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When Should Kevin Love Lock In His Long-Term Contract?

September 15th, 2014 No comments
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With the Cleveland Cavaliers on the verge of completing a blockbuster trade for Kevin Love, the Minnesota Timberwolves granted permission for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to meet with Love. Whatever was discussed at that lengthy July meeting in Los Vegas gave Gilbert enough comfort to finalize what became the biggest trade in franchise history.

The problem Gilbert had to overcome? Uncertainty.

Love has as few as one year remaining on his contract. To trade away a potential future superstar such as Andrew Wiggins in exchange for a man, perennial All-Star though he may be, who could walk away in just one year represents a substantial risk.

Did Love affirm his desire to remain with the Cavs over the long term in that meeting? Maybe. But you’re not going to hear about it. That’s because Love its still under contract. It’s technically against the rules (and among the most serious violations a team can commit) to strike a future deal. But something made both parties comfortable that this was a long-term arrangement. In the news conference to announce his arrival, Cavs general manager David Griffin welcomed Love by saying this was a “long-term relationship.” Moments later, Love himself said he was “committed to this team, committed long term.”

So when will Love lock in the long-term deal that solidifies his commitment? Love’s age, tenure and skill-set have created a perfect storm of interesting – a fascinating story that figures to be unlike any other in the NBA in the years ahead.

Stating the obvious: The higher the starting salary in a long-term contract, the higher the salary can be in all subsequent years of the contract as well. That’s because annual raises in any contract are limited to 7.5% of the starting salary. The maximum length of a contract is five years. In what summer, then, will Love strike the optimal balance for himself between locking in the highest starting salary and locking in a full five-year deal, while taking into account risks associated with such things as his health and inevitable basketball mortality?(1)

It won’t be this summer. That much we know. Why? Because he can’t. NBA rules prevent it.

In January 2012, Love signed a four-year, $60.8 million maximum contract extension(2) with the Wolves in which the last season, the 2016-17 season, was to be a player option. Love will make $15.7 million this season and his option for next season is for $16.7 million.

If Love wanted to sign with the Cavs today, it would therefore need to be an extension of his current contract. Contracts cannot be extended until the three year anniversary of their initial signing. That’s next January.

So if not this summer, which?(3)  Read more…

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Los Angeles Clippers: Salary Cap Maneuvering In Action

August 11th, 2014 4 comments
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Update #2 (01/16): 

As of the last update, the Clippers effectively traded away their 2017 first round pick and incurred a $950K dead-money salary cap charge for this and the next four years in order to get rid of the contract of Jared Dudley, who despite a down year remains a solid player, dropping the team down from 12 to 11 players. They then used the resultant cap space to sign four players: Chris Douglas-Roberts, Epke Udoh, Hedo Turkoglu and Jared Cunningham (and Joe Ingles, who was later waived).

The question then became: Would you have rather had (i) those four players OR (ii) Dudley + one of those four players + the 2017 first round pick back + no $950K dead-money charge for the next five years? This is the question I posed as the conclusion to my first update. 

Since that time, the Clippers traded away $300K in cash to get rid of Jared Cunningham and then traded 2013 first round draft pick Reggie Bullock, Chris Douglas-Roberts and a 2017 second round draft pick for the expiring contract of soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Austin Rivers (son of coach Doc Rivers). 

So… After being hard-capped at the apron back in July, the Clippers have essentially traded Bullock, Dudley, a 2017 first round pick, a 2017 second round pick, $300K in cash AND incurred a $950K dead-money salary cap charge for five years in exchange for Rivers, Turkoglu and Udoh.

The Clippers could have instead kept Bullock, Dudley, their 2017 first round pick, their 2017 second round pick and their $300K in cash,  either of Turkolgu or Udoh (but not Rivers), and avoided the $950K charge for the next five years, and still remained below the hard cap. While the Clippers remain a very solid team on the court, it would appear that their general management of the court has been rather awful.

The two players who caused the hard cap issues?

Hawes: Hasn’t worked out thus far.

Farmer: Bought out (giving back $950K of the $3.2 million remaining on his contract for this and next season), with next year’s remaining cap hit stretched over three seasons at a cost against the salary cap of $510,922 per season.   

Read more…

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Chicago Bulls: Salary Cap Maneuvering in Action

February 7th, 2014 3 comments
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Update (June 7): The Bulls didn’t follow my advice. They did waive Erik Murphy as I speculated. But they added more players too quickly, and ended up rolling the dice with regard to the bonuses of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. Noah made All-NBA First Team, and earned his $500,000 bonus. Gibson didn’t make the All Defensive First or Second Teams. As a result, the Bulls missed the tax by just $291,164. 

This post has nothing to do with the Miami Heat but I, as a salary cap person, love intricate luxury tax maneuvering. The situation described herein is about as fascinating as it gets for me. It should be noted that the idea for this post was not my own. It stemmed from an incorrect post I read elsewhere, for which I happily provided the correction, and then decided to write a unique version for myself, with my own story line, and drawing my own conclusions. This post is long and it’s tedious, but the end result is utterly spectacular (well… spectacular for people who are amazed by how teams maneuver around luxury tax issues).

Most of us assumed that when the Chicago Bulls acquired the contract of the unremarkable Andrew Bynum in trade last month, it was to drop them below the luxury tax.

It was. But the process has been far more complicated than most of us, apparently including Bulls management themselves, realized.

For a long time, it appeared as if Bynum would be shipped off to Los Angeles, so that the Lakers could capitalize on his unintendedly valuable contract.

The nature of Bynum’s contract essentially meant that he was auditioning for the Cleveland Cavaliers from the date he was signed on July 19 all the way through the guarantee deadline on January 7, an audition he failed. Bynum’s deal called for a $12.25 million salary this season, of which only $6.0 million was guaranteed. Next season’s salary of $12.54 million was fully unguaranteed. Therefore, a two year contract was really just a six month commitment. But it also meant that any team which acquired his $12.25 million salary in trade could immediately thereafter terminate his contract, thus reducing his salary and resulting cap charge from $12.25 million to $6.0 million.

The Lakers have been luxury tax payers for six straight seasons. They were in position to leverage that $6.25 million delta to sneak below the tax for this season, producing huge up-front savings. And because they are unlikely to be taxpayers next year as they tear down their roster and rebuild, two consecutive years below the tax would have had an added benefit – no “repeater taxes,” which are paid by taxpaying teams that were also taxpayers in at least three of the previous four seasons, for the Lakers for the entire life of the current CBA, which will almost certainly be terminated after the 2016-17 season.

It was a potentially massive financial windfall for the Lakers at a cost of just the expiring contract of Pau Gasol (and another irrelevant throw-in to make the math work).

The Cavs had been after Gasol since this past summer, when they had extensive discussions with the Lakers, and were more than eager to make the swap. But the Lakers were demanding more for Gasol than just the massive financial savings. The Cavs refused.

That’s when the Bulls swooped in.  Read more…

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Suck For Luck Revisited

December 30th, 2013 No comments
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Note: This post has been updated periodically since November 6, 2011, the day the Dolphins secured their first win of the season, as more and more information has become available to prove out my point. It has been a source of great frustration for me since that time. 

The Miami Dolphins were 0-7. Despair had long since set in.

No team in NFL history had ever rallied from such a dreadful start to the regular season to make the playoffs. It simply wasn’t going to happen.

It was a familiar story. The Dolphins didn’t make the playoffs the prior season either. Or the season before that. In fact, they had only made the playoffs once in the previous ten years. After a decade of failure from which to rebuild, the Dolphins were still among the worst teams in football.

Andrew Luck, then finishing out a record-shattering college career at Stanford, was widely considered the ultimate prize in the next NFL draft. He was the most highly rated quarterback to come out of college since Peyton Manning. A can’t miss prospect. A sure thing.

A small group of frustrated Dolphins fans connected the dots and began endorsing a radical concept: Why not tank the rest of the 2011 season to ensure they get him?

The “Suck for Luck” campaign quickly took off by word of mouth. The “Miami Dolphins Suck For Luck” movement took off on Facebook. The #suck4luck movement exploded on Twitter. Signs were made. T-shirts were printed.

Eventually, just about all of South Florida embraced the concept.

Fans started actively rooting against the team so that it could land their prized quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper said it best, saying that if he were a Dolfan, he would be “celebrating losses as a victory.”

Even Dolphins owner Stephen Ross embraced the concept. Ross told his friends he would be willing to deal with short-term losses if the end result would be the franchise quarterback he so desperately wanted.  Read more…

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