Will 2014 NBA Trade Deadline Be Epic Success or Total Dud?

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2014

Dormant NBA trade deadlines are the worst.

You know the kind. Months of buildup and anticipation derived from incessant and unfounded rumors result in nothing. Zilch. No blockbuster trades of any kind.

Those trade deadlines are the worst. The 2013 trade deadline was the worst.

Speculation and conjecture culminated in a string of drab deals, the most colorful of which sent J.J. Redick from the Orlando Magic to the Milwaukee Bucks. That's hardly a reward for fans who spend significant time dissecting and responding to complex and tedious reports or theories passed off as fact.

Remember, we're not living in the days of yore. Things have changed, and are nigh overwhelming.

This is an age dominated by social media and instant gratification, where information can be accessed at home or in transit and the ability to distinguish truths from opinions and impostors is both paramount and infrequent.

In other words, the NBA "news" cycle can be exhausting. There's a lot of work involved, even for fans, who are now generally privy to the importance of advanced analytics and have ESPN's Trade Machine at their disposal.

The time from when the previous NBA season ends to the trade deadline is blur, a whirlwind of intelligence and guesswork that incites hope for active and productive deals. When those deals don't come, when all that legwork and research is for done nothing, it's deflating. 

And despite all hope to the contrary, this year's trade deadline is shaping up to be just as static and disheartening as the last.


Draft Buzz

The nerve of Andrew Wiggins. And Joel Embiid. And Jabari Parker. And Dante Exum. And so many others.

How dare they be so good, so promising. Don't they know their future potential is killing the NBA trade season's potential?

Oh, and how dare Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander, Myles Turner and other top prospects projected to be in the 2015 draft. Don't they know they can kill trade season, too?

That's correct, 2015 draft prospects are factoring into the 2014 trade deadline.

Minnesota Timberwolves team president Flip Saunders explained to the Pioneer Press' Andy Greder:

Either everyone wants to keep their picks or if you want to trade players, people are trying to get your pick and people aren’t as apt to do something like that—not only this year, but next year, too. I think it might be a good draft the next couple of years.

There you have it.

Teams invested in rebuilding or retooling through the draft aren't going to hand out first-round draft picks—the ultimate trade buffer—like candy. The ones that will—New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, etc.—don't have any imminent ones to give away. So that's another obstacle in trade talks.

Then there's free agency.

Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Knicks aren't going to jeopardize financial flexibility for 2014 or 2015, when multiple superstars are expected to be ripe for the picking. When you're talking about players such as Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Roy Hibbert and LaMarcus Aldridge, among others, it's just not going happen. 

Knowing how far in advance front offices scheme, Kevin Durant's potential free-agency excursion in 2016 could even come into play. In these cases, contracts that eat up cap space over the next two or three years become taboo.

CBS Sports' Ken Berger reiterated as much when he brought word that trade negotiations were slow over All-Star weekend:

Trade talk at All-Star weekend has been 'as slow as it's been in a long time,' said one executive who has not received a single phone call. A lot of teams have made it known which players they are open to moving, but the problem is finding trade partners. Very few teams are willing to part with premium draft picks or take on future salary, which are the two key drivers for trades.

Ambitious future plans, be it draft or free-agency based, remove coveted assets, both tangible and intangible, from negotiations, promoting an idle and mothballed end to trading season.


Paying the Piper

Luxury taxes are the bane of NBA general managers' existence—even the ones that don't pay it.

Trading players on large deals has become increasingly difficult thanks to a restrictive collective bargaining agreement that taxes those who are willing to spend almost beyond comprehension.

This puts big spenders in a dicey situation, buttressing additional aversion to make deals. That, in turn, makes it hard for teams looking to shed salary to pawn lucrative pacts off on others, even if they're notorious for reckless financial decisions.

As Larry Coon's CBA FAQ shows, the tax rates right now are already punitive:

2013-14 Luxury Tax Rates
Salary Over Luxury-Tax ThresholdTax Rate
$20,000,000+$3.75, and increasing $.50 for each additional $5 million.
Via Larry Coon's CBA FAQ.

The good news leading into next season? The luxury-tax threshold is set to increase to $75.7 million.

The bad news leading into next season? The luxury tax for repeaters—which is assessed for any team that has been over the luxury tax in each of the three previous seasons—comes into play.

Look at how that could impact tax rates:

Repeater Luxury Tax Rates
Salary Over Luxury-Tax ThresholdTax Rate
$20,000,000+$4.75, and increasing $.50 for each additional $5 million.
Via Larry Coon's CBA FAQ.

With the threat of harsher luxury taxes looming, and already-stringent ones in place, the frequency with which blockbuster trades go down will start to decrease. It already has started to decrease.

Not even expiring contracts like Pau Gasol's can be flipped on a whim anymore. His is easier to move because it's expiring, but longer deals can become a headache. 

This stays true years before the threat of the repeater tax. Merely spending one or two successive seasons dwelling in luxury-tax territory is dangerous and something general managers all over are aware of. No one wants to tread water anywhere near those account-draining rates. You can bet on that—just like you can bet on the possibility of paying any tax-killing action at the trade deadline.


Um, Who's Actually Available

Everything just discussed has already set the table for a low-key deadline. Rumors—actual rumors—aren't being churned out at an alarming rate.

There will always be trickles of information that posit the Nets are interested in Jarrett Jack, the Knicks are interested in a point guard and the Bank of Joe Lacob is open for Golden State Warriors. There will always be seemingly aggressive teams looking to deal. Always.

It's what becomes of this purported aggression that's disappointing, because while there are no shortage of rumors, there are no foundations for blockbuster trades.

What superstars are available? Like, really available? Not many, if any.

A flight risk like Anthony has already come out guaranteeing the Knicks won't trade him, according to the New York Post's Marc Berman. The Minnesota Timberwolves haven't given any indication they wish to trade Love. And in a loose interpretation of "available," Sam Smith of Bulls.com says Rondo can only be pried away from the Boston Celtics for a deal built around two unprotected first-rounders.

(Translation: He's not readily available.)

Before now, Kyle Lowry was the biggest name with the greatest chance of being moved. But kiss that idea goodbye, since ESPN's Marc Stein makes it clear the Toronto Raptors prefer to keep him:

That means someone like Andre Miller—who Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears says still wants out of Denver—is the type of player deal(s) we're looking at. Or, trades that generate less hype and create fewer ripple effects than Redick's arrival in Milwaukee last season.

Nothing, of course, is definitive. The unexpected trade containing numerous impact players that the general population craves could still go down. Diligence and research into onslaughts of rumors could wind up paying off.

This year's trade deadline could be different, more fulfilling. It could mean something.

Or, more likely, it could continue trending in the opposite direction of epic success and what everyone prefers—downward, where deadline days are empty, save for invasions of rumors that inevitably reveal themselves as faint and sometimes-manufactured chatter.



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