Being Realistic about a Stojakovic Trade

For as long as I’ve followed the Hornets, there has been an oddity roaming the NBA’s contractual landscape.  Most of the time it’s despised, but for one brief period, usually 3-6 months, it becomes a highly sought-after commodity that has enabled some of the most lopsided trades in league history.   I’m talking, of course, about the broken-down veteran with a massive contract.

For years, veterans like Keith Van Horn, Theo Ratliff and Dale Davis have, in their last hurrah in the league headlines, helped their teams land contributors or stars.  This occurs, of course, because their contracts are expiring, and are therefore very useful in clearing large amounts of salary from the books of teams wishing to start over.

Over the last six months or so, we’ve had a lot of speculation about our very own expiring contracts.  To some,(mea culpa!) Peja Stojakovic and his $14.5 million dollar salary has seemed like it could become the savior of the Tax-averse Hornets.  I know many nights I’ve dreamed about him being moved mid-season for fantastic talents such as Andre Igoudala, Danny Granger, and Loul Deng.  Or Carmelo Anthony.

Well, I hate to rain on our parade, but Peja isn’t going to snag the Hornets an impact player without some other sort of incentive being thrown in.  Like Marcus Thornton.  Or multiple Picks.  Or David West.


Because the formerly rare massive expiring contract isn’t rare this season.  With teams planning for the new CBA, a large number of contracts expire this summer, allowing teams to re-negotiate under, presumably, more favorable terms.  As a result, the sheer number of large expiring contracts is pretty significant.  From my count, 18 of the 30 teams have large expiring contracts they would put on the market should a team make a skilled veteran available for cap relief.  That means, of course, that the team trading the veteran can pick and choose amongst those expiring contracts – and demand more from the teams in the bidding.  Since a team starting over is bound to demand young players and draft picks we have a problem.  Those are the same assets the Hornets need to be hoarding right now.

However, even if all things were even, and the team was simply looking only for cap relief, the Hornets are still less well equipped than a half-dozen other teams.  Below is a list of all the teams with large expiring contracts. Consider which ones would be most attractive to a team trying to blow it all up and start over:

  • Atlanta
    Jamal Crawford $10.8 Million
  • Charlotte(Over Tax)
    Boris Diaw $9.0 Million
  • Dallas(Over Tax, Typically willing to go over, though)
    Caron Butler $10.6 Million
    Tyson Chandler $12.6 Million
  • Denver(Over Tax, Typically willing to go over, though)
    Kenyon Martin $16.5 Million
  • Cleveland(Over Tax, Typically willing to go over, though)
    LBJ Trade Exception $14.5 Million
  • Detroit
    Tayshaun Prince $11.1 Million
  • Golden State
    Dan Gadzuric $7.2 Million
  • Houston(Over Tax, Typically willing to go over, though)
    Shane Battier $7.3 Million
    J. Jeffries $6.8 Million
    Yao Ming $17.7 Million
  • Indiana
    Mike Dunleavy, $10.5 Million
    TJ Ford $8.5 Million
    Jeff Foster $6.7 Million
  • Memphis
    Z. Randolph $17.7 Million
  • Milwaukee
    Michael Redd $18.3 Million
  • New Jersey
    Troy Murphy $11.9 Million
  • New York
    Eddy Curry $11.3 Million
  • Phoenix
    Jason Richardson $14.4 Million
  • Sacramento
    Samuel Dalembert $13.4 Million
    Under the Cap, and can take on $14.6 Million straight up
  • San Antonio
    Tony Parker $13.5 Million
  • Toronto
    Leandro Barbosa $7.1 Million
    Chris Bosh Trade Exception $14.5 Million
  • Utah(Over Tax, more likely to dump salary)
    Andrei Kirilenko $17.8 Million

If I’m starting over and blowing it up, I want relief, picks, and no veterans that will come in and improve my record, since I want a crappy record to get a good pick of my own.  So who do I call from that list?  I’m calling Sacramento first to try and take back zero salary and no players to mess up my hoped for terrible record.  Next, I’m talking to Cleveland or Toronto for their trade exceptions for the same reason.  Then I’m calling New York or Milwaukee.  Finally I arrive at the Hornets, Pacers or Nuggets.

So in the end, I’m sad to say that Peja’s expiring contract isn’t that amazing an asset for the Hornets.  Hopefully Dell Demps can pull off a miracle, but I’m keeping my personal expectations for returns on Peja to one of two things:

  • A serviceable rotation player off the bench
  • A good player combined with a completely odious one with a bad contract.

What do you think we’ll see done?  Or will Peja play out the string and the Hornets get nothing from his contract?(Considering even if he drops off the books, the Hornets are STILL over the cap.)

29 responses to “Being Realistic about a Stojakovic Trade”

  1. So funny, I was going to write almost this exact same article, but after last night’s debacle I didn’t want to further depress the fan base. The truth is that while expirings were gold in the past, they simply aren’t anymore, especially with all these TPE’s floating around. I mean look at when the T Wolves wanted to dump Jefferson- did they trade him for an expiring? No, they traded him for a TPE and took absolutely nothing back.

    Unfortunately the Hornets have a huge expiring in the first year where it really isn’t worth much. I think a serviceable big is a dream scenario and I would love that. More likely, I think the best we can get for Peja is what you stated at the end of the article- A good player combined with another player with a horrible contract.

    I know I have been pushing this for 3 months now, but doesn’t Sacramento seem like the ideal landing spot? They have two bad contracts- F. Garcia and Beno Udrih. They also have two legit PF’s. Peja had his glory years there and can help them sell tickets, plus they clear even more salary to make a push in free agency in 2011 or 2012 when they are ready to surround their young pieces with vets.

    Peja and W. Green for Landry and Garcia would be the best we could realistically do IMO. Sacto might counter with Peja for Landry, Udrih, and Garcia which would be a no for me, and the two could meet in the middle at Garcia and Landry for Peja.

    Landry is an ideal Monty type of player IMO, but is undersized like West and Okafor, so we aren’t talking instant playoff team here- but it would open up some PT for Pondexter to develop and it would make us a tougher team instantly.

    Is it ideal? No- but as you pointed out, without moving another asset, we aren’t gonna get much for Peja by himself. It is a deal I would consider.

    • That’s why I want Jason Thompson!!!!! I’ve been saying it forever. He’s got the height, athleticism, can stretch the floor a bit, and rebounds exceptionally well, and is young and CHEAP. CHEAP is a word this organization loves. He can play either PF or C. To the best of my knowledge, he is the most expendable of all their big men. Read his 2011 Fantasy outlook on ESPN and anyone would agree with his expendability:

      He averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in 31 mins, coming off the bench. Whether he starts or not, he can be very effective and most definitely a player that can evolve with a team like this. The Kings don’t seem to be giving him much respect. He’s more than serviceable. Give him to us!!!

      • I’m a Jason Thompson fan too, but I’m pretty sure there are more in Sac Town. Breaking up their poor man’s 3 of Reke, Cousins, and Thompson would pretty much break their chances for success.

  2. Good post.

    I think there are other factors to consider besides the one you bring up. I don’t think these contradict what you are saying, but may help us understand the market we’re in.

    There was a good deal of talk this off-season about teams overpaying free agents, but I don’t recall any more absurd deals than normal. In fact, the top guys took pay cuts (at least in the first year; the long term deals are worth more as it stands today). There who seemed to be hanging around to pry an extra $0.5M from a team (Amundson, and what is Dampier doing?).

    A good number of the guys you are speaking of, as you point out, are perhaps targets of their teams to be resigned under more-favorable-to-the-team terms. The market may not actually as large as you lay out here. Nevertheless, whatever competition is out there will affect the market value of the expiring.

    Also, about Peja expiring with us: You say we’ll be over the cap if he expires. HoopsHype says, accounting for Green et al. expiring we’ll be at about $45.5M before re-signing Thornton and maybe Belinelli. I don’t know what the is going to be, but that’s about $12M below the current one. Do you think the cap will drop that much?

    One more thing, given that conventional wisdom say that there will be some sort of mechanism to allow teams and players to adjust from the current CBA to the next under the next CBA, is it advantageous to get under the cap at the end of this season? If we are stuck below a hard cap while other teams are allowed to spend more over the course of a few years, aren’t we just setting ourselves up for failure given the correlation between spending and winning (not a guarantee, mind you)?

  3. The Hornets will stand about $45 million yes, but only if West opts out without an extension, and if the Hornets don’t plan on paying Thornton anything.

    I’m always assuming West will re-sign, and Thornton will be paid a good amount too.

    Who knows, maybe none of that will happen.

    • I get the $45M with D picking up the player option, and I said, without picking up Thornton etc. Losing West (he walks) would put us at about $38.

      I could be screwing this up. I’m using this:

      Which takes player options as picked up, qualifying offers as not picked up. I double checked by hand.

      If the $45M salary includes West, then our situation is a little rosier than otherwise if we can hold onto West and Thornton, but it’s by no means ideal. In fact if West walks we can sign a West-equivalent, if one exists, and be in the same position.

      Also, someone on here said (maybe downunder) that there are limits on what Thornton can make. Is this true? (not that it matters . . . new CBA). Dell said ~we can’t extend him due to the rules of 2nd rounders~ on 106.7 the other night (I think that is a near-quote, which is what my ~ mean). I would seem unlikely that he could quickly make more than the top pick, but if there no restrictions, other than max deal, and we aren’t there, it’d be possible. I’d think the rules would prohibit this, but I can’t find the info.

      Let me repeat that D West is my favorite Hornets player and I’d be a sad, sad guy if he left no matter how good it could in theory be for all parties who are not me.

      • No, you’re not screwing it up. I’m living in the past where salary cap hell is always lurking in the background, ready to take a finger or toe from the unwary.

      • I figured I had the math right, but perhaps not the numbers to be added, which is really the issue. Thanks for the double-check.

    • Ryan, I just noticed the new Avatar. Interesting choice of Mister Spock. Cat and all.

      The Yoda visage was classic, unadulterated, vintage Yoda. A good, solid, safe choice.

      This Spock isn’t the typical Spock. Cat was a witch, right? It’s a good choice, huzzah, but an interesting choice, a risky choice. Not a Spock-like choice. You are a crafty one, oh, post-modern poster.

      You, sir, have received a point. Enjoy.

  4. The looming work stoppage and talk of a hard cap will play a role in all this as well. There is a chance we won’t have basketball next season, and a remote chance of no basketball the year after that. This is the last year in under the current CBA. Execs of any team not named the Lakers, Knicks, or Heat is going to push for a hard salary cap, which would be great for a team like the Hornets. Look for this to get really ugly. (Personal note: I hope this happens,the hard cap that is. if nothing else, the Owners could just to stick it to Lebron)

  5. That’s too bad. I was excited about Peja’s contract being a nice chip. But it sounds like it might(?) be realistic to just get some prospects.(?) My hopes were a little up for playoff basketball in Nola 2011; but I can be patient, I can be patient. This year is about development, effort, and defence. Development, effort, and defence. The wins will be in the future. 2010-2011 is about Development and D.

    • I like the way you think, Joe.

      Last year was about the rookies, so Marcus. Now it’s about working these new pieces into the mix, finding those guys to set out on the trip with. There are lots of good things to be had here by the fans provided you aren’t just looking to the Hornets figuratively kick teams in the nuts.

      Oh, and when they do KTITN . . . it’ll be awesome. Take that to the bank and make them cash it, because that – is – money.

  6. Here is a list of bad contracts that might be swallowed in order to get a player of value:

    -Elton Brand (would Philly throw in Thaddeus and Speights just to get us to take Brand’s awful deal? Would that be enough for us?)
    – J. Calderon (would Derozen or Ed Davis be worth picking up the 2 extra years on Jose’s deal?)
    – Mo Williams (Cavs wont move Hickson, but would we do Peja for Mo and Andy V if Cavs went for a total rebuild?)
    – Rip Hamilton (Rip and Stuckey for Peja?)
    – Jason Maxiel (perhaps Maxiel and Prince for Peja)
    – James Posey (j/k)
    – Boris Diaw ( Maybe Diaw, Nazr, and Gerald Henderson for Peja and Willie)
    – Biendris
    – B Diddy (uh no way)
    – Udrih and Garcia

    Of all these, I wouldn’t mind the Charlotte trade. You have to pay Diaw for an extra year a 9 mil but you get an elite backup center in Nazr and a cheap two guard that can compliment Thornton perfectly in Henderson. And who knows, maybe Diaw can be a productive backup 4.

    • if it were for me, Calderon + Ed Davis for Peja and Green and a conditional 2nd rounder is enough for me..
      At least we have a PG manning the bench..

      • I would definitely do the deal with Toronto. I’m a huge Calderon fan. Bad contract or not, he is an extremely efficient point guard, and having a starter quality point guard manning the bench would be wonderful. A few years ago Paul and Calderon had the two best Ast/TO ratios in the league… with Calderon ahead of Chris! DeRozen + Calderon would be a definite win in my book. It wouldn’t complete our team just yet but we would definitely be heading in the right direction with that.

  7. The biggest alarm for me that things are not likely to pan out on a blockbuster trade for Peja was hearing that Dell has been aggressively shopping him. It would seem to be understood that he would be sending out feelers, but to hear it talks about already makes me a bit nervous. It has the feel of the desperate guy trying too hard for the prom date early because he is worried about not getting one.

    The flip-side is that early work could pay off when a team who wants to make a move thinks of Peja first. I just hope he’s can produce for us until the right deal comes along. If one doesn’t, I’d rather him expire than take on bad contracts just to make some minor move. Just my opinion.

  8. @Topher: I tend to think more along the lines of your second paragraph. It’s good to go out and plant the seeds. If magic happens, great; if not, maybe the interested parties will think of Peja. Maybe they want Peja if he can play the 4 to replace the 4 they send to us, for instance. I know what you’re saying but what you are saying begs the question, “Was desperation behind our other moves?” If so . . .

    • Desperation is a bit too strong of a term for my liking at this time. Urgency, is the label I would give for the tone of the Ariza trade. Draw, as in poker, is the way I would describe Dell’s feelings about pulling the trigger on Marco. The last trade still makes zero sense to me, so I will say hopefully its label will one day be, veiled savant.

      I would label the Tyson trade one of desperation, not that I know what would have been better without hindsight helping me.

      • I’ve been thinking about these trades lately. I would like someone to let me know if there’s a more commonly used term, but I think a rapid series of `trash for trash’ type trades is not a bad thing. Mr. McNamara points out in the forum that the Hornets need to figuratively strike silver or gold to climb up. They need to get the guy who is going to give more value than you pay him for based on his history. His example was the 2003 Mr. Billups (gold). I think getting a series of guys who are worth what you pay or more would be a nice thing to have (silver). Now you have better chips to trade, etc. etc.

        We rib on Songaila, but he did something for us and contributed in some games, but on a team where he wouldn’t have to rebound, say Phoenix or Golden State of old, he may `click. Going through 20 guys in 2 seasons each with a 10% chance of working out will merit us some value, but we need to turn over the stock quickly to achieve that pace.

        This is how I’m currently getting happy with the Green trade. It may all be hooey, but intended or not, the logic is there for the goodness to follow.

        Of course the logic applies that other teams will also benefit from this so the net power shift is a wash, but as long as we do the deals with a multitude of teams, we could gain comparative advantage generally. Other teams employing this mining tactic is beyond our control.

        Is there any evidence that teams do this? From my knothole it looks like the Lakers dink with their last 7 pretty regularly. If so, it could be this tactic being used but going relatively unnoticed since, well, they are the Lakers and are all pretty and stuff.

  9. Another way you could look at it, if you take on another bad contract when shipping out peja and get a nice say frontcourt piece then the trade wouldn’t be finished. You get the production thats beneficial from that role player and then try and recieve a bad contract that wont last any more than 2 seasons after this one (it wont sting to much next year for the fans at least). Now you use this expiring in a perhaps better market in the future.

    This is something I would do with the Landry and Garcia trade scenario all though I would prefer Jason Thompson but thats probably less likely. The bit I don’t like about letting Peja stay is that we are a team so heavily commited to the cap. Even combined with the rest of our expirings the cap relief isn’t significant enough to re-sign Thornton, Beli, D-West, Draft Picks and have enough left over for anything more than a Mid Level Exception (which automatically counts towards the cap so you cant combine it with remaining cap space). So hence our only hope of acquiring talent comes from the draft and trading players with better salaries which then means we have to give up more to get something back if you follow that.

    Small Timeline:
    2010-11 trade dead line/ Peja for Garcia and Landry
    Team rating before trade B After trade B+

    2011 Free Agency, alot of role players up for grabs with our MLE
    Team rating before free agency B+ after A- (assuming we resign key guys)

    2011-12 season becomes non existant, Hard cap gets introduced but due to our luxury tax evasion we are better off then some.

    2012 Free Agency, Pray that CP stays in Nola which a hard cap might help with and sign another key piece with the MLE or whatever
    before A-, After A

    2012-2013 trade dead line/Garcia for whatever will help us out
    team before A team before A+

    All went to plan, CP is still a young top 5 player in the league at 27. Thornton grows to make up for the loss of D-Wests production and maybe players like Ariza and Okafor are swapped around but the talent remains the same. Teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs and Mavs will be out of the way and teams like the Thunder, Bulls, Heat will be stronger. This is what I hope Dell’s timeline is like.

    • If there is no new CBA before the end of the season, then there is no draft or FA until one is hashed out. So if we run into a situation with no CBA, lockout or not, things will get very crazy with the draft when it happens and FA once one is hashed out because no-one knows how things are going to work, or how quickly will things have to be finished by before ply begins. If there is a hard cap, there will no longer be any MLE’s or any exceptions at all most likely, as that is the point of the hard cap.

      I like the idea of stockpiling in advance of a new CBA because there will have to be exceptions for steams like Lakers, Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando who will not be able to feild a team without some apparatus to squeeze existing CBA contracts into a new tightened system. So loading up some would be the prudent move, but do we have what it will take to get someone worth loading your books for? I don’t know. I don’t think so, without moving Q, Marcus, Ariza, or West with Peja.

      • The ‘New CBA Hat’ is a tough thing to wear. It’s hard at the moment to really grok what the advantage is in spending below the cap unless you are the chucklehead writing the checks (checklehead?). Winning is so strongly related to spending, it’s ridiculous. The CBA controls costs, but it doesn’t not provide an incentive to control costs provided an owner values wins more than his next $1M.

        Shinn gets pounded for being in tax hell though we don’t pay the tax, or for being tax averse, though he happily walked over that tax line when we all though we had a chance. When we didn’t, he wanted to back out since winning, something the prior action (going over the tax line) showed he valued at least at the moment when he signed Posey. A charitable observer would say that he’s only willing to go all in when we’ve shown we can win, so spending lags wins, rather than spending to win, where spending leads wins. It puts us in a chicken-egg problem where we need to manufacture some luck to break the cycle.

        Being blow the cap now means you have much more freedom to make the moves you need to make to lose differently than you did last season, at least i the short term. The Thunder are rightly the darlings of the NBA’s counter-cultural rabble-rousers and egalitarian idealists, and they are under the cap. They have Durant plus $5.5M on the books for next year between Aldrich and Sefolosha, both of whom they have locked up for a long time at a max contribution of $7.5M between the two of them. Part of the reason they have the yet-to-be-proven Aldrich is that they could take Mo, which is a case in which they used being below the cap to help them.

        The rest of their guys are either expiring (Collison, Mo, Kristic) or have team options or qualifying offers going into the CBA. It’s a nice place to be, but look at the price they (or Seattle) had to pay to get there (and to OKC). And, they can’t stack in advance of the CBA. And by signing Durant to a this-CBA-max-deal, have they done to themselves what they’ve avoided doing under this CBA, which is overpaying. Durant is probably worth more than than the max deal of this CBA, even more so the next, but if you could have paid him less and said you had no other option, then paying more now is an error. I think they made the conservative move and the buddy move, and the move I would have made, but I think this last point calls their judgment into question to some extent.

        We have that option with the Peja trade. Can and will Chouest, should he finalize a purchase of the a share of the team to give him majority, see things that way and spend now in order to stack in the transition year? Is it better to shed salary as best as possible to get deals on players if incentives are dealt to help speed up the CBA transition to encourage low-salary teams to take on bloated this-era-CBA-contracts of some players?

        I have no idea, but this is by no means a simple game.

  10. I’m not sure anyone realistically thought we could get an all-star for Peja on a 1 for 1 basis. Given the team, what starting position do we need to address that would improve with Peja’s value? Not the 1. Not going to sit either 2 guard. I dont see sitting Ariza for what Peja could bring. West? No. And a nightly penciled in double double from Okafor doesnt seem to be too far off base…your not getting a dominant 5 for Peja. So what are expectations? What can you get for Peja that is going to have a bigger impact than Peja coming off the bench for 14 min a game? I think Peja’s contract becomes very attractive for someone looking to clear the books because he can clear some space but at this point it looks like Peja’s contract was one year to long. If he was expiring last year his value would have been significantly higher.

    • I concur. I see Peja as grease to get something done. If we can just get a Brown-Gasol-type deal for Peja, wonderful, but this is not the most likely use.

      Peja and a piece for a couple of pieces with various lengths on their deals, preferably at least $5M expiring, but $10M would be nice. We’d be taking on a net $5M a year, in the latter case, for a few years bringing our salary total for next year to something like $50M if West is not the piece. The other team gets $5M more in expiring and a good player, and roster spots.

      These are valuable, ask Indiana; for this reason, I think they are a natural partner, actually. They may be willing to swap expiring deals in such a way that gives us more expiring deals by like $1M but that are confined to few roster spots so they can sign some cheap talent now. Maybe some of their deals are only partially guaranteed and whatnot, but I think they have been pretty well full through the summer.

      Doing a deal like that soon would allow us to deal those guys in packages before the trade deadline. We’d have more flexibility since we’d have more smaller expiring contracts that can be tailored rather than just repeating Peja and grunting like half-formed homo economicus.

      • You’re just not getting an all-star in a straight swap, so I see little point in it unless we can land a top flight backup somehow.

        We have to be at least willing to consider something like Peja+West or Thornton or picks, if the deal nets us a high caliber player without a murderous contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if the FO looks for deals like this but not for anything that includes any more of our trade assets.

  11. super dope piece. i agree with what you wrote.

    another important factor into everything is that expiring contracts aren’t worth as much this year as they were last year, when everyone was trying to make a push to clear cap space given the ridiculously talented free agent class that was on the horizon. with all of the uncertainty looming about the next CBA (what the cap number is, what restrictions will be changed, etc), teams will probably be more reluctant to make such drastic moves. IMO.


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