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Examining the NBA's largest trade exceptions created this offseason

Hoops Rumors logo Hoops Rumors 8/13/2021 Luke Adams, Hoops Rumors
Steven Adams standing on a stage: The Pelicans' trade of Steven Adams to the Grizzlies created the largest trade exception. © Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports The Pelicans' trade of Steven Adams to the Grizzlies created the largest trade exception.

A total of 26 trades have been completed to so far during the 2021 NBA offseason, and many of those deals generated at least one “traded-player exception.”

As we explain in our glossary, a traded-player exception allows a team to take on salary in a trade without sending out any salary in return. The amount of the exception plus $100K is the amount of salary the team is permitted to take back without salary-matching — either in a single deal or in multiple trades — for one year.

For instance, a team with a $10M trade exception could acquire a player earning $4M and a player earning $6.1M without having to worry about sending out any outgoing salary.

One of the biggest trade exceptions ever created — the Thunder‘s $27.5M TPE from last November’s Steven Adams trade — expired last week without being used, but Oklahoma City still has a pair of sizeable exceptions to work with, as our tracker shows. The team could also create upwards of $30M in cap space by renouncing all its exceptions, including the mid-level and bi-annual.

While the Thunder have some big traded-player exceptions, they aren’t one of the teams that created sizable new TPEs in offseason deals this year. Here are the largest new trade exceptions generated this summer:

  1. New Orleans Pelicans: $17,073,171 (Steven Adams)
  2. Brooklyn Nets: $11,454,048 (Spencer Dinwiddie)
  3. Dallas Mavericks: $10,865,952 (Josh Richardson)
  4. Boston Celtics: $9,720,900 (Tristan Thompson)
    • Note: It’s unclear whether the Celtics absorbed Bruno Fernando‘s salary ($1,782,621) using the Thompson exception or their Kemba Walker trade exception ($6,879,100). We’re assuming for now that Fernando slotted into the Walker exception, reducing its value to $5,096,479. However, if he went into the Thompson TPE, its value would be reduced to $7,938,279.
  5. Utah Jazz: $7,475,379 (Derrick Favors)
    • Note: There was an expectation that the Jazz would slot Eric Paschall‘s salary ($1,782,621) into one of two trade exceptions that were set to expire on August 6. However, it appears the deal wasn’t completed until August 7 for logistical reasons, meaning the Favors TPE (originally $9,258,000) would’ve had to be used.
  6. Indiana Pacers: $7,333,333 (Doug McDermott)
  7. Chicago Bulls: $5,000,000 (Daniel Theis)

For a second straight year, a team generated the largest trade exception of the offseason by dealing Adams. This time around, it was the Pelicans, who cleverly folded separate trade agreements with the Grizzlies and Hornets into one three-team deal, sending Wesley Iwundu to Charlotte to ensure that Adams’ salary wouldn’t be required for matching purposes.

The Pelicans and Mavericks are the two best candidates on this list to make use of their newly created exceptions at some point. The larger the exception is, the easier it is to find a use for, and those are two of the three biggest in this group.

The other big TPE belongs to the Nets, but they’re already way over the tax line and will be reluctant to take on more salary unless they have a really good reason to do so. That’s probably true of most of the other teams on this list too — the Celtics and Jazz in particular have to be conscious of luxury-tax concerns as they mull the possibility of taking on additional salary. New Orleans and Dallas have more wiggle room, while the Pacers and Bulls are somewhere in between.

The full list of available trade exceptions can be found here.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

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