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Trading Lance Stephenson

Could the Grizzlies find a taker for Lance Stephenson?

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

One offshoot of the massive amount of cap space flooding into the lead is that almost every trade exception in the league is about to be vaporized. Trade exceptions are the NBA's accounting method when teams send more salary to another team than they take in.

Trade exceptions are valuable because you can use them to trade for a player without sending back salary to the other team, provided the player you trade for can fit inside the trade exception by himself.

The downside of a trade exception is that once a team uses cap space, they lose the trade exception, and that will be the case for probably 26 or so teams.

One notable exception is the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have the only significant trade exception in the league, and they have so much salary on the books that they will still be well over the salary cap after re-signing Lebron James. They do retain a $9,638,554 trade exception for dumping Anderson Varejao for nothing, so for one year after that trade (February, 18th 2017) they can take back at least that much in salary without sending any out in return.

The value to this is you never know what player could come available in a few months, or near the trade deadline. The main issue, however, is that there are very few players a team would consider trading who are also good enough to help the Cavs and who will also fit in their trade exception.

You know who fits in that trade exception? Lance Stephenson.

I don't think that Lance can help the Cavs. I don't think there are many teams who would sacrifice $9.4mm in cap space before free agency begins. But Lance's contract is a team option and if the Cavs were to trade for him in the next few days (Lance's team option must be decided on by the end of this month), they could trade him to a team who would then decline his option.

That could be why the Grizzlies have not made a decision on it yet. They're looking for a taker.

Why would the Cavs do this? For the same reason the Grizzlies did it last year.

The Grizzlies wanted Matt Barnes, but they had no means to acquire him. They had a small trade exception from the Jeff Green trade, but it fell about a million shy of Barnes' salary.

So instead, the Grizzlies used their exception to trade for Luke Ridnour. Even though Ridnour made about $1mm less than the trade exception, you don't have to match salary exactly when trading players, so Ridnour's contract allowed Memphis to trade for Matt Barnes.

Using the same principle, using their trade exception to absorb Lance Stephenson would allow Cleveland to trade for a player who makes 125% plus $100,000 of Stephenson's contract, or $11,350,000.

Players like Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Monta Ellis, Danny Green make too much to absorb into the trade exception, but suddenly become available if Cleveland had Lance Stephenson, but the guy who would be perfect for Cleveland is Wilson Chandler.

What could Memphis get for facilitating this type of move? Not much. But even though Denver is stocked with young guys right now, their cupboard of future picks is fairly dry. They only have the Memphis pick (which will almost definitely convey next year) and another small asset.

Cleveland could agree to a trade that sent a 1st round pick in 2020 to Denver, and perhaps a 2nd round pick to Memphis. The asset I'd be trying to get for Lance's contract is the rights to Cedi Osman, who was a 2nd round pick of theirs last year. He's a really interesting Turkish small forward who is probably a few years from coming over.

That might not seem like much, but any time you can generate an asset from nothing - and still have the chance to re-sign Lance if you want - you have to do it.

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