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Suns, Hornets, T-wolves Trade On Hold, Pending Changes To Fit League Rules

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Rules are rules, and the proposed 3-team trade between the Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Hornets does not fit within the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement of the NBA, as first reported on the Bright Side of the Suns twitter account via our own Jim Coughenour.

The snag is the New Orleans Hornets, who are now an "over the cap" team. As such, they have more limitations on trades, which makes the presence of Brad Miller and Hakim Warrick a problem due to the need for salary aggregation.

Quite frankly, teams already spending more than $58 million in salaries are not allowed to add more talent without giving something up. And the Hornets are trying to do just that.

After absorbing Miller's contract, signing Ryan Anderson and using Bird Rights to match on Eric Gordon, the Hornets are now "over the cap" meaning that any trade they execute must be close in salaries (within 150%, plus 100k). In other words, the Hornets can no longer participate in lopsided trades. This rule was specifically designed to discourage teams from exceeding the collectively-bargained salary cap by making it harder to add salary. The Hornets are now in that boat.

This means that the Hornets cannot take on Lopez AND Warrick ($9 million total) unless they can combine Miller's expiring contract ($5 million) with other players on their roster, which is also against the rules.

Is the current trade dead? Most likely.

But could Lopez still be traded to New Orleans anyway? Yes.

And, could Wesley Johnson and a #1 pick still be coming to the Suns? Yes.

Hit the jump to find out how.

Three parts of the same CBA rule are in play, for teams that are "over the cap" (applying only to the Hornets here):

  1. In the proposed trade, the Hornets must send out salaries ranging from $5.9-$13.6 million in order to take on $9 million in new salary (Robin Lopez for $5 million, and Hakim Warrick for $4 million).
  2. A traded player cannot be traded back to the same team in the same league year, meaning Miller cannot be traded back to Minny until next July 1.
  3. Any "cap" team cannot trade a player "for two months after receiving the player in trade, if the trade aggregates the player's salary with the salaries of other player", according to Larry Coon's In other words, Brad Miller can be traded but only BY HIMSELF.

A look at the Hornets salaries and applying those rules, plus the rule that you cannot trade a new contract until Dec 15 at the earliest, the Hornets would have to give a lot of young talent in order to take on both Lopez AND Warrick.

Hornets only tradeable assets right now (besides Miller by himself) are Al-Farouq Aminu (2.9), Jason Smith (2.5), Xavier Henry (2.3), Grieves Vasquez (1.2), plus three other contracts under 1 million.

Before you jump to conclusions, rest assured there's no way the Hornets give up all these guys for the privilege of taking on Hakim Warrick's expiring contract.

Remember the key pieces: Hornets want Robin Lopez ($5 million); Minnesota needs to dump Wesley Johnson ($4 million) to free cap space for Andre Kirilenko; the Suns want asset(s) back for giving up Robin Lopez, AND the Suns can take on up to $10 million in new salary in any deals.

The Suns can split these into separate deal.

Minny still needs cap space for Andre Kirilenko. The Suns can still separately acquire Wesley Johnson and a #1 pick from Minny without using New Orleans at all, as long as the Suns send back one or two 2nd-round picks to make the deal legal. That's not quite as good a deal for the Suns, who were getting Johnson and the #1 AND getting rid of Warrick's contract for nothing in the original deal. But it's still probably doable.

The Hornets are the ones in trouble here.

Sounds to me that there are a few options for the Hornets to put together $3.25+ million in salaries in their attempt to acquire Lopez:

  1. Hornets acquire Lopez ($5 million); Suns acquire Henry (2.3) and some two-man combo of Dyson, Thomas, Miller (.76 each)
  2. Hornets acquire Lopez ($5 million); Suns acquire Aminu (2.9) and one of Dyson, Thomas, Miller (.76 each)
  3. Hornets acquire Lopez ($5 million); Suns acquire Brad Miller by himself from New Orleans. Yet in this case, the Hornets would have to entice the Suns with one or two draft picks. No way the Suns take on Miller's salary for nothing.
  4. Hornets talk everyone into sitting on hold for six weeks, to revive the original deal. Lopez would have to stay unsigned, as would Kirilenko. Very small chance this happens.
  5. Hornets give up on Lopez entirely.

In summary, the sticking point is technically Miller but really its Miller AND Hakim Warrick. With Warrick in the deal, the Hornets don't have the tradeable salary to participate.

This could still be a three-way deal without Warrick in it. Suns keep Warrick and get Johnson, Miller, a #1 and a couple second-rounders, while the Hornets get Lopez and Minny gets cap space.

Keeping Warrick is fine since he's an expiring contract who could be used later (just as Brad Miller is being used here to get Robin Lopez).

If this deal splits into separate transactions, the Suns can still acquire Johnson and a #1 from Minny as long as the Suns give up one to two second-round draft picks to make it legal. The Suns would do this if they get picks back from the Hornets in the next transaction anyway.

If the Hornets really want Lopez, then they have to give the Suns more than just Brad Miller. Either include a young player, or include a couple of draft picks. They were already sending at least two 2nd-rounders to Minny.

Expect Lopez to still go to New Orleans. And expect Wesley Johnson and a #1 pick from Minny. How the rest shakes out is speculation at this point.

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