Do NBA Salary Rules Make O'Neal Un-Tradeable?

by Conrad Brunner

Thursday, September 4, 2003

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Conrad Brunner

Q. If Jermaine (O’Neal) does indeed request a trade, is that really something that could feasibly happen? He strikes me as pretty much un-tradeable at this point – a $12 million dollar player for whom Base Year Compensation rules apply? Given the logistics of the Base Year Compensation and cap rules are there any deals that could even happen given the rules that exist? (From John in Indianapolis)

A. As usual, you’ve hit upon a very good point. One of the true joys of the salary cap is the Base Year Compensation rule. It makes me long for the days of Trigonometry, which was much simpler to understand. I think it goes something like this:

If a team over the salary cap signs a player, and the first year of the new deal brings an increase of more than 20 percent from the last year of the previous contract, Base Year Compensation rules apply. O’Neal reportedly earned $6.9 million last season, and reportedly will earn $12 million this season, which is a raise of nearly 75 percent.

Teams desiring to trade a BYC player can only get back players whose salaries equal the final year of his old contract, or 50 percent of the first year of his new deal, whichever is greater. Basically, this means to trade O’Neal, the Pacers would have to find a team with enough cap space to absorb his full salary, while they could only get back a player (or players) with salary roughly equivalent to $6.9 million.

In other words, yes, he is essentially un-tradeable until July 17, 2004, when his Base Year Compensation status will expire.