(AP Photo/Alonzo Adams, File)
Ryan Gomes, we hardly knew thee. The Thunder traded the seldom-used Gomes to Boston on Tuesday, basically for two conditional second-round draft picks that might not even become the Thunder’s property.
So what’s going on? Is it luxury-tax related? Groundwork for future deals? Was Russell Westbrook upset that the sharply-dressed Gomes was stealing some fashion thunder?
As usual, our man Jon Hamm brought some insight. Hamm is the Oklahoma City man who has contributed to Larry Coon’s website dedicated to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement and its myriad roster/payroll stipulations.
Here’s what Hamm wrote to me:
“I can’t predict exactly what’s going to happen with the Thunder roster, but it certainly appears as though Sam Presti is positioning the team for a significant player move.
“The word ‘significant’ tends to evoke wild imagery. To some fans, a ‘significant’ player move is when a team acquires an All-Star caliber player. And while that’s certainly a possibility, albeit a long shot, the significant move I’m referring to would be the addition of a rotation player. The trade of Ryan Gomes makes such a move much more likely.
“The intrigue begins because Oklahoma City somehow wedged itself into a trade between Boston and Memphis. Reports of that deal, Courtney Lee for Jerryd Bayless, leaked out prior to Sunday’s game between the Celtics and Thunder. Fans like me who love to absorb this kind of NBA minutia, waited with bated breath for the official announcement of the trade on Monday, but it never came.
“Late Monday night, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that the trade had expanded to include Oklahoma City. He was proven correct when the trade officially closed on Tuesday, a larger deal that saw Ryan Gomes acquired (and subsequently waived) by the Celtics. The Thunder received a pair of second-round draft picks, but one is protected in such a way that Oklahoma City will likely never receive it. Details on the other selection haven’t leaked out yet, but it’s possible that it will be heavily protected as well.
“The trade was never about the Thunder securing phantom draft picks. It also wasn’t necessarily about saving money; or to be more specific, actual money. Gomes was playing on a partially guaranteed contract that was set to become guaranteed for the rest of the season on Jan. 10 (however, he had to be waived at least 48 hours prior to that date to prevent the guarantee from kicking in). His contract was for the veteran minimum, which for him is $1,186,459 based on his years of service in the league. However, the league picks up a portion of these minimum salary deals, so the Thunder’s obligation would have only been $884,293 had they kept him past the Jan. 10 deadline.
“Gomes had earned approximately $360,000 from the Thunder so far this season, if my math is anywhere close to accurate. For whatever reason, the Thunder decided to move in a direction that didn’t include Gomes. If the Thunder simply wanted to stop paying him, they could have just waived him. The amount paid to him would have counted towards their team salary totals.
“But the NBA allows for some fun accounting tricks. In trading Gomes to Boston and taking back no salary in return, the Thunder wiped Gomes’ salary off their books completely. Even though the Thunder has paid Gomes’ salary all season long, that salary cap hit is now moved off of Oklahoma City’s books and onto Boston’s. And though Boston released Gomes and won’t pay him a dime this season, his ‘cap hit’ is now property of the Celtics. It’s as though these rules were written by former Enron executives and approved by Arthur Andersen.
“Prior to the trade, Oklahoma City was roughly $1.4 million under the luxury tax line (this number assumed a full guaranteed salary for Gomes). After the trade, that number is now around $2.3 million. Oklahoma City also now has two open roster spots. It’s quite possible that all of this potential excitement will result in a few boring 10-day contracts. Or the Thunder could be moving chess pieces around in order to acquire a rotation player. Stay tuned.”