This topic was originally inspired by a Reddit post from Redditor Dangercart. You can find the original here. Our summation follows.
The Portland Trail Blazers are wending their way through the 2015-16 season in an odd cap situation. With aggregate team salary just over $49 million, they're approximately $13.5 million under the minimum payroll level prescribed in the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. The document mandates that each team's payroll must exceed 90% of the current year's salary cap. If a team falls short of the mark, the difference between the current payroll and the mandated minimum is owed to the team's current players. In other words, if the Blazers do nothing to alter their roster before the end of the season, they'll write a $13.5 million check to their players, each of whom will walk away with a portion thereof.
Since the current CBA came into existence, only two teams have failed to meet the minimum salary threshold. The Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets both fell short last year, Orlando by almost $2 million, Denver by less than $1 million. If Portland ends up forking over all that money, it'll be the largest such payment in league history.
There is a way they can avoid it. If they so desire, the Blazers are capable of making trades that would save them millions off of the final amount. Two loopholes make this possible.
1. The CBA states that salary obligation is tabulated after the team's final regular season game. The closer Portland approaches $63 million in salary by April 13th, the less difference they'll have to make up. If the Blazers can reach the minimum salary threshold at the trade deadline, they can eliminate the payment entirely.
2. Contracts acquired via trade count for their full annual amount against the cap. But as with any trade, the Blazers only pay the amount of the contract still owed when they acquire the player in question.
If the Blazers take on a player or players making $15 million this season, their cap number would jump from $49 million to $64 million. They'd be above the minimum at the end of the year and not have to write that huge check. But they'd only pay those players for the time they served in Portland...the final third of the season. Their original teams would have paid off the first 2/3 of the contracts. Even though the cap value of those players would read $15 million in April, the Blazers would have actually paid them around $5 million...a substantial savings over the $13.5 million they'd owe if they didn't acquire those players.
This kind of move would be a total bummer for the current roster members hoping to collect an extra million bucks apiece at the end of the season, but saving $8.5 million in real money might be enough of an enticement for Portland to look at taking on an expensive expiring contract or two.
In the spirit of Reddit:..
tl;dr Blazers do nothing, pay $13.5 million at the end of the season. Blazers pick up $15 million in expiring contracts at the trade deadline, pay $5 million instead.
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