Current Trade Kickers
June 11th, 2010

Trade kickers are a salary mechanism that increase a player’s salary when they are traded. They are both important and difficult to accommodate when formulating trade scenarios, and thus it’s useful for them to be known. Kickers – technically known as trade bonuses, but colloquially as kickers, which we’ll stick with here – can only be bothersome to teams and emphatically benefit a player. As such, they’re far from commonplace. But there’s enough of them out there, and it helps to know about them.

Contrary to some belief, trade kickers can not be waived. Not recreationally, at least. A player cannot waive a trade kicker just to make their contract look more desirable. Only in one specific circumstance can a trade kicker (or part of one) be waived; when a player has to waive some money to make a particular trade connotation meet the rules of trade finances. This rarely happens, because it obviously requires the player’s permission, although it did happen just this year after Devin Brown vetoed a trade to Minnesota when he refused to waive his. Doesn’t happen much, though.

There follows a list of all current NBA contracts that feature trade kickers, along with the value of them. Note that trade kickers have no expiry date other than the expiration of the contract itself, and that having a percentage listed means that’s the percentage of their remaining salary that they will additionally get with the bonus.

Carmelo Anthony (lesser of 5% or $1 million)
Ron Artest (15%)
Andrea Bargnani (5%)
Charlie Bell (15%)
Shannon Brown (15%)
Kobe Bryant (10%)
Jose Calderon (10%)
Eddy Curry (greater of 15% or $5 million)
Sam Dalembert (15%)
Tim Duncan (15%)
Jeff Foster (lesser of 15% or $1 million)
Pau Gasol (15%)
Manu Ginobili (5%)
LeBron James (15%)
James Jones (15%)
Chris Kaman (lesser of 15% or $4 million)
Shawn Marion (15%)
Roger Mason Jr (lesser of 15% or $375,000, but is expiring anyway)
Antonio McDyess (10%)
Yao Ming (15%)
Chris Paul (15%)
Morris Peterson (7.5%)
Paul Pierce (8%)
James Posey (10%)
Joel Przybilla (15%)
Brandon Roy (lesser of 15% or $4 million)
Josh Smith (15%)
Peja Stojakovic (10%)
Amar’e Stoudemire (15%)
Hedo Turkoglu (15%)
Anderson Varejao (5%)
Dwayne Wade (15%)
Rasheed Wallace (15%)
Luke Walton (7.5%)

You only get one trade kicker per contract; that is to say, if you sign a contract with a trade kicker in it, the trade kicker is only applied to the first trade that contract is in and not to any subsequent contracts. (The exception is with sign and trades, where the first trade – the sign and trade – is ignored, and the trade kicker is applied to the next subsequent trade. This is why Peja is listed above.)

Because of that, there are a good many players whose current contracts featured trade kickers that have already been invoked. Here they are now, along with the value of their kicker. Note: only currently-being-paid contracts are listed, and the player doesn’t necessarily have to be on an NBA roster any more.

Tony Battie (10%)
Mark Blount (15%)
Bruce Bowen (lesser of 15% or $300,000)
Devin Brown (10%)
Greg Buckner (5%)
Kevin Garnett (15%)
Drew Gooden (5%)
Eddie House (7.5%)
Steven Hunter (7.5%)
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (15%)
Mike James (5%)
Jared Jeffries (15%)
Amir Johnson (15%)
Mikki Moore (12.5%)
Shaquille O’Neal (15%)
Quentin Richardson (7.5%)
John Salmons (15%)
Bobby Simmons (10%)
Etan Thomas (15%)
Damien Wilkins (10%, only up to $1.2 mil)

All but three of the players in that second list are either out of the league, or expiring this summer. Of the three, Salmons and Jeffries both have ETO’s, and Garnett is the rare example of the traded star. A common theme amongst players with trade kickers is that they’re either very good players, or badly paid. And the trade kicker is often part of the reason why they are badly paid.

I wrote an example of how trade kickers were calculated in this post from last offseason. For fun, though, here’s a second example.

Not contented with how big Hedo Turkoglu’s contract already was, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo decided to make it bigger by adding a 15% trade kicker. Turk was already being overpaid for a man on the wrong side of 30 with rather average talent; however, after getting his $52.8 million contract, Hedo then put up a poor first season with the Raptors and made it worse. To compound the fail, he and the team have fallen out over Hedo’s (allegedly) overactive night life – things are so divisive at the moment that Turkoglu went home to Turkey in a sulk and stated that he wasn’t going to return to the team. The pair now have a choice; either

a) hugging the thing out, or
b) accommodating Hedo’s trade request.

(b) is going to be damn near impossible, though, and the trade kicker is partly why. Without the trade kicker, Turkoglu has four years and $43.8 million remaining on his contract, but with it that amount rises to $50,370,000, an average of over $12.5 million a season. This for a man with a below-average PER, only one and a bit good seasons in his career, and a 32nd birthday card already in the post.

Hedo’s remaining contract currently looks like this:

2010/11: $9,800,000
2011/12: $10,600,000
2012/13: $11,400,000
2013/14: $12,000,000 (Early Termination Option year)

Normally, salary owed to players in option years is not included in the definition of “remaining salary.” This means that the percentage of remaining salary (which is what a trade kicker is normally dependent upon, as seen above) normally does not include the salary found in option years. However, ETO years are counted, and therefore all of the $43.8 million left on Turkoglu’s contract is classified as “remaining.” 15% of $43.8 million is $6.57 million, and so that is the size of Hedo’s trade kicker.

The cap hit of the trade kicker is divided equally between non-option years of the contract. There are three such years in Hedo’s contract, so each year gets $2.19 million added to it. If traded, therefore, Hedo’s contract will look like this:

2010/11: $11,990,000
2011/12: $12,790,000
2012/13: $13,590,000
2013/14: $12,000,000 (ETO)

The trade kicker would thus turn Turkoglu’s contract from being one of the worst in the league, to almost certainly the worst. (Elton Brand’s is a year shorter, which is not insignificant.) It’s going to be hard enough to find a taker Hedo, with his advancing age, increasing salary and decreasing play. The trade kicker only makes things worse.

So maybe they should just hug it out.

Posted by at 8:56 PM