Expiring contracts – noun
1. The end of an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified.
2. NBA Fools Gold.
Expiring contracts are all the rage at the trade deadline. Teams like the Dallas Mavericks can dump a handful of Josh Howard’s and Drew Gooden’s on teams like the Washington Wizards and walk away with two possible puzzle pieces that fit nicely into their future. After a deal like that, every team’s fan base scans the current situation in the NBA and says, “hey, if they can do it, we can do it. We might be able to get an impact guy for nothing.”
But no, your favorite team probably can’t do it and would be wise to avoid trying, because something for nothing doesn’t exist. It never has and it never will, especially in the NBA and especially in smaller markets.
And as long as I’m throwing the word especially out there left and right … Especially in the case of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Lots of people are getting excited about the Bucks possibly making a big splash by Thursday’s trade deadline. Reporters from ESPN, Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and elsewhere have been saying the Bucks are among the most active teams in the NBA right now with regard to making a deal, much to the surprise of many. John Hammond spent most of last summer attempting to make the Bucks as “flexible” as possible in the event that they wanted to make some deals down the road, but few people expected “down the road” to come so soon. But with the Bucks in the thick of the chase for the eighth seed in the East, the Bucks are under some pressure to pull the trigger on a deal to make them better now and give them a chance to win some games as they continue to look towards the future.
Which makes sense. The Bucks have contested that making the playoffs is an important part of young player development, so if they can ship out some of their expiring contracts acquired for flexibility purposes and bring back talent that will propel them into the playoffs without losing younger players, it’s a win-win. Players will develop and the team will win games. Shipping out those who have expiring contracts doesn’t matter anyway, say most, so it’s just like getting something for nothing. But that doesn’t exist.
The most talked about potential deal for Milwaukee has been the possible acquisition of Troy Murphy. Murphy is a slick shooting, rebounding, “stretch” four who seems to be a logical answer to the question, who can help the Bucks become more efficient on offense and do a better job on the boards? Murphy slides Luc Richard Mbah a Moute back down to the three, his most natural position in my opinion, and gives the Bucks a burly looking front-court. But at what price?
Talks have centered around expiring Buck contracts. Murphy’s contract calls for $11,047,619 this season and $11,968,253 next season. So, the Bucks could toss the combined $12 million in expiring contracts of Kurt Thomas, Luke Ridnour and Francisco Elson at the Pacers and make the numbers work. But from a pure talent standpoint, that would be crazy for the Pacers to accept. So they wouldn’t take something like that, especially if the Bucks aren’t willing to part with a first round pick (which hasn’t really been established either way at this point from what I understand, though the Bucks appear to be leaning against doing this). Indiana would probably counter (and reportedly has) with the inclusion of a young player in the trade, specifically Ersan Ilyasova. So, the Bucks would need to adjust the trade and replace Elson with Ilyasova. The numbers work, but now the Bucks are giving up two expiring contracts and a young player with (possibly) vast potential for the right to take a player off the Pacers hands that isn’t really helping them win games anyway.
In addition, this sets the Bucks back for next season. The addition of Murphy and subtraction of Ilyasova would leave the Bucks with a payroll of $59,815,722 without including rookies and any free agents they’d want to add to their roster which would stand at nine. A few more signings and the Bucks are getting awfully close to the luxury tax line, which is at roughly $69 million this year and will likely be lower next.
Isn’t that a little unbalanced? The Pacers don’t NEED Troy Murphy. He probably is doing them more harm than good right now due to his contract size. So the Pacers are more or less asking the Bucks to take his contract off their hands and give them a young player too. Well, the Bucks have reportedly rebuked that offer and countered with the rationale that if they are taking a contract off the Pacers hands and giving them a young player, the Pacers must do something for the Bucks. Namely, taking the (small, but lengthy and therefore burdensome) contract of Charlie Bell back in return. As I just detailed, the Bucks would really harm their financial flexibility next season (they’d regain it after Murphy, Michael Redd and Dan Gadzuric would total over $37 million in expiring contracts next season) by taking on Murphy’s deal. Including Bell and the remaining seven million dollars left on his deal allows the Bucks more wiggle room.
So here’s a likely Bucks proposal, assuming the Pacers are hung up on getting Ilyasova and the Bucks really want Murphy:Bucks give: Thomas, Ridnour, Ilyasova and Bell
Pacers give: Murphy and Brandon Rush
The Bucks take on $14,037,293 in future salary obligations, but alleviates them of the $7,951,360 in Charlie Bell’s future money, leaving them on the hook for just $6,085,933 additional money for the services of Murphy and Rush.
Inlcuding Bell would be the key to this deal if the Bucks were forced to give up Ilyasova. But even in this situation, the best of the best financially, the Bucks are still not getting Murphy for nothing. The Bucks operate in the harsh reality that is small market NBA basketball. Something for nothing is never an option when every dollar counts.