Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 11/30/11

Remember back a long time ago, before all this lockout hoopla when we used to discuss things like the Cleveland Cavaliers’ $14.5 million trade exception they earned in the LeBron James trade?

I know, it’s hard to remember that far back, but it’s time to start thinking trade exception again. I know what you’re thinking, “Didn’t that trade exception expire when the lockout started?”. The answer is, not necessarily.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Brian Windhorst tweeted the following:

Not finalized,but NBA execs expecting to get lost time back on trade exceptions that expired in lockout.Biggest is Cavs $14.5M (9 days left)

This is not a certainty yet, but several other NBA writers have since tweeted that their sources confirm the same thing, that the NBA most likely will honor the remaining time on trade exceptions by giving teams a grace period.

As you may or may not remember, I was staunchly opposed to the Cavaliers ever using the trade exception. I always felt that the timing wasn’t right for them to be using it. The Cavaliers are not a good basketball team (understatement), and it makes no sense to acquire the type of overpaid high-price talent that would be available with the exception. My preference has always been and still is to see the Cavaliers shed existing high priced contracts while rebuilding through the draft. Then, in a couple years, the time will be right to take on more money.

However, there’s a caveat now. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement gives the Cavaliers an amnesty clause which allows them to shed one contract for free (well, not free to Dan Gilbert, but free to the cap hit). This changes things a little bit.

Now, the Cavaliers have options. With the stricter luxury tax penalties, the Cavaliers might be able to find some teams willing to trade players they otherwise wouldn’t even consider. The Cavaliers can use their amnesty clause on either Baron Davis’s $13.9 million contract or Antawn Jamison’s $15.076 million contract to negate the price of acquiring a player with the trade exception.

It’s hard to say yet if such a player exists, but if the Cavaliers can find a player that is young and not overpaid, but just stuck in a situation where his team needs to cut some salary, the Cavaliers might be able to find a way to get something done that could help the team in the years to come.

Again, though, I want to reiterate that if the Cavaliers are just looking to acquire an Andre Iguodala type player with the exception, I don’t think they should do it. It’s not worth overpaying to bring in a player who is good, but not good enough to lift the team out of mediocrity.

The chances of the Cavaliers using the trade exception remain slim. The fact of the matter is that teams aren’t going to just hand over their best players to Cleveland for nothing. They are going to try to acquire either high draft picks or young talent to replace the higher salary guys they are looking to unload. And a rebuilding team like the Cavaliers better not be trading away first round picks unless it’s for a sure fire impact player.

As for the amnesty clause, there’s been some discussion as to whether the Cavs should use it on Baron Davis or not. That’s a tough one. It might make more sense to use it on Jamison due to his higher salary and the fact that he will be harder to trade. Furthermore, there might still be value in letting Kyrie Irving learn from the veteran Davis.

Also, from a purely selfish point of view, the Cavaliers were infinitely more fun to watch with Baron Davis than without him last year. The hope is that Kyrie Irving will step right in and make an immediate impact and render Davis less useful, but there’s no harm in waiting. Unless a trade exception opportunity pops up in which they need to shed the money immediately, I don’t think there’s any reason for the Cavaliers to use their amnesty provision before the season starts.

Either way, it sure is a lot more fun to talk about actual basketball issues again, isn’t it?

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