NBA AM: Is The Window Closing For Some?
The Window is Closing: With roughly a month left in the NBA off-season there are a few players whose window is closing. Not because of their age or a decline in their skills, but because what their teams owe them going forward won’t make a lot of sense in the new NBA economy, especially with an aggressive punitive luxury tax coming next season.
This will be the final season of the “dollar-for-dollar” luxury tax that’s been common in the NBA. Next season a graduated tax kicks in, which penalizes teams in an ever increasing way depending on how far over the tax they might be. This is relevant for teams like the LA Lakers, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls, all of which have massive commitments to single players and will have to weigh the virtues of keeping their teams together or trying to dump a contract to avoid the new tax.
Here are a couple of guys to watch:
Pau Gasol – LA Lakers – two years, $38.285 million
This is likely Gasol’s last season with the Lakers. In fact some assume that once Dwight Howard gets healthy and proves he can be the force in the middle the Lakers hope he can be, Gasol could be dealt before the February 21st NBA trade deadline. The odds of a mid-season trade for Gasol are unlikely, but you can expect it will get kicked around a lot in the days leading up to February 21st.
The truth of the matter is as much as the Lakers love Gasol, his contract is a killer and at the end of the day business tends to trump the emotional connection, just ask Lamar Odom.
Sources close to the process say that the team is committed to this roster for this season and will evaluate things in July. There is the prevailing idea that as long as the Lakers stay at the top of the heap in the West that paying tax for this group of guys is factored in and that dealing with the luxury tax is an off-season problem.
The question becomes – what happens if they struggle?
Luxury tax is computed based on what’s on the roster at the end of the season, which clearly puts Gasol on notice.
As things stand today the Lakers are $29 million over the tax line. Gasol is owed $19 million this year and $19.2 million next year.
The odds that contract is on the books next year is astronomically small, the question is can the Lakers find a mid-season trade or will they be forced to use their one-time amnesty cut on Gasol and pay him $19.2 million to play for another team.
This decision will have very little to do with Gasol the player, and have everything to do with Gasol’s contract.
Zach Randolph – Memphis Grizzlies – three years, $50.80 million
It is safe to say that Randolph’s future in Memphis will be tied to what the new owners sees as the vision for the future. Michael Heisley is selling the team to Robert Pera and while that transaction has not closed, it’s expected to close some time this season.
The Grizzlies shopped Randolph around the draft hoping that someone with cap space would take his remaining $50 million off the books, but found limited interest.
The Grizzlies still hold their one-time amnesty cut and could opt to use it on Randolph next summer when cuts are allowed again. However, Grizz sources say eating Randolph’s $50 million is not a first option. With $74.9 million in commitments this year and a $79.28 million next year, the Grizz will have to address the tax issue at some point.
Randolph seems to be the player the team would be open to moving, especially if they could cash in his $16.5 million deal into smaller, more trade friendly contracts.
The pending sale of the team will dictate a lot of what happens next in Memphis, but finding an exit out of the luxury tax is almost a given and dealing Randolph’s deal would be a huge step in that direction.
The Grizz may not be able to move Randolph, but you can expect that they’ll try especially if they struggle out of the gate in a new tougher Western Conference.
Carlos Boozer – Chicago Bulls – three years, $47.1 million
Bulls’ fans have been clamoring for Boozer’s exit for most of the last two years, either in trade to get out of his deal or by way of being amnestied to get his dollars off the books. Those fans might get their wish next summer.
There is a reality that Boozer never became the player in Chicago the Bulls so desperately needed, but to be fair he isn’t the outright bust some try to label him as. Boozer has been a solid veteran leader and much of Derrick Rose’s ascension into the NBA elite can be traced to Boozer who was Rose’s biggest in-house supporter and motivator. Rose, who can be somewhat timid, was poked, prodded and pulled into his dominating role by Boozer. Carlos did much of the same with Taj Gibson.
The problem in Chicago is you can’t have $15 million tied up in a great locker room guy, you have to produce and that’s where Carlos comes up lacking.
Bulls’ sources maintained all summer that using their amnesty cut on Boozer has never been a real consideration. But as the value of his deal gets smaller, the odds that the Bulls will have to make the hard decision, becomes more and more real.
Could the Bulls trade Boozer? Maybe. But given what he’s produced on the floor and what he’s owed over the next three years the Bulls might be stuck with him, As the cap system gets tighter and tighter, if Boozer can’t bounce back to his pseudo All-Star form, the Bulls may have no choice to be to consider amnestying him next summer, especially if they want to add more pieces once Rose return from injury.
Udonis Haslem – Miami HEAT – three years, $13.02 million
You probably expected to see Mike Miller and his three-year, $18.6 million remaining contract dollars here, and that might end up being the case. However, it is more likely that Miller retires for medical reasons than the HEAT trying to trade him or using their one-time amnesty cut on him next summer.
The HEAT are sitting on roughly $82.65 million in salary commits this year, but a scary $86.79 million next season. HEAT owner Mickey Arison has been clear that despite his teams’ on court success, they are not a profitable team. With the cost of luxury tax going up, the HEAT will have to make some choices. If Miller retires medically this year, they could get some breathing room, but to get under the tax and avoid the new dreaded repeater tax status, the HEAT may have to make more cuts than just Miller, which leave Haslem as either trade bait or an amnesty candidate next summer.
Kendrick Perkins – OKC Thunder – three years, $26.93 million
The prevailing thought is that the Thunder have to amnesty Perkins in order to pay star reserve James Harden. The Thunder emphatically claim that the two issues are unrelated and that ownership in Oklahoma City will agree to pay the luxury tax if that’s what’s needed to continue to advance in the West.
The question is not whether the Thunder can pay the tax; it’s whether they should pay the tax. Perkins is the only real center the Thunder has on the roster. There are lots of project guys, but not any that you can say can or could guard say Lakers’ center Dwight Howard in a playoff game.
There is little doubt that the Thunder are hoping one of their three project bigs can show some life – Cole Aldrich was terrible in summer league. Daniel Orton has the size to be effective but hasn’t shown the ability and then there is Hasheem Thabeet. <insert Thabeet joke here>.
As much sense as it seems, using the one-time amnesty cut on Perkins would push the Thunder backwards in terms of talent, however, if Perkins can’t stay healthy or one of the other bigs on the roster shows any level of consistency, then the decision might get easier.
The Thunder have been adamant that keepingHarden is not tied toPerkins, but there is no doubting that if Perk can’t be the guy in the middle, he is the guy they’d likely consider cutting if they can’t find a trade partner willing to take him.
The Amnesty provision is a one-time tool and can only be used on players on contracts signed prior to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Once a player is traded, he can no longer be cut using the Amnesty provision. Teams that have not used their Amnesty provision have seven days after the Free Agency period opens in July to decide to make their cuts, once that window closes players cannot be Amnestied until the following summer. Amnesty cuts do not count against the salary cap or the Luxury Tax, however the player does receive every nickel of the amount owed to him under his contract.
The New Model In Canada: It should not come as a surprise that new Canadian National Team coach Jay Triano wants to copy the formula that’s worked for Team USA. Jay has been an assistant coach for Team USA and saw first hand how it came together to produce two back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
Team Canada doesn’t have nearly the talent pool to draw from, but there is a sense that building a multi-year program is key to getting Canada competitive on the International scene.
“I think gone are the days when you can throw 12 players out there and expect to compete, and I think my time with the United States team showed that,” Triano said to Curtis Withers of The Canadian Press. “Jerry Colangelo asked those players for a three-year commitment. When they did that and the players became committed, that’s when they became successful and won back-to-back gold medals.
“If we’re going to be successful guys are going to commit. The fact that they’re here working as hard as they are right now speaks volumes to their commitment. We’re going to have to decide as a staff which players we want to move forward and be part of our commitment to the program.”
Traino held something of a mini-camp for prospective Team Canada player this week which included Joel Anthony, Tristan Thompson, Kris Joseph, Cory Joseph, Robert Sacre, and Andrew Nicholson.
Tyler Ennis, one of the top college prospects, also took part and could be a key part of a 2016 Canadian team vying for a spot in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio.
Team Canada named Lakers’ guard Steve Nash as their general manager this summer and Nash quickly named Jay Triano as his head coach. This will be Triano’s second stint as National team coach.
The Big Meeting: Today is the day. The Virginia Beach city council will hear proposals today on a new world-class venue being proposed in the city. It’s believed if the City council signs off on the proposal, that the Sacramento Kings could be the professional team the developers of the project are promising they can deliver.
The Kings have adamantly denied that they will be present at the meeting today, however, there continues to be doubt about what’s real and what’s not real about the situation.
Reports last week painted the process as all but done. Since those reports surfaced last week parties on all sides of the story have denied either knowledge of the deal or that the details reported as complete have even been discussed.
League sources that have been dialed into this situation for the last two years say that the Kings have made no commitments or promises to anyone on anything and are actively listening to scenarios from several cities, this just happens to be the one with action happening today.
With major players like Comcast and Live Nation connected to the Virginia Beach project it has more credibility than most, but sources are adamant that this thing is far from sewn up, even if there is a positive vote today. Today’s meeting could go a long way towards shedding light on where things stand with the Kings and Virginia Beach, however, to think that an announcement is coming on relocation this week might be jumping the gun.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @SusanBible, @DPageHoopsWorld , @stevesraptors, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Anthony Macri at 10am. Coach Macri works with The AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League in Southeast Asia and is based in Jakarta. Coach Macri is involved in all aspects of the leagues operation as a consultant and has worked with dozens of NBA players developing their game. Senior NBA writer Eric Pincus will hold down his weekly NBA chat at 4pm EST. Eric covers the Western Conference from LA with the Lakers and the Clippers. You can always find the next upcoming chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats. If you are looking for a completed chat, check the Chat Archive.