NBA AM: Why Atlanta And Utah Didn’t Deal
Playoffs More Valuable: You may be looking back on the 2013 NBA Trade Deadline and asking yourself what Atlanta and Utah were thinking? Both teams have star caliber players heading towards unrestricted free agency and likely exits from the situations they are currently in. The conventional wisdom is you cash those guys out in trade before you lose them for nothing as free agents in July right?
The Atlanta Hawks worked the phones right up to the deadline. Sources close to the process say Atlanta pulled Josh Smith off the market at 2:52pm, just eight minutes before the trade deadline. They worked the marketplace for days leading up to the deadline only to find that the return on Josh Smith would have been negligible and more importantly would have almost insured that Atlanta, the current 5th seed in the East, would have been knocked out of the playoffs based on the talent they got back for Smith. Atlanta was unwilling to trade a playoff berth and the money that comes with it, for the luggage they could have returned for Smith.
The Utah Jazz found themselves in a similar situation. They had offers and interested suitors for both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, however none of what was being offered in return would have bolstered their chance at the postseason and from the beginning of the season the Jazz have said making the playoffs is the most important objective the franchise has.
Both teams faced the harsh reality that NBA teams don’t help other NBA teams, especially when they are viewed as weak. The Memphis Grizzlies are a perfect example.
The Grizzlies tried desperately to trade Rudy Gay in early January only to find the marketplace keenly aware that Memphis had to make a deal to get under the luxury tax. The initial offers for Gay were borderline insulting, because other NBA teams knew that Memphis had to make a deal. It wasn’t until the Grizzlies made their deal with Cleveland to get the belief that Memphis had to do a “cap dump” out of the Rudy Gay equation. That is when real offers, including the deal with Toronto surfaced.
The Hawks and Jazz listened to similar offers on their would-be free agents and simply arrived at the conclusion that making the playoffs was more valuable than what teams were willing to give for their players. Both Utah and Atlanta are looking at massive amounts of cap room this summer, and with teams at the table offering contracts with massive dollars associated – both Atlanta and Utah opted for the playoffs now and possible cap space tomorrow rather than take back luggage and kill their postseason and their cap room.
Utah and Atlanta could lose their players for nothing in return and that’s a reality both franchises weighed seriously, however with the power teams in the NBA being capped out, there is still a sense that both teams could return something in a sign-and-trade deal if their players do opt to leave, but what’s been lost now is the ability to really be selective if their free agents head to other teams.
The Jazz are currently 31-25 on the season, which is good enough for seventh place in the West with 26 games remaining on their schedule including 15 against Western Conference Teams.
The Atlanta Hawks are currently 31-23 on the season, which is good enough for fifth place in the East with 28 games remaining including 19 against Eastern Conference teams.
The Jazz and the Hawks are both looking at roughly $40 million in possible capspace this July and view that kind of cash available under the cap as a huge advantage in dealing with their own guys in free agency either with new contracts or by facilitating a sign and trade, especially with teams over the salary cap but under the luxury tax for next season.
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Beno Finds A New Home: Some NBA players dread the idea of being traded. It’s an abrupt and somewhat unexpected process that requires you to uproot your life and your family. It often happens mid-stream. Being traded is an unsettling process. For Magic guard Beno Udrih, his trade deadline deal from Milwaukee to Orlando couldn’t have been more welcomed.
Udrih had wanted out of Milwaukee from almost the day he arrived. He clashed with former Bucks head coach Scott Skiles. He rarely played and the fit with the Bucks was forced to say the least.
Udrih was viewed as a throw-in in the Magic’s trade with Milwaukee. However, the 30-year Udrih doesn’t view Orlando as a pit stop, rather he hopes he can carve out a role with the Magic. Udrih has a history with Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn, who he played with in San Antonio, and with Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan, who played a role in his drafting by the Spurs, something he says makes this change easier.
Udrih talked about his situation with HOOPSWORLD and what he hopes to bring to the team.
It Wasn’t The Tax: A lot has been made this week about how the new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement and the new harsher tax penalties NBA teams are facing next year limited trade movement at the deadline, especially when you factor in that James Harden was traded early in the season and Rudy Gay was traded a few weeks before the deadline. Both could be called cap moves related to the luxury tax, although their old teams would say differently.
The tax did play a role in some of the deals that went down, however to label last Thursdays deadline as slow because of the tax, isn’t necessarily true.
In total there were 12 transactions triggered on deadline day, making 2013 one of the busier deadlines in recent history. In 2000, there was just one trade. In 2002 there were just four trades. So don’t blame the tax on the lack of major names changing hands, most of the “named” players stayed where they were because teams didn’t think they could re-sign the players with ending contracts because of how many teams will have massive amounts of money to throw around in July.
The tax is going to have an impact on how big spending teams like the Knicks and Lakers acquire talent, especially when the tax becomes a progressive tax next year and the prospect of a repeater tax the following year.
If all of that seems foreign to you, here is the 50,000 foot view.
Next season the NBA luxury tax shifts from the dollar-for-dollar penalty we have now, to a progressive tax that puts a greater penalty on teams based on how much they are over the luxury tax. So starting next season for the first $5 million a team is over the tax line they pay $1.25 for every dollar over. Once a team crosses into the next tier ($5 million to $10 million) the tax rate goes up to $1.75 for every dollar from $5 million to $10 million and increases from there.
This year the LA Lakers have a team salary of $99,893,231; they will owe $29.586 million in luxury tax this year. Next year that same salary comes with a tax bill of $83.241 million based on how the tax gets progressively more expensive. In 2014-2015 that same number for the Lakers, a repeat tax payer in three of the four years of the new CBA, their tax bill swells to $112,827,713 on the same $99,893,231 in player salary.
The luxury tax is going to get scary for big spending teams, but to label that as the reason Josh Smith didn’t get moved is a little off base. Brooklyn (a serious tax payer now) went after Smith hard, as did Phoenix and Houston. The Knicks, who have a payroll of $79,404,174 and are facing a tax bill of $9.09 million, also tried to nab Smith, but simply didn’t have the assets to get Atlanta to move.
There is no doubting that the luxury tax is going to play an ever increasing role in how teams approach adding talent, but to say that the 2013 NBA Trade Deadline was somehow squalled by the tax isn’t necessarily true, there were a large number of a transactions and the team that were supposedly scared of the tax were the ones actively trying to add talent, they just could get other teams to take their own bad contracts.
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