Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Idiot's Guide To The 2013 NBA Trade Deadline

You ain't gone trade us, right Doc?

 By Jeremy Conlin

The NBA trade deadline sucks. I hate everything about it. The one thing I hate even more than the trade deadline is writing about the trade deadline during the week of the trade deadline. By the time you're done with the first draft of whatever it is that you're writing, half the guys you wrote about have already been traded, and the other half end up not moving at all.

So instead of focusing on specific deals that may or may not happen, here's an idiot's guide to the 2013 trade deadline.

1. Teams That Clearly Need To Make A Deal Usually Don't

Every year this seems to happen. Fringe contenders convince themselves that if everything breaks right for them, they could end up in the Finals. Take the Celtics, for example - last year there were reports that Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, or Ray Allen (or two of the three) could be on their way out of Boston. However, they didn't make any major deals because their defense had found a serious groove after inserting Avery Bradley into the starting lineup, and they didn't want to shake that up.

Why? Because like I said, they convinced themselves that there was a realistic possibility for them to make the Finals. A timely injury to an opposing star could leapfrog them straight to the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

So what happened? Everything broke for the Celtics and they STILL couldn't make the Finals. They caught Atlanta in the first round, who didn't have Al Horford for the first three games. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose tore his ACL, knocking Chicago out of their path. Then they met up with Miami, who was without Chris Bosh for the first five games of the series, and they still lost.

People keep talking about the Celtics "window," without realizing that the window was slammed shut a few years ago, perhaps even as far back as LeBron James signing in Miami. A re-build has been a long time coming, and it's unclear why they haven't started yet.

Teams that qualify this year:
1. Boston (sell Pierce and/or Garnett, if he'll waive his no-trade clause)
2. Memphis (sell as high as possible on Zach Randolph - they aren't making the Finals as presently constructed)
3. Chicago (trade Boozer for depth and unleash the power of Taj Gibson)
4. Denver (trade spare parts/picks for shooting - preferably a big man that can stretch the floor)

2. Teams Are More Afraid Than Ever of The Luxury Tax

This season, the luxury tax isn't any more prohibitive than it used to be - its a dollar-for-dollar tax for teams with payroll above the tax line (set this year at $70.3 million). Next year, however, teams are paying anywhere from $1.50 to $3.75 for every dollar above the tax line, then starting in 2015, there's a "repeat offender" clause - teams that have paid the tax in each of the previous three seasons, and the rates jump to $2.50-$4.75 for every dollar above the tax line. A tax bill of $12 million this season will balloon to $21 million next year, then to over $33 million in 2015.

Granted, some teams just don't seem to care about the tax - the Nets, for instance, is going to pay approximately eleventy billion dollars on their tax bill in 2015. They already have $77 million committed to just eight players (then another $72 million committed to FOUR players in 2016). They don't seem to care.

Small market teams around the tax line, however, will want to get (or stay) under the tax line in order to avoid the "repeat offender" rates for as long as possible. We already saw Memphis make a few cost-cutting deals to get under the tax line (they got all the ay down to $62 million), and we could see a few other teams follow suit.

Teams that qualify this year:
1. Portland (sitting at $73 million - reportedly trying to dump J.J. Hickson on somebody)
2. Golden State (sitting at $71.5 million - Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler should be moveable)
3. Chicago (sitting at $74.6 million - could cut salary now to avoid the tax once Rose gets healthy next year)
4. San Antonio/Oklahoma City (currently under the tax line, could be afraid to add salary)

3. Teams With Expiring Players With Value Should Deal Them NOW

Having a ton of cap space this summer is a death sentence. Teams spent the last year or so carving out space in the event that Dwight Howard or Chris Paul entered the free agent market, but now it's looking more and more likely that those guys will both re-up in the city of Angels. So what does that mean?

It means the class of the free agent market is going to be Josh Smith, Monta Ellis, Paul Millsap, and Andrew Bynum's hair.

So here's what happens: free agency starts, one team that cleared room for Dwight Howard will realize that Dwight Howard isn't available, and they'll panic and throw a max deal at Josh Smith. Atlanta obviously doesn't want to pay Josh Smith max money (if they did, they would have offered him a contract extension to that effect), so they won't match it. But then Atlanta is left with a gaping hole on their roster, as well as salary to fill in order to reach the salary floor. So then they'll offer Paul Millsap $48 million instead of $40 million so that Utah won't match, and we'll play a game of musical power forwards until the entire market is empty and everyone overpaid for someone.

So instead of letting their expiring players walk, they should deal them now, pick up a smaller expiring that they won't mind losing this summer, and maybe pick up a young prospect or a pick for their trouble.

Teams that qualify this year:
1. Atlanta (it seems like a foregone conclusion that Josh Smith will be moved... somewhere)
2. Milwaukee (a Monta Ellis/Josh Smith swap actually might be a thing - makes a bit of sense for both sides)
3. Utah (even if Paul Millsap wasn't expiring it'd make sense to trade him to free minutes for their other bigs)
4. Orlando (SOMEONE will want J.J. Redick)
5. Portland (J.J. Hickson won't be back next year)