Complicated draft pick protections held up completion of Lopez deal

PHOENIX — Issues involving the protection of the Suns’ incoming first-round draft pick delayed the completion of the Robin Lopez-Wes Johnson three-way trade for a few days.

“To be candid with you it took a lot of lawyering on all sides and a little creativity to actually get it done,” PBO Lon Babby said on a conference call Friday about a deal he described as “very, very complicated.” “At the end of the day it looks relatively simple, but there were a lot of moving parts and a lot of rules.”

The basics of the deal involve Phoenix shipping out Hakim Warrick, a signed-and-traded Robin Lopez and the 2014 second-round pick from the Lakers for Wes Johnson, Brad Miller (who has an $848K buyout), Jerome Dyson (who will be waived with no penalty) and the protected first-rounder. The Suns also sent $1.15 million to New Orleans to help pay Warrick.

Babby described the issue involving the pick “legally complicated and legally challenging.” Here’s the result:

  • Minnesota’s own first-rounder will be top-13 protected in 2013 and 2014 and top-12 protected in 2015 and 2016.
  • Memphis owes Minnesota a lottery-protected first-rounder sometime in the next four years.
  • If the Memphis and Minnesota picks convey in the same season, the Suns get the worse of the two choices.
  • If the Memphis pick conveys but the Minnesota pick doesn’t, then the pick will roll over to the next season and thus only future Minnesota picks will be in play.
  • If the pick doesn’t convey in four years, then the Suns will receive two second-rounders going forward.

“That’s the essence of it,” Babby said. “We’re pretty confident that one way or another by hook or by crook we’ll end up with a first-round pick sometime relatively soon.”

KTAR’s John Gambadoro reported that the deal became so complicated because the aforementioned first-rounder could turn into $3 million in an earlier iteration and the Suns have already received the maximum amount of cash they can in a season in the Nash deal ($3.1 mil).

Anybody who has been following this blog the past few days knows by now that I misunderstood the reason why the trade was being held up.

I thought that Brad Miller could not be traded in aggregation with another player within two months of being traded to New Orleans, yet because he was traded into cap space the rule didn’t apply in this circumstance, as Babby explained to me on the call.

“I know you wrote that, but the reality of it was that was never an issue because New Orleans acquired Brad Miller with room, and when you acquire a player with room then there is no issue with non-aggregation,” he said.

I based my analysis off the following trade restriction in Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ:

“For two months after receiving the player in trade, if the trade aggregates the player’s salary with the salaries of other players. However, the team is free to trade the player immediately, either by himself or without aggregating his salary with other salaries. This restriction applies only to teams over the salary cap. (Also see question number 85.)”

I have since gotten a hold of the passage in question in the actual CBA, which says:

“Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, no Player Contract acquired pursuant to an Exception may, for a period of two (2) months from the date the Player Contract is acquired, be aggregated with any other Contract for purposes of a trade.”

Based on my reading of Coon, I thought that the two-month rule applied whenever a team over the cap (as the Hornets were) tried to make a move; instead it just applies to players acquired via an exception.

As I wrote in one of those posts, I’m an amateur capologist, and frankly I’m one that has learned quite a bit about the collective bargaining agreement in the past month with all the scenarios the Suns were involved in.

I’d like to apologize to you, my readers, for making this honest mistake and I promise in the future to double check on these complicated issues even when my solution seems to make logical sense.

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