Why There's No Such Thing as an Untradeable Contract in the NBA
If we have learned anything, it is that no contract in the NBA is untradeable.
The realities of the league's new, more punitive luxury tax system mean that teams are generally now more fiscally conscious than ever, but players on albatross deals—like Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis—have been moved so frequently in recent years that there is no way to consider any player's location set in cement.
Last summer, the world's most "untradeable" player was Joe Johnson. Danny Ferry took the Atlanta Hawks' general manager job and had Johnson packing his bags before the new GM received his first paycheck.
A few weeks ago, Rudy Gay's salary seemed toxic.
Gay is a productive player, but with a $16.4 million salary this season plus $37 million more in the following two seasons, according to ShamSports, it looked like the Memphis Grizzlies were going to have a lot of trouble unloading him. The Toronto Raptors, however, were a willing taker—and they made room for Gay even while having a second terrible contract on their books.
Andrea Bargnani is another player who has a rough contract ($10 million this year and another $22.3 million over the next two) but is nevertheless rumored to be on the trade block. He comes with the same baggage as Rudy, but much less production, so he may actually be even harder to move, says the common wisdom.
But there may be takers.
The Chicago Bulls are one team that has been mentioned as a Bargnani destination, and according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls have an offer on the table that is Toronto's to turn down.
League sources said last week the Raptors were told the Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson deal for Andrea Bargnani and John Lucas III was available whenever they wanted it.
The catch here is that Carlos Boozer is widely seen as having an untradeable contract as well.
Indeed, when it comes to trading toxic contracts, this will always be one option: trade my crap for yours. For instance, this is exactly what happened when the Washington Wizards agreed to take on Rashard Lewis in exchange for Arenas well before the trade deadline during the 2010-11 season.
For Toronto, the reason it may decide to hold on to Bargnani is the extra salary (about $10 million) it would cost to employ Boozer instead. Still, if that's what it costs to get rid of a mistake that no longer fits into the team's long-term plans, especially if it means adding a much better player in return, this is a deal worth making.
Two other hard-to-trade contracts being discussed in trade rumors are Pau Gasol and Ben Gordon. Gasol actually may be impossible to trade right now, but that is due more to his health than his contract.
As for Gordon, he may have several suitors.
His recent "beyond disrespectful" outburst against Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, may scare off some teams. And his shooting is down this season, but whose efficiency wouldn't suffer playing within the wretched Bobcats offense?
Even if he isn't living up to his own high standards for accuracy, Gordon can still shoot, and most playoff teams could use another shooter. This means that there will be some market interest in him if the price is right.
In fact, according to Marc Stein of ESPN, at least one non-contender might show interest as well: the Raptors.
All-Star Weekend trade rumble: Charlotte's growing determination to move Ben Gordon has presented Toronto w/another Andrea Bargnani suitor— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 16, 2013
This possibility highlights why there is always a landing place for any player: Every team is operating with divergent motivations, and something new often seems more appealing than the status quo.
It may be difficult to find any general managers who would race to trade for players like Jeff Green (almost $28 million in the next three years after this season) or Amar'e Stoudemire ($45 million over the next two), but if the right deal under the right circumstances is offered, somebody will bite.
If the Boston Celtics or New York Knicks really wanted these guys gone, they could find a taker.
Everybody can be traded.
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