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Brace Yourself for a Tough Week

I guess that big post-vacation post is just going to have to wait.  I started it a couple of times today, but I can't seem to finish it.  In the meantime, let's see if we can make any more sense out of the activity of the day.

The Cheikh Samb deal may be a little different than we first thought.  Let's look at the first line of the Clippers press release again:

The Los Angeles Clippers today acquired center Cheikh Samb and cash considerations from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for a future conditional second draft pick.

(The emphasis above is added.)  Bear in mind, we've been down this road before with the Nuggets.  The last time we traded with them for a 'future conditional second round pick' we got a guy named Marcus Camby.  Remember that Denver is luxury tax averse in the extreme.  Even with the Camby fire sale, shedding some salary in the Iverson deal, and then buying out Antonio McDyess, HoopsHype had the Nuggets at $71.792M with Samb.  Guess what the luxury tax threshold is.  Now guess how much Samb makes.  HoopsHype's numbers may not be exact on all of this, but it would appear that the Nuggets may have just squeaked under the estimated $71.15M threshold by dealing Samb's slightly less than $800K to the Clippers.  They had to PAY the Clippers to do it, and I suspect the future conditional pick is very future and wildly conditional - i.e. it ain't happening.  The Clippers picked up a project center for free - they may have even made money in the deal, as the 'cash considerations' should at least cover their expense unless I miss my guess.

If you're wondering why Denver would do it, remember that the luxury tax threshold is a double whammy.  First of all, there is the dollar-for-dollar tax - so Samb's salary is essentially double to them, given how close they are playing this.  Still, no big deal - $1.6M in a $72M investment, and they're paying something to make him go away.  But don't forget that the teams UNDER the luxury tax get distributions from the teams OVER the luxury tax.  My back of the envelope math gives me close to $100M in luxury taxes from the likes of the Knicks, Mavs, Lakers, Blazers, and the other teams (about 10 in all) unlikely to get under that bar.  So if indeed Samb is the magic salary that gets Denver to tax-free-ville, it's actually worth about $6.6M to them to get rid of him (double his salary, and another $5M in distributions).  (John R, do I have this all more or less right?)  Looked at in that light, who knows how much those 'cash considerations' were?  The NBA maximum for cash included in a deal is $3M.  The Nuggets could have sent $3M to the Clippers and still saved a bunch overall.

Of course, that doesn't do us, the Citizens of Clips Nation, any good, unless Donald is going to lower ticket prices and/or throw us a big party with the money he's saving - and I'm not expecting either of those things.  But the deal is less mysterious if it was about making money.  Do I have a preference of Paul Davis versus Cheik Samb?  Meh.

UPDATE:  The Pest was all over this angle last night, before I wrote this post.  I should have checked there first - not sure why I didn't.  At any rate, I was guessing that the future second round pick was " very future and wildly conditional."  Indeed, Ramona has the details - 2015, 1 through 55 protected.  Which means, if the Clippers finish with one of the five best records in the NBA 6 seasons from now, they'll lose a guy who would most likely end up never signing an NBA contract.  And if they don't finish with one of the best five records that season, they lose nothing.  She also has the details on the cash considerations - $420K, the rest of his salary this season.  So as I suspected, the deal was essentially free to the Clippers - and quite a money saver for the Nuggets in the end.

For what it's worth, Samb would seem to be a shot-blocking machine.  He led the Spanish league in blocked shots for two seasons, then led the D-League last season with Fort Wayne (go Mad Ants!) with 3.8 per game, and was averaging the same amount this season for Colorado (go 14ers!).  But he looks like a project with a capital P.  He's now 24, and has played in a whopping 10 NBA games since being drafted in 2006.  If anyone thinks this move was about getting someone who can contribute more now than DJ or Davis3, forget it.  Denver is VERY thin in their front court after letting Camby and Najera go - but they didn't manage to find any minutes for the guy. 

In the end, I suspect that all of the machinations of this Jan. 5 are just so much small-ball.  Jones' contract was unguaranteed, he's hurt, it's easier to waive him and save some money and sign an actual point guard given the current issues.  Likewise for Davis3 - he just got dinged up at the wrong time, and let's face it, he wasn't exactly lighting it up out there.  (Though it is strange that the guy got waived less than a week after he scored his career-high against the Kings.)  There are two significant dates from the Collective Bargaining Agreement  you have to remember in all of this - Jan. 5 is the date that teams can first sign players to super cheap and flexible 10-day contracts, and Jan. 10 is the date that unguaranteed contracts become guaranteed for the season (the Pest had this as Jan. 7 in her blog entry today, but the Salary Cap FAQ has it as the 10th, and I'm sticking with that). 

I will admit that I'm disillusioned in the extreme with the uninspiring list of point guards that the Pest has been bandying about.  A couple of weeks ago, the Suns had a beauty contest for a backup point guard, eventually won by Dee Brown.  The list Ramona is giving us is literally all the other participants (one assumes Troy Hudson was at least Miss Congeniality.)  Eddie Gill?  Really?  Why not Rick Brunson?  And speaking of former Clippers, where is Jeff McInnis these days? I don't know much about Walker Russell, but I find it hard to believe that Damon Stoudamire is imagining his return to the NBA as a Clipper.

Can we put out an APB for Jared Jordan?  Could we not bring back our erstwhile second rounder, now that we are in desperate need of point guard help?

But rest assured, some new point guard is going to be in a Clippers uniform in Dallas tomorrow night (not that you'll see him unless you have League Pass - no local TV on this one).  And I assume that Samb will be there as well, given that the team may need him to reach the mandated minimum of 8 players in uniform.

And with road games in Dallas, San Antonio and New Orleans, Kaman and Randolph not even planning to make the trip and Baron Davis out as well, it would take a minor miracle for the team to avoid a 10 game losing streak.  The only good news is that the following week is a pretty light schedule, meaning that the streak may only reach a dozen before some help arrives.

And no, I don't view Cheikh Samb or Troy Hudson as the cavalry.