract. Let’s say Boston, one minimum contract away from the tax line, decided they couldn’t pay tax on a lottery team and decided to get rid of Kris Humphries’ $12M (since Hump is averaging all of 7 points). Biedrins for Hump works and saves Boston 3M, giving them the flexibility to sign a minimum contract player if needed. But the asset haul wouldn’t be great.
  • Capable expiring for slightly less capable expiring: This is where Marvin Williams has the most value: Because he’s an expiring contract who can really help a team. For example, Charlotte is shopping Ben Gordon’s 13.2M expiring for someone who can help them make the playoffs. Marv + John Lucas III works and make Charlotte better, but without doing anything to Utah’s long-term cap sheet.
  • Expiring for long term. This would involve a much better asset in return, but also involves sacrificing some 2014 flexibility. Take a team like the Pellies: about 8-9M under next year’s cap, not enough for a max salary slot. They could offer a team a pick or two in exchange for taking Ryan Anderson and his 2/17M remaining off their books. Any of Marv/RJ/Andris works here and while this would cut into Utah’s cap room for two years, the reward in that type of trade could be more handsome than in the two previous.

Smaller-dollar trades

The rest of the Jazz’s roster falls into this category: they have a small enough salary that pairing them with the remaining cap room could actually be advantageous, although trades at these dollar amounts would yield more humble assets.

Lucas could be packaged with the remaining space to bring back 4.15M. Same with Jeremy Evans, plus a few extra bucks. Rush could bring back 6.55M. Let’s say the Grizzlies don’t want to pay the tax for a non playoff team. JL for Kosta Koufos gets Memphis out of the tax altogether, saves them about 3M in salary & tax, gets them their escrow share back (millions of dollars) and Koufos is a virtual expiring, so no sweat in Utah’s long term plans.

The Jazz could even acquire a player outright that another team doesn’t want. For instance, the Clippers are going to pay Willie Green’s 1.55M salary twice: once to the veteran guard and again to the tax man. Or they could bribe someone to take Green, who only plays 16 minutes a game for them,

All about June

None of these trades are rumors or even suggestions – I’m just looking at the math of who might be looking to call a team with a bit of a financial cushion to help them avoid millions of dollars of penalties.

The other important thing to note: I’m not saying the Jazz should salivate over the idea of getting Willie Green. Or Koufos. Or Hump, or Anderson or any of the other names I’ve mentioned in this piece. Right now, it’s all about stockpiling assets.

Look at every move the Jazz have made (or not made) over the last 12 to 18 months and you’ll see a common theme: all of them have involved enhancing the organization’s arsenal to come away from June 26 with a franchise player. Extra assets are a key ingredient to make magic happen on or before draft night. As we saw last summer, Dennis Lindsey does understand the economics of draft-day deals and can make something happen if he has enough cards up his sleeve.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan has covered nearly every second of the post Stockton-to-Malone Jazz, first in print for Spain's Marca and Utah's Mundo Hispano before transitioning to TV and radio. In 2010, he became a radio analyst for the team's Spanish game broadcasts.
Dan Clayton

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8 Comments

  1. Paul Johnson says:

    Any chance the Jazz might want to trade for Andre Miller as a veteran backup to Trey Burke–who could teach Burke a few things about playing point guard “below the rim,” and could play 15-20 minutes a night without a lot of drop-off in performance. I believe he’s got one more year on his contract at $4.625 mil. after this year. A straight across trade of Brandon Rush for Andre Miller would work under the trading rules. Miller is on the trading block because of his recent run-in with his first-year coach.

    Three caveats: 1) would Miller react in a similar manner to Ty Corbin as he did to Denver’s coach, if doesn’t get to play the minutes he wants (which isn’t likely with Corbin’s affinity for playing veterans), 2) would the Jazz win too many games this year to get a good draft pick with Miller coming off the bench for Burke, and 3) would Corbin play Miller too much and inhibit Trey Burke’s development.

  2. cw says:

    The only trouble with your analysis is that 1. I don’t think anyone is trading a high draft pick this year. For instance I don’t think Alec Burks or Enis Kanter or even Hayward and the 8th and 22nd pick are going to get you into the top five. And 2. I don’t know what franchise players are going to be available or which would put up with a trade to Utah. Maybe it makes sense to accumulate assets if you are talking long term a la Houston, but I don’t think the asset collection strategy is going to work in June.

  3. cw says:

    I think the best thing to do is, wait until the trade deadline to see if there are any signifiacnt injuries and if not, then trade Marvin and Burks for future draft picks and wavable contracts. That would disable the team enough that they could get a high draft pick without losing anything really hard to replace.

  4. Dan Clayton says:

    Paul – the Jazz could absolutely swing a Miller deal. Couple things, though. Only 2M of his 4.625M for next year is guaranteed, so he basically falls into the expiring-for-expiring category, which means we wouldn’t get a great asset in exchange. Additionally, there might be playoff teams that actually want Andre enough that they’ll give something up – not much, but if a contender needing PG depth will give a 2nd and the Jazz are ASKING for a 2nd in exchange for a salary dump, wouldn’t Den prefer the other deal? So honestly I don’t think we’ll be in the running for Miller.

    And then there’s the question of whether Miller fits with the project. Not sure the Jazz are after guys who will make us look artificially better for 3 months when these are the 3 months that it doesn’t hurt to lose games. Plus, as you mention, no guarantees on his mindset & attitude. Interesting questions, though.

  5. Zach says:

    I’ve actually put some consideration to this… If the Jazz do not get a top two pick (Parker or Wiggens) then Get Lebron. I know that sounds unlikely but i think it may work. What would it do to Lebrons legacy to take the worst team in the west to the NBA finals? The Jazz are becoming defensive minded, and with players like Favors, Gobert, Evans, and Hayward we are getting better. The offensive pieces are there, with a good young PG, and good rotating bigs (including Embiid or Randle if the jazz wind up with 3-5 pick) I think a superstar could really teach or team to win it all. It could just be wishful thinking but a guy like that (who i dont really like btw) put us over the hump. I think the only other addition would be a sharpshooter (think ray allen or kyle korver-esq) that he can kick out to (I heard Jimmer might be available). I say offer a max four year deal that gives him the option to opt out after two. Think of the playoff experience and defensive teaching our players can gain with just two years.

    But we will see him re-sign if Miami wins again, or leave somewhere if they dont (maybe LA, SA, NY, Cleveland…but what if it was Utah?)

  6. Dan Clayton says:

    cw – fair point, but history says that even in good draft years, teams will part with a pick for the right package. if you think about teams who have been in the lottery year after year, some of them, if the guy they REALLY want isn’t available, would prefer to get something a little more established than role the dice on yet another top 5 pick who may or may not pan out.

    i studied 10-12 years worth of this going into last year’s draft, and while the top overall pick NEVER moves, picks 2-5 can be had for the right asset package. usually it requires #1 – at least one very good pick, #2 – at least one (but often two or more) starter-caliber players, and #3 – taking some bad salary back. 7 + 21 + a player + absorbing a bad contract might get us in the 3-5 range. probably not 1 or 2.

    • cw says:

      I don’t know. I do think it’s possible, but it would take the absolute right combination of team and need. And the more that I think about it, the more I think it would take Hayward (There’s no way the Jazz are trading Favors). Hayward is the only one with a high enough visible upside. So then the Jazz would be basically trading Hayward for a young guy with more potential. They could get more if they just traded Hayward at the deadline. They’d get something in trade (another pick? the right to Mirotic?) and if they didn’t take back talent they’d degrade themselves enough to get top five pick. It would be risky, but I would be on board with that.

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