Portland Trail Blazers: Trade rules and the trade deadline

Though the NBA season is only a month or so old, the trade deadline is rolling around. Teams like the Portland Trail Blazers may take advantage of their extra roster spot by making a trade or two. Though may they look simple on paper, trades in the NBA are a lot more complex than meets the eye.

The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement has a specific set of rules teams need to abide by when making trades. How do these apply and how do a team like the Portland Trail Blazers have to operate when making trades?

As 29 NBA teams are over the cap, including the Blazers, they have to operate under a tiered set of rules where they can only bring back certain amounts of salary dependent on what they send out.

There are three types of teams when assessing trades for this trade deadline and they all have different rules that apply to them.

Under the salary cap of $109,140,000 

The Hawks

The Hawks current salary situation has them around $4 million under the cap. This means that they would be able to take on up to $4 million in salary with no minimum of salary coming back in return. But, its important to note that if they bring in enough salary to go over the cap, then they need to operate under the below rules.

Over the salary cap of $109,140,000

25 teams in the league

These 25 teams have three different rules around the amount of salary to be brought back.

  1. Salary sent out up $6.5 million – 175% of this amount can be brought back plus $100,000
  2. Salary sent out between $6.6 million and $19.5 million – the outgoing salary plus $5 million
  3.  Salary sent out over $19.6 million

Over the luxury tax of $132,627,000

The Thunder, Blazers, Warriors, and Rockets

Regardless of the outgoing salary, if the team is over the cap as well as in the tax then they can only bring back 125 percent of the outgoing salary plus $100,000.

Now that this part is clear, to make a trade legal under the CBA rules, each team must send out and take back least one of the following.

  •  A player who is under contract
  • A future draft pick
  •  Rights to an NBA prospect who has been drafted
  •  The rights to swap picks
  •  Cash of $110,000 or more

There is one other nuance to making NBA trades, exceptions.

Exceptions are created when you trade a player to an under the cap team who doesn’t send back any salary.

For example, the below trade. The Thunder sent Jerami Grant to the Nuggets, just receiving a first round pick in return. This means the Thunder receive the value of Grant’s full salary ( $9,346,153 ) as a trade exception. They can now use this to bring in another player to the value of $9 million.

It can be used to trade for multiple players but cannot be combined with other exceptions.

Back to the Blazers. If we look at the above rule for the Blazers in regards to exceptions and trades, they have a $1,790,993 exception that they created when trading Jake Layman to the Timberwolves.

And then as a team that is in the luxury tax, they are only able to bring back up to 125% of the salary plus $100,000 in any trade that they make. This means though that if they want to make a trade with a team, where they for example can send away a Hassan Whiteside salary of $27.1 million and only bring back $21.7 million. Thus reducing the luxury tax bill. If they weren’t worried about the luxury tax and wanted to bring more salary back then they can bring in up to $34 million. Which is 125% of the outgoing salary.

The Blazers don’t have any big exceptions they can use to acquire a player but still have the expiring contracts of Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside that can be used to trade with a team prior to the deadline.

The trade deadline is pretty simple, it’s the 15th Thursday of the NBA season, at 3pm eastern team. All trades have to be to the league office by this time to be completed officially!

Hopefully the above provides some good context to understand trades a little better. It is complex but sometimes knowing the ins and outs of these dealings helps fans to figure out why a team is or isn’t making a certain deal.

Bring on trade season!

Next: Undrafted rookies Hoard and Brown deserve more playing time


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