I’ve been receiving a number of questions about the Disabled Player Exception (DPE). As it continues to be a topic where I also see a lot of misinformation, I’m going to try to explicitly cover how the team could use it beyond the simple, direct methods.
The DPE can be used to sign a player for a “rest of the season” contract for up to $8.4M. Both Bill Simmons and Danny Leroux have suggested in past podcasts that the Celtics should just go ahead and do that, even if there isn’t a free agent who is worth that amount. The idea was that they could then use that player in a later trade for a better player who wouldn’t be constrained by the rules of DPE acquisitions.
The Celtics have legitimately had a “problem” for the past few seasons that they don’t have a bad, mid-sized contract to use in trades. It’s a weird problem, but if a rebuilding team wants to sell a player in trade they normally want a younger player in return and/or a draft pick. The trade price is too high if you have to include a good player like Marcus Morris or Jonas Jerebko along with those young pieces. In that way, simply creating a “bad but tradable” expiring contract does make some sense.
However, new signings aren’t eligible to be traded for three months after their contract starts (other than sign-and-trades which are not allowed during the season) so the deadline to do this and be able to trade the player on by the February deadline has passed. It was an interesting idea that’s no longer possible.
The most common question I’m getting at the moment is around a similar idea of acquiring a player via trade into the DPE specifically to re-trade them in a bigger deal later on. A player signed with the DPE can’t be traded for three months, but a player acquired via trade could be aggregated and re-traded after only two months. The trade deadline is February 8 so if the Celtics use the DPE to pick someone up by December 8 they could include them in an outgoing package.
The reason I’m getting questions about this right now is that the Memphis Grizzlies are in turmoil and people are wondering if Boston could make an offer for Marc Gasol. I don’t think that this particular move is realistic, but the general idea isn’t crazy.
The problem with Gasol is that he makes a lot of money so Boston would still need to include multiple mid-sized contracts to make a match (assuming that Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Gordon Hayward are off the table). The sequence, timing, and parts are just way more complicated to be realistic for an in-season move. Even if it were possible to pull off, Gasol doesn’t fit into the team’s budget beyond this year, unless one of the other large contracts were moved.
While Gasol seems unrealistic, trading for someone like Corey Brewer with the hope of packaging him with a second contract like Marcus Morris in February could happen. As an example, let’s say the Celtics pick up Brewer and then experience a injury in the front-court. They could maybe package Brewer and Morris to get Robin Lopez.
The path that I haven’t seen discussed is trading for a player and then re-trading them without aggregating that new player in a larger trade. There’s no waiting period to trade on a player you received in trade if they’re the only active player you send out in the swap.
This path would allow the Celtics to wait to make any move until they’re ready to execute the complete sequence of move. Imagine that Boston targets a player with multiple years remaining on their deal or who currently makes over $8.5M and so isn’t eligible for the DPE. The team could use the DPE to acquire someone like Vince Carter and then trade them on along with a draft pick to get their real target. Again, as long as Carter is the only player the team sends out in the seconds trade, there is no waiting period. Carter makes $8M so standard trade rules would allow the Celtics to receive a $13M salary (Carter + $5M) in return (or a player earning 125%+$100k of the salary out the outgoing player if it landed the Celtics over the tax, which the team will not do this year). The list of players who become eligible for acquisition in this scenario is much larger than for the DPE directly.
There’s an unlikely middle-ground here where the team could claim a player and then trade them after a one month waiting period. This would work the same way as the above scenario where you aggregate the player in a second trade after two months, but it would require an eligible player with the correct sized contract being waived before January 8. This seems unlikely, though it’s not technically impossible.
The most likely path for using the DPE is still to just make a direct trade with it near the deadline, or to hold it and use it to sign someone who gets bought out just after the trade deadline. There are creative ways to do that which I’ve covered in a previous post. That being said, it’s worth keeping these other options in mind and watching the deadline dates as they go past.
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