Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Never Extend Anyone (the essay formerly knows as, "Top 10 Larry Sanders Trade Destinations")

This essay was supposed to be a hit magnet.  I was supposed to write a few hundred words on ten possible trade destinations for formerly (at least in some Bucks fans' eyes; I still love him) beloved Bucks big man Larry Sanders.  I was supposed to use the NBA Trade Machine from ESPN to figure out how he could get to the Pelicans (Tyreke?), the Lakers (Nash & Nick Young?), the Knicks (Bargnani?) and a slew of other teams.  But the trades kept failing.  Every single time, I would get one side or another needing to take back less salary.

Then I figured it out: Larry Sanders is LITERALLY UNTRADEABLE (at least for this season).  Why, you ask?  The stupid rules of the stupid new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that caused the stupid lockout that caused me to start dropping thousands of stupid dollars per year on L.A. Kings season tickets.  

In the CBA, players on the last year of their rookie contracts are required to have their deals include the Poison Pill Provision (PPP, which should have been a name reserved for Triple H's son in WWE) if they receive an extension.  The PPP makes it so that the team trading that player away uses the value of the rookie contract when trading away the player.  The team trading for the player uses the average annual value (AAV, see there's my NBA lockout-authored hockey fandom popping up again) of the contract.

In simpler terms:

If the Bucks trade Larry, they trade away $3 million .  Since the Bucks are within that amount of the salary cap, they are allowed to receive back 150% plus $100,000.  So the Bucks can only receive $4.6 million.

The team that trades for Larry receives the same Larry, but is trading for $9.4 million according to the  CBA.  That is because the receiving team must average out his entire extension along with his last rookie year.  That's $47 million divided by 5 years.

For a Larry trade to work, the Bucks would need to work with a team that has about $5 million in cap space.  That team would have to be able to take in $9.4 million while giving out less than $4.6 million.

So who does have $5 million in cap space at this point?  Phoenix and Philly.  That's it.  

If the Bucks decided to go the cap clearing route, Phoenix might make some sense.  They have Emeka Okafor in on an expiring contract.  Maybe they'd take back Caron Butler and Larry to make the salaries work.

That could actually work except the new CBA screws the Bucks AGAIN.  Since Phoenix already had Butler under contract during this league year (even though he never played a game and was long gone before training camp began), Butler can't be part of that trade.

So the Bucks are stuck with Larry.  It's not all bad since I like the guy and he has played Bill Russell like defense (F-off Boston/Russell fans; that comparison is legit), but it sure seems like trading Larry for a scorer would be an idea worth exploring.

The broader lesson in all of this is that players on rookie contracts should NEVER be extended under this CBA.  Once that player is extended, the player becomes virtually untradeable.  And you can still give that player the same amount of money the next year when the stupid PPP restriction is gone.  I get that there's a risk that Larry could've gone out and averaged 15/10/4 and demanded a max deal after this season.  But the PPP makes extensions so crippling that the Bucks needed to get a bigger discount than 4/$44M to make the extension make sense.

There is one possibility that this could work out.  It looks like this: Evan Turner for Larry & Caron.  

Evan Turner is in the last year of his rookie deal and he did not get extended.  He is playing great, and at the moment it looks like he is in line for something approaching a max deal.  (If you don't believe me ask the Blazers or Pelicans.  Nic Batum got 4/$46M.  Eric Gordon got 4/$64M.)  The Sixers are hot right now, but do they really want to may Evan Turner $50-$60 million over the next four years?  Wouldn't Larry be a nice defensive compliment to the offensive-minded Spencer Hawes in the middle?  Wouldn't one of these college guys like Wiggins or Parker fit better with Larry than with Evan Turner?  At the very least I would have to think that Philly would have to think about it.

In truth I am torn on the Larry situation.  I want him to thrive and play well, but I get the feeling that having a player who compliments Big Ers and Henson a little bit better would be a little bit better.  One thing I'm not torn on, however, is the fact that this CBA has made most extensions of rookie contracts a bad idea.

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