The Heat has completed a minor trade with the Memphis Grizzlies at the Feb. 21 deadline that gives the team some financial relief.
Miami sent seldom-used center Dexter Pittman, its 2013 second round draft pick and cash considerations to the Grizzlies in exchange for the draft rights to power forward Ricky Sanchez. The Heat will also acquire an $854,389 trade exception in the deal.
Sanchez will likely never play in the NBA. He was originally drafted in the second round (35th overall) of the 2005 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. The Puerto Rican native has since played professionally in the Continental Basketball Association (2005-06), the D-League (2006-08), Puerto Rico (2007-11), Venezuela (2009), Mexico (2009-11), Spain (2011-12) and Argentina (2012-13), where the 6’11”, 220-pound 25-year-old has averaged 12.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 31.9 minutes while shooting 42.2% from the field in 28 games for Libertad de Sunchales this season. His draft rights have been traded four times. He was included because each team is required to send the other something in every trade.
The trade exception holds very little practical value for the Heat either. It will allow Miami to trade for a player(s) with a total salary of up to $954,389 (the value of the exception, plus $100K) without being required to send back matching salaries. It cannot be used to sign a free agent, it cannot be traded to another team, and it cannot be combined with another exception or player in order to trade for a more expensive player. By league rule, teams over the salary cap (as are the Heat) are allowed to acquire minimum salary players without regard to salary matching anyway.
The impetus of the trade for the Heat is the roster spot that it creates. Teams are required to carry no fewer than 13 players, but no more than 15 players, on their rosters during the season. The Heat roster now stands at 14.
The Heat will look to add a player, likely a big man, who is currently a free agent or who might become available via buyout by March 1.
In order for a current player to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster, he must be placed on waivers by 11:59 p.m. on March 1. The player does not have to be subsequently signed by March 1. He can be signed as late as for the final game of the regular season to be playoff eligible. And a player who has not appeared on an NBA roster this season can also be signed any time prior to a team’s final regular season game in order to be playoff eligible.
Possible buyout candidates who may be of interest to the Heat include Jermaine O’Neal of the Phoenix Suns, Samuel Dalembert of the Milwaukee Bucks, Chris Kaman of the Dallas Mavericks, and Timofey Mozgov of the Denver Nuggets.
There is some rationale to believe that each could be a buyout candidate, although none is likely to be. The Suns need the roster spot to accommodate the soon-to-be-acquired Marcus Morris, and O’Neal has reportedly been pushing for the chance to play for a contender in the dusk of his 17-year career. The Bucks have agreed to acquire center Gustavo Ayon as part of a multi-player trade involving J.J. Redick, which would add Ayon to a center rotation that includes incumbent starter Larry Sanders and the reportedly unhappy Dalembert. The Mavs are fading out of playoff contention and are dealing with a reportedly unhappy Kaman who, himself, is dealing with a concussion sustained more than three weeks ago. The Nuggets have been looking to deal the seldom-used Mozgov, though they would seemingly have little reason to buy him out; if they do, it’d be simply to do him a solid.
Pittman, who had been banished to the D-League for the bulk of the season and didn’t figure into the team’s future plans, could always have been waived in favor of the roster spot anyway. Therefore, in essence, this trade was actually all about the money. The Heat sent $276,420 in cash to the Grizzlies to cover the remaining portion of Pittman’s contract – the same payout as would have been required were Pittman to have been waived. However, the Heat is no longer on the hook for the $854,389 in luxury taxes his contract created.
The success of this trade, therefore, hinges on the value placed on the draft pick. In trading Pittman, the Heat is essentially saying that its 2013 second round draft pick is worth less than $854,389 in cash.
They’re probably right. If the season were to end today, the pick would wind up being No. 59 overall in next year’s draft. Depending on how the rest of the regular season plays out, it could reasonably increase only to as high as No. 57.
Generally speaking, players picked at these levels wind up never playing in the NBA, let alone become valuable enough to meaningfully contribute to a title contender.
There are some notable exceptions, however. Manu Ginobili was selected No. 57 overall in the 1999 NBA Draft. Second year point guard Isaiah Thomas was selected with the final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. But such cases are rare.
And so the trade, unnecessary as it should have been, was probably a marginally good one — at least from the perspective of owner Micky Arison. To see that, think of it this way: Arison probably could not have otherwise sold the No. 59 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft for $854,389.
Of course, the Grizzlies got an even better deal. They had just 12 players on their roster. They needed to get to the NBA minimum of 13. So they took Pittman for free. It’s nothing more than a two-month tryout. If he doesn’t develop, the Grizzlies can waive him at no cost. If he exceeds expectations, Memphis maintains his full Bird rights as a restricted free agent this summer. Yet, smartly, they negotiated for a 2013 second round pick from the Heat as well, again, absolutely free of charge. Free player, free pick. Not a bad day’s work.