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A financial look at Cartier Martin and the Atlanta Hawks' 15th roster spot

"Up in the club with my Cartier's on. Don't know if I'm high, drunk, or gettin' my roll on" - Lil Scrappy, or Danny Ferry. Not sure yet. But let's get our Cartiers on again.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

(Editors Note: Cartier Martin's 10-day contract expires on Monday and the AJC's Chris Vivlamore reports that it is "likely" that the Hawks sign him to a 2nd 10-day deal. Here is a detailed look at what filling the 15th roster spot has actually cost the Atlanta Hawks this season. KW)

At one point in time this season, Cartier Martin was signed to a one-year deal with the Hawks for the veteran minimum. It was unguaranteed, and the Hawks waived him on January 7th to avoid this guarantee. But did the Hawks make this move to save money? Let's revisit:

  • If the Hawks did not waive Cartier, they would have been responsible for $884,293 in Salary. In waiving Cartier, the Hawks were then responsible to pay Cartier $441,1881. This led to an immediate savings of $443,105. If this was the only move, then I would have a hard time refuting the claim that the Hawks cut Cartier because of money. That could have been a possibility, but it did not actually happen so this claim has no support from this information.
  • Instead, the Hawks signed James Nunnally for two 10-day contracts at $28,834 a piece (or $57,668 total). They decided not to offer James a rest-of-season contract (would have been valued at $490,180 *(75/170) = $216,256). If the Hawks did sign James to a rest-of-season contract, it would be difficult to refute the claim that the Hawks waived Cartier because of money issues since that would give them a savings of $169,182. This did not happen, so let's move on.
  • Cartier's 10-Day contract expired with the Hawks and he is about to sign another. As far as Cartier is concerned, he has only had one day this season where he was not under contract. For him, one day under a veteran minimum contract earns him $6,044. So far, he has maintained a relatively steady paycheck. His two 10-Day contracts with the Hawks will cost Atlanta $104,034. At this point, the Hawks will have spent $161,702 after waiving Cartier to avoid his guaranteed salary.

The inevitable scenario is coming up though. If Cartier is to remain with the Hawks, he will have to sign a rest-of-season contract. The earliest this would happen is February 21st, the day after the Trade Deadline. If this happens, there will be 55 days left in the regular season which would put the cost of this contract to the Hawks at $286,095. With this scenario going through, the Hawks will have spent two 10-Day contracts on Nunnally ($57,668), two 10-Day contracts on Cartier ($104,034), and this rest-of-season contract on Cartier ($286,095) to total $447,797. For the Hawks to have been cheap, this would imply they made a move to save money. But the series of moves made cost them $4,692! So if they aren't cheap, they must be incompetent?

No. That is not the correct conclusion either. This is not evidence in favor of the Hawks being cheap or incompetent. Rather, this is likely an interesting scenario that gives us an idea of the value of information for the Hawks. Let me further express this in a few observations:

  • The Hawks must value the 15th man (whether Cartier or James) at at least $443,105 for the rest of the season. They could have pocketed this amount and not had 15th man, they chose not to.
  • The value of information for knowing how good James Nunnally is with this team is worth at least $4,692. One can envision that the Hawks signed James as a way to evaluate his impact on our team, i.e. gain more information on how good of a player he is. This scenario was more expensive than the status quo of not waiving Cartier.
  • So they must have expected James value for 20 days to be at least $62,360 (the cost of his two 10-Day contracts and this amount). Undoubtedly the Hawks believed there was a chance that he could be more valuable than Cartier.
  • Cartier is worth at least $169,182 more than James Nunnally to the Hawks. Atlanta showed they are willing to spend that much more for Cartier than for James.

It is not likely that Danny Ferry is making these decisions because of cheapness or incompetence. It appears as though he is doing his due diligence2, which may or may not involve reading this post.

1. A bit of a note, the NBA does not reimburse teams who pay the veteran minimum salary for unguaranteed contracts. By waiving Cartier and thus not guaranteeing his 1-year contract, the Hawks are not reimbursed for amounts paid to Cartier in excess of the 2-year veteran minimum salary. In contract, 10-Day and rest-of-season contracts are guaranteed so the Hawks are reimbursed over the 2-year veteran minimum salary.

2. *sip*