Trading Nate, The Logistics

With Nate Robinson in D’Antoni’s doghouse it’s only natural for Knick fans to expect the diminutive guard to be traded. Nate is in the last year of his deal, and if he isn’t getting playing time now, then it seems unlikely that New York is going to tender him a long term deal. Additionally considering Nate’s instant offense and other tangibles, he’ll likely be courted by a few different teams. Hence it makes the most sense for the Knicks to move him this year, before they get nothing in return for their investment.

Unfortunately trades in the NBA are rarely as easy as finding a match in talent. You also have to be mindful of the salary cap & the rules that accompany it. For instance there have been rumors of the Knicks interested in Tyrus Thomas, but the teams couldn’t swap the two straight up due to the cap rules. And this is where things get interesting.

In the NBA any trade involving teams over the salary cap has to be within of 125% plus $0.1M of the contracts given up. This means if the Knicks traded someone that was making $4M, the most they could get back in contacts is $5.1M ($4M * 1.25 + $0.1M). However there is a rule in place for Base Year Compensation players (BYC) which is meant to prevent teams from signing players solely to match contracts in order to make trades. This was put in place to prevent teams from let’s say giving Morris Almond $10M to trade him with a future first for Luol Deng.

New York signed Robinson for $4M this year, but according to ESPN his BYC amount is $2.02M. This means that when calculating how much the Knicks can receive, we use $2.02M, and when calculating how much the other team can receive it uses $4M. Under the salary cap rules, a team that sends out $2.02M can only receive $2.54M in salaries, hence this makes it impossible to do a 1 for 1 BYC deal with a team over the cap.

Since the calculation is based on a percentage, the only way for a team to trade a BYC player is to include enough salaries so that the team is within the allowed threshold. Figuring out this how much requires a little bit of arithmetic. Solve for x where: $4M + X – (1.25*($2.02M+X)) = $0.1M, and X = $5.5M. So in order to trade Nate Robinson the Knicks would have to include at least $5.5M in salaries.

Knowing this makes for some interesting trade possibilities. One way to work a Nate Robinson for Tyrus Thomas trade would be to add shot-blocking bench-warming centers Darko Milicic ($7.54M) and Jerome James ($6.6M). If the Knicks wanted to shed some salary for the summer, they could include Jared Jeffries ($6.47M) and the Malik Rose trade exception ($0.9M) instead of Darko.

What if, as rumored, the Bulls want Al Harrington? Then the two could do Nate, Harrington and the Quentin Richardson exception for Thomas & Brad Miller. Too one sided for Chicago? Then perhaps the deal could be expanded to something like Thomas, Noah and Miller, for Nate, Harrington, Darko, and Jordan Hill. Although I don’t expect the Bulls to trade Noah so easily, it’s not a ridiculous deal. The Bulls plan on replacing Thomas with Taj Gibson anyway, and Al Harrington would probably eat up some of those minute and more. Between Harrington and Nate, the Bulls wouldn’t lack for scoring. They would be losing a bit at center, but Jordan Hill would give them a young option there.

In any case the Knicks and Bulls do have some options and flexibility in generating a trade. Moving Robinson is easier than moving David Lee because of the smaller salary. To trade Lee, the Knicks would have to pile on $10.1M in salary. Although you have to consider that New York isn’t likely to move Lee, given that he’s the team’s best player and leads them in minutes.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

21 thoughts to “Trading Nate, The Logistics”

  1. Nice piece, Mike.

    It’s a sure sign that sports math has become mainstream when you say “this is when things could get INTERESTING” and you launch into the nuances of the complicated salary cap rules… this was very well broken down, though… Tyrus (and, if we’re lucky, Noah) would be great for the long-term. It would be just a little sad to resign ourselves to making the rest of this year terrible.

  2. Hey Mike– I think Cuttino Mobley’s contract with N8 would work to acquire Ty Thomas and James from the Bulls. I really enjoy your video break down of the Knicks plays.

  3. Yeah, thanks from all of us Mike – very informative.
    Would something like Nate and Jeffries for Josh Howard work? Howard’s expiring right?
    I think if we’re going to trade Nate, we need to focus on shedding more salary- that means teams that won’t be in play for 2010.
    Unfortunately, the Bulls are in play for 2010, and while I’m intrigued by Thomas (I doubt they trade Noah) I think it would be better to try and shed Jeffries (since trading Eddy will be tough right now.)
    Other possible destinations?
    San Antonio?

  4. Thank you thank you thank you for:

    1. Explaining this in a way that I could follow. “Solve for X”-brilliant.
    2. Giving folks some guidelines for the “hey how about Nate to team X for players (or trade exemptions) Y.

    In other news it seems Von Wafer is close to a deal with Memphis. I’ll say this for Donnie, when he makes a mistake he sticks with it. We can make space for Wafer by chucking Landry or waiting until Mobely comes of the books some time this month correct? I mean if Donnie does move Nate, then a player like Wafer makes sense I think. Of course, the fact that is makes sense means it’s unlikely to occur.

  5. The Knicks already have space for Wafer. The only have 14 players under contract.

    Memphis can offer him more minutes and PT. They essentially have no backup for Mayo.

    Knicks already have Hughes, Chandler, and Douglas/Robinson playing SG minutes.

  6. Mike,

    Good analysis. I may be wrong, but I thought trade exceptions could not be combined with players.

    I am not particularly high on Thomas, who has shown no offensive game outside of 1 foot from the basket. He doesn’t mind launching jumpers even though he’s a bad shooter: last season he took 55% jumpers and made an eFG% of 35%, he also hit under 40% of both his close non-dunks and tips. His rebounding is nothing special, but he could be a defensive presence. The problem I see there is that D’Antoni is unlikely to play a 4 with no jumper, so unless the Knicks land Bosh this offseason Tyrus Thomas is your 5 (and if they do get Bosh he’s their 5, which might not be any better defensively).

    So, I don’t see Thomas as a long-term piece and would explore other options. The two teams with the lowest payrolls both may be interested in Robinson. OKC is a bad offensive team, 22nd in the NBA, and could give the 15 mpg they’ve been giving to the likes of Kevin Ollie and Mike Wilks to Nate. Memphis is looking to fill the void left by Iverson. OKC is 6 mill under the cap and Memphis is about 3 mill under (if they don’t sign Wafer). The Knicks could maybe get a future 1st out of one of those teams instead of renting Thomas for 1/2 a season.

  7. Thomas B.,

    Rashidi is right that the Knicks probably wouldn’t play Wafer if they signed him (unless there was an injury). I don’t know if he’s right about being able to sign him because I don’t know enough about Mobley’s status, but I would rather have Landry than Wafer. Landry’s upside is a lot higher, in my view. He looks like a good wing defender who can hit from outside and maybe finish a bit too. He seems to have his brother Carl’s intangibles and work ethic, hopefully he has his skill-level too. Wafer is somewhat useful for instant offense, but the guy doesn’t take his eye off the basket once he gets the ball. He’s a straight gunner. Unless you have a good defensive team and need some scoring punch, I wouldn’t sign him (I would sign him over Roberson).

  8. Ted Nelson,

    So a two with size and a pretty good outside shot would not get minutes on this team? Yeah that makes sense. Well then, hey there is really no reason to bring in a guy who is better than Landry—and Iverson–just to let him sit there on the bench until you need him.

    “Wafer is somewhat useful for instant offense, but the guy doesn’t take his eye off the basket once he gets the ball. He’s a straight gunner.”

    True, we don’t need two Gallanaris.

  9. I still can’t figure it out: when Larry Brown called Tyrus Thomas “the best player in the draft,” was he serious or just trying to throw Chicago off the scent because they had our 2nd pick?

  10. I’m really not sure he would play over Douglas, or should play over Nate. Both are more complete players. Both are more efficient scorers. Both can bring the ball up the court, play on the ball for stretches. Douglas is a better defender (size and all), and Nate is a better playmaker. Wafer is a one trick pony who couldn’t even get signed by an NBA team before the season. He’s had one good NBA season on a team that was an ideal fit for his skill set, and they didn’t re-sign him even though they could use some wing scoring and outside shooting (and they’ve got an open roster spot in Houston too).

    I’m really not sure he’s better than Landry or Iverson. We don’t really know what we have in Landry yet, way too small a sample size to make any judgments. He has hit more 3s in 50 minutes than Jeffries has in 436, so he at least seems to have some sort of outside shot (about 36% from 3 in college). His defense looks promising. Iverson’s splits between 3 Memphis games and 2 Philly games are just huge.

    The problem with Wafer’s approach is that Harrington, Chandler, and Douglas all take a similar head-down approach… with 3 of those guys on the floor and either Jeffries or Duhon (most nights in his case, not every night) you might as well throw the offensive game-plan out and just go back to the 7SOL crap they were pulling in that 1-9 start.
    Gallinari moves the ball very well, even if his playmaking isn’t where we thought it might be. People complain he doesn’t shoot enough and passes too quickly, not that he shoots too much. By gunner I wasn’t referring to how many shots he makes, but how many he takes. Gallinari has a TS% of .618 so far in his career, in a bit more minutes Wafer’s is .503. He was at .541 last season in Houston, which is not an improvement over what Harrington, Nate, or Douglas give you. It’s a big improvement over Chandler, but he’s a more versatile defender and is apparently D’Antoni’s brother from another mother.

    With an open roster spot I wouldn’t have minded Wafer, but I don’t think he would help that much. And if Nate is being benched so that the rest of the guys “play the right way,” then Wafer would be even further down the bench than him.

  11. Beck has a full preview of the MIT stats conference. Apparently ESPN is one of the sponsors, and they’re sending Hollinger, Stein, and Bucher, in addition to Simmons. Gah.

  12. I think you should stock as many quality players as you can.

    Well closed the loophole that permitted me to watch the games for free. Sigh. Do they still allow free radio broadcasts?

  13. call me crazy, but I can see keepin JJ on the roster..but only if we have a taker for Curry. I like JJ’s defense in spurts. Give him a good 15-20 mpg as a defensive specialist, he should do fine. But then again, he gets paid too much for that role. He’s not a great defender, but he does have the versatility to guard every position on the floor-which we sorely need. That said, is Nate enough sweetener to convince a team to take big Eddy? I know Detroit and Charlotte and maybe OKC need low post help, but they don’t need guards.

  14. The problem of putting together any deal with the Bulls is that they also want to be players in 2010 Free agency so they would only deal with ECs and they also happen to be even more thin that the Knicks right now so they can’t deal Brad Miller because they really need him (with Thomas hurt, they are actually playing Aaron Gray non-garbage time minutes) and Miller is their only large EC to help any multiple players deal.

  15. We shouldn’t count our Nates before they hatch…er, sorry.:)

    Look, this year, there will be injuries. If Duhon’s back flares, or Chandler’s ankle gets hurt or Douglas has something, Nate will be needed.
    There still is a lot of season to go.
    Also, if another team is leaking stories about wanting a deal with the Knicks, Donnie needs to check his pockets because he’ll probably find another GM’s hand in there somewhere.
    The more I look at Thomas the more trouble he seems.
    If the Knicks keep playing this well, by the trade deadline Jeffries is going to have decent value. And Nate likely will be an attrative rental for a team making a playoff run.
    The fact that the Knicks are winning could complicate making trades because the guys with value are the guys making the ‘nicks win. Trades will most certainly disrupt the team dynamic, which right now is very solid.
    But if the Knicks want to get the King next year they need to have room for two max contracts.
    Magic Johnson said to get the King they would need to make a big splash on the market first.
    Of course, if this team keeps winning quantity of wins has a quality all its own.
    Regardless, it’s a little early.
    Mike, your story was very informative…but there were some pretty big assumptions in there: that because Nate’s benched now, the Knicks want to trade him; and that he has value.
    A) I’m not sure because he’s benched the Knicks want to trade him.
    I think the Knicks are making a point to Nate about playing basketball smartly. This usually is a lesson most get in college. Nate has been a man-child for long enough. This could be the most important occurance of his career. Just because a guy can leap a VW and dunk a basketball doesn’t mean he can divorce himself from other key aspects of the sport.
    B)I am sure that because he is benched right now it hurts Nate’s trade value. Dumping him now again puts the Knicks in a position of weakness.If the Knicks truly wanted to trade Nate they wouldnt be telling the world that Nate is being outplayed by the 20-something pick from this year’s draft who himself is getting no more than 5 minutes a night right now.

    In my view, it’s too early to get rid of Nate. I have a feeling this situation is HUGE for his development. I think he could still be very effective, but he needs to play on both halves of the court. The reason the Knicks are winning is because of defense. Offense feeds off strong defense.
    I think patience right now is key.
    And we should enjoy the wins. It hasn’t happened much, and i’d like to think we need to get used to it. This streak, unlike the others we’ve seen, doesn’t feel like fluke.
    That may be wishful thinking, but these wins are being done right. They are offshoots of a stiffening defense.
    I’m writing this via blackberry because it’s raining and every computer in the house is being used ;)
    I hope it’s coherent..

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