It’s that time of year again. Time for my annual post aimed to cool reactionary fans angered by Rich Cho’s refusal to do exactly what they want him to do. As in years past, Draft Day 2016 can only be understood if we place the move in context within the roster building to follow. Let’s break it down thus far…
The Mystery Trade
The only details about the trade that we know for certain is that Marco Belinelli will be a Hornet and Charlotte’s 22nd overall pick (Malachi Richardson) will be moving on to Sacramento. The trade hasn’t been officially announced and won’t be until after the free agency moratorium ends on July 7th. Other players and picks could be included on either side but for now, let’s assume it’s the vanilla version and call it Version 1A.
TRADE VERSION 1A: Breakdown
Let’s start with the obvious. On the court, Belinelli makes a ton of sense for Charlotte. He can play on ball and off, can stroke the three, create off the dribble and has proven to be a capable system defender when the system is good. Think of him as a defensively inferior, offensively superior Courtney Lee. Done.
Off the court, things get a little trickier. As a cap enthusiast, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why and how this is supposed to work:
If the deal is strictly Marco for the 22nd pick, you’re looking at $6.3m coming in and around $1.2m going out. Charlotte doesn’t have any trade exceptions of that size to absorb the extra money, so if it’s strictly one to one, they’d have to move Marco into cap space.
This is a problem because the Hornets won’t have any cap space until they renounce some of their unrestricted free agents after the moratorium – which would have to be done immediately before the trade is made official.
According to my numbers, the Hornets are sitting currently at around $112m – factoring in all of their cap holds – which is roughly $17m over next year’s projected $94m cap.
To absorb Marco’s extra $5.1m, Charlotte would have to renounce around $22m worth of salaries. Renouncing Al Jefferson, Troy Daniels, Jorge Gutierrez, Jeremy Lin and Tyler Hansbrough seems like the obvious way to get there.
One downside: You’d lose potential sign & trade scenarios with Big Al (using his Bird’s rights) but it’s doubtful many of those scenarios exist on the market anyways.
Renouncing Lin (more on Jeremy later) and Daniels seems alarming at first but given that both players are non-Bird’s rights free agents, the team will have to go into their cap room (or the MLE in Daniels’ case) to bring them back anyway.
So how do we grade Version 1A of the trade? The Hornets, in a maelstrom of unrestricted free agency decisions, figure out a way to replace Courtney Lee with a similarly-aged, cost-controlled, two year rental. In return, they give up whatever potential a cheap-salaried, late round pick could give them.
A Small Sacrifice
In an alternate reality, Charlotte could’ve kept the pick, taken a project wing and then used their Bird Rights to overpay Lee to make sure he stays (think between $10-14m per year). Instead, they get a similar player who’s the same age at around half the price who’ll most likely be on a shorter deal.
Factor in the salary for the 22nd pick and you’re looking at an immediate savings of around $7-$8m in cap space depending on what Lee ultimately gets on the market. This added flexibility could be just enough for Charlotte to retain Lin via cap room (see salary chart below) while paying him market value.
So, even in Version 1A of the trade, the Hornets could (and likely will) end up ostensibly getting two ready-to-play rotation players for the relatively small price of a late round pick in a weak Draft (and let’s face it, Clifford wouldn’t play that late round pick for two years anyway).
GRADE: TBD in July
TRADE VERSION 1B: Breakdown
Version 1B of this trade is based on some chatter that the Hornets were able to attach one of Jeremy Lamb or Spencer Hawes to the pick in a salary dump.
I was a lot more excited to write about this version of the deal until I actually got around to thinking about it. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters much if either of those players is involved in the trade because:
- Neither players’ contract is an albatross
- One of the Hornets’ strengths last season was their depth and both players have proven themselves rotation capable during the regular season
- With so much cap room available and so few quality free agents, it won’t be hard for the Hornets to find a taker for either player later in free agency
With either Version of the trade, Draft Day 2016 can’t be properly evaluated until we see what Cho & Co are able to do in July.
Get ready Hornets fans because, to quote the esteemed Jim Ross, “Business is about to pick up.”