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Practical Implications of the Mehmet Okur Trade

I was standing on an elevator in a hospital when the Utah Jazz informed me by text that Mehmet Okur had been traded to New Jersey for a future second round pick. Damn. So much for loyalty. That was my initial thought. I was pretty pissed off. I love Mehmet Okur the basketball player and the person. He literally sacrificed his body and his career to try to help the Jazz. He's awesome. He has awesome hair. He has an awesome voice. He seems like the type of guy you would want to have a Ginger Beer with. He made some amazing shots in his day. He was the starting center for a very very good team for 2 or 3 years.

When I stopped to think about the trade, I was still disappointed, but I understood why the Jazz would do it. It was a good business decision. It was a good trade.

Everyone can be Right

And that brings me to the first point I would like to make about the trade. It's okay to be mad about it and it's okay to think it's a great trade. Jazz fans took to twitter and facebook and this site after the trade like Christmas shoppers trying to buy Air Jordans and argued why it was such a crappy trade or why it was the most fantastic thing. Maybe it's both. I remember tweeting last season that the Jazz would be a fun team to watch, because I personally cared for all of the players. They were all good guys. I enjoy liking the Jazz players for more than their on-court accomplishments. It's okay to love the players. But I also see the other side. Kevin O'Connor said that "Boy Scouts don't win" referring to the fact that sometimes the Jazz have to employ good basketball players that might not be the most outstanding citizens in their community. Sometimes business trumps what is courteous or kind. It probably often does.

From a business standpoint, it was a very good trade. At the very least the Jazz just cut their expenses by about 18% without drastically weakening their product. It would have been nice to have Mehmet Okur, but he wasn't going to singlehandedly change the total amount of wins for this Jazz team. And the Jazz acquired a $10.8 million trade exception. If the Jazz don't use any of the trade exception, they have just saved themselves about $8.7 million ( the contracted amount the Jazz would have owed Okur over 66 games). And although I can imagine that Mehmet himself was blindsided and upset by having to move his family across the country, it might be a great opportunity for him. He will get minutes for the Nets and maybe even be a starter for the next 4-6 weeks until Lopez returns. Hopefully it works out for the Jazz and Mehmet Okur.

And if you are a Jazz fan who thinks the Jazz will eventually improve this team by using the trade exception the team acquired in the deal, you can have hope and scout NBA rosters for the player you would love the Jazz to acquire.

More about that Trade Exception

You have read and heard a lot about trade exceptions and maybe you don't care to know any more about them or what they might mean to the Jazz. If that is the case, you don't have to read any further. But for the 7 of you who want to know, let's discuss.

For simplicity sakes, a trade exception almost always occurs when a team trades away a player and doesn't take a player back. A pick is included in the trade instead. This is actually the 5th TPE (Traded Player Exception) that the Jazz have acquired in the last 3 years. They acquired one when they traded Ronnie Brewer ($2.7 million), when they traded Matt Harpring and Eric Maynor (about $8 million), in the Deron Williams trade ($1.8 million, in a complicated way that happens when multiple guys are traded), and with the Boozer sign and trade ($14 million), and this Okur trade ($10.8 million). Of the previous four TPEs only the Boozer one was ever used. The Jazz used that exception to acquire Al Jefferson. So as you can see, there is a decent if not very good chance that the Jazz don't use the trade exception at all. Afterall, Kevin O'connor said the Jazz would be aggressive in trying to use it and that the Miller family had given him permission to do so, but it goes without saying that the Jazz would have to improve to do so and the Miller's may be hesitant, after using their last trade exception didn't exactly improve the team in the ways they had hoped.

How does a team use a trade exception?

The Jazz can now acquire a player, or players whose salary or salaries add up to no greater than $10.8 million, while only sending a draft pick(s) back. That is the simple explanation.

How could the Jazz acquire a desirable player with the TPE?

That's a very good question. It will be very very hard. If I had to bet on it, I would bet that this trade exception goes completely unused. Most trade exceptions do, as the Jazz have shown. But at the same time, the Jazz are in a better position to use this one, since their short and long term salary commitments are relatively meager. But the truth of the matter is that another team, would be hard pressed to give the Jazz a good player while only getting a draft pick back. But there are conceivably three ways the Jazz could acquire a player with the TPE that I will address. Which teams might be hard pressed to dump salary in the next year? For starters, the ones that will pay the luxury tax. That includes the Celtics, Lakers, Heat, Magic, Spurs, Mavericks, 76ers and Hawks. Now lets take all of the players on all of those teams whose salaries are under or equal to $10.8 million. For times sakes, I am going to exclude every crappy player from that list leaving us with:

Ray Allen

Rajon Rondo

Brandon Bass

Mario Chalmers

Hedo Turkoglu

Jameer Nelson

JJ Redick

Ryan Anderson

Richard Jefferson

Rodrigue Beaubois

Thaddeus Young

Jrue Holiday

Marvin Williams

Jeff Teague

1. Gladly taking a player off another team's hands

The only players on this list that are going to be given to the Jazz freely by the other team are Turkoglu, Jefferson and Marvin Williams. Maybe the Jazz like those players. I don't. And if the Magic or 76ers got really desperate I guess you could foresee them dumping JJ Redick or Thaddeus Young, but don't hold your breath. But like I said, there is little incentive for any team in the NBA to give away a good player for free. More likely...

2. Two players, one with a bad contract.

You can call this the Eric Maynor rule. The Thunder used there cap space to take on Matt Harpring's ridiculous contract, but charged the Jazz Eric Maynor for it. But remember, if the Jazz did this, the two contracts together would have to total less than $10.8 million. In this line of thinking I could see the Jazz acquiring Rodrigue Beaubois by taking on Shawn Marion's contract or Jeff Teague in a Teague/Marvin Williams deal. Both possibilities, but not great ones. Neither one gets me excited. The most likely way the Jazz use the trade exception is the third way...

3. Draft Day Dealings

Since the trade exception expires in one year, the Jazz will be able to use it during the offseason. If the Jazz had a decent draft pick or two, they could trade the pick or picks for a player to be placed in the trade exception. That opens up really any player in the NBA that their team wants to trade for picks. And obviously the better the draft pick, the better player it will fetch. No team is going to trade a good player to the Jazz until they know what pick they are getting, so a trade like this isn't happening until after the draft lottery. And this type of trade is the ONLY way the Jazz are acquiring a guy like Rajon Rondo, or Jrue Holiday. It is the way the Celtics dealt for Ray Allen. They traded their 5th pick (Jeff Green) for Allen, using their cap space.

Like I said, this is the best way for the Jazz to acquire a gamechanger with their TPE. If the Jazz use the exception, look for it to happen after the offseason draft lottery. I would bet money on it. The exception either goes unused or during this summer.