In his previous article Matthew Hayden suggested that the Minnesota Timberwolves should trade some combination of the draft rights of Loukas Mavrokefalidis, Nikola Pekovic, Henk Norel, and Nick Calathes to DKV Joventut as an incentive to allow Ricky Rubio out of his contract thereby making it possible for him to join the Minnesota Timberwolves this upcoming season.
It has been well documented that Rubio is under contract with DKV and the buyout clause in his contract is somewhere between 6.6 and 8.2 million (USD). Under the terms of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) an NBA team is prohibited from contributing more than $500,000 toward a player’s contract buyout. That would leave Rubio responsible for paying whatever remains. According to HoopsHype.com because of the Rookie Salary Scale, Rubio’s contract for next year, as the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, is scheduled to be $3,269,160. Therefore, his salary would not be sufficient to cover the buyout, making it unlikely Rubio will join the Timberwolves next season.
While it is true the Timberwolves own the draft right to the above mentioned players – Mavrokefalidis drafted 57th overall in 2006, Pekovic drafted 31st overall in 2008, Norel drafted 47th overall in 2009, and Calathes drafted 45th overall in 2009 – that does not grant the Timberwolves the right to trade their draft rights to a non-NBA team.
Article X of the CBA sets out a player’s draft eligibility and an NBA team’s right to negotiate a contract with such a player. Section 5 states that the Team that drafts the player who is under contract with a professional basketball team not in the NBA shall retain the exclusive NBA rights to negotiate and sign him. Also Section 7 states that if the exclusive right to negotiate with a player obtained in any NBA Draft is assigned by a Team to another Team, in accordance with NBA procedures, the Team to which the rights have been assigned shall have the same right to negotiate a contract with that player. This only applies to NBA teams; it does not apply to professional basketball teams outside the NBA.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have the exclusive NBA right to negotiate a contract with any of the previously mentioned players. The team also has the ability to trade the draft rights of those players to any of the other 29 teams in the NBA. However, the Timberwolves do not have the ability to trade the rights of those players to a non-NBA team. It would be impossible for the Wolves to trade say Nick Calathes to DKV to help entice the team to let Rubio out of his contract since Calathes is already under contract with Panathinaikos, a professional team in Greece.
The Timberwolves have three options: (1) continue to negotiate with DKV to try and reduce the amount of Rubio’s buyout, and then contribute the $500,000 as permitted under the terms of the CBA; (2) wait for Rubio’s contract to expire with DKV and then negotiate an NBA contract; or (3) trade his drafts rights to another NBA team and let them worry about his complex European buyout clause. None of these seem like particularly good options since Minnesota is a young team without much proven talent, which could use all the help it can get, and according to most analysts Rubio has the potential to be a great point guard. Therefore, Timberwolves fans are just going to have wait and see what new GM David Kahn can do.