On NBA trade deadline day, it’s always a bit alarming to wake up to a Tweet from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that begins, “Indiana has been aggressive in offering...”
The deal the Pacers are reportedly seeking isn’t a drastic change to the roster but instead trying to leverage the valuable cap space and cap-friendly contracts the team accrued over the offseason to take advantage of the current economic landscape across the league.
Indiana has been aggressive in offering its salary space to extract a first-round pick for absorbing a bad contract, league sources tell ESPN. Pacers would send Al Jefferson back in those deals.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 8, 2018
If you think such a deal is a pipe dream with no hope, may I direct you to this article about the number of NBA teams facing luxury tax bills with nothing to show for the excess spending. Currently, there are five teams facing the hefty bill under the more punitive luxury tax system implemented via the last CBA agreement. But here is the key portion which explains the Pacers potential bargaining power at the trade deadline.
That was about the same as the previous three-year span: From 2012-13 to 2014-2015, a total of 16 teams paid the tax. Average it out, and roughly five teams per season have been willing to pay the penalty since 2012, which is relevant because that season is when a more penal luxury tax was introduced.
Next season, 12 teams are currently projected to be in luxury tax territory, and another handful could easily get there by re-signing their key free agents. For example, the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t currently projected to be in the tax but would cross into the zone if they re-sign free-agent-to-be Jabari Parker.
“The luxury tax was not designed for this many teams to pay it,” a league executive said. “Many of those owners probably didn’t think they’d be paying it. Quite a few of those teams are probably going to take steps to get out of the tax or limit new spending.”
As an added bonus, the Pacers can always flip on the tape of Al Jefferson’s game against Joel Embiid last week to help sell the big man as a short-term contributor with with big cap relief. No doubt, Jefferson would be missed in the locker room, but he surely would enjoy the opportunity to be able to play more in a different situation which a team dealing for cap space would likely provide. There’s always another contract to play for and it helps if you can actually play for it.
Kevin Pritchard was active this past offseason and has never been averse to making deadline deals, so nothing that happens today should be a surprise. Fortunately, the same assets he has compiled over the past year will be available this summer. He’s dealing from a position of strength now, so there is no need to settle on a deal just to make a deal.
The NBA trade deadline hits at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, so stay tuned for more rumors and reported deals around the league. The SB Nation NBA Trade Rumor Tracker has all the latest and will be continually updated throughout the day.