The Cost of All Those Traded Draft Picks Becoming Clearer for Miami Heat

April 20th, 2014 4 comments

In the summer of 2010, the Miami Heat changed the course of team and league history. As a result of two trade calls held with the NBA league office in less than an hour on July 10, the Heat completed sign-and-trade transactions with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, acquiring LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the process.

James and Bosh were to be paired with Heat incumbent free agent Dwyane Wade as the launching point for what would ultimately become the Big Three era. In the three subsequent seasons, the Heat have gone on to reach the NBA Finals all three times, winning the NBA championship twice. Their pursuit of a third consecutive title begins tonight.

Amidst the jubilation of the day, some questioned the manner in which Heat president Pat Riley chose to acquire his two new players. The Heat had the necessary cap room at the time to sign them outright. Why, then, pursue the trade?

Both players were eligible for maximum salaries of $16.6 million in the first year of any new contract signed, whether it was with their prior teams, with the Heat, or with anyone else. But while the starting salary was to be the same no matter where they signed, the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement gives the home team a financial advantage when it comes to re-signing its own players. Both players’ home teams were eligible to offer their respective player one more year (six instead of five) and bigger annual raises (10.5% instead of 8%). That translated to a maximum potential offer of $125.5 million over six years, versus the $96.1 million over five years that the Heat could offer.

James and Bosh utilized the structure not to make the increased money, but rather to mitigate the impact of taking less. They leveraged the sign-and-trade structure to take a reduced starting salary of $14.5 million – $2.1 million less than the maximum – in order to accommodate the contracts of Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. (Wade, too, did the same).

Each structured the longer six year deal with the higher 10.5% maximum raises, but with the lower starting salary. The contracts paid out $109.8 million over the six years, roughly $15.5 million less than they otherwise could have made had they accepted full max deals.

The sign-and-trade structure, however, came at a cost for Miami.  Read more…

Salary Cap and Luxury Tax Projections for 2014-15 Keep Rising

April 19th, 2014 2 comments

The NBA has issued new projections for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 salary cap and luxury tax thresholds. All 30 teams were informed this week via league memorandum that the 2014-15 cap and tax threshold are now projected to be $63.2 million and $77.0 million, respectively. The numbers for 2015-16 are now projected to be $66.5 million and $81.0 million, respectively.

It should be noted that these are non-binding forecasts that have been circulated more than months before the official salary cap and luxury-tax threshold for the 2014-15 season are announced in early July, following a league-wide audit (that’s what July Moratorium is for). As part of the audit, accountants jointly appointed by the NBA and the player’s association finalize the total revenue haul during the past season and, on that basis, project the revenues for the upcoming year.

They then take 44.74% of that projected amount, subtract projected benefits, and divide by 30 (the number of teams in the league) to get the salary cap for the season ahead. Adjustments are then made to the cap if players received way too much (or way too little) in salaries and benefits for the then prior season relative to the finalized revenue figure; this serves as a mechanism to maintain the integrity of the agreed-to revenue spit between owners and players. The luxury tax uses a similar formula, but is based on 53.51% of projected revenues.

The salary cap and luxury tax values for the current season are $58.679 million and $71.748 million, respectively, which means the new cap projection for next season represents a 7.75% increase over this season. This is a pretty big jump — the league’s baseline assumption for year-to-year increases is 4.5%.  Read more…

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Miami Heat Sets New Team Record for Player Payroll

April 18th, 2014 No comments

If the Miami Heat haven’t exactly lived up to expectations thus far this season, it isn’t because of their spending.

Despite making some unpopular moves last summer – utilizing the amnesty provision to waive Mike Miller, declining to utilize the mid-level exception – the Heat spent more on player payroll this season than in any other season in team history.

The Heat ended the regular season with a team salary of $80.6 million – which, perhaps surprisingly, amounts to $2.8 million less than last season’s record total.

But team salary isn’t an accurate depiction of a team’s actual spending on player payroll and related costs. There are several adjustments that need to be taken into account.

First, team salary doesn’t factor in mid-season trades. For example, if a team trades a player midway through the season, his salary comes off team salary entirely, even though salary payments will have already been made. Joel Anthony and Roger Mason, Jr. were each traded during the season. Prior to their trades, they had received a combined $2.4 million in salary payments from the Heat. Conversely, the Heat received Toney Douglas in trade midway through the season. Though his $1.6 million salary appears on the Heat’s team salary, the Heat itself was only responsible for $856K of that total. Adjusting appropriately for these trades, then, takes the team’s payroll to $82.2 million.  Read more…

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LeBron James Completes Historic NBA Shooting Season

April 17th, 2014 No comments

The kingly play of LeBron James has been one of the most compelling aspects of the NBA since his entrance into the league eleven years ago. Lately, however, the experience of watching the world’s greatest basketball player ply his trade has taken on an entirely new significance. Outrageously efficient shooting is producing historic implications.

Every trip down the floor serves as a reminder that James simply cannot be stopped. His every touch of the basketball brings its own terrifying potential. He goes wherever he wants to go. He does whatever he wants to do. He scores seemingly at will, from anywhere on the court, with mid-boggling efficiency. Without much concern at all for defenses, physical limitations, or the confluence of factors that invariably guide the performances of all of his fellow humanoids. He is perhaps the most dominant player in NBA history.

When one reaches such a level of on-court brilliance, said person invariably develops an arrogance about his play — a me-first attitude that negates the potential contributions of others. Not James. Despite being perhaps the most dominant player in NBA history, and despite being constantly vilified for his deference in spite of that dominance, James continues to be among the most selfless superstars in NBA history as well.

What makes LeBron James such a unique basketball talent? Perhaps it’s his never before duplicated combination of dominance and selflessness. In the history of the NBA, the list of players to average at least 25 points per game, while shooting at least 54% from the field and averaging at least 6 assists per game in a season is as follows:

LeBron James.

No other playmaker has ever had a scoring season as potent, and no premier scorer has ever had a season with such productive passing as James. And James hasn’t just done it once. He’s done it twice. In a row. And he didn’t just eclipse those numbers. He shattered them!  Read more…

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Dwyane Wade Completes Historic NBA Shooting Season

April 16th, 2014 No comments

Before the playoffs begin, before championship aspirations are fought for, before future planning is deliberated, let’s take a moment to acknowledge something truly remarkable that has quietly transpired in the midst of a largely torturous regular season. Dwyane Wade has completed a historic shooting year.

For a second consecutive season that started with questions about whether his skills were in serious decline, Wade has transcended the doubters, and the injuries, to accomplish the spectacular.

He shot 54.5% from the field in 2013-14.

How good is that?

Well… It represents the best shooting season for any shooting guard in the past 31 years. It represents the second best shooting season for any shooting guard who averaged double-digit points of all time. It represents the third best shooting season for any starting shooting guard of all time. And it represents the fourth best shooting season for any shooting guard of all time.

That bears repeating: Dwyane Wade just produced the best shooting season for any shooting guard in the past 31 years, and the fourth best in NBA history!  Read more…

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Did the Heat Turn Down An Evan Turner for Udonis Haslem Offer?

February 27th, 2014 No comments

It has been suggested that the Miami Heat were engaged by the Philadelphia 76ers with an interesting proposition at the Feb. 20 NBA trading deadline. It has been suggested that Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie proposed a trade to Heat general manager Pat Riley of Evan Turner, in exchange for Udonis Haslem and a future first round draft pick.

Riley reportedly rejected.

Did he do the right thing? Well, that’s for you to decide.

The Mechanics

Let’s get a couple things out of the way before we begin.

First, the rumored trade, as described, doesn’t work. It violates salary cap rules.

Taxpaying teams like the Heat can only take back up to 125% of their outgoing salaries, plus $100K, no matter how much salary the team is sending away.

Haslem makes $4.3 million this year. He can therefore only be traded for a player(s) who makes as much as $5.5 million. Turner makes $6.7 million.

When trades are rumored about, oftentimes only the vital components are leaked. The technical details are often either not yet established or not considered vital, and are therefore not leaked alongside the rest of the trade. If indeed this rumor is true, that may be what’s happened here, particularly because the solution is simple. If the Heat were to add an expiring contract to the deal – say, for example, Rashard Lewis – the trade would be legal.

Second, there’s the matter of the draft pick. The concept of including a first round draft pick is quite vague. When would that pick be conferred? What protections would be attached to it?

The Heat’s current predicament answers these questions, and quite nicely.  Read more…

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Miami Heat Sign DeAndre Liggins to 10-Day Contract

February 25th, 2014 No comments

The Miami Heat have made the first use of their NBA D-League affiliate after purchasing operational control this season, with Tuesday’s questionable signing of swingman DeAndre Liggins of the Sioux Falls Skyforce to a 10-day contract.

Liggins had been playing with the Skyforce as an unaffiliated player, and was free to sign with any NBA team.

The 6-foot-6-inch, 209-pound Chicago native was originally recruited out of high school as a point guard by the University of Kentucky for the incoming class of 2008. He spent his first two years mostly coming off the bench, but in his junior year, coach John Calipari decided to start him as a shooting guard. After his junior season, he elected to enter the 2011 NBA Draft.

Liggins was selected with the 53rd overall pick by the Orlando Magic. He spent the year with the Magic on a one-year minimum salary contract, barely playing. He went on sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2012-13 season, during which time he had multiple assignments with the D-League’s Tulsa 66ers.  Read more…

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Miami Heat Dump Roger Mason Jr. in Trade Deadline Deal

February 20th, 2014 No comments

The Miami Heat have dumped the contract of Roger Mason Jr. at the Feb. 20 trade deadline, in a move that saves owner Micky Arison $1.05 million and opens up a roster spot to utilize either on a current free agent or on a player to be waived over the next 10 days.

The Heat will send Mason Jr. to the Sacramento Kings, who are expected to immediately waive him. They’ll also send $786,095 in cash to complete the deal.

While that amount of cash may seem random, it actually isn’t.

Mason Jr. is a 10-year N.B.A. veteran. He is playing under a one-year contract. He is earning $1,399,507, the minimum salary for a player with his tenure. However, he is only required to be paid $884,293 of that amount, equal to the minimum salary for a two-year N.B.A. veteran. The league will reimburse the rest at the end of the season. Therefore, he really only costs the smaller amount, and only the smaller amount is included in team salary for cap and tax purposes. They do this so teams won’t shy away from signing older veterans simply because they are more expensive than younger veterans.

As for the mechanics of how the reimbursement works, he is to be paid his full prorated salary of $8,232.39 per day (equal to his $1,399,507 salary divided by the 170 days in the regular season), until the total reaches $884,293. At that point, he continues to get paid his fully prorated salary but the league reimburses the rest. With the regular season having started on Oct. 29, he earned that much by Feb. 13, 2014. Since that time, his services have essentially been free of charge for the Heat.

However, since the contract has now been traded, the reimbursement will get allocated to the respective teams based on the number of days accrued with each team. Therefore, while the Kings will be responsible for the $452,782 remaining on his contract for the 55 days left in the regular season, they will actually only owe $286,095 after accounting for the reimbursement.

The Heat essentially covered his remaining salary obligations for the Kings, and then topped it off with a $500,000 profit, which serves as the only impetus for Sacramento to make the deal.

In order to send something back, which is required in all trades, the Kings will return the Heat a 2015 second-round pick which is protected for selections 31-49 and 56-60. If the pick ultimately falls within either of its protected ranges and is therefore not conveyed, then Sacramento’s obligation to Miami will be extinguished. This essentially means that the Heat will only get the pick if it lands between pick numbers 50 and 55.

While this range may seem random, it actually isn’t.

The Kings intended to provide enough protection on the pick to ensure that it will never be received. Such trades are commonplace in the N.B.A., and are typically accomplished by trading away a second-round pick on condition that it lands within the last five of the draft. However, the Kings have previously traded the pick to the Boston Celtics with that condition. So, now, the Celtics will receive the pick if it is among the last five, the Heat will receive the pick if it is among the previous five, and the Kings will retain the pick if it is among the first twenty of the second round, as is likely.  Read more…

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Chicago Bulls: Salary Cap Maneuvering in Action

February 7th, 2014 3 comments

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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Miami Heat at the NBA Trade Deadline

January 21st, 2014 No comments

The Feb. 20 N.B.A. trade deadline is now officially less than a month away.

The Miami Heat started their dealings early this season, shipping Joel Anthony to the Boston Celtics along with a million dollars and two draft picks (one second-rounder and another that was originally Philadelphia’s and will likely become a pair of second-rounders). In return, the Heat got a player from Golden State, but this deal wasn’t about Toney Douglas as much as it was about the benjamins.

Anthony, who lost his role to Chris Andersen last season and had been a reclusive presence on the court ever since, ultimately became a casualty of the Heat’s cash crunch and managing partner Micky Arison’s desire to creep closer to the luxury-tax line. He didn’t get there, not with this deal, but it did save him around $20 million, and it did eliminate one of the obstacles to reshaping the roster after this season, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all opt out of their existing contracts.

Now, it’s conceivable that only Norris Cole ($2.0 million) and Udonis Haslem ($4.6 million option) will be under contract on July 1, as Arison, Pat Riley and the Heat try to retain James, Wade and Bosh, and perhaps Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Michael Beasley and even Greg Oden.

That’s the long-term vision.

The short-term? The trade did nothing to advance the cause. The Heat, championship material as they are currently constructed, nonetheless have various needs that have yet to be addressed.  Read more…