|Happy? You should be.|
Keith Bogans has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time. He has become throughout his NBA career the archetypal three-and-D wing role player, the kind of piece you want around star point guards or big men (or both), who’ll defend opposing stars for a few pesky minutes a night and not risk anything more offensively than taking some open threes. Yet despite not being significantly above average at either, and in no way any more of a stand-out talent in relation to the dozens of other suitable candidates for the role, Bogans’s medicority is nonetheless a sure thing, a known commodity, a risk-free contributor who’ll neither say nor do nothing confrontational. Teams like that, and, because of this, he has time and again landed starting roles, often on competitive teams. In a talent vacuum, he’s not worth this opportunity or luxury, yet by continuing to land these gigs, Bogans is doing something right.
Normally, of course, this role doesn’t earn very much. Keith has mostly been a minimum salary player throughout his career, only rarely exceeding it, and this reflect his minimal contributions. None of this is meant pejoratively – Bogans plays a role, plays it fairly well, and yet the role is small and replacable, so so is its salary.
The rebuilding Boston Celtics insisted upon Jason Terry (and, primarily, his salary) being included in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade with the Nets. Either he or Courtney Lee. Brooklyn could afford it and were prepared to pay it, but, in light of all their recent roster turnover, they didn’t have the necessarily medium-size expiring contracts that are so useful in trade scenarios that would have facilitated it. In order to provide the necessary salary to match, then, they had to sign and trade someone.
Into the breach steps Bogans, who will now earn $5,058,198 in 2013-14. The salary is fully guaranteed, as the first year of a sign-and-trade always has to be, and even though the 2014-15 ($5,285,817) and 2015-16 ($5,285,838) salaries are fully unguaranteed with no guarantee date, the huge price hike for a man who would have done well to earn the veteran’s minimum of $1,399,507 this year is noteworthily enormous. The latter two years are largely token, and are only include because sign-and-trades require a contract of either three or four years in length, yet in a further bonus, they provide Boston with a similarly huge trade chip. As Brooklyn found out, you need contracts in the $3-$6 million range that are either expiring or unguaranteed in order to maximise your trade machination possibilities. And Boston now has one. It’ll cost them a few wasted million on a player not deserving of it, but this is a small price to pay. (Sort of.)
In dealing with this website’s self-imposed mandate for overevaluating salary minutiae, it is worth noting quite how this situation has come to pass.
You can only sign-and-trade your own free agents who were on your roster on the final day of the previous season, and you can only do so with some form of Bird rights. Non-Bird rights – the rather weak version of Bird rights afforded to any player who qualifies for them by not changing teams as a free agent for one season – suffice for this purpose, as non-Bird rights are still Bird rights. (This is confusing, and is a result of a mix-up between actual CBA terms and the colloquialisms and allegories widely used in their analysis. It suffices here, however.) Yet the non-Bird exception isn’t very useful. It only allows you to re-sign a player to a new salary that begins at either 120% of the player’s previous annual salary, or 120% of the minimum, whichever is greater. And considering that Keith earned the minimum last year, he could thus only sign under the non-Bird exception for $1,399,507 / 100 * 120 = $1,679,408. Not nearly enough.
More useful are early Bird and full Bird rights. With full Bird rights, which come from not changing teams as a free agent for three seasons, you can re-sign your own free agents to a contract starting at the maximum, and with early Bird rights, which come from not changing teams as a free agent for two seasons, you can re-sign your own free agents to a contract starting at the value of that season’s Mid-Level exception.
This latter point is what enriched Keith Bogans, and what saved the Pierce/Garnett deal. Via a technicality, or two, Bogans qualified for early Bird rights.
Bogans was signed to a guaranteed remainder-of-the-season minimum salary deal on February 1st 2012, yet he suffered a season-ending injury a week later, and was waived on February 14th. As we’ve seen in previous posts, partial seasons count as full seasons for Bird clock and years-of-experience purposes, so those thirteen days nonetheless count towards a Bird clock – nevertheless, the fact that he was waived would, you’d think, reset it again.
However, it doesn’t. Not necessarily. Without signing an NBA contract with anyone else in the interim, Bogans re-signed with the Nets on July 19th 2012, and played the full season with the Nets without being waived again. He therefore was able to complete two seasons (the partial one suffices as a whole one) without changing teams as a free agent, and thus was an Early Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, and was eligible for the non-Bird exception. It is true that Early Qualifying Veteran Free Agents must not have cleared waivers in order to be so eligible for early Bird rights, yet an extra caveat is that that only needs to be true of their most recent contract. Therefore, even though he was once waived, by completing his 2012/13 contract without ever being waived, and not signing with a different team in between the two, Bogans qualified for early Bird rights. And early Bird rights were the only thing allowing him to earn MLE money in a sign-and-trade.
Only by signing Keith Bogans for five meaningless games, then, were Brooklyn able to trade for Pierce and Garnett. We needn’t lie and pretend this was the plan; it’s more a fortituous happenstance. Yet whatever brought them here, this technicality has redefined the team.
The lesson, as always – no transaction is too trivial. There are team building ramifications to everything. So never stop looking for them.