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.

  • shazam

    you said it was your understanding and that you would get clarity when you wrote apology needed

  • Russell

    I’m confused, the article states the following:

    “The Suns will receive Minnesota’s own first-rounder, but it will be top-13 protected in 2013 and 2014 and top-12 protected in 2015 and 2016.”

    Then the article states:

    “If the Memphis and Minnesota picks convey in the same season, the Suns get the worse of the two choices.”

    This means that unless by some miracle , the Grizzlies are not a top 5 or 6 teams the Suns get the Grizz pick. So why not state The Suns will Receive the Memphis pick unless Memphis misses the playoffs AND Minny’s makes the playoff (or even 9th seed).

    95% chance here we end up with Grizz pick over Minny’s pick.

  • Russell

    And me saying the Grizz will finish in the top 6 maybe being conservative, most have them finifhsing in the top 4 seeds in the West. Realistically though the Grizz pick wont be earlier then 18 or later then 23 or so.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Michael -

    You do a great job!

  • Scott

    @Russell -

    Yes, the bottom line is that the Suns will get a late first round pick next year as a result of the trade.

    It doesn’t sound like you’re confused.

    Why all the crazy conditions? Well, lawyers were involved, and they get paid by the hour. ;)

  • abel

    the whole trade was stupid now hear babby say ” 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.” in the deal wouldnt you want to know what the hell your getting in return i mean what does a 1st round down the road in 3 years mean any ways? then we still had to give NO money for warrick plus we still gave a up a second round draft pick next year. For people that done know after this season warrick had a team options just like wesley johnson did. I was excited to see the suns making moves for the future but it seems like no matter what the FO does it seems uninspiring people say we got wesley johnson a former number 4 overall pick and i say so what that has bust writen all over it i mean we all ready have a former number 2 overall pick that plays the same positiion for the last 2 seasons the suns have been saying “we got money we can offer 3 max contracts suns fans be patient” babby has already been quoted in saying that we dont have the financial abilities like the lakers and the knicks thats true but i still think the nickle and dime approach by sarver is still at hand lets tune in and speculate.

  • Sksyoshi

    First things first I just need to say “HA HA!” to all of those guys commenting against this trade crying about how much we need Rolo for intimidation and shotblocking and his average PER based on a low min usage sample size. He is now officially gone, I wish him well in NO but he was not worth locking up 5 mil in cap space for 3 seasons. Also, stop trying to make like his PER was so great when he was the full time starter in 10-11 his PER was a sad 13.92 not even the league ave. This is what Hollinger had to say about his weaknesses, “Defensively, Lopez took a step back. His rebound rate was 50th among centers, down from the previous season, and opposing centers cruised to a 19.3 PER against him. Synergy graded him near the bottom of the league’s center heap, and his on-court vs. off-court differential was slightly negative. Lopez blocks shots, but he lacks mobility and struggles in pick-and-roll defenses. ”

    Sorry if I do not think we should pay someone 5 mil for 3 yrs to play 10-15min a game maybe even less when everyone is healthy.

    @ those of you who think late first rd picks are worthless remember Rondo was 20 something Manu was 2nd rd Arenas was 2nd rd there are lots of gems to be found its up to FO to dig em up.

  • Scott

    So … how many mid to late first round picks do the Suns have for next year’s draft? Is it 3? (Suns, Lakers, Minn/Memphis)

    Looking ahead, here are some randomly selected players that might be available based on projections from Draft Express.

    SG PJ Hairston: (6′ 5″, 6′ 9″w, 227 lbs, 19 yo) Slightly taller, his game is identical to Shannon Brown, but with the important additions of defensive effort, high b-ball IQ and passing ability.

    SF Dario Saric: (6′ 10″, 6′ 10″w, 223 lbs, 18 yo) Good handling, high IQ, and court vision, can create offense for teammates. Rebounds well, but has inconsistent offense and lacks both strength and lateral speed. However, he’s young and still physically developing, so improvement is expected in these weak spots.

    SG Wayne Blackshear (6′ 5″, 6′ 10″w, 215 lbs, 20 yo) Can shoot with feet set and off the dribble, unselfish, pesky defender, seeks contact around the basket. Has difficulty creating own shot, average handling.

    SF Branden Dawson (6′ 6″, 6′ 9″w, 206 lbs, 19 yo) Has physical attributes similar to Kawhi Leonard. Rebounds well, defends well; shooting is a work in progress.

  • JT’s Hoops Blog

    At last, it’s finally done.

  • Mr. Cruncher


    The only potential scenario I haven’t found a clear explanation to is if Minnesota’s pick remains protected, yet the Memphis is not protected and transfers to Minnesota in the same year. From the logic of the four trade rules explained above, my impression is the Suns will not receive the Memphis in that year. Below are the trade rules as I understand them:

    1. Suns receive Minnesota pick in a given year if not protected.

    2. Memphis conveys a pick to Minnesota in a given year if not protected.

    3. If Minnesota AND Memphis picks are not protected in a given year, in effect, the Suns will receive the worse of the two picks.

    4. If the Suns do not receive a pick in the next four years, they will instead receive two 2nd rounders.

    No mention of what occurs when the Memphis pick conveys in the same year the Minnesota pick remains protected (does not convey). I referenced Paul Coro’s article in the Arizona Republic, as well, and he specified the same language for the trade rules as you did. I may be getting caught up in the logical use of the word “and” in rule 3. As it stands now, it seems the Suns will need Minnesota to finish no worse than the 17th (2013/2014) or 18th (2015/2016) best team in order for the Suns to receive a 1st round pick at any point in time.

    Are you able to shed some light on the matter?

  • bk

    case 1: MIN is out of playoff. MEM is in. Suns get the MIN top 14 lottery pick.
    case 2: MEM is out of playoff. MIN is in. Suns get the MEM top 14 lottery pick.
    case 3: Both MEM and MIN are both out. Suns get the worst one.
    case 4: Both MEM and MIN are both in for 4 years. Suns get two 2nd round picks from MIN.

  • JZ

    Michael – You do a great job with this blog and the fact you took the time to try to learn all this stuff and explain it to everyone shows how good of a journalist you are. If you perfectly understood all the nuances of the cap, you’d be making a lot more money in an NBA front office somewhere.

  • Mr. Cruncher


    Please explain how you envision case 1, 2, 3, or 4 to take effect. I may be overlooking something, but I don’t see any of the four as plausible based on the trade rules.

  • Andy

    To second what everyone else is saying, there are a lot of highly paid professionals who can’t make heads or tails of this stuff. I think I speak for a lot of us when I say we come here because you make a tremendous effort to break this stuff down for us, as well as almost anybody else on line. You never made any claims of certainty, you just gave us the analysis as you saw it. I don’t think you owe us an apology, and I hope you keep doing the great work you’re doing. Thanks for the time you spend on it.

    With that said… am I understanding correctly that if you get someone under the cap, you can send them back out immediately? So Johnson and Miller’s contracts are in play to be traded out by the Suns, as part of a package, immediately, if they wanted to do so?

  • Michael Schwartz

    Thanks for the kind words everyone.

    @Mr. Cruncher I actually spelled that out in the first draft of this story but was confused by Babby’s answer so didn’t want to publish it until it was confirmed. I believe if Memphis makes the playoffs and Minnesota finishes in the top 13 of the draft, then it will roll over. That’s what would make sense because if they both make the playoffs the Suns get the worse of the two and if they both miss it doesn’t convey.

    This is what I transcribed from Babby, “Just by way of example, if Memphis makes the playoffs next year and Minnesota doesn’t finish in the top 13 for the draft then it would roll over to the following year and we would just be looking at Minnesota’s pick.”

    I think I either misheard him on the recording or he misspoke because if Memphis makes the playoffs they convey and if Minnesota doesn’t finish in the top 13 they convey (and the Suns get the lesser of the two), so I think he meant to say if Minnesota DOES finish in the top 13 and Memphis makes the playoffs it would roll over.

    They weren’t kidding when they said this was complicated stuff! I will post an update in the comments and the actual story if I get this confirmed.

  • Michael Schwartz

    @Andy That’s the lesson we all learned yesterday! It sounds like the Suns definitely want to keep Johnson, but Miller’s contract is absolutely in play, and because it was not acquired via an exception the Suns could even aggregate his contract with others. The only question there is when does Miller’s contract become fully guaranteed? Right now his contract could provide a means for a team that needs to slash money to cut over $4 mil real quick. That could be worth at least another first-rounder. The Suns would just need to make this move before Miller becomes fully guaranteed. For now though it’s an incredibly valuable trade chip in the right situation.

    I think BK just flipped it, saying out of the playoffs instead of in the playoffs. Here are those scenarios as I understand them today:
    case 1: MIN is out of playoff. MEM is in. The pick rolls over to the next year and the Suns would only be looking at MIN.
    case 2: MEM is out of playoff. MIN is in. Suns get the MIN pick.
    case 3: Both MEM and MIN both convey. Suns get the worst one.
    case 4: Both MEM and MIN do not convey for 4 years. Suns get two 2nd round picks from MIN.

    Case 1 is the only one I’m not certain.

  • sun also rises

    @Michael It makes me want to chin check somebody that you actually feel like you owe the readers of this blog an apology. You and the VOS boys bring us our news, you always try to stay positive no matter how horrible things get with the team and you have to try to keep a straight face when schizo idiots do things like accuse you of being on $arver’s payroll.

    Compared to everything you do for us in an average season and all the BS you have to put up with a cap error isn’t even worth commenting on. Anybody who would make a big deal out of that is already suffering from mental and emotional problems that go WAY THE HELL past being a Suns “fan”. lol.

  • bk


    Thanks for correction. So, the FO thinks W.Johnson is better than the pick. It is very scary.

  • Russell

    @Michael so you’re saying if the T’Wolves miss the playoffs and the Grizz make it, the Suns wont be getting a 1st round pick at ALL next summer?! and will have to wait until 2014 to play out the scenario all over again.

    That changes things from what was reported earlier in the week. And at also changes things from an asset point of you, having 3 picks next year vs. having 2 picks is going to make it harder to land a player via trade. Teams don’t want to sit around till 2015 waiting for the above stated scenario to work out. They want to know (relatively) what they will be getting in a 1st round pick sooner rather then sitting around for 3 years, and possibly never seeing it.

  • Russell

    I’ll be hoping Minny makes the playoffs, cos we need that pick ASAP to make the trades in February or next summer during the free agent signing period.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    What the Suns have done this off-season reminds me of what another owner-G.M. did very well for many years in pro football.

    He would take troubled but talented cast-offs like a Beasley, tell him that this is his last chance to make it, and to prove everyone wrong. More often than not, it worked.

    Then he would take talented young high draft picks that bombed elsewhere, would coach ‘em up, and watch them realize their potential. Again, it worked more times than not.

    Who was this owner-G.M.? None other than Al Davis of the famed Silver and Black!

  • Mr. Cruncher


    Haha thanks for the clarification; certainly a lot of twists and turns to cover.

  • Michael Schwartz

    Indeed, many twists and turns!

    @Russell I’m trying to get clarification from the Suns on that. Figuring out that pick turned into a legal mess that took days, so I may not yet be clear on that point but based on what I believe Babby was trying to say, I think that will be the case. The other way to look at that would be the 2013 draft is supposed to be weak (I know, hard to say that exactly at this point) but it could be nice to have 2 picks in each of the next 3 drafts if things work out that way.

  • bk

    Hoopsworld just updated the Phoenix Suns salary

  • Michael Schwartz

    OK, I got it confirmed now by Babby. If the Memphis pick conveys but the Minnesota pick doesn’t convey then the pick will roll over to the next season. The story has been updated and I will probably post something on this later.

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