The margin for financial error is microscopic. As owner Robert Pera continues to suffer his own financial woes, it is likely that the Grizzlies will begin to clear cap-space at a rapid rate after this season to avoid the luxury tax penalty.
In a similar situation, Thunder GM Sam Presti planned ahead and utilized his leverage while he still had it when he traded James Harden. How could Presti consciously decide to break up the core of Durant-Westbrook-Harden and still compete for a title? The only way was to get as much value as possible in return at a low rate – Kevin Martin as a one-year rental, and a high draft pick (Toronto’s) in order to draft another talented player on a rookie contract. To the business mind this was the only alternative.
The business of sports gets bigger every day, and more often than not we are going to start seeing personnel moves made with the bottom line in mind.
Starting in July, each year Durant and Westbrook’s contracts will increase in salary while the cap remains virtually the same and the penalty increases. So while the seemingly frugal disparagement in dollars that Presti and Harden could not agree upon – somewhere between $54 and $60 million – becomes more meaningful every year. In order to land those role-playing veterans, OKC has to saddle up and pay more than their market value to get them to come to Oklahoma over Miami, Los Angeles or New York, a luxury they wouldn’t be able to afford (no pun intended).
Memphis did not trade three role players and a first-round pick for Jon Leuer today, they traded $6 million in salary, just enough to get under the cap and buy some time to figure out whether and where they can trade Gay or Randolph – or both – this offseason.
Welcome to the new NBA.
Ben Baroff is an aspiring sports journalist and marketing professional who blogs and writes columns for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.