Today's trade sending Eric Maynor and Matt Harpring to Oklahoma City for the rights to the Thunder's 2002 pick, Peter Fehse, looks like a salary dump for the Utah Jazz. Let's take a look at how this move affects the salary cap for the Jazz, and what this might mean for future moves.
Since the Oklahoma City Thunder were under the 2009-10 NBA salary cap they were able to absorb the entire cost of both Maynor and Harpring's salary, without exceeding the cap. That allowed them to bypass the normal rule which dictates that all salaries in a trade are within 125% (plus $100,000) of each other, and send back only the rights to a second-round player who was drafted in 2002. Since the salary of a second-round pick is not guaranteed that means the Jazz take on no additional salary obligation for this year.
Prior to the trade the Jazz were obligated to about $85.1 million in salary. That number puts the Jazz well above the salary tax threshold which the league set at $69.92 million. Given the dollar-for-dollar tax for teams above that threshold the Jazz were on the hook for a tax payment of about $15.18 million. That tax goes goes the league office, who then distributes a share of it to each team who has not exceeded the salary tax level. So, that means not only would the Jazz have given up $15.18 million of their own revenue, they would also lose out any salary tax distributions that come from other teams above the tax.
Since the Jazz are clearly not receiving any basketball talent in return for Maynor and Harpring, it becomes evident that was made to dump salary, and to lower that tax payment. By subtracting Maynor's $1.32 million salary and Harpring's $6.5 million salary the total Jazz payroll now equals about $77.3 million. Still well above the tax threshold, but it reduces the Jazz's obligation to about $7.38 million. It also eliminates the remaining $5.3 million the Jazz owe to Maynor through 2012-13.
It's a little strange that the Jazz would give away Harp's expiring contract essentially for free. With the $6.5 million owed to him coming off the books at the end of the season his contract could have been a valuable bargaining chip as the trade deadline approaches. Teams looking to get under the cap to make a run at the elite 2010 free agent class probably would have been willing to throw actual basketball talent at the Jazz. Instead the Jazz have opted to give that bargaining power to OKC, who could potentially combine his contract (after a two month waiting period) with another expiring contract -- such as Earl Watson or Etan Thomas -- to go after a high salary player. (Bosh, anyone?)