Trades are fun. Whether you’re talking about the NBA or any other sports league, this remains true. And when it comes to the NBA, the Kevin Love trade that may or may not be happening in the relatively near future is possibly the most fun.
There are two major stumbling blocks right now with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ pursuit of Kevin Love. First, there is Cleveland’s apparent unwillingness to part with Andrew Wiggins, though that stance seems to be softening. And second, the Minnesota Timberwolves are insisting that anyone trading for Love take back the contracts attached to J.J. Barea (approximately $4.5 million) and Kevin Martin (approximately $6.8 million), and Cleveland can’t currently match those numbers.
Under the CBA, non-taxpaying teams — in this case, the Cavs — sending out between $9.8 million and $19.6 million in salary are allowed to take back the outgoing salary plus $5 million. So, with Love set to make just under $15.72 million this season, the Cavs would have to send out at least $10.72 million to make the deal work. Adding Barea but not Martin would require Cleveland to send $15.22 million, and adding Martin but not Barea requires Cleveland to send $17.52 million.
Adding both would complicate matters. For outgoing values greater than $19.6 million, the CBA mandates that non-taxpaying teams can only receive up to 125 percent of their salary. So to take back Love, Martin, and Barea, the Cavs would need to send out $21.6 million. They could get to such a figure, but it would require giving up Wiggins (after he signs), Anthony Bennett, the non-guaranteed contracts they acquired from the Utah Jazz yesterday, and either Anderson Varejao or both of Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. Obviously, they have no interest in doing that.
The good news is they don’t have to. While the Cavs would have to give up all those players to get the deal done if they aggregated Love, Martin and Barea’s salary, they don’t have to aggregate their salary. They can trade for Love, then trade for Martin, then trade for Barea, which makes the math a lot easier. For outgoing values below $9.6 million, the CBA allows non-taxpaying teams to take back 150 percent of that salary. Martin’s $6.8 million requires about $4.55 million in return, and Barea’s $4.5 million requires $3 million in return.
For instance, Wiggins and Bennett are worth about $11 million combined, so that’s enough — salary-wise — for Love by himself, going by the “outgoing value plus $5 million” formula from earlier. The aforementioned non-guaranteed contracts add up to $3.2 million, so that takes care of Barea. That then leaves Cleveland just $4.55 million away from a deal. Brendan Haywood ($2.2 million) and Matthew Dellavedova (about $800K) would get you most of the way there, but they’re still short. Tristan Thompson ($5.1 million) would do the trick. Or Dion Waiters ($4 million) plus Dellavedova. Just depends on what Cleveland is willing to give up.
Meanwhile, it’s been reported that the Chicago Bulls are in the mix for Love as well, and they wouldn’t have any particular problem matching salary under this sort of framework. I wrote about a Kevin Love trade a few weeks ago that would have looked vaguely similar, to the Cavs trade outline above, but the Bulls’ salary picture has changed somewhat since then.
The Bulls can still take on Love by trading Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy. That hasn’t changed, since they’re still worth a combined $11.3 million. They’d have to wait 30 days to trade either Nikola Mirotic or Doug McDermott, but Mirotic ($5.3 million) and any two of McDermott ($2.3 million), Snell ($1.47 million) and Butler ($2.01 million) will get the job done.
My favorite part of any piecemeal Love deal, however, is that the Wolves will walk out of it with a sizable trade exception to work with. See, the CBA says that teams can structure trades in whatever way is most sensible to them, and that two sides of the same trade can structure them in completely different ways, if they want. So while the Cavs/Bulls would be executing three separate but simultaneous trades, the Wolves would be executing one large trade.
Supposing Minnesota is dealing with the Cavs and gets Wiggins, Bennett, Waiters, Dellavedova and the three non-guaranteed contracts in exchange for Love, Martin and Barea, they would earn a trade exception of $8 million. If they take the Bulls offer and get Gibson, Dunleavy, Mirotic, McDermott and Snell for their trouble, they get an exception worth $6.6 million.
So there you go. That’s how it works. And you thought this was going to be complicated.