Phoenix Suns gain more cap relief with Michael Beasley waiver

When Michael Beasley was arrested on a marijuana charge in early August, it was merely a matter of time before he became a former Phoenix Sun.

The Suns’ immediate silence in the aftermath of the incident seemed to foretell that the team was only waiting for a more advantageous time to rid themselves of Beasley, and that time came Tuesday afternoon when the Suns made Beasley’s release official.

In the press release announcing Beasley’s dismissal, PBO Lon Babby said that “the timing and nature of this, and all of our transactions, are based on the judgment of our Basketball leadership as to how best to achieve our singular goal of rebuilding an elite team.”

By this Babby meant the Suns waited until they could stretch the guaranteed money in Beasley’s final season over three years, as was the case at the start of September, rather than stretching the remainder of the money owed to Beasley over five years. This made sense so the Suns can absorb as much of the contract as possible into their remaining cap space this season and possess a smaller future liability.

That part of the transaction seemed to become a foregone conclusion, yet the more surprising news was that the Suns were able to convince Beasley to take $2 million less than the $9 million he was guaranteed in the buyout.

The Suns’ 2013-14 cap number on Beasley was thus reduced from $6 million to $4.67 million and the final $3 million to be stretched over the next three years was reduced to $2.33 million, or about $777K a year, as Beasley gets set to collect $13 million for his one abysmal season in Phoenix.

The team’s 2013-14 cap number thus was lowered by $1.33 million as the Suns continue to find ways to reduce that figure, this time all the way down to $52.1 million. That puts them about $6.57 million below the salary cap, lower than any team aside from Philly. I explained the kind of options this cap space provides the Suns in my Caron Butler trade piece, but to briefly summarize think lopsided trades either to allow another team to get under the luxury tax, complete a three-way trade or take back less salary in a Gortat trade.

The Suns’ salary number will be reduced by $2.22 million next offseason and it will be increased by the $777K buyout amount in each of the following two seasons. Although it’s regrettable that the Suns will be paying Beasley through the 2016-17 season, they will be paying him less than this year’s one-year veteran minimum salary so it shouldn’t really impact their plans in a material way.

The Suns also may gain further savings if Beasley signs with another basketball team (NBA or otherwise), as Larry Coon explains:

If another team signs a player who has cleared waivers, the player’s original team is allowed to reduce the amount of money it still owes the player (and lower their team salary) by a commensurate amount. This is called the right of set-off. This is true if the player signs with any professional team — it does not have to be an NBA team. The amount the original team gets to set off is limited to one-half the difference between the player’s new salary and the minimum salary for a one-year veteran (if the player is a rookie, then the rookie minimum is used instead).

Considering the fact that it is very unlikely that any NBA team gives Beasley more than the minimum (if any team even wants him), the Suns can’t be expecting much money from this provision. The six-year veteran’s minimum this year will be $1,106,941, so such a set-off might be less than a couple hundred thousand. The Suns’ best bet at increased savings would be if some overseas team throws a couple million at Beasley.

The other question is why Beasley would be willing to give back $2 million guaranteed with his career in peril. Unless the Suns told him they would chain him to the bench for the next year or two unless he reduced the money (doubtful considering how much they wanted him gone), I don’t see what incentive Beasley had to make a deal. Sure, now he has a chance at his fourth fresh start and he could make that money back even with NBA minimum contracts, but nothing is guaranteed for him at this juncture.

This was a move the Suns had to make as they attempt to build a new culture, and the $2 million cost savings make this the best-case scenario for Phoenix to move on from a sunk cost.

Tags: Michael Beasley

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