It surely seemed odd that the New Orleans Hornets agreed to a sign-and-trade deal to acquire Ryan Anderson, parting with quality young big Gustavo Ayon in the process, when the Hornets could have just as easily renounced all their non-Eric Gordon free agents and signed the restricted free agent outright.
That’s especially the case because, according to Marc Stein, the teams agreed on the deal after the Magic decided they “would not want to match” Anderson’s four-year contract worth between $34-36 million.
Stein reported that the Anderson trade “is not expected to preclude the Hornets from matching” Gordon’s $58 million offer sheet, which is true in that the Anderson deal does not in any way, shape or form prevent the Hornets from matching from a cap perspective.
However, as I discovered through a late-night conversation with Dr. Jason Calmes from Hornets247, it very well could be a prelude to a Gordon deal.
Calmes estimates that Anderson will receive a first-year salary around $8 million, which will put the Hornets’ books at $44 million of committed salary when factoring in eventual rookie contracts and cap charges and the loss of Ayon’s $1.5 million cap hit.
The Hornets currently possess large cap holds on Chris Kaman, Carl Landry and Marco Belinelli that put them over the cap.
If they could execute all their deals via trade exceptions (which are only eligible to teams over the cap), they would still have access to the full mid-level exception, whereas otherwise they would only be able to use the $2.575 room mid-level that the Suns will possess because they had to use cap space to sign free agents.
Because the trade exception would need to cover the entirety of Anderson’s approximate $8 million salary, the Hornets can stay cap legal so long as they take back no more than $5.7 million from the Suns (assuming Gordon’s deal starts at about $13.7 million).
If this is really what the Hornets are thinking, that would preclude Marcin Gortat from any deal since he will make $7.3 million next season (at least without the Suns receiving another player or two). However, Jared Dudley would be a perfect fit with his $4.25 million cap number. Robin Lopez would work if the Hornets paid him in this range, which presumably they would, although in that case the Suns would need to amnesty someone or include additional salary. One would think draft picks would be involved in the negotiations as well.
After Calmes gave me a better understanding of how the Suns’ free agent contracts will likely be structured (I have since updated this information in Saturday’s Suns cap breakdown), I realized that if my math is right the Suns will likely have to send out at least about $2 million in any Gordon trade to make it kosher with the salary cap, which precludes trading only Marshall.
Because the Hornets likely wouldn’t want Childress, Warrick or Frye (or really Morris after obtaining Anderson), Dudley seems to be the most obvious candidate to be a deal centerpiece. Of course, both sides could include additional players to sweeten the deal so it’s not like Dudley is the only player who would work, just saying his salary would make this work cap-wise for both teams without further maneuvering.
By using trade exceptions rather than cap room, the Hornets would retain the full MLE as well as the Bird Rights to players like Kaman and Landry, which otherwise would need to be renounced to make room for a Anderson signing and Gordon’s cap hold.
We will not know until July 11 whether this is the reason behind the Anderson sign-and-trade, but it really makes sense.
As Calmes pointed out, this would essentially be a three-way deal for New Orleans in which the Hornets would receive Anderson and whatever the Suns offer (say Dudley and two picks) for Gordon and Ayon. Not a terrible haul for a player who doesn’t want to be there anyway.
With Orlando’s cap a mess and with the organization saying it did not plan on matching Anderson, it seems puzzling why the Hornets would burn an affordable and quality young player like Ayon otherwise.
Since “raised are limited to a percentage of the first-year salary” and teams can only offer other teams’ free agents 4.5 percent raises, it’s likely that the Suns are starting Dragic at about $7 million and Beasley at around $5.74 million.