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February 17, 2010

Cavaliers Choose Jamison; Clippers Benefit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 9:02 pm

The biggest players in the 2010 trade deadline market have made their move. In a deal first reported by the Washington Post’s Michael Lee and subsequently fleshed out by Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cleveland Cavaliers have settled on using their trade chips to acquire forward Antawn Jamison from the Washington Wizards. Cleveland held on to forward J.J. Hickson, but sent its 2010 first-round pick to Washington along with the expiring contract of center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Ultimately, it seems the Cavaliers’ decision came down to adding Amar’e Stoudemire (which would, according to the rumor mill, have cost them Hickson) or Antawn Jamison. If Cleveland decided that Jamison was the better fit at power forward, that’s a decision I understand. Jamison better complements Shaquille O’Neal and Anderson Varejao, and while his ability to space the floor could be a bit of an issue if the Cavaliers rely on Jamison to shoot threes too heavily, it makes Cleveland potentially very potent in the half court.

The part of the deal that apparently came together more recently was the involvement of the L.A. Clippers as a third team in the deal. The Clippers used Al Thornton as a carrot to unload the final year (at player option) of Sebastian Telfair‘s contract. The Wizards subsequently offloaded Telfair on the Cavaliers, keeping Thornton for themselves. (This part of the deal too involves a pair of expiring contracts–Drew Gooden traded for the second time in four days, this time to the Clippers, and Brian Skinner headed to Washington.)

There was no need for the Clippers to be involved, so Washington’s decision was to take a flyer on Thornton. While it didn’t cost them any talent or force them to take on any contracts, Thornton’s $2.8 million salary for next season reduces the cap space the Wizards cleared by dealing Jamison. By my calculations, Washington will still be nearly $18 million under the cap, which is more than enough to make a max offer to a free agent. Still, I’d venture to guess that the Wizards could spend that $2.8 million better in free agency than on Thornton, who has yet to rate better than replacement level in three NBA seasons.

On the other end, the Clippers have to be ordering champagne. Thanks to Cleveland choosing Jamison, they were able to offload $5.5 million in salary for next season. The Clippers now have just four players under contract for next season–Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman. Add in the team’s option for center DeAndre Jordan, likely to be exercised, and that’s $33.5 million committed to five players (per Storyteller’s salaries).

Add in the cap hit from the Clippers’ first-round pick (currently 10th, but could go higher and become more expensive) and holds for the six empty roster spots and you get a little over $38.2 million. That would put the Clippers $14.8 million under a projected $53 million cap, not quite enough to make a max offer (which would be $15.9 million in this scenario). So the Clippers would have to make one more move–most likely trading their first-round pick for a future pick, which would not count against the cap–if they want to get in position to become a player in the max-contract sweepstakes. That might take a lot of faith that the Clippers can actually sign a player of that ilk, but at least they’ve put themselves in position to consider the prospect–and done it without having to sweeten the pot with any kind of picks or prospects.

(UPDATE: Hoopdata.com’s Joe Treutlein helpfully pointed out CBA guru Larry Coon’s note the other day that no matter how low the cap is set, players already making the max (like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) will have a maximum salary of $16.6 million next year (it could be higher if the cap was over $55.3 million, but that is unlikely). For the Clippers to match that, they’d have to trade their pick and decline Jordan’s option. They’d still be a tiny bit short, but the difference would be inconsequential.)

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