Everybody loves a good rumor. In every scenario, the thought of something possibly happening always gets us amped up. The NBA is no different. Rumors have percolated about everyone and everything for as long as we can remember, but the uber-rumor era started rather recently:
Where is LeBron James going?
-Is he going to re-sign with Cleveland?
-What about New York? He loves the big city and Nike will pay him more money!
-I heard he wants to play with D-Rose!
-How come he hasn't re-signed with Cleveland yet!?
-Who the eff is "Worldwide Wes" and why are we talking about him?
-"I will be talking to LeBron James." -Amar'e Stoudemire, after signing with the Knicks
-WHY ISN'T LEBRON ANSWERING DAN GILBERT'S PHONE CALLS!?
-Huh? He's meeting with the Clippers?
-"Wade resigns with Miami, brings Bosh with him." Okay, so the Heat are out of the sweepstakes.
-Wait, they're not? :(
Of course we all know that this led to "The Decision," but the rumor mill hasn't stopped. All of last year, the media preyed on Carmelo Anthony's impending trade to YOUR New York Knicks. This year, we have three sets of rumors. Three contracts with the dreaded opt-out provision. Three players who want to defeat the trio in Miami. So who gets traded?
Why is this even a question?
I would have skipped this section were it not for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. My whole intro basically told you why this is a Burning Question, but to get you more in tune with my noise, the new CBA will affect all trades, as follows:
Trade Percentage Rule:
Before this season, the number to remember was 125. If a trade involved putting at least one of the involved teams over the salary cap, that team could only acquire players whose current year salaries were no more than 125% + $100,000 of the current year salaries of the players that team was shipping out. (Hypothetical example: BockerKnocker plays for the Knicks and earns a salary of $15 million. KOBEsh plays for the Lakers and earns a salary $490K, the league minimum. If the Lakers want to acquire BK, and doing so would put them over the cap, they would have to add more players to the deal so the salaries would abide by the 125 percent rule.) This season, the 125 percent rule remains in effect for teams that are so far over the salary cap that they pay a luxury tax. However, if a team is over the cap, but not in the luxury tax window, a new 140 percent rule will go into effect.
How does this affect Dwight, Deron, and CP3? Glad you asked.
Orlando has approximately $75 million committed in player salaries for the upcoming season. This is above both the cap ($58 million) and the luxury tax threshold ($70 million). However, unless ownership re-ups their dosage of crazy pills, The Albatross Formerly Known As Gilbert Arenas will be taken off Orlando's books as a result of the Amnesty Clause (wherein a team can shed one contract off of their books). If Arenas' $19M figure is amnestied, then Orlando would be under the cap. As a result, any team that wants to land Dwight won't be forced into giving the Magic as many "filler" players just to abide by the 125 percent rule. Ultimately, this could shift leverage away from the Magic, as teams will want to pry Dwight for about 50 cents on the dollar.
New Jersey has a ridiculous amount of cap space, with only $39 million committed to players for 2011-12. The number will drop even lower if they decide to use the Amnesty Clause on the Mambino-hated Travis Outlaw, who sports a nifty $7 million price tag for doing absolutely nothing. However, the Nets are said to be gunning for such marquee free agents as Nene, Marc Gasol, and David West, all of whom would add a significant chunk to the payroll. Either way, the Nets, like the Magic, will be under the jurisdiction of the 140 percent rule.
New Orleans has committed $42 million to player salaries this year. But the catch is that the 42 milly is divided between only 6 players. This means that the team isn't likely to use the Amnesty Clause this year, even though Emeka Okafor, owed more than $40 million over the next three years himself, would be a decent Amnesty candidate. New Orleans will be looking to re-sign David West, but even if they are successful in doing so, they would have to sign at least 5 more players. This makes it more likely that they would be over the cap. However, because the Hornets are currently owned by the NBA (a rant for another time), the team won't be big spenders overall. The 140 percent rule will also apply. Although, it would be amusing for them to surpass the luxury tax threshold; the NBA would then be in the position of taxing itself.
How will this affect the NBA?
Remember when the Carmelo Anthony trade saga made you want to blow your brains out for two months straight? I don't, because it was awesome. I was addicted. I even benched my sarcastic wit when some moron dubbed it the "Melodrama."
But aside from my own personal fandom, the NBA rumor mill will be spewing out more "news" than ever before. You may think it's just Carmelo Anthony times three, but it's more than that. With so many teams in the hunt for these three superstars, there will be more fan bases that will be tuned in for each developing story. Last year, it was just Knicks fans, Nuggets fans, and diehards. This year, the rabid page-clickers and channel-changers will be comprised of fans of every single team that is under the salary cap OR thinks it can contend for a championship in the near future. That's almost every single franchise!
Players to Watch (aside from the obvious 3)
Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl has already revealed that his starting center will be Timofey Mozgov, more affectionately referred to by my brother as "The Wizard" (The Wizard of Moz). Mozgov was a filler in the Melo trade. I imagine the Nuggets asking former Bocker GM Donnie Walsh for Mozgov, and Walsh responding, "Eff you, but fine."
If any of the superstars get traded, there will be a throw-in coming in return (maybe less of them, as I have articulated above). Furthermore, a GM looking to snag one the superstars won't let a Mozgov-type player ruin the deal. He won't be thrilled about having to add the player, but he will do so for the greater good. The fact that the Nuggets will get at least 20 minutes per game from a filler is a steal, so look for Orlando, New Jersey, and New Orleans to make similar moves, if these trades really go down.
Dwight Howard gets traded, probably to the Lakers. There will be no bigger trade chip the Magic will receive than a young stud center in Andrew Bynum.
Deron Williams stays with the Nets. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov wants to win. Even though Deron has already said he will test the market, that won't stop Prokhorov from building a winner to show Deron that the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets are for real. In order to do that, he will need to keep Deron in Jersey, even if that means losing him for nothing next summer.
Chris Paul stays with the Hornets. The NBA needs to find a real owner for this franchise, and if Chris Paul is traded, the Hornets' market value takes a punch to the testicles. However, if an owner is found in the near future, look for Paul to be traded immediately thereafter.
Like this series? Check out our other Burning Questions leading up to the 2011-12 NBA season.
Burning Question #18: Will we be able to see Mark Jackson's "Hand down, Man down" pantomime in the Warriors' huddle?