The Lakers recently applied for and received disabled player exceptions for both Steve Nash and Julius Randle, spawning several fallout ramifications.
Introduction: Disabled Player Exception
The Disabled Player Exception, located in Article 7 Section 6 (c) of the CBA, permits a team to either sign or trade for a replacement player for the remainder of the season when a player on the roster suffers an injury that does not permit them to play through the following June 15th. There are several rules and limitations placed on the exception:
1.The replacement player signed or traded for must be on an expiring contract.
2.Application for the exception must be made between July 1st and January 15th, and the exception expires March 10th if not used.
3.In regards to the exception amount, it is the lesser of the non-taxpayer midlevel exception ($5,305,000, this season) or 50% of the injured player’s current year salary. For trades, a team can add $100,000 to the permitted exception amount. The disabled player exception, unlike other exceptions such as the non-taxpayer midlevel exception, does not prorate, thus it remains usable in full until expiration.
4.As with all exceptions in the CBA, multiple disabled player exceptions cannot be aggregated, and thus must be treated as separate entities.
Overall, the exception is meant to accomplish one task: replace an injured player whose injury was discoverable only on the current team’s roster with a replacement player for the remainder of that season.
Application of the Disabled Player Exception to LA
Per the exception rules the Lakers two disabled player exceptions are as follows:
1.Julius Randle Disabled Player Exception (Randle: 50% salary < Non-Taxpayer Midlevel Exception): $1,498,680 ($1,598,580 in a trade)
2.Steve Nash Disabled Player Exception (Nash: 50% salary < Non-Taxpayer Midlevel Exception): $4,850,500 ($4,950,500 in a trade)
It should first be noted that if the Lakers sign a player via either exception, or utilize either of their disabled player exceptions in a trade, they will likely waive Xavier Henry in the process to clear a 15th roster spot.
The maximum roster size in non-hardship situations is 15, and LA is currently at that maximum. The Lakers have 2 non-guaranteed contracts, Ronnie Price and Wayne Ellington, both of whom posses guaranteed contracts of at least $581,692 as of 12/15/2014, and both become fully guaranteed on January 10, 2015. Furthermore, both are current rotation players on the team, which decreases the likelihood of either being dealt. In contrast, while Xavier Henry has a guaranteed contract, he is out for the season with a torn Achilles. He possess an expiring contract, and could be waived with only his guaranteed salary counting against the cap this season (if the Lakers choose not to stretch his remaining cap hit in accordance with his salary payment, which they likely would not do to preserve maximum cap flexibility in future years), rendering him the likeliest to be waived if LA needs to clear a roster spot. LA could also choose to utilize a hardship exception if granted no earlier than 11/28/2015, which would not require the waiving of Henry.
With that initial note in mind, the following is a breakdown of both exceptions, including potential replacement player candidates.
Randle Exception Analysis
The Lakers will likely not utilize Randle’s exception to sign a player for the following reasons. There is not a discernible salary difference in signing a player between the minimum exception, ranging from $507,093 to $1,448,090 (pre-proration) for a 0 to 10 year experienced player respectively, and Randle’s disabled player exception. Most if not all of the players attainable with Randle’s exception are attainable for the minimum, and the max amount a minimum salary player would count towards the cap is $915,243. .
Thus, qualifying for and receiving the exception from a signing perspective was likely just due diligence on the Lakers part because there was no consequence towards the cap in doing so. If the Lakers use Randle’s disabled player exception, it will be via trade, and treated similarly to a trade exception with the greater constraints listed in the introduction.
The following is a list of potentially attainable players (via trade) that fit the requirement of an expiring contract and satisfy a team need while also falling within the $1,598,680 exception amount:
John Jenkins ($1,312,920)
Pero Antic ($1,250,000)
Alonzo Gee ($1,063,384)
Kyle Singler ($1,090,000)
Ronny Turiaf ($1,500,000)
Willie Green ($1,448,490)
Victor Claver ($1,370,000)
Nash Exception Analysis
The same logic holds for Nash’s larger exception in terms of signing a player utilizing the exception. The reality is there are few NBA caliber players available to sign that are even worth a minimum rest of season or 10 day contract. Thus, any action utilizing Nash’s exception will similarly come via trade.
The following is a list of potentially attainable players (via trade) that fit the requirement of an expiring contract and satisfy a team need with also falling within the $4,950,500 exception amount:
DeMarre Carroll ($2,442,445)
Elton Brand ($2,000,000)
Andrei Kirilenko ($3,326,235)
Mirza Teletovic ($3,368,100)
Bismack Biyombo ($3,873,398)
Gary Neal ($3,250,000)
Mike Dunleavy ($3,000,000)
Darrell Arthur ($3,457,149)
Nate Robinson ($2,106,720)
Jonas Jerebko ($4,500,000)
Joel Anthony ($3,800,000)
Luigi Datome ($1,750,000)
Luis Scola ($4,868,499)
Chris Copeland ($3,135,000)
C.J. Watson ($2,077,000)
Kosta Koufos ($3,000,000)
Norris Cole ($2,038,206)
Mo Williams ($3,750,000)
Austin Rivers ($2,439,840)
John Salmons ($2,000,000)
Samuel Dalembert ($4,051,527)
Jason Smith ($3,278,000)
Iman Shumpert ($2,616,975)
Shane Larkin ($1,606,080)
Nick Collison ($2,242,003)
Luc Mbah a Moute ($4,382,575)
Alexey Shved ($3,282,057)
Gerald Green ($3,500,000)
Thomas Robinson ($3,678,360)
Dorell Wright ($3,135,000)
Joel Freeland ($3,013,512)
Reggie Evans ($1,768,653)
Tyler Hansbrough ($3,326,235)
Jeremy Evans ($1,794,871)
Kevin Seraphin ($3,898,693)
There are two additional considerations that must be taken into account when analyzing the fallout of the Nash disabled player exception.
1.Career Threatening Injury Exception Preclusion.
The Lakers applied for and received a disabled player exception for Nash, and are thus precluded from seeking salary relief for Nash’s potentially career ending back injury by applying for the injury exception. Had they not applied for Nash’s disabled player exception, LA could have applied on April 8th (one year anniversary of Nash’s last regular season game being as though Nash played 10 regular season games last season and given that the Lakers didn’t play in the playoffs) for immediate salary relief of Nash’s $9,701,000 salary, but are now precluded from doing so.
2.Nash Can Still be Traded Despite LA Receiving the Disabled Player Exception for Him.
Despite LA receiving a disabled player exception for Nash, he can still be traded in any midseason trade prior to the February 19th trade deadline and the exception remains usable until it expires March 10th. Thus, receiving the exception for Nash does not extinguish LA’s ability to trade Nash this season.
Exception Utilization Prediction
The Lakers will likely waive Xavier Henry and sign a replacement wing such as Earl Clark to a rest of season contract. Should a player that fits within the Nash disabled player exception become available, such as Gerald Green, the Lakers could waive either Wayne Ellington, Ronnie Price or whatever player they sign after waiving Henry to accommodate, with a 2016 second round draft pick as potential compensation. Otherwise, the Lakers will attempt utilize either of their disabled player exceptions to take on an expiring contract as a facilitator in a three-way team trade construct, if they can acquire an additional asset such as a second round pick. Due to LA’s 2015 cap sheet and the expected 2015 salary cap of $66,500,000, the Lakers will refrain from tying up any future cap space as they set themselves up to pursue Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo.