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Looking for the Right (Trade) Partner

Who would be an ideal trading partner for the Nets if they're willing to do a salary dump they did last year with the Hornets?

Best bets, especially if the Nets could get league permission to trade Keith Van Horn's contract--not a sure thing, would be the Heat, Rockets and Raptors. We've been told that the league might not approve another KVH trade, that it's told the Nets it would take a long and hard look at any such deal. Van Horn's contract of course was traded to the Nets by the Mavs last February even though he hadn't played since 2006. He currently has a three year deal for $11 million, the first year of which was paid by the Mavs. Now, the Nets have to dump his contract, reportedly this week, in order to avoid paying him $3.75 million this season. The contract has no salary protection meaning whoever dumps him--either the Nets or the team he's traded to--need not pay him a dime. The contract was constructed so the Nets could use it in a salary dump.

It could also be used with a roster player, like Sean Williams or Maurice Ager.

It won't be the first time. Last season, with the team slightly over the luxury tax, Rod Thorn traded the contracts of Bernard Robinson and Mile Ilic plus cash to the Hornets for the contract of David Wesley. Like KVH, Wesley had left the NBA but not retired. His contract was for $1.7 million, but only $250,000 was guaranteed. So the Nets sent the Hornets enough cash to cover the Robinson and Ilic contracts and that $250,000 owed Wesley. Then both teams waived the players. The Nets saved money on the deal because by being the luxury tax threshold they received more than $3.5 million from the league, paid out of the account financed by those teams who had to pay the tax. It also provided them roster flexibility.

This year, the Nets are way under the luxury tax threshold--about $10 million by our calculations--permitting it to help out teams who are over the threshold and want a contract they can simply dump before rosters are set this weekend.

As of yesterday, the number of teams over the tax had dropped to nine, according to TrueHoop. Here's the list and how much they are over: Knicks ($27.0M), Mavericks ($23.9M), Cavaliers ($19.2M), Lakers ($11.9M), Celtics ($10.4M), Nuggets ($6.3M), Suns ($5.6M), Rockets ($2.3M) and Heat ($439K).

The Nets can't help those at the upper levels of that list, other than to reduce their luxury tax. But teams near the bottom, particularly the Rockets and Heat, might want to do a deal. Not only do they avoid paying the tax, they also get back that $3.5 million from the league. It's a huge savings. They could also take on a second contract, beyond KVH's, and still be under the contract if it's constructed in just the right way.

Beyond the Heat and Rockets, the Raptors might want to deal as well, although being in the same division that could present problems. Toronto is only $1,100 under the threshold and they might want to get some additional wiggle room.