Trading Big Al: How I Learned To Love The TPE

Forget the Summer League for a moment.  There's not a whole lot to be gained with making grand extrapolations from meaningless action with a bunch of not-in-game-shape D-Leaguers playing against a few lotto picks anyway.  Wes Johnson and Lazar Hayward look like legit NBA wing players (one a starter, one a bench guy) and they both got dinged up in their first bit of NBA action.  The end. 

The big story today (and tonight--don't forget to follow us on Twitter) is that Al Jefferson has likely been dealt to the Utah Jazz for a package centered around the Carlos Boozer TPE.  

(UPDATE: For the sake of the rest of the articles on the front page, I'm putting a break in this post because I think we'll have more updates throughout the day.  While you're at it, don't forget to read Larry Coon's article on the cap, specifically sections 20 and 14. If the Wolves trade for the TPE and keep it, the league views them as being over the cap and they will be unable to sign any additional free agents.  If they renounce the TPE, they are left with cap space, and they can sign free agents right away with the available space.  Either way, they open up a bunch of room for possible moves. What will be telling about their plans, is if they rush to sign Luke Ridnour before they make the Jefferson trade.  This would suggest that they plan to keep the TPE and operate as a de fact over-the-cap team until the trade deadline...or until they move or renounce the TPE...or until it expires.

UPDATEii: OK, looking back at this post, I've been unclear about one key thing.  There will be no new TPE created with this deal and the Wolves will be left with cap space.  I'm still a little unclear whether this particular part of the CBA is written just for expansion teams and I am working on figuring that out--do they get traded the TPE or just cap space?--but the main point remains: they look to be trading for cap space. Scratch the stuff about the two path route until I get further confirmation on that point. The bottom line here is that the TPE would allow the Wolves to exchange Al for cap space, regardless of what it gets called, labeled, whatever.)

Earlier tonight Jazz CEO Greg Miller tweeted the folowing:

I just approved a Jazz roster move that I'm very excited about.  Planning to share details tomorrow. 

A few minutes later, Tim Buckley of the Deseret News filed this report:

Asked if the trade for Jefferson was complete, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor tonight said, "I just can't comment." It's not know what Utah would send Minnesota in return, but a protected future first-round draft choice that the Jazz acquired in a February trade with Memphis is thought to be part of the package.

It should be noted that "agreed upon" and "completed" are two completely different trade concepts, so we'll have to wait until the final word, but I'd just like to point out a few things about this potential deal before we know the specifics.  

First, Al Jefferson was not going to net the Wolves the young wing player they wanted in a stand-alone trade.  There is simply no evidence of any offer being put out there that came close to accomplishing this goal.  As I have mentioned over and over on this site for quite some time, Al Jefferson's time with the Wolves was largely like Al Jefferson's time with the Celtics, only with a higher usage rate.  He is a wonderful low post scoring threat and that's about it.  He's not worth his large contract and that high dollar amount makes him a very prohibitive trade prospect when fishing for young wing talent.  The best chance the Wolves have at landing a young wing player is in a salary dump, and owning a large TPE is the best chance they have at making this sort of transaction happen.  

Also, if the Wolves are able to gain an additional asset or two in a trade for Jefferson that includes at TPE, they have not only given themselves the best shot at taking advantage of a mid-season salary dump, they have added additional value to the roster.  Al Jefferson for Iggy would be nice, but Al Jefferson for a 1st round pick and a TPE (which would give them a shot at an Iggy like player at the trade deadline) is even nicer....if they can pull it off.  And yes, that is a big if.  

This trade also has implications beyond the Wolves.  If the basic framework of the deal is the TPE for Al, that leaves the Jazz over the cap, making it even more unlikely that they will match the Portland Trail Blazer offer for Wes Matthews.  This could be interesting in that it opens up the possibility of Corey Brewer being added to the mix.  How about Al + Brewer for the TPE and a young player like Kosta Koufos?  The Jazz need a big and a wing and the Wolves could offer help on both fronts.  Also, Portland...you're welcome. 

If this trade goes down, the Wolves will face an immediate PR hit simply for the fact that they have moved the main piece of the KG trade for what will initially be considered as nothing more than a salary dump.  It will also mark the final departure of any piece of the Big Ticket trade.  That's a fairly momentous occasion for the Wolves no matter how you look at it. 

As for the PR hit, that take is not without merit.  If the Wolves get their hands on a large TPE, it will be incumbent upon David Kahn to make the most of it.  If they simply let the TPE expire (which will happen one year from the Boozer trade), it will be a massive failure and the team should be highly criticized for letting a productive (albeit overpaid) player like Jefferson go for essentially nothing.  However, it should be noted that the acquisition of the TPE gives them the best chance at taking advantage of a mid-season salary dump from a team that is looking to cut payroll during the 2010/11 year.  If a team is looking to cut salary, the TPE allows them to trade a player for cap space.  If Jefferson was still on the books, the Wolves would be asking the other team to take back a large salary, or they would need a 3rd party which would further complicate the transaction.  

(UPDATE iii: This is the part of the TPE that we still need to get some determination on.  The TPE may expire at the execution of the deal.  The main take away here is that the TPE would be traded as cap space to the Wolves for Jefferson, thus lowering their payroll by Big Al's salary.  That is the simple way to put it and it is the main point to walk away with here. I'll continue to work on finding out if the TPE itself is transferable, of if it expires, or if it is simply a matter of semantics.) 

For those of you unfamiliar with the TPE, the Jazz acquired it when they traded Carlos Boozer to the Bulls.  The TPE was created when Boozer was traded to a team under the cap.  To put it plainly: they traded him for cap space.  The cap space they received in return is good for a single year and it is worth Boozer's salary + $100,000.  What is interesting about the TPE is that it can be moved for a contract that will bring the Wolves over the salary cap.  For instance, if they are sitting at $50 mil near the trade deadline, they can trade the TPE for a player worth $13 mil/year and get away with it.  They can also split it up into multiple single trades up to the full value of the TPE.  It is a remarkably valuable asset, especially in the current economic climate of the NBA.  

We'll have more on this proposed trade as additional details become available.  For now, take a look at what assets the Jazz have that could be added to the deal.  Koufos, AK47, and Ante Tomic are all good fits for the Wolves.  AK47 would eliminate the TPE but he would be an interesting addition on an expiring deal.  Whatever happens, if the TPE is involved, the final score on this trade will have to wait until we find out what David Kahn can do with the exception. 

Until later. 

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