The long-awaited Carmelo Anthony trade is complete, with the Atlanta Hawks officially waiving him on Monday to clear his path to the Houston Rockets. There was never any doubt that Anthony would be cut, but negotiations persisted over the last ten days over the exact amount of his buyout. Since he possessed a no-trade clause in his contract, he could block the trade before it became official if the Hawks were unwilling to play ball on his demands.
However, the buyout saga has come to an end, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday morning:
Carmelo Anthony has finalized buyout with the Atlanta Hawks, giving back $2.4M of his $27.9M salary, league sources tell ESPN. That's veteran's minimum he'll get back with new team. Anthony will wait to clear waivers in 48 hours to officially tell Rockets of intentions to sign.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 30, 2018
Given that Anthony had every ounce of leverage in these negotiations due to his no-trade clause, it’s very surprising that the Hawks were able to get back $2.4 million in the buyout. Many around the league had speculated that they would get nothing back at all, as the trade would still go through and all parties involved would be very happy with the return. Once news broke last week that the Hawks had filled their last two in-season roster spots with Vince Carter and Daniel Hamilton, it made even more sense that Anthony would get his full $27.9 million salary, as the additional cap space opened by any amount given back would not be immediately used this summer.
The extra salary cap flexibility — they’re up to $2.9 million in cap space before making the signings for Carter, Hamilton, and Alex Len (in the room exception) official — has a short shelf life. They will have to officially sign those players in the coming weeks, so it’s not like as if Atlanta will go into the season with cap space to use in a potential trade down the road.
They have time now to get a deal done, or perhaps use what remains of their cap space on another signing, though that would bring them to more than 15 guaranteed contracts, forcing them to eat some money come mid-October. Additional cap space is useful to sign players to longer contracts, as they could have done with Hamilton in particular, though the fact that he got just a one-year deal makes it very unlikely that he would have taken a three- or four-year deal at the minimum if the team had had cap space.
Whether Atlanta uses that space immediately or lets it go in favor of signing Carter, Hamilton, and Len in the coming days, getting $2.4 million back in buyout negotiations with Anthony is the latest A-plus move in this trade, in which the Hawks shed major long-term salary and picked up a future first-round pick and a free look at former first-rounder Justin Anderson.