With about 30 games left in the NBA’s regular season, teams know who they are and their realistic chances of making noise in the postseason, bearing a major trade deadline addition. For teams that are underachieving, deals motivated by money become a very real possibility.
The luxury tax provisions of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement are enough to give any general manager reason to pause. It has to be worth it to pay the tax. It really has to be worth it if your team is about to be hit with the Repeater Tax which comes into effect if your team has been a tax payer in three of the past four seasons.
Per Basketball Insiders, currently there are eight teams that will be subject to the luxury tax if they don’t do anything about it: Bulls, Cavaliers, Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Heat, Thunder, and Spurs.
- Bulls over $4.3 million, potential tax $6.5 million
- Cavs over $24.5 million, potential tax $62 million
- Warriors $10.7 million, potential tax $18 million
- Rockets $3.5 million, potential tax $5.3 million
- Clippers $10.8 million, potential tax $18.3 million
- Heat $5.5 million, potential tax $8.4 million
- Thunder $12.4 million, potential tax $22.3 million
- Spurs $1.7 million, potential tax $2.5 million
(Shamsports.com provides a complete history of luxury tax payments)
It’s likely safe to assume the Cavs, Warriors, Thunder and Spurs are reasonably happy paying the tax. They’re in it to win it and if they make a trade, it will either be a fringe player to save a little tax or a genuine basketball move. Money will not be a major factor for any these teams at the trade deadline.
However, the Bulls, Rockets, Clippers and Heat are all in the thick of the rumor mill and as potential tax payers, it makes sense. Significantly underachieving, these teams are motivated by money.
The Bulls season has been hit hard by injuries, but somehow it seems like injuries have been just a contributing factor. Chicago paid the tax in 2013, but that’s it, a one-time only deal and paying the tax for the hope of clinging to a playoff spot is hard to imagine. The Bulls will be motivated to cut their luxury tax exposure by the trade deadline.
A bad start, a coaching change and sitting in 9th place at the All-Star break isn’t where the Rockets imagined they’d be. Inconsistent and just barely a tax team, those Dwight Howard is available rumors make a lot of sense – both team and money-wise.
Looking at the Clippers who have been tax payers the past two seasons and suddenly those Blake Griffin trade rumors don’t seem so far fetched, especially when one considers this team has been a lot better playing small ball (like almost everyone else) than bully ball with two big men on the court. The Clippers are a distant fourth best in the West and have to be thinking about how they can rise up the ranks. Saving some luxury tax dollars in the process would be sweet.
Is there any team that gets more hype than the Heat for such average results? Paying the tax for an NBA Finals team is easy, but forking over an extra $8 million in tax for a middling playoff team doesn’t fit with this organization’s history. Miami is in the thick of the rumors and they should be. It’s either get a lot better or cut salary. Standing pat at the trade deadline makes no sense.
Money isn’t the only factor in trade deadline deals, but it would be foolish to assume that it isn’t a factor and luxury taxes aren’t the only motivating factor when it comes to money either. Creating salary cap space for next summer matters too. However, since the new CBA came into effect, those expiring contracts that can create salary cap space haven’t been worth much.
Almost to the point in the cycle where changes to the CBA are inevitable and general managers still seem to be working through the impact of all the changes from last time. However, money remains a constant and paying extra without results has never been popular.