The Suns just keep taking Ls.
Phoenix is going nowhere this season, so Monroe – who’d likely leave in free agency next summer – had no place in the present or future there. The Suns want to strike in free agency this summer, so they refused to trade Monroe for long-term contracts (the most questionable motivation). They also determined he couldn’t be useful in a trade (probably correct considering their parameters, but questionably timed, a week before the trade deadline). And, owned by Robert Sarver, Phoenix is a cheap franchise that surely welcomed the immediate savings.
Monroe wanted to join a better team. He was dealt to Phoenix in the Eric Bledsoe trade due to his expiring contract, not his on-court fit.
So, Monroe surrendered $1.5 million of his remaining salary in a buyout. Then, he signed with the Celtics for $5 million.
But the Suns agreed to remove their set-off right while waiving him, standard procedure in a buyout. They saved $1.5 million. Monroe gets his full $5 million from the Celtics. The end.
However, if the Suns had just waived Monroe without a buyout – which they could have done unilaterally – they would have saved more money.
When a waived player signs elsewhere, even outside the NBA, the team that waived him can “set off” a portion of his new salary from what he’s owed. The formula is half the difference between the player’s new salary and the minimum salary for a first-year player. So, the waived player is still incentivized to get as much as he can from a new team, but the more he earns from a new team, the less his old team must pay him.
Monroe’s salary in Boston is unusually high for a bought-out player. It’s so high in fact, the set off for Phoenix would have been $1,843,695.
That’s $343,695 more than the Suns saved in the buyout.
Obviously, they didn’t know Monroe would earn so much as a free agent. Monroe and his agent, David Falk, certainly weren’t incentivized to tip their hand (if they even knew at the time).
But everyone knew the Celtics’ had that $8,406,000 Gordon Hayward disabled-player exception and could use a scoring center. Monroe’s contract wasn’t a shocker. In fact, some argued Boston should have paid Monroe even more so it’d have an easier time re-signing him with Non-Bird Rights next summer.
I’m obviously evaluating with the benefit of hindsight, but the fact remains: The Suns got outfoxed out of $343,695. I’m curious how that sits with Sarver.
(hat tip: Albert Nahmad of Heat Hoops)