The Indiana Pacers added size and depth Saturday when they signed center Andrew Bynum to a contract for the reason of the season.
The Pacers had $2.15 million left of their full-midlevel exception. However, starting January 10, it has been prorating down at a rate of 1/170 per day. As of Saturday, it was valued at $1.859 million, which was roughly equivalent to the amount by which the Pacers were below the luxury tax threshold.
They ended up using $1 million of it on Bynum, earning him $441K more than the minimum.
The move still gives the Pacers additional room below the tax to make roster moves, if necessary.
Bynum, who will join the Pacers next week, will back up All-Star Roy Hibbert along with Ian Mahinmi. Also featuring power forwards David West and Luis Scola, the Pacers will have some of the best depth in the N.B.A. at the big man positions.
The move also kept Bynum away from the rival Miami Heat, who beat the Pacers in seven games in last season’s Eastern Conference finals.
Five teams were interested in Bynum, including the Heat, but it was the Pacers who had a roster spot and the space under the luxury tax to add him now.
The Heat had the ability to match and outbid the Pacers for Bynum because they have all of their $3.183 million taxpayer mid-level exception still remaining, which has been prorated down to $2.752 million as of Saturday.
However, the Heat currently have a full roster of 15 players and a luxury-tax bill of $15.5 million, meaning signing Bynum would have been expensive.
Matching the offer from the Pacers would have cost the Heat $3.2 million, increasing total payroll obligations to nearly $108 million for the season, though that figure is still below the team’s projected payroll prior to the Joel Anthony trade.
There were methods the Heat could have employed to reduce that cost substantially.
Trading away both Roger Mason Jr. and Toney Douglas, if such trades were possible, would have created a cash flow positive scenario for the Heat, even after paying Bynum his million. It would have also opened up an additional roster spot with which to attract a wing player who specializes in long-range shooting and defense.
In the end, however, the Heat were only willing to offer Bynum the minimum, at a cost, when including the tax, of $1.1 million. It wasn’t enough.