January 11, 2010 by USA Post
hilton armstrong,In retrospect, Hilton Armstrong probably didn’t belong in the lottery, even in the weird draft of 2006. A classic Big Man Rising chosen 12th by the Hornets, Armstrong never became even a dependable back-up center in New Orleans, let alone a starting level player. And finally, today, the Hornets officially gave up on Armstrong by sending him to Sacramento for a condition 2016 second-round pick.
Of course, New Orleans is getting a real asset beyond that invisible 2016 pick: less distance to the horrifying luxury tax threshold. With the move, the Hornets lose Armstrong’s $2.8 million salary off the books (the only place it really matters), bringing the team’s player payroll to $70.4 million — only $500,000 away from the threshold. Because for every dollar over the threshold a team sits at season’s end it must pay an extra dollar to be distributed among teams under the threshold, Monday’s trade saved New Orleans a definite $2.8 million in tax.
The Hornets have already paid Armstrong roughly 40 percent of his annual salary, and because cash considerations are a reported asset in the deal, the team likely sent the balance of the salary due to Armstrong to Sacramento. Effectively, the Hornets paid for a full year of Armstrong, but they no longer have to pay $2.8 million in tax his continued presence for the next 50 games would have forced.
The bigger boon is that New Orleans is only a very minor move away from slipping beneath the threshold. At the trade deadline in February — likely on the very day, if recent history is any indication — the Hornets can trade any of Devin Brown, Ike Diogu, Sean Marks or Bobby Brown to any team in the league without a player coming back, due to the league’s minimum salary exception. Doing so would officially get the Hornets under the threshold, and would put New Orleans in the group receiving tax distributions, which are expected to be more than $4 million per team this season.
Assuming one of New Orleans’ minimum salaried players leaves on circumstances similar to those Armstrong experienced today — in which the Hornets would also send cash to cover the player’s salary and net the tax reduction benefit — today’s trade could effectively be seen as responsible for the lion’s share of a $7-8 million cash swing. As with Utah’s exiling of Matt Harpring and rookie Eric Maynor, the cost-benefit is easy: Hilton Armstrong and one member of the Minimum Salaried Quarter of Doom is not worth $7-8 million for a pickled franchise like the Hornets. Smart move by Jeff Bower, one which would have been unnecessary if Bower himself hadn’t signed Morris Peterson or James Posey to crummy, lucrative contracts.
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