The Lakers were granted a $4.85 million disabled-player exception on Tuesday for injured point guard Steve Nash.
What that means for a future Lakers’ acquisition isn’t as straightforward. The exception is a spending tool that can be used to add one player via free agency or a waiver claim. The team can pay that player no more than $4.85 million. It can also use the exception to trade for one player making up to $4.95 million.
Free agents who might be worth close to $5 million include shooter Ray Allen and center Emeka Okafor, but are those players more likely to choose to join the 3-11 Lakers or a contending team? The answer seems clear to be the latter.
Teams generally need to send out a player or players to match salary to acquire a player via trade; the exception enables the Lakers to get around that complication.
If a player is on a one- or two-year contract at a minimum salary, he is eligible to be traded without any salary matching. A disabled-player exception is unnecessary in this case -- although if a player is on the third year of a three-year minimum contract, like Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, a disabled-player exception would be needed despite his $915,243 salary.
Green is also quite valuable to the Warriors. Just because a player fits within the Nash exception doesn’t mean he’s available in trade -- often the opposite.
Another example is Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, who is averaging 21.6 points a game while earning “only” $2.0 million this season. Why would the Bulls let him go?
The league may give the Lakers permission to temporarily increase their roster to 16 via a hardship exception. The Lakers have four injured players (Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly, Xavier Henry and Nash). Once Kelly returns, in roughly five weeks from a hamstring tear, the Lakers would need to return to 15 players.
The Lakers are expected to sign free-agent forward Earl Clark, possibly waiving Henry, who tore his Achilles on Monday in practice. If Henry is cut, the Lakers would no longer be eligible for the hardship exception but would still be at the maximum of 15 with Clark.
To use the disabled-player exception, the Lakers would have to open an additional roster spot.
The list of players who are mathematically attainable within the Nash disabled-player exception is relatively long:
Atlanta Hawks: DeMarre Carroll, Elton Brand, John Jenkins, Pero Antic
Brooklyn Nets: Mirza Teletovic, Andrei Kirilenko
Charlotte Hornets: Bismack Biyombo, Gary Neal, Jeffrey Taylor
Chicago Bulls: Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler
Dallas Mavericks: Greg Smith, Jae Crowder
Denver Nuggets: Darrell Arthur, Nate Robinson
Detroit Pistons: Jonas Jerebko, Joel Anthony, Luigi Datome, Kyle Singler
Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green
Houston Rockets: Patrick Beverley
Indiana Pacers: Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, C.J. Watson
Memphis Grizzlies: Kosta Koufos
Miami Heat: Norris Cole
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton
Minnesota Timberwolves: Mo Williams, Ronny Turiaf, Robbie Hummel
New Orleans Pelicans: Austin Rivers, John Salmons
New York Knicks: Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith, Iman Shumpert, Shane Larkin, Quincy Acy
Oklahoma City Thunder: Nick Collison, Reggie Jackson
Orlando Magic: Tobias Harris, Willie Green, Kyle O’Quinn
Philadelphia 76ers: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alexey Shved
Phoenix Suns: Gerald Green
Portland Trail Blazers: Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver, Will Barton
Sacramento Kings: Reggie Evans
San Antonio Spurs: Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Marco Belinelli, Cory Joseph, Jeff Ayres, Aron Baynes
Toronto Raptors: Tyler Hansbrough
Utah Jazz: Jeremy Evans
Washington Wizards: Andre Miller, Kevin Seraphin
Note that the Lakers also have a $1.5-million disabled-player exception for Julius Randle (leg). The list of players available is a subset of the aforementioned named.
Additionally, some players are not eligible to be traded until mid-December or January.