Quick, we have no time to waste. To Microsoft Excel!
This obviously does not work. Amounts listed for Aminu, Smith, Roberts, Miller, and Morrow are cap holds. The salary cap is projected to be $63.2M.
Trying Cap Space
Nope, still does not work. The Pelicans end up above the projected salary cap even if they renounce every free agent (Aminu, Miller, Morrow, Roberts, Smith) and waive every non-guaranteed contract (Babbitt, Ely, Withey). For a quick refresher, I recommend reading Question 83 at the NBA CBA FAQ run by Larry Coon.
A simultaneous trade takes place all at once. The amount of salary a team can take back in a simultaneous trade depends on the outgoing salary and whether the team is a taxpayer.1 They always use the post-trade team salary when looking at whether a team is a taxpayer, so a team under the tax level would be considered a taxpayer if the trade takes them over the tax level.
For non-taxpaying teams (again, they must be under the tax level after the trade), the salaries that can be acquired depend on the total salaries the team is trading away:
In order to absorb Asik's contract in an even trade the Pelicans must send out $5,516,430 in salaries. Jump back up to the first table and let's see some possibilities.
Eric Gordon - Sending Gordon to a team with a ton of cap space works, but why would a team do that? Pelicans probably have to send another pick to make that happen. I do not see this as a viable option, but Dell Demps surprising people on draft night is kind of his thing.
Ryan Anderson - Makes a lot of sense dollars wise. I would be sad.
Austin Rivers + Melvin Ely + Alexis Ajinca + Luke Babbitt - That is a lot of depth to give up. The team receiving this four players would only be on the hook for $3,420,924 despite receiving $5,817,557 in salaries as Ely and Babbitt's contracts are not guaranteed.
Anderson is going to fetch the best return, and he may even return a first round pick.
I want to run it way back to last summer to explain my thought process here. Remember when the Pelicans were in the running for Greg Oden? This long quote is from Bourbon Street Shots excellent interview with Larry Coon.
Skip this if you don’t care about the Cap stuff. Special thanks to the one and only Larry Coon for contributing to the following section. Anything correct is Larry’s; anything wrong is Jason’s.
As it turns out, NBA teams are not constrained by space or time in making deals happen. They are constrained only by money, the CBA, creativity, and the willingness of the parties involved. While the team appears over the cap, and appeared so when they signed Greg Stiemsma to a contract that looks suspiciously Room Mid-Level Exception. In fact, it appeared as if the Pelicans had consumed the Room Mid-Level Exception.
This, however, is not the case.
NBA teams have the ability to arrange their transactions in any consistent and CBA-legal order.
Applied here, it seems the Pelicans can consider the Tyreke Evans trade to have occurred after any free agent signings this offseason, should it prove advantageous. In this case, it does. Because the Evans trade brought back so much more money than was sent out, it eats up the much available cap room if it occurs just after the Holiday trade (which has to occur using space because of the unbalanced salary) in transaction order. By sliding it until later, other moves can be considered to happen with Harris, Lopez, and Vasquez on the books instead of Evans.
Now, I have asked Larry about this and am awaiting a response. Focus on the bold statement. Off-season moves can be arranged and submitted to the league office in any consistent and CBA-legal order. The Pelicans are going to agree to another trade, we know this because they cannot do the Omer Asik trade into cap space.
If they could trade Austin Rivers for no returning salary it works to trade Asik into cap space. Why not find a taker of Ajinca's salary as well? It is a pittance in NBA terms, especially for a big man who showed some promise last season. That trade will bring back little or no salary (think a stashed player or a draft pick, likely in the second round).
For the purposes of the Pelicans they will not submit two separate trades, they will submit one three team trade. That the other teams (whoever trades for a Pelican, the Rockets) submit those trades as two team trades is of no consequence (again, awaiting more official word from the expert on this). Doing so allows the Pelicans to conduct an "even" trade, maintain bird rights to all players they so desire (Jason Smith if Anderson is outgoing, please), and utilize the Mid Level Exception and Bi-Annual Exception.
The other option is the team stripping it to the very bone, and that could be incredibly dangerous. I tend to believe that a lot of the negativity directed toward this trade is not just that the Pelicans traded another draft pick. In order to do this the most savvy capologists out there realize New Orleans may have to sacrifice a great deal of depth. The cost of doing so might be extreme.