What Happens When an NBA Player Gets Traded? One of the things that makes the NBA a unique league compared to the others is the player trades and more specifically the way the trades are being conducted.
One of the key goals for every NBA player is to sign a long-term deal with a team that will bring him some level of security, will take some pressure off their shoulders, and allow them to focus on basketball.
But with the way the NBA does and handles trades, the players should always be ready for a move, a move that will not only affect their basketball career but their lives and the lives of their families as well.
When an NBA player gets traded, he gets a call from his agent or a member of the team’s front office staff. The player is informed where he will be sent and has to travel down to that new city and establish a life there. He may also have to complete a physical examination in order for the deal to finalize. In most cases, the player doesn’t get any input or prior warning as to the trade happening.
Before we move on to see how certain players have lived through it from their personal experiences, let’s see what are the league’s rules regarding trades.
NBA TRADING RULES
Each season, teams may trade or sell to one another player contracts, draft rights to a player, or draft choices. The league’s Constitution and By-Laws prohibit any team from using loaned players, like international soccer. While all trades must comply with the CBA, many of the procedures associated with trades are determined by the league’s Constitution and By-Laws, not the CBA.
TIMING AND PROCEDURES
Teams can make trades between the start of the regular season up to the NBA’s trade deadline which is set for 3 pm ET on the seventeenth Thursday of the season.
For teams that do not make the playoffs, they can start making trades again on the day after their last regular-season game. Playoff teams can start making trades once they’re eliminated from the playoffs. However, no trades can take place during the moratorium period.
To finalize a trade, teams have to participate in a trade call with the league where they confirm the trade’s details. Teams must disclose all relevant information they have about a player during this call which involves much more than basketball stuff. That’s why the New York Knicks disclosed the sexual assault allegations surrounding Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks during their trade call. If they had not disclosed this information, the league could have rescinded the trade, fined the Knicks up to $1 million, taken away future draft picks, or a combination of these punishments.
A team may sign a contract with its own player and simultaneously trade that player. These sign-and-trade transactions are generally subject to the following rules:
For a veteran free agent, a sign-and-trade is allowed if (i) the player to be signed and traded finished the prior season on his prior team’s roster, (ii) the contract covers between 3 or 4 seasons, (iii) the contract is not signed using the non-taxpayer mid-level salary exception or the taxpayer mid-level salary exception, (iv) the first year of the contract includes 100% compensation protection, (v) the contract is signed before the first day of the regular season, (vi) for any “5th Year Eligible Player” that met the max performance-based criteria and (vii) the team acquiring the player has room for the traded player’s salary.
Once a team trades a player, it cannot reacquire that player during the same season. If the team trades a player between seasons, it cannot reacquire that player until the end of the next season. The only exceptions to these rules are if the player is waived and no other team claims the player.
“Bird” & “Early Bird”
A player on a one-year contract (excluding any option year) that will be a qualifying veteran free agent (i.e., a “Bird” rights player) or an early qualifying veteran free agent (i.e., an “Early Bird” rights player) at the end of the contract can only be traded with the player’s consent. If the player consents to the trade, he loses his “Bird” or “Early Bird” rights.
For example, in 2018-19, the Golden State Warriors could not trade Kevin Durant without his consent, given that he was on a one-year deal (with a player option for the second year) and was a “Bird” rights player at the end of the season.
For a consent example, we should look back in the 2018-19 season. Wayne Ellington consented to the Miami Heat trading him to the Phoenix Suns. While this meant Ellington lost his “Bird” rights, he consented to the trade so that the Suns would waive him and he could join a contender. Once waived, Ellington signed with the Detroit Pistons on a rest-of-season contract for just under $2.4 million, with the Pistons using the remaining balance of the non-taxpayer mid-level salary exception to close the deal. The Pistons then made the playoffs.
A NEW CONTRACT
Any draft rookie, whether drafted in the first or second round, that signs a standard NBA contract and any player that signs a two-way contract may not be traded for 30 days after they sign.
Any free agent playing on a standard NBA contract may not be traded until the later of 3 months after they sign or December 15.
If the signing of a new contract with a “Bird” or “Early Bird” free agent causes a team’s team salary to exceed the salary cap and the player’s first-year salary in that new contract is more than 120% above the player’s salary in the prior season, then the player may not be traded until the later of 3 months after they sign or January 15.
With one exception, no contracts can prohibit or limit a team’s right to trade the player to another team. The only players who can prohibit or limit their team’s trade rights are those players (1) with 8 years of service and (2) who have already played for 4 or more years with the team that has agreed to the trade prohibition or limitation.
So, with everything about the NBA rules on trades explained in detail, let’s see how it actually works. Players are often stunned when being traded as they have moved to another city in a day and start over their career and life in general in a new team and city.
The status of the players does not play a major role when it comes to trades as some of the best players in the league have experienced unexpected moves.
Kyle Korver, a 16-year veteran who himself has been traded 4 times during his career, recalls when he realized this part of professional basketball for the first time. It was 2006, his fourth season in the league with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“The first trade that really opened my eyes to all of this is when Allen Iverson got traded from Philly,” Korver said. “He was such a big part of my early career, giving me advice and building me up; [and me] seeing how he was a Philly icon, an NBA icon.”
The 76ers moved Iverson, then a four-time NBA scoring champion, on Dec. 20, 2006, to the Denver Nuggets for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and a pair of 2007 first-round picks. The transaction served notice to Korver that nobody’s safe.
“If he can get traded, then we can all get traded,” Korver explained. “That was kind of the first moment that was tough for me. This is my 17th year, and I’ve been through a lot of trades, and I’ve had coaches fired mid-season. I’ve had a GM taken out. It’s all part of the business, unfortunately. It’s a beautiful game and a beautiful job in a lot of ways. I don’t think GMs and teams purposely look at you as just a name on a piece of paper.
Nikola Mirotic is one of many players who felt the NBA business on his own back as he was tarded from New Orleans to Milwaukee in the middle of the season.
“It was my family. Maybe if I was living alone, it’d be easier,” Mirotic said. “You grab the basic stuff and you move on. But I’m a married guy. My wife is pregnant. We have a son, 4 years old. It’s our life and we all have to move.”
It meant getting special permission from his wife’s doctor in New Orleans for her to travel. It meant finding a new doctor in Milwaukee, a new hospital, a new doula, a new birth plan.
“Everything changed,” Mirotic said.
For European-born players such as Mirotic, who is from Montenegro, the entire concept of trade is foreign.
“We’re not used to that,” he said. “In Europe, there are no trades. … When you sign a contract with someone, it’s final. There’s no way they can move you. It’s a contract.”
Teams on the receiving end of a deal are obligated under the league’s collective bargaining agreement to cover a range of costs for newly acquired players, such as moving expenses. Players can stay in a hotel, no worse than the five-star variety teams stay at, for up to 46 days with the team footing the bill. The Clippers’ temporary digs are a posh Marina Del Rey hotel.
Among other expenses covered by the CBA, players can be reimbursed for either rent or mortgage expenses in a new city for up to three months after the date of the trade, up to $4,500 a month.
“The team helps,” Mirotic said. “Milwaukee has been really great for us, helping us do anything — moving company, they send us a flight, they pay for our hotel in a big suite. Basically, they do everything to make sure you can be focused on playing basketball.
NBA journeyman and a three-time Sixth Man of The Year Award winner Jamal Crawford recalls the time when he was dealt from New York to Golden State.
“I was shocked more than anything, to be honest with you, because I hadn’t heard anything about a trade. I’m averaging 20 points, so it’s not even something I was thinking about. I was thinking, ‘Oh man, this is fun. Everything is going great. It’s cool.’ I’m wondering, ‘What if Zach and I can make an All-Star team for the first time?’ Then, I’m traded,” says Crawford.
“It caught me off guard more than anything. I remember the day after it happened, I was almost in a state of shock. Like, did this really happen? Is this real? It was almost like it was a dream or not real. The shock was the biggest thing I remember and something that’s hard to explain. It’s very difficult. It’s like going to a new school, so to speak. You have new ‘classmates’ you have to meet and so many new things that you have to learn. When you go to a new team, you’re in a new city, in a new system and, while you get to know other players somewhat just from playing in the league for years, you’re adjusting to them as your new teammates. It’s really different.”
Jared Dudley who is the current assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks has a funny story as well.
“I would say this: 90 percent of the rumors on social media don’t happen. It’s the ones that are super quiet, that’s when your agent says, “Here it is.” So, I’m at the Clippers’ practice facility. And no one tells me I’m traded. And you find out through social media, through Twitter, in the locker room,” says Dudley.
“I wasn’t even trying to check for it. I just see my timeline blow up. And it’s just like, man, I’m right here. Why wouldn’t anyone say anything? You grab your phone, and you see it. Boom. After that, I look at it, and I call my agent. “Yeah, Jared, it went through.” Boom, boom, it happens. I showered, left the practice facility, and then the Clippers call me — listen, you don’t have to call me at that point,” recalls Dudley when he was dealt from the LA Clippers to Milwaukee in August 2014.