The Cavaliers were busy leading up to the trade deadline.
One of the trades Cleveland general manager Koby Altman actually made – a three-teamer with the Jazz and Kings that netted Rodney Hood and George Hill and sent Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose to Utah and Iman Shumpert to Sacramento – could have fallen apart. Unsurprisingly, the Kings are getting blamed.
Altman had negotiated the trade with Kings assistant general manager Brandon Williams, who works under GM Vlade Divac. The management structure in Sacramento can make deals dicey, because Divac seldom gets on the phone for the trade-building parts — and yet he ultimately has decision-making power with owner Vivek Ranadive.
That’s why a 3 a.m. ET deal memo sent from Sacramento to Cleveland left Altman at first incredulous — and then angry. Suddenly, Kings center Georgios Papagiannis had been included as part of the three-way trade. Cleveland and Utah were adamant that Papagiannis’ name had never been discussed. Williams would later say that Papagiannis or Malachi Richardson were set to be included in the deals and insisted his notes confirmed that.
Because Sacramento had the makings for a trade with Toronto for Richardson, rival executives say that the Kings pushed to spare themselves the embarrassment of waiving the No. 13 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft — and let someone else do it. In the middle of the night, Altman and Williams vocally disagreed over the insertion of Papagiannis into the trade. Cleveland couldn’t take him into its roster because the NBA’s repeater tax would turn the balance of his $2.3 million contract this year and $2.4 million next year into three times that with the luxury-tax bill.
In the morning, Altman let the Jazz know about Sacramento’s inclusion of Papagiannis. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey was livid. To him, this was a deal-breaker. He hadn’t dealt directly with Sacramento, because there had been no need: The deal went through Cleveland, and Altman had never suggested to Lindsey that Utah would have to take a 7-foot draft bust onto his roster.
The Cavs didn’t want Papagiannis, who would have cost them far more in luxury tax, either. And the Kings had to shed one more player, because they needed to clear a roster spot to complete the trade.
But the teams still found a workable solution.
The Cavaliers ($2.1 million) and Jazz ($1.1 million) both sent Sacramento cash. That was was the most the Cavs, who’ve already included cash in other deals, were allowed to convey. So, to get Utah to cover the rest, Cleveland granted the Jazz the right to swap 2024 second-rounders.
That mostly covered the Kings’ cost of waiving Papagiannis, who was guaranteed$3,206,606 the rest of this season plus next. [Correction: This post previously didn’t include Papagiannis’ 2018-19 salary.]
Sacramento management has struggled to communicate with players, agents and executives. The Kings might spin this story a different way, but everyone will believe they’re at fault. They’ve long lost lost benefit of the doubt, and this will only further erode trust.
But maybe they leveraged the confusion into a little extra money. That’s almost certainly not worth it in a relationship business, but it’s better than nothing.