Any time you're out of the playoff hunt and have a chance to save $12 million, you do it, right?
For the Los Angeles Lakers, the answer to that question appears to be yes. By trading Steve Blake and his $4 million expiring contract to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, the Lakers inched a little closer to the tax line.
In a pretty confusing deal, L.A. swapped Blake for MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore. But they had to do so in three separate deals:
Summary: Brooks cant be combined in trade. This was 3 separate deals. Blake to TPE. Brooks to TPE. Bazemore to minimum salary exception— Amin Elhassan (@AminESPN) February 20, 2014
The teams had to get creative with this move because Brooks has already been traded this season. And since the Warriors were over the cap when they acquired him, he could not be traded in combination with another player.
The immediate benefit of this deal for the Lakers is that the combined total of Brooks' and Bazemore's salaries is just under $2 million.
Before the deal, the Los Angeles Lakers were $7,581,496 over the luxury tax line. By shipping out $4 million and only bringing in $2 million, they're now well within striking distance of that tax line.
If they can now move Jordan Hill, things will get really interesting.
If/when Lakers dump Jordan Hill, they'll be only $2M over luxury tax. Blake and Hill moves alone would shave tax bill from $11.9M to $3M.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) February 20, 2014
And before Blake was actually dealt, Hill's name was as much a part of the rumor mill as any Laker (with the possible exception of Pau Gasol):
Lakers, Nets progressing on Jordan Hill deal, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Ownership showing willingness to take $17M hit.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2014
Among teams who could still redirect Jordan Hill away from Brooklyn, watch for the Phoenix Suns, league sources told Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2014
Hearing now that Cavs have strongly emerged as team trying to trump BKN and acquire Jordan Hill from Lakers. Looks like Cavs & Nets for Hill— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 19, 2014
Out of those options, the destination which would work best for a complete salary dump for the Lakers is Brooklyn. According to Sham Sports, the Nets received a "disabled player exception" of $5.25 million because of Brook Lopez's broken foot.
If they can in fact dump Hill, the tax line would be tantalizingly close. So, how can the Lakers shed that final $2 million in salary?
ESPN's Marc Stein provided some insight:
Laker plan taking shape: Trade Jordan Hill and Chris kaman in next 17 hours and they get under tax AND no longer HAVE to trade Pau Gasol— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
Last tweet what some rival execs now expect Lakes to do. Trade Hill. Trade Kaman. Then roll w/Pau into July to re-sign or sign-and-trade him— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
Cap expert Larry Coon took it one step further, throwing Gasol's name into the mix:
Right. Saves $2M, which isn't relevant unless it's connected to RT @larry_the_laker Gotta be more to come , that's dry cleaning $ to Lakers.— Larry Coon (@LarryCoon) February 20, 2014
...another deal (Pau? Hill? Kaman?) that gets them out of the tax. @larry_the_laker— Larry Coon (@LarryCoon) February 20, 2014
If they shed the last $2 million by dealing Kaman and his $3 million expiring contract, it would have to be to a team that either has some cap space or a trade exception.
Which teams fit that description and might be in the market for another big man?
Well, for one, the team L.A. just dealt with. The Warriors have a trade exception they received for dealing Richard Jefferson worth nearly $10 million, and could use a backup big behind the oft-injured Andrew Bogut.
Golden State could hold out for a bigger splash with that exception, but teams get desperate the closer they get to the deadline.
Of course, they could swing for the fiscal fences and still deal Gasol as well. It seems like his name has been floating around the rumor mill for years, and he (along with his $19.3 million expiring contract) is a major asset.
According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, Gasol was recently asked about his thoughts on potentially playing his last game with the Lakers:
It's possible. Again, hopefully it won't happen. But it's a possibility and it's something that I always thought about, that this could be my last game here. It's been like that for a while, but as we get close to the deadline, I guess it's a little more intense.
Now that the deadline's at the doorstep, things really are getting more intense. And shedding salary is big for teams that have already paid the luxury tax.
As a repeat offender, you're on the hook $2.50 for every $1 you're over the tax line up to $5 million. The penalty goes up incrementally after that.
Avoiding that burden now could make things easier in the future. With Kobe's massive extension (2 years/$48.5 million), the Lakers could find themselves right back in the tax. Better to pay it without the repeater penalties if you can.
Will they be able to make that possibility a reality? Will the Lakers relent on their demands for a draft pick in addition the savings they'd get in a Gasol deal? Will they be able to shed Hill, Kaman and their $6.7 in combined salary?
Fortunately, the answers to those questions are merely hours away.
Contract and Salary information courtesy of Sham Sports.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.