The trade deadline obviously has a ton of impact on the court this season and going forward, but the various moves that were made can also have considerable ramifications in terms of what teams can do off the floor. I covered the top of the alphabet a couple of weeks ago here, now I’ll finish off the rest of the teams below. Only the bigger moves will be discussed, so if you’re wondering about the impact of Portland trading Skal Labissiere and $1.76 million to Atlanta for a top 55 protected 2nd round pick, sorry, this isn’t the place for you.
Obviously most of the noise surrounding Houston’s trades was about how they were punting the center position and going all-in on small ball. In what I’m sure was a complete coincidence, the Rockets’ series of trades also took them from a little more than $800k over the luxury tax to about $6 million under it. Those savings don’t really affect what Houston could do in the buyout market, but they very much affected what they would be willing to do. So far, they have signed DeMarre Carroll to a contract for the rest of the season and Jeff Green to a 10-day contract. Houston still has plenty of room to sign Green for the rest of the season and avoid the tax. To be clear, they could have legally done both moves even if they were in the tax, but they pretty obviously wouldn’t have.
Since Capela and Covington are both signed past the current year, these deals also impact Houston’s cap situation going forward. The main difference is that Covington makes about $5 million per year less than Capela for the next couple of years before becoming a free agent. Houston isn’t going to have cap room as long as Harden and Westbrook are around, so the major impact of that $5 million of savings is in the yearly luxury tax avoidance dance. Between that $5 million and trading away another 1st round pick, I have the Rockets basically right at the tax again next year, depending on what happens with Austin Rivers’ player option, Ben McLemore’s non-guarantee and some other end of roster decisions. So, get ready for another year of Tilman Fertita trying to convince people that he’s willing to pay the tax while Daryl Morey makes roster moves that make it clear he isn’t.
Los Angeles Clippers
2/6/20: Traded Maurice Harkless, a 2020 1st round pick, a 2021 1st round pick swap, and a 2022 2nd round pick (Detroit) to New York and Jerome Robinson to Washington for Marcus Morris and Isaiah Thomas.
First off, the Clippers immediately waived Thomas, so his only impact is the dead salary they’re paying out the rest of this year. While Morris could play a major role on the floor, this trade has pretty minimal off-court impact. The main impact is that the Clippers are going to be over the cap next year, so their only way to sign players for more than the taxpayer mid-level exception (about $6 million) is via bird rights. Because Morris signed a 1-year deal, LA only has non-bird rights available to resign him – 120% of his previous salary. Importantly, Morris’ current cap number is $15 million, so the Clippers can go up to $18 million to re-sign him. If owner Steve Ballmer is willing to go into the tax, that should be enough to lock up Morris long-term. So, in essence, LA used Harkless (a pending free agent) and a first-round pick to potentially add a long-term piece to their roster that they otherwise would have had no way of obtaining.
In addition to these moves, Memphis signed Dillon Brooks to an extension for 3 years/$35 million. Memphis is clearly very down on this year’s’ free agent class. Heading into the trade deadline, they were looking at almost $50 million in space. Even if you consider that Brooks gave the team a discount to sign early and Memphisthey would have done that extension no matter what, they could still have had $35-40 million in space, slightly less if they somehow collapse enough to keep their first-round pick (top-6 protected). Even in a bad free agency class, that’s enough to maybe go after a restricted free-agent like Brandon Ingram or rent out their space for a pick like they did last summer. Instead, Memphis decided to give it all away for Justice Winslow on what is basically a 2-1 (a two-year contract with a team option on the second year) for $26 million total after this year. The Grizzlies are now over the cap for next year. Other than Winslow’s $13 million team option in 2021-22 though, nobody they acquired is under contract longer than one year, so Memphis will still be major players in the summer of 2021 with a young core and the ability to open up max cap space.
After completing the trade with Memphis, Miami signed Iguodala to a 2-year/ $30 million extension with a team option on the second year. From a cap perspective this upcoming summer, Miami sent out the almost $42 million in the combined salaries of Waiters, Johnson, and Winslow, and added only Iguodala’s $15 million. By clearing off $27 million of basically dead money, the Heat have opened up about that much in cap space this summer, depending on exactly where their draft pick falls. Not only is that enough to grab a quality player or two, it puts them a Kelly Olynyk ($13.2 million) salary dump away from being able to sign a max player. Which could be useful just in case Rich Paul’s head explodes or something and Anthony Davis decides to leave LA. Looking forward to the loaded 2021 free agency class, this trade doesn’t affect Miami at all there. Miami controls Iguodala’s option that summer and they could get to double max-contract space, although if they plan to keep Bam Adebayo around, the number is more likely in the $50-$55 million range.
2/5/20: Traded Robert Covington and Jordan Bell to Houston and Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier, and Noah Vonleh to Denver for Juancho Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Evan Turner, and a 2020 1st round pick (Brooklyn)
For all the moves they made, Minnesota’s cap situation is actually mostly unchanged. Due to the acquisition of Evans and Spellman, the trade with Golden State added about $3 million of commitments to the books next year. The Dieng/Johnson swap saved about $1 million. The real impact on Minnesota’s books going forward is swapping out the locked in contract of Covington (2 years, about $25 million left after this year) for the unknowns of Hernangomez and Beasley. Both players the Wolves acquired will be restricted free agents this summer. Assuming they want to retain both, use the full mid-level exception ($9.755 million), and duck the tax, Minnesota should have about $24 million for the two combined. That should be more than enough to get it done.
New York Knicks
The trade didn’t really affect the Knicks books. Both Morris and Harkless are free-agents after this year. Harkless comes with full-bird rights, but the Knicks will be under the cap, so that doesn’t matter. If Morris wants to go back to New York this offseason, the Knicks will have plenty of space to make that happen, so losing his non-bird rights doesn’t really affect them. Depending on what the Knicks do with their small army of non-guarantees and team options for next year (Portis, Gibson, Ellington, Payton, Bullock, and Robinson) they should be looking at about $35 million in space to sign 3-4 more power forwards.
2/6/20: Traded James Ennis to Orlando for a 2020 2nd round pick (Lakers)
No real cap impact to these trades. Everybody involved is a free agent this offseason, although James Ennis has a player option. That option is for basically the minimum though, so I don’t expect him to pick it up. While he was with Golden State, there was some talk that Robinson would be willing to re-sign using his non-bird rights, which should be a discount compared to his market value. Maybe there is a possibility either he or Burks would be willing to do the same in Philly, which would actually be enormously valuable for them since they’re basically in the tax every year going forward with this core, so contributors on near-minimum deals are going to be necessary.