23 December 2009
| John Hollinger, By John Hollinger
Coming into the season, we knew that the Oklahoma City Thunder would be able to demand a hefty price for the privilege of renting its salary cap space this winter, because so many teams found themselves in tight spots financially. We also knew that Carlos Boozer not opting out of his contract would likely cost the Jazz a player somewhere down the road.
Today, their destinies collided. A full two months before the trade deadline, the Thunder made their move when the Jazz dangled rookie point guard Eric Maynor as the prize for taking on the contract of soon-to-be-retired forward Matt Harpring.
Let's start with the obvious stuff: The Thunder used their strong cap position to purloin a promising young point guard. Maynor has played reasonably well for Utah in his first season and the next year of his deal, at $1.4 million, barely dents the Thunder's projected cap space for next summer. He fills a clear need as well. Oklahoma City desperately needed a pass-first point guard to back up Russell Westbrook and to occasionally play with him in small backcourts, especially with Shaun Livingston not working out. Maynor doesn't offer great upside, but he's going to be solid for several years.
Additionally, some subtle aspects of this deal make it particularly juicy for the Thunder. Harpring makes $6.5 million this year, but Oklahoma City is on the hook for only $1.78 million while insurance will cover the rest. And since Harpring has an expiring contract, the deal won't cut into their projected $10 million-plus in cap space next summer. Finally, the Thunder can trade Harpring again if they so choose, either alone or as part of a package: Teams under the cap aren't bound by the league's two-month rule on re-packaging acquired players.
Utah effectively donated Maynor to Oklahoma City because of the mind-boggling financial savings. The Jazz retain more than $10.46 million by removing $7.8 million in luxury tax payments, another $884,452 for Maynor's salary the rest of this year, and $1.78 million in payments to Harpring that wouldn't have been covered by insurance. The trade also opens the door for the Jazz to eventually slip under the luxury tax threshold entirely -- they're now only $4.8 million over. More on that in a minute.
Utah acquired the rights to German forward Peter Fehse in this trade, but he has no chance of ever playing in the NBA. He's only in the deal because league rules require both teams to receive something in a trade, and this was the least valuable asset the Thunder found in the recesses of their cupboards. In another bit of housekeeping, Utah will need to sign a 13th player at some point in the next two weeks to meet league roster rules.
The big question for Jazz fans, however, is whether this portends a trade of Carlos Boozer. The Jazz could conceivably slide all the way under the tax line by trading Boozer and receiving a player or players with non-guaranteed contracts, especially if Utah includes Kyle Korver's expiring contract in the swap.
To offer one such example (this is NOT a rumor, mind you, just an example), Utah could send Boozer, Korver, and C.J. Miles to Dallas for Drew Gooden, Erick Dampier, Rodrigue Beaubois and a 2012 first-rounder; the deal would save $3.5 million in salaries and another $2.6 million by cutting Gooden prior to Jan. 8, putting the Jazz under the tax threshold.
Another more plausible way is to deal Boozer or Boozer with Korver to get most of the way under the tax, and then pay a team to take Ronnie Price or Miles into a trade exception to finish the job. The point is that the Jazz now have paths available to avoid the luxury tax, something that seemed a long shot prior to the Maynor trade.
For other teams looking to dump salary, however, this deal is terrible news. Only a few doors remain open for dumping salary, and one of them just slammed shut. While opportunities remain available -- witness my Boozer example above -- the likes of Washington and New Orleans have to be disappointed that the Oklahoma City option is off the table.
That they took it off the table this early, prior to most of the serious horse-trading beginning, says something about the quality of the deal dangled before them. Boozer's opt-in proved costly for Utah, depriving the Jazz of Maynor's services while further strengthening a potent division rival. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City's inexorable rise continues apace -- today the Thunder nabbed a good young point guard, and because of the insurance provisions, they got him for peanuts.
, Sometimes seemingly minor deals have a significant impact on the trade market leaguewide.
Tuesday could well be one of those times.
The Utah Jazz had to part with promising rookie point guard Eric Maynor to make it happen, but keeping Carlos Boozer for the rest of the season just got more affordable for the Jazz.
A lot more affordable.
Sending retirement-bound Matt Harpring and Maynor to Oklahoma City for the rights to a 2002 second-rounder who will never play in the NBA -- German forward Peter Fehse -- sliced Utah's luxury-tax bill this season from $12.6 million to a much more manageable $4.8 million.
That's still more luxury tax than the Jazz want to pay, but the nearly $8 million in tax payments that they just saved provides further incentive to keep Boozer beyond the Feb. 18 trading deadline.
No one expects him to stay in Salt Lake City after this season following Utah's decision to match the four-year, $32 million offer sheet Paul Millsap got from Portland. But Boozer -- whether he leaves through his own accord as an unrestricted free agent or works with the Jazz on a sign-and-trade -- has followed up an offseason filled with endless chatter about his imminent departure with a tension-easing start to 2009-10.
How calming? Boozer was averaging 19.8 points and 10.8 boards entering Tuesday's play and told reporters this week in Miami: "I'm having fun and hopefully everybody can see that."
This deal was typical OKC opportunism. Thunder general manager Sam Presti took advantage of his low payroll to snag yet another good young asset in Maynor by absorbing a contract that is not only expiring (at $6.5 million) but also heavily insured because of the knee and ankle injuries that have forced Harpring into television with NBA TV this season.
Yet this is a deal with two winners. Maynor is a nice prospect, sure, but dare we say point guard is one spot that Utah can afford to sacrfice some depth with a certain Deron Williams on the books.
No way Utah could say no to shedding that much payroll -- without surrendering a true core piece -- no matter how much you like Maynor.
Not when you factor in the increased leverage Utah just gave itself going into the trade deadline. The Jazz can still elect to trade Boozer if they get a deal they like, but they certainly don't have to.
For months we've heard sources with knowledge of Utah's thinking insist that the Jazz wanted at least one quality player in a Boozer deal. And that was when their luxury-tax bill was going to approach $13 million.
A tax payment in July in the $5 million range, as a one-season hit, is something Utah can presumably stomach if it decides to stick with Boozer for six more months.
Kevin OConner Audio part 1
Kevin Oconner Aucio part 2
My thoughts, you haven't seen the end of the trading yet, the Jazz have more in the works, and so does OKC. Harpring's contract will get traded at least one more time and maybe two. OKC is looking for another piece of the puzzle they also have the number 14,23, and 44 picks in the upcoming draft. With Harpring's expiring contract and some good young talent I think that they could go after one of the better free agents in the off-season or even before the season ends, (Yao Ming, Dirk, Amare Stoudamaire, or Chris Bosh, OkC could package their first two picks, Hapring's expiring and some other players Maynor or whoever to get a big that fills a need. Just a thought.
It feels like the Jazz are setting up a trade involving Boozer and all the above comments hint to that. It could be a trade or a sign and trade. We also have Korver's Expiring contract that could fit into the mix. With the emergence of Matthews, CJ's Contract could fit into the mix as well. In all reality there are only three contracts that are untouchable, D-Will and Millsap, and nobody in the league will touch AK's contract. We are not here to start rumors, but if you listen closely you should be able to start hearing whisperings around the league involving the Utah Jazz.