As the NBA’s 2022/23 trade deadline approaches, it’s worth keeping in mind which teams hold traded player exceptions that could come in handy to grease the wheels on an in-season deal.
As we explain in our glossary, a traded player exception allows a team to take on salary in a trade without sending out any salary in return. The amount of the exception plus $100K is the amount of salary the team is permitted to take back without salary-matching – either in a single deal or in multiple trades – for one year.
For instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception could acquire a player earning $4MM and a player earning $6.1MM without having to worry about sending out any outgoing salary.
In recent years, sizable traded player exceptions have been major wild cards that helped accommodate both pre-deadline and offseason deals. For example, after creating a $28.6MM trade exception in a sign-and-trade sending Gordon Hayward to Charlotte in 2020, the Celtics used that TPE to acquire Evan Fournier at the following deadline and then to acquire Josh Richardson during the 2021 offseason.
However, as our tracker shows, there are currently no trade exceptions worth anywhere near $28MM. In fact, the largest current TPE barely eclipses the $10MM mark.
Here are the all of the current trade exceptions worth more than $4MM, along with their expiry dates in parentheses:
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $10,183,800 (10/2/23)
- Utah Jazz: $9,774,884 (2/9/23)
- Los Angeles Clippers: $9,720,900 (2/10/23)
- Utah Jazz: $9,614,379 (7/6/23)
- Denver Nuggets: $9,125,000 (7/6/23)
- Boston Celtics: $6,907,815 (1/19/23)
- Utah Jazz: $6,745,122 (9/22/23)
- Portland Trail Blazers: $6,519,792 (2/6/23)
- Boston Celtics: $5,890,000 (2/10/23)
- Toronto Raptors: $5,250,000 (2/10/23)
- Washington Wizards: $5,220,900 (2/10/23)
- Atlanta Hawks: $4,564,980 (9/27/23)
- Minnesota Timberwolves: $4,374,000 (7/6/23)
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $4,220,057 (10/2/23)
- Sacramento Kings: $4,023,600 (2/8/23)
These trade exceptions aren’t useless. For instance, if Detroit made point guard Cory Joseph available, any of the top 11 TPEs on this list could be used to absorb Joseph’s $5,155,500 salary. The non-Utah TPEs in the top eight could be used to acquire Rudy Gay and his $6,184,500 cap hit from the Jazz. All 15 of them are big enough to take on the $3.5MM salary of Thunder big man Mike Muscala.
But these exceptions will ultimately be of no consequence when considering trade candidates who earn salaries well into the eight figures, since TPEs can’t be combined with other players or exceptions. There’s no scenario in which any of these trade exceptions could be used to take on the $18MM salary of Pacers center Myles Turner, for example.
That’s not the only factor working against the odds of most of these exceptions being used. All of the top 10 largest TPEs are controlled by teams that are rebuilding (the Thunder and Jazz), teams in the tax (the Clippers, Nuggets, and Celtics), or teams that are just below the tax line and likely want to stay that way (the Trail Blazers and Raptors). In other words, they don’t fit the profile of clubs that are looking to take on additional salary without sending any out.
That doesn’t mean that none of these trade exceptions will be used — after all, it sometimes makes sense to take advantage of them even in a deal that a team could complete using salary matching (for instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception that swaps one $8MM player for another could use the exception to take on the incoming player and create a new $8MM exception using the outgoing player). However, it does mean that it’s unlikely any TPEs will be game-changers on this season’s trade market.