The Suns’ roster crunch might not be as restrictive as it seemed when the team brought 17 players into training camp.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Wednesday afternoon that the Suns applied for a disabled player exception to help them circumvent rules that require NBA teams to have only 15 rostered players and two two-way players.
The exception allows teams with players who are physically unable to play an extra chunk of money and an extra roster spot to make up for the lost player. Arthur had been dealing with leg injuries since last year, and came to Phoenix in the Richaun Holmes deal.
From the CBA FAQ:
DISABLED PLAYER EXCEPTION -- This exception allows a team which is over the cap to replace a disabled player who will be out for the remainder of that season (it can also be granted in the event of a player’s death). This exception is granted by the league, based on an application from the team and a determination by an NBA-designated physician or Fitness to Play panel (see question number 62) that the player is substantially more likely than not to be unable to play through the following June 15.
If this exception is granted, the team can acquire one player via free agent signing, trade or waiver claim, to replace the disabled player:
The team may sign a free agent for one season only, for 50% of the disabled player’s salary or the amount of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception, whichever is less.
The team may trade for a player in the last season of his contract only (including any option years)2, who is making no more than 50% plus $100,000 of the disabled player’s salary, or the amount of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception plus $100,000, whichever is less.
The team may claim a player on waivers who is in the last season of his contract only (including any option years), who is making no more than 50% of the disabled player’s salary, or the amount of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception, whichever is less.
50% of Darrell Arthur’s salary is $3.7 million, which is less than the mid-level exception. So $3.7 million is the magic salary number the Suns would be able to use for a single-player acquisition.
There’s a wrinkle or two that might thwart the Suns’ attempt to get the exception.
- An NBA-designated physician, or the Fitness to Play panel, must agree that the player is out all season
- The injury cannot be pre-existing:
This exception only can be granted to the team for which the player was playing when his injury or illness was known, or reasonably should have become known. A team cannot trade for an injured player and subsequently apply for a Disabled Player exception for that player.
Since Arthur has never played a game for the Suns, and only worked out once prior to preseason, it might be hard to convince the league that this is a new injury (#2).
You can say that the Suns reasonably should have known about the injury via a physical at the time of the trade. Or the Nets a week before that, when he was acquired from the Nuggets on July 13. That is, unless Arthur aggravated or re-injured himself in the last two months. Arthur only played 19 games last season for the Nuggets, and only four games after February 15.
If the Suns are unsuccessful in getting the exception, they will likely have to waive Arthur to get down to 16 contracts (15 guaranteed). They could stretch his salary across three years to get up to $5 million in cap space this year.
If the Suns DO get the exception, they will be able to eat the entire $7.4 million this year and and have an exception to sign/acquire a player of half that salary.
Phoenix currently has 17 players including Arthur, with an open two-way slot up for grabs as well. If approved, that will be down to 16, and the Suns have some cash to work with.
Because guys like Davon Reed and De’Anthony Melton are already locked into guaranteed deals, there aren’t a ton of options for the Suns, but one that jumps to the surface immediately would be to cut Shaquille Harrison from his current deal, which is guaranteed for just $50,000 until January, and re-sign him on a two-way contract. In that situation, they could keep Canaan on a veteran’s minimum deal to fill the point guard rotation.
If the Suns did that, the roster would stand at 15, both two-ways would be filled and the point guard rotation would be a little more sturdy.
The Suns could also just go onto the open market and find another inexpensive player they like, cut Canaan and use the exception on that player, converting Harrison to a two-way at the same time. Finally, they could cut Canaan, use the exception to guarantee Harrison’s deal and sign a separate player to a two-way deal, with cuts coming soon around the league.
If nothing else, the possibility of the Disabled Player Exception provides the Suns options they wouldn’t have had without it.