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.
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.