This weekend, the NBA rumor mill was kicked into overdrive when stories broke out reporting the Celtics and Clippers were negotiating a deal whereby Kevin Garnett and possibly Paul Pierce would join the Clippers along with Doc Rivers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan. The deal seems more in its formative stages as the Clippers are trying to hold on to Bledsoe it seems as an insurance policy should Chris Paul leave them this summer (there are rumors of that too).
It has been widely reported that the Magic too are interested in acquiring Eric Bledsoe. Reports broke out earlier this month on that matter and Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com reported there seemed to be mutual interest on a deal centering around Bledsoe and Arron Afflalo.
Orlando is in a position where it wants to explore every option available to it, and this potential Eric Bledsoe deal is certainly one of those options. There is one opportunity that surely Orlando is exploring and these major negotiations serve as a good time to remind everyone else of this option:
The traded player exception.
What is the traded player exception? A traded player exception is required under the collective bargaining agreement if teams over the salary cap make trades, even if it is to decrease salary. A trade exception is created, according to Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ, when "[a]ny trade which leaves the team over the salary cap requires an exception — even if the team is moving downward in salary." This enables teams over the cap to still make moves while satisfying the salary matching requirements of the collective bargaining agreement.
This applies to the Magic because they gained what is called a non-simultaneous trade exception, an exception that lasts one year from the date the trade occurs. When the Magic traded away Dwight Howard they acquired the largest trade exception in the league's history by executing a complicated non-simultaneous trade. This $17.8 million trade exception gives the Magic some incredible options should they choose to use it. They have until August 10.
What does this exception allow the Magic to do exactly? A traded player exception allows the team with the exception to take on more salary in a trade than is actually being moved. Remember, the salary cap restricts how much additional salary a team can take on.
How exactly could the Magic use this provision? That is the part that is a bit uncertain.
Orlando is clearly still in a sort of cap-clearing mode. The Magic are looking to gain young players and positing themselves for the free agency class of 2014 or 2015 while still building through the Draft. In all likelihood, Orlando is not lookin at this point to acquire a high salary player.
However, the Magic's trade exception could help facilitate another deal out there if teams are struggling to make salaries match. So a trade such as this one is legal with the Magic using $6 million of that $17 million trade exception:
In no way I am I suggesting that this is a good deal for the Magic, one that they would pursue or even that they are int he discussions to get involved in the Bledsoe-Celtics discussion. But this exemplifies in some ways how the Magic may try to help facilitate a deal. In this trade, everyone gets just about what they want — maybe the Clippers want a point guard as insurance should Chris Paul leave.
Orlando gets Bledsoe plus Butler's expiring while taking on a questionable contract in Courtney Lee (but still a guy who can contribute when everything is figured out, plus a fan favorite). The Clippers get their guy in Kevin Garnett and Arron Afflalo. The Celtics get DeAndre Jordan and cap flexibility from shedding Al Harrington and Courtney Lee.
This would be the construct around which the Magic could get involved in this deal or any other major deal. Orlando would not be the one acquiring the big name player, but rather facilitating.
Again, there is no indication right now that the Magic are involved in the Celtics-Clippers deal or that a deal like this would satisfy what the Magic want — it has its problems as Orlando takes on mostly veterans and compromises some of its future long-term flexibility.
Orlando though has a limited amount of time to use its traded player exception and few opportunities to do so.
Is this opportunity one the Magic should pounce on? It depends on how much the Magic value Eric Bledsoe. It is an option worth exploring though. As is the option of letting it lapse in August.