26 June 2012
Utah Jazz Fan GM (Over)-Analysis
WRITTEN BY PETER J. NOVAK | 26 June 2012
“Houston, we’ve had a problem” – Captain Jim Novell
The NBA draft is two days away and rumors are flying fast and furious. In somewhat of an odd twist, all ofthe rumors seem to be emanating out of Houston as the Rockets attempt to acquire every single 2012 first rounddraft pick. So far they have acquired three mid-first round draft selections (14, 16 & 18) but are continuing to shoparound in order to upgrade those picks into higher draft commodities. Once the dust is settled they hope to havethe pieces necessary to enable them to acquire a super-star player, ideally Dwight Howard (Houston is reportedlyinterested in lesser all-stars as well).
At this point, Utah Jazz fans are just sitting back wishing for rumors that their team is seriously engagedin a draft pick or talent acquisition trade. Not unexpectedly, things are quiet from the Jazz camp, other than somesemi-believable rumors that Kevin O’Connor is looking for a draft pick to use to acquire Damian Lillard, the local pointguard out of Weber State and likely top-10 draft pick (Chad Ford reported today that the Trailblazers are consideringtrading the #6 pick to Utah for Paul Millsap).
Ever since Mehmet Okur was traded to the Nets last year, Jazz fans have been clamoring for O’Connorto use the $10.8m “traded player exception” (the “TPE”) generated from that trade, to upgrade the roster. The timemay be perfect for O’Connor to play his TPE card as the financial flexibility that comes with such an asset would bea valuable commodity to help Houston facilitate its talent acquisition endeavors. While the Jazz do not necessarilywant to assist one of their Western Conference rivals acquire top of the line talent, there may be a few scenarioswhere doing so will help the Jazz improve significantly, without having to give up a bunch of core roster players inreturn.
What is the TPE?
The TPE is a function of the collective bargaining agreement and can be used as an exception to thestandard salary matching requirements necessary in all NBA trades. When a team executes a trade in the NBA withanother team and takes back less salary in return, the difference in salary given versus salary received creates aTPE. The Jazz did this when they dealt Memo to the Nets and did not receive any return players/salaries. The netresult was a $10.8m TPE that now allows the Jazz to take back a single or multiple players, either simultaneously orin separate transactions, who have a salary that is less than $10.8m plus $100,000. The Jazz have one year fromthe Memo trade to use this exception or they lose it. If you are interested in more details about what a TPE is andwhat a team can and cannot do with it, read ESPN salary cap expert Larry Coon’s explanation of it here: http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q82.
The TPE is an especially appealing tool for teams that have made financial commitments to players thatthey now want to unload without taking back any salary commitments in return. This is where the Jazz’s TPE maycome into play, as it would be a useful conduit in any trade that Houston makes for Dwight Howard or another NBAstar.
What is Houston really up to?
As it stands now the Rockets have about $50m in committed salaries/cap holds for the upcoming season,which is about $8m below the projected cap. Step 1 of their currently reported goal is to parlay picks 14, 16 and18 plus a combination of current players, to get them additional picks in the top 10 that would be more appealing tothe Magic. As of right now it seems likely that Houston could use Kyle Lowry to acquire a top ten pick from eitherToronto at #8 (who is looking for a successor to Jose Calderon), or to Portland at #6 (who according to Chad Fordis considering trading its pick to Houston for Lowry). The second trade component that Houston is dealing with isrumored to be Sacramento at #5, who would be taking picks #14 and #16 and Samuel Dalembert in return for the 5thpick. The ultimate sum of its initial trades would leave Houston with picks #5 and #8 (or #7 or #6) and about $12.5mmore in cap room bringing them to about $20.5m in cap space.
Step 2 of Houston’s plan is to lure or trade for a second star player to entice Dwight to consider staying inHouston long-term. Specifically, according to Bill Ingram of Hoopsworld, Houston would use the Dwight trade as thechip that convinces Deron Williams to sign with Houston and thus convinces Dwight to sign a long-term extensionwith Houston (http://www.hoopsworld.com/rockets-targeting-dwight-howard-deron-williams). At first blush this appearsto be a long shot and both Dwight and DWill have already claimed they don’t have interest in Houston. However, ifDWill’s and Dwight’s real goal is to play together and compete for a title, Houston may be one of the only teams thathas the assets needed to acquire both guys and create the necessary cap space to get it done.
So how can the Jazz help Houston get Dwight and more importantly, what is in it for Utah?
Now with the table set, here is where we get into how the Jazz may get involved in facilitating a tradebetween Houston and Orlando. There are two different types of trades that the Jazz and other parties might haveinterest in. The first would be a “salary dump trade” with Houston alone, while the second would be a 3-way tradethat would use some of Utah’s assets to entice Orlando to deal Dwight to Houston.
Trade Scenario One:Houston trades Kevin Martin (1yr $12.4m) and Luis Scola (3yrs $9.4m, $10.2m, $11m) toUtah for Paul Millsap (1yr $8m) and a future 2nd round pick (Jazz must use TPE to acquire $9.4m Luis Scolacontract)
Houston’s Motivation. With this trade (technically it would be two separate trades) Houston is able toclear an additional $13.2m off of its salary cap and coupled with the previous trades, would bring its cap spaceto about $33.7m. This by itself would be enough that Houston could trade the draft picks it acquires to Orlandoand not require any additional salary or players be sent to Orlando. Houston would likely include additional youngassets including Patrick Patterson and/or Markieff Morris. Houston could also take back one or two of Orlando’s badcontracts (Hedo Turkoglu (2yrs $11.8m, $12m non-guaranteed?) in order to facilitate a trade.
That would mean Houston’s total package for Dwight would be something like picks #5, #8, #18 in the 2012draft (and additional future 1st rounders either its own, or the one acquired from Dallas via Los Angeles) along withPatterson and Morris. This alone would seem to me to trump any offer the Nets try to put together surrounding BrookLopez and future first round picks. It would arguably be better than an Andrew Bynum offer as well assuming thatpicks #5 and #8 pan out for Orlando. Houston would then have both Dwight and Millsap to entice DWill to comeaboard.
Utah’s Motivation. In the above scenario Utah gives up fan favorite Paul Millsap and financial flexibilityand in return gets a very comparable, but older player in Luis Scola. While the remaining $30m owed to Scola isless than ideal it is a fair market rate for a player of his production. Additionally, the Jazz acquire a shooting guard inKevin Martin who would be a valuable starter and scorer on this team for the upcoming season and who they couldhopefully convince to re-sign at a more affordable price thereafter. By getting two rotation players for the price of onethe Jazz have successfully used its TPE in this scenario to supplement its roster heading into the upcoming season.
Trade Scenario Two:
This next trade gets a little bit confusing, so I have attached the ESPN trade machine configuration showingwhich players are traded where:http://t.co/glAgQnp
Houston acquires Dwight Howard (1yr $19.5m) and Hedo Turkoglu (2yrs $11.8m, $12m non-guaranteed)Orlando acquires Al Jefferson (1yr $15m), Kyle Lowry ($5.75m, $6.2m team option) and picks #5, #18 and afuture 1st round pick from HoustonUtah acquires Kevin Martin (1yr $12.4m), Luis Scola (3yrs $9.4m, $10.2m, $11m), JJ Redick (1yr $6.2mnon-guaranteed); and Patrick Patterson (3yrs $2m, $3.1m, $4.3m qualifying offer). (Utah must use TPE toacquire $9.4m Luis Scola contract) Houston’s Motivation. This trade assumes that Houston does not trade Lowry to Toronto for #8 andinstead uses Lowry to get Orlando to buy into this deal. Houston is able to acquire Dwight and would just be a fewmillion shy of enough cap space to offer Deron Williams a max contract. The team would still have RFA rights toCourtney Lee and the ability to sign and trade Goran Dragic to fill out the rest of its lineup.
Orlando’s Motivation. Orlando uses this trade to replace Dwight with Jefferson who would take over hisrole as the primary low post scoring option on the team. Lowry is a big upgrade over Jameer Nelson at this pointin his career and would supply some needed youth to the Orlando backcourt. With the #5 pick, Orlando could drafta wing like Harrison Barnes or Michael Kidd Gilchrist to give the team a potential star wing to run with Lowry. Thistrade keeps Orlando competitive in the short-term (if that is their true goal) and in the long-term they eliminate millionsof dollars of long-term salary obligations.
Utah’s Motivation. Utah uses this trade to acquire a low post scorer and shooter from the shooting guardposition as analyzed in the trade above. Utah also acquires Redick, who is a decent shooter from the bench andPatrick Patterson, who may be a good 6th man power forward to replace Millsap if the team lets him walk after the season. In order to improve its backcourt the team does have to take on some large salary obligations to Martin andRedick, but both contract are expiring and the team could choose after the season which if either player fits into theteam long-term.
Are there better uses for the Jazz’s TPE?
While the Houston scenarios above present some interesting trade supplemental pieces to improve theteams depth, O’Connor will certainly be looking to see if there is a better use for the team’s TPE. There are a fewother teams that are reportedly interested in shedding salary and may be willing to unload overpriced contracts intothe Jazz’s TPE and entice us to take on such salary obligations by offering draft pick compensation. Most of thesetransactions would appear to be from teams later on in the draft like
Dallas (pick #17 and Shawn Marion 2yrs $17m)or Atlanta (pick #23 and Marvin Williams 2yrs $17m).
In any event if the Jazz are to going to use the TPE before it expires in December, it will likely be to enableanother team to clear cap space for moves they are trying to do either on draft day or when free agency commencesin July. The above examples with Houston are the types of deals I think would be available to the Jazz if they are infact willing to act as a conduit to other teams.
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