Front-Office Insider: The stretch run

·The Vertical

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, examines the weekly thought processes of NBA teams and offers a behind-the-scenes look at the everyday grind of putting a team together.

With the trade deadline over, The Vertical looks at how teams are preparing for the rest of the season.

Get finances in order
The trade deadline illustrated that moving a player is not just about the product on the court but also a business decision.

The Cavs acquired Channing Frye but also got some tax savings. (AP)
The Cavs acquired Channing Frye but also got some tax savings. (AP)

Although some teams such as Cleveland, Orlando and Detroit might have upgraded from a talent standpoint the focus of the deadline was strictly on finances.

Miami went under the luxury tax, and Oklahoma City, Cleveland and Chicago achieved a substantial amount in tax savings. The luxury tax pool went from $147 million to $118 million in one week and left only Chicago, Golden State, the Clippers, Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio and Cleveland as tax teams.

Portland, who was in danger of not reaching the salary floor of $63 million, made trades for financial reasons and added draft picks for the future. The Trail Blazers saved nearly $9 million in one day.

March 1 waiver buyout deadline
The trade deadline is not the only time a team can improve its roster.

Teams will be paying close attention to March 1. Players who are waived after that date are not eligible to be on a team’s playoff roster.

For a team like Golden State, which did not make a trade at the deadline, adding a player without giving up an asset could help bolster an already dangerous team.

Scouting season ramps up
Since mid-November personnel departments in the NBA, D-League and on international teams have been looking for talent.

The information teams collect on prospects and current NBA players will help not only in June but also at next year’s trade deadline.

The process never stops.

Teams that did not use their tax, full or room mid-level exceptions are allowed to sign players to a pro-rated amount. Teams cannot claim a player off waivers with an exception.

Four teams, Brooklyn ($3.1 million), New Orleans ($1.7 million), Phoenix ($5.2 million) and Washington ($2.8 million) have disabled player exceptions.

The exception will expire March 10 and can only be used to sign, acquire or claim a player in the last year of his contract.

There are 10 teams currently with open roster spots.

Brooklyn, Denver, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Boston and Oklahoma City have one open spot. Miami and Cleveland have two spots open. Detroit, Charlotte, the Clippers, New York and Phoenix have players on 10-day contracts who can create an open roster spot.

Al Horford
The 29-year-old has been pegged by many teams as the best free-agent center on the open market. Although he doesn’t have the upside of Hassan Whiteside or Andre Drummond, Horford has tremendous value based on his ability to play power forward and center. A trade-deadline target by teams, Horford will have plenty of suitors in July.

Horford will have full Bird rights and Atlanta can offer the maximum salary at $25 million per year.

PF Robert Carter, Maryland
“The Georgia Tech transfer has transformed his body and is finally in shape. Weight loss has allowed Carter to become more than a one-trick pony. A legit 6-feet-9, Carter is a skilled stretch power forward. Fits the mold teams are looking for with his ability to stretch the floor. Like at Georgia Tech, Carter is still active on the boards.”

Luxury tax
Starting with the 2013-14 season, teams that were in the luxury tax paid based on a tier structure. The league introduced this tax structure when the new collective bargaining agreement was introduced in 2011. However, teams in 2011-12 and 2012-13 were only taxed on a dollar for dollar basis. The league used those two seasons as a buffer.

The tax penalties are substantial.

The tier level for setting the tax is broken down in levels.

For example, Cleveland, which is $22,137,492 over the tax, is penalized using five different tiers:

Tier 1

$0-$4.9  million

$1.50 for every $1 spent

Formula: $4,999,999 x $1.50 = $7,499,999

Tier 2

$5 million-$9.9 million

$1.75 for ever $1 spent

Formula: $4,999,999 x $1.75 = $8,749,998

Tier 3

$10 million $14.9 million

$2.50 for every $1

Formula: $4,999,999 x $2.50 = $12,499,997

Tier 4

$15 million-$19.9 million

$3.25 for every $1

Formula: $4,999,999 x $3.25 = $16,249,996

Tier 5

$20 million-$24.9 million

$3.75 for every $1

Formula: $2,137,492 x $3.75 = $8,015,595

The tax rules vary based on how many years a team lands in the tax zone. For example, Miami this year was faced with being in the repeater tax. Teams in the tax four out of five years are taxed doubled and because Miami was in the tax 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14, the Heat would have been a repeater tax team in 2015-16. Miami was able to shed salary at the deadline to get under the tax.