The seemingly innocuous traded player exception, used by the Wizards late Thursday to acquire Milwaukee Bucks forward Jared Dudley in a deal that won't become official until July 9, is a function of solid long-term and contingency planning. And on top of that, they still have their $5.5 million mid-level exception to likely use on a scoring guard.
The Wizards lost Paul Pierce in free agency Wednesday but were restricted with their ability to maneuver in free agency because they lacked salary-cap space and were sticking to a hard line of not locking up money long-term for the summer of 2016 when Kevin Durant hits the market.
Understanding what their cap situation was, the Wizards made several moves to put themselves in position to land Dudley, who was acquired for just an "extremely protected" future second-round pick, CSNwashington.com was told:
- The Wizards were losing Trevor Ariza to free agency last summer. So they worked with him so both parties could get what they wanted. They orchestrated a sign-and-trade with Ariza to the Houston Rockets, where he wanted to go. In the deal, the Wizards received what's called a Traded Player Exception for $8.6 million which allows them to acquire a future asset without giving up anything. This is a function of the last collective bargaining agreement which makes it advantageous to the departing player, instead of just leaving a team high and dry with nothing to show for it, to work out a deal. The player gets the maximum per-year raise of 7.5% in his contract (it's 4.5% if he leaves as a free agent and relinquishes what's called his Bird rights) while the team is left with chips it can use to retool.
- Soon after this transaction, the Wizards made a deal with the Boston Celtics who were looking to unload Kris Humphries. They used half of the exception from Ariza, $4.3 million, in that deal and sent a top-49 protected 2015 second-round pick. The Wizards were able to keep their pick and chose Aaron White out of Iowa 46th in the draft.
- In swapping Andre Miller for Ramon Sessions in February, the Wizards not only received a younger and more athletic player but there were two moves made with exceptions that were key to that deal and what happened with Dudley. 1). Exceptions can be split but not combined. The Wizards took the remaining half of Ariza's exception and used about $2.1 million of it and sent it to the Sacramento Kings to absorb Sessions' contract. They have a little more than $2 million left of that exception that expires in a few weeks. In return, the Kings sent the Wizards a $4.7 million exception to account for Miller's salary and to facilitate the salary match. Miller made more than twice Sessions' salary and the TPE compensates for that to get the deal approved. The Kings had acquired a $5.85 million exception in a deal they'd previously made with Jason Terry and used $4.7 million of it.
- The Wizards took the larger, $4.7 million exception it received for Miller and applied it to get Dudley who had recently opted into his deal with Milwaukee for about $4.3 million.
The moral to the story here is trade exceptions matter. They're not irrelevant or throwaways in deals if used properly. Without the exceptions, a wrinkle in the complicated collective bargaining agreement, the Wizards wouldn't have been able to spruce up the roster at minimal cost despite having no cap room.