Title: Salaries, Exceptions, Kickers, oh my: What you need to know about NBA trade deadline
Date: February 9, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I provided a brief primer on the salary cap rules that regulate the upcoming NBA trade deadline.
A year ago at this time, the Toronto Raptors needed a trade. Unfortunately, the talk leading up to the NBA’s trade deadline wasn’t as much about landing a star (there wasn’t one on the market) or how a mid-level addition might fit on the roster because analysis of trade hypotheticals required an intro-level course to the league’s complex salary cap rules.
Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas were attractive young players with “Poison Pill Provisions” that complicated their inclusion in any deal, for example, while a dearth of “bad” contracts – normally a positive – made salary matching difficult. It served to change the discussion from “is Player X a good addition” to “is there a third team who could take on salary Y,” and framed the addition of, say, a Markieff Morris in terms of the sure-to-be-outgoing Patrick Patterson.
Unlike its MLB and NHL counterparts, the NBA’s trade deadline is somewhat complex. Whereas baseball is fortunate to operate without the restrictions of a salary cap, the NBA has a soft cap that requires certain scenarios or exceptions in order to exceed it. The NHL has a hard cap, which makes things more straight-forward, because teams simply can’t exceed a certain salary level. In either case, limited NBA rosters and the lack of a true minor league with NBA rights (the Raptors don’t hold an NBA claim over their Raptors 905 players and as such, can’t trade them in NBA deals) serve to restrict the sheer number of possibilities based on roster size. (The NBA draft is only two rounds, too, so you’re not seeing “fifth-round pick for a player that might not see the floor” kind of deals.)
This is not to say one setup is better than another. Each league’s collective bargaining agreements has strengths and weaknesses, to be sure. But from a fan’s perspective ahead of the deadline, the NBA at least makes things a little more complex. What follows is a high-level primer of what you may need to keep in mind as you fire up the ESPN Trade Machine ahead of the Feb. 23 NBA trade deadline.