Yesterday, news broke of a three-way trade between the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, and Miami Heat sending Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to Golden State, Toney Douglas to Miami, and Joel Anthony and two picks (a very protected 2014 first-round pick and a 2016 second rounder, both from Miami) to Boston. General consensus among reputable media outlets is that the trade is mutually beneficial to all three teams. But is it? To evaluate this properly, we first have to dive into the specific financials behind how this deal went down.
Show Me the Money
To start, this trade couldn’t have happened without a not-so-slight change to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in 2011. Prior to 2011, a stipulation existed within the CBA that precluded a team above the salary cap from executing a trade in which it acquired salary in excess of 125% + $100,000 of the salary it traded away.
For the Golden State Warriors under the previous CBA, the salaries of Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks ($3,762,418 combined) would woefully exceed the $2,100,000 limit afforded them by Toney Douglas’s $1,600,000 contract. However, according to the new CBA ratified in 2011, any team that remains under the luxury tax even after executing a trade (conditions which Golden State met in the current deal to obtain Crawford and Brooks) is permitted to acquire salary in excess of 150% + $100,000 of the salary it traded away OR 100% of the dealt salary + $5,000,000. Therefore, the deal passes.
For Boston and Golden State, this trade was about winning, not money. But for Miami, this trade had tremendous financial implications that were significant enough to warrant parting ways with a coveted first-round pick and additional second-round one.
Before the trade, the Miami Heat were on the books to pay over $34 million in luxury taxes, in large part due to the grave effects of the repeat offender tax which will hit Miami this upcoming offseason. The repeat offender tax forces franchises to pay out their luxury tax at a higher rate if the franchise has exceeded the luxury tax line three years in a row, or four out of the last five years. The standard luxury tax charges a franchise $1.50 per each excess dollar above the luxury tax threshold up to $5 million. Then, after $5 million in excess of the luxury tax line, the franchise must pay $1.75 per excess dollar. Then at $10 million, that rate again jumps to $2.50. By the numbers, Miami’s lucrative $83,984,300 payroll would therefore cost them $34 million in luxury taxes this upcoming offseason.
However, moving Joel Anthony for Toney Douglas liberated $2.2 million against the cap, which has now saved the Heat $6,555,500 in real money this offseason via luxury tax. Even for multi-millionaire owners, that’s a lot of money saved.
And don’t forget, Miami is actually considered a small market. It’s easy to group Miami in with New York and L.A. due to the team’s current prowess, but Miami actually doesn’t have that kind of money to just throw around. Furthermore, Joel Anthony has a $3.8 million player option he can pick up next year, (and he most certainly will – there’s no way he’ll garner that kind of interest on the free agent market) which is now the Celtics’ burden to bear. In fact, taking Anthony’s player-option off books for the 2014-15 season actually reduces the Heat’s projected committed payroll to barely below the luxury tax to begin the 2014-15 offseason.
The Heat will most certainly still exceed the luxury tax next year (in fact, they must do so in order to field a full roster), but slipping beneath the dreaded luxury tax apron affords them the opportunity to still execute salary cap exceptions (mid-level and bi-annual) and sign-and-trades to bolster their roster.
Some have speculated that moving Joel Anthony now affords the Heat the space to sign free agent Andrew Bynum to a max three-year, ~$3 million contract by way of a mini mid-level exception. In theory, this is true. But it would completely negate the financial savings this year and next year afforded in the trade of Joel Anthony, and I personally don’t think the Heat would effectively give up two draft picks and Joel Anthony for Toney Douglas and Andrew Bynum without saving a dime off the deal. Bynum to Miami isn’t going to happen, especially with Greg Oden finally back in the lineup for the first time in four years.
Alright, so Boston and Golden State had the space to accommodate some of the Heat’s financial burden, and Miami doesn’t have to pay as large a luxury tax bill this season. Sounds great for the Heat. But what do Golden State and Boston get out of the deal? And is Toney Douglas even going to make an impact in Miami?
Golden State Impact
We’ll start with the Warriors, the chief personnel beneficiaries of the trade by receiving Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks. It’s undeniable that Jordan Crawford has really upped his game this season. Perhaps it’s because he’s been given the opportunity to be the dedicated number one point guard, but maybe it’s due to the coaching of Brad Stevens. Regardless, the statistics are undeniable:
So far this season with Boston, Jordan Crawford has significantly improved his Win Shares, Offensive Rating, Defensive Rating, and Player Efficiency Rating. These statistics descriptively reflect what we can see with our own eyes: Jordan Crawford has seriously improved this season, especially in efficiency and shot selection.
Golden State is in dire need of a solid backup point guard, and Toney Douglas and Kent Bazemore just haven’t cut it so far this year. Most certainly, Jordan Crawford is a good upgrade over both of those guys. Even Marshon Brooks, though his value is significantly limited, stands to earn a few minutes on the second line as a shot-creator.
The real question is not if Jordan Crawford is capable of contributing to Golden State’s squad - it’s if he’s willing. Since Crawford joined the league, he has played with a youthful bravado that demands the ball. Crawford sees himself as a number one point guard, and accepting the backup role in Golden State may be a difficult transition for him. If Mark Jackson can mentor Crawford into accepting his sixth (or seventh)-man role on the team, and if Crawford can stay committed to the kind of efficiency he’s demonstrated in Boston, then he can be a great fit for the Warriors. He may just be the push they need to bolster their pathetic second-line and add minutes to keep Stephen Curry rested and hot come playoff time.
Boston’s motivation behind this trade is two-fold. First, the trade allows them to continue their rebuilding model of stashing away draft picks. Second, Rajon Rondo’s not-so-subtle hints at his return to play this Friday foreshadowed a reduced role from Crawford anyway.
The Celtics received Joel Anthony by way of Miami, along with a protected 2014 first round-pick and an additional 2016 second-round pick. Joel Anthony will add little-to-no value to a Boston frontline that includes Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, Kris Humphries, and Kelly Olynyk. Anthony was traded merely to make the money work. It has been suggested that Boston could perhaps amnesty Anthony immediately and take his $3.8 million contract off the books. However, his most recent contract was negotiated after the 2011 CBA, thereby making him amnesty-ineligible. While Anthony’s contribution to the Celtics is of little note, the picks Boston received in the deal are definitely worth looking into.
The 2016 second-round pick is more-or-less of a throw-in. The Heat will not be bad in 2016, which will leave Boston picking in the mid-to-latter half of the second round, hoping to luck upon a player with enough upside to be able to flip his rookie contract in a package for free agent signings. The protected first rounder is a little more interesting. The first-round pick from Miami is originally by way of Philadelphia, who traded away the pick for draft rights to Arnett Moultrie (great decision there, guys) back in 2012. If the Sixers make the playoffs either this year or next year, Boston’s pick will remain a top-end first rounder. However, if the Sixers miss the playoffs both years, the pick will become two second-round picks (2015 and 2016). The second scenario is much more likely, especially considering the Sixers’ continued efforts to shop Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner around the league. If you’re a Boston fan, I’d pray for the East to part like the Red Sea to make way for an 8th-seed 76ers playoff spot this year.
Toney Douglas is a surprisingly good fit in this situation for Miami. He’s a wiry, long defender with the lateral agility and motor to be able to effectively guard the perimeter in Miami’s very active defense, and he could provide a few minutes down the stretch of the season to give the Big 3 (especially Dwyane Wade) some rest in preparation for the playoff run. However, come playoff time, I’d be shocked to see Douglas get more than five minutes a game. Lucky for the Heat, Douglas is unrestricted at the end of this year and he comes right off the books for them.
So was this trade a good one? Well, the numbers certainly vouch for it.