Danny Ainge's secret weapon: The Traded Player Exception

With a 2014-15 record of 13-25 and a tough west coast swing on deck, the Boston Celtics have a long way to go and no break on the horizon. That being said, the Celtics #WeTheRebuild mentality is a marathon, not a track meet and no one knows that better than Danny Ainge.

In addition to building a war chest full of draft picks over the next few years, Danny Ainge now has more Traded Player Exceptions than anyone else in the NBA. They are these tricky little loopholes that often times go unused, but not the President of Basketball Operations for your Boston Celtics.

Here is a quick review on what exactly the Traded Player Exception is and how it can be used (via Wikipedia)

If a team trades away a player with a higher salary than the player they acquire in return (the deal hereafter referred to as "Trade #1"), they receive a Traded Player Exception, also known as a "Trade Exception". Teams with a trade exception have up to a year in which they can acquire more salary in other trades (Trade #2, #3, etc.) than they send away, as long as the gulf in salaries for Trade #2, #3, etc. are less than or equal to the difference in salary for Trade #1.

This exception is particularly useful when teams trade draft picks directly for a player; since draft picks have no salary value, often the only way to get salaries to match is to use a trade exception, which allows trades to be made despite unbalanced salaries. It is also useful to compensate teams for losing free agents, as they can do a sign and trade of that free agent to acquire a trade exception that can be used later. Note this exception is for single player trades only, though additional cash and draft picks can be part of the trade.

In application, as detailed by NBA Salary Cap FAQ:

The Traded Player exception is the primary means by which teams over the cap complete trades. It allows teams to make trades that leave them over the cap, but it places several restrictions on those trades. Trades using the Traded Player exception fall into two categories: simultaneous and non-simultaneous. As its name suggests, a simultaneous trade takes place all at once. Teams can trade players together and acquire considerably more salary than they trade away in a simultaneous trade. A non-simultaneous trade may take up to a year to complete, but the team can only trade away one player, and its team salary can increase by no more than $100,000 as a result of the trade.
In short:
  • A simultaneous trade gives the team more money but less time 
  • A non-simultaneous trade gives the team more time but less money 

It is important to view a trade from each team's perspective separately, rather than as a single, unified transaction. This is because the same trade may be organized differently according to each team's needs. For example, a trade might be classified as a simultaneous trade from one team's perspective, but from the other team's perspective it's actually broken into two separate trades, one simultaneous and the other non-simultaneous (completing a trade they made months earlier). 

This is how Danny Ainge is creating additional flexibility within the confines if the salary cap on the Celtics. Here is are all of the TPEs currently sitting on the books for Boston:

While the Rondo trade did send away the teams lone All-Star, it left behind a TPE worth nearly $13M. To quote Jerry Seinfeld, That’s a big matzah ball hanging out there.

There are many more rules that apply to the TPE, but the important thing to know is this- Danny Ainge knows how to use them. So while it is Danny’s public belief that the best way to get a superstar in Boston is through the draft, there are plenty of ways to build a supporting cast around a potential superstar, and this is one of them. 

I sincerely doubt any of these are going to waste. The season might be a tough one to watch, but it’s going to be an interesting ride. It’s not even the All-Star break yet.