Ridnour dealt for 4th time this week, now a Raptor
All of the theoretical frequent flier miles belong to Luke Ridnour.
Ridnour has been dealt for the fourth time in the last week, according to a report from Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, as the Oklahoma City Thunder dealt the point guard and cash to the Toronto Raptors for the draft rights to Tomislav Zubcic. The Raptors confirmed the deal Tuesday.
Ridnour began the offseason as a member of the Orlando Magic, for whom he played in 2014-15. He was dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies for the draft rights to Janis Timma on June 24, then to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for veteran wing Matt Barnes on June 25, and then to the Thunder along with a 2016 second-round pick for Jeremy Lamb later on the 25th.
The reasons for Ridnour getting dealt so frequently are a matter of salary cap minutiae, but here's a quick explanation: Ridnour's $2.75-million contract is non-guaranteed until July 11, which serves to make him an attractive trade chip, enough so that it's quite likely he gets traded again.
A non-guaranteed deal can essentially serve as a salary cap exception. Because salaries have to closely match in trades - the exact proximity of incoming and outgoing salary changes depending on the cap situation of the teams involved - a non-guaranteed deal allows teams to artificially inflate the amount of outbound salary in a trade, allowing them to take on more incoming salary.
To illustrate for the Raptors: Say they wanted to sign-and-trade for LaMarcus Aldridge, allowing Aldridge to get a slightly larger four-year max from the Portland Trail Blazers instead of the four-year max Toronto can offer. The Raptors could clear the requisite cap space and take Aldridge into their cap room, but they'd have to renounce the rights to several of their free agents to do so. If they can send Portland enough salary, they can take Aldridge on and keep the rights to at least some of their free agents, while also helping Portland recoup something in the deal.
Having Ridnour's $2.75-million deal on hand gives the Raptors a means of sending out more salary, and Portland can turn around and waive Ridnour at no cost to themselves.
These same machinations would be true for any deal Toronto - or Ridnour's next team - wanted to make. When free agency begins on Wednesday, teams can't make moves until July 9, so Ridnour's window of trade utility exists for July 9 and 10 only. It remains possible the Raptors keep Ridnour - head coach Dwane Casey and new assistant Rex Kalamian are said to be fans - but he'll almost certainly be waived ahead of July 11 if he's not included in a trade of some sort.
For the Thunder, taking on Ridnour was a means of unloading Lamb's contract and freeing up a roster spot. Zubcic was the No. 56 pick in 2012 and has been fairly unimpressive in the Croatian and Adriatic Leagues, though his teams have had consistent success. The Thunder also create a $2.75-million trade exception in the deal, which they can use for one year to take on additional salary in a trade.
It's an unfortunate whirl of events for Ridnour, though he probably expected this. Teams tack on non-guaranteed years to give themselves this flexibility, and in many cases the player gets more money over the guaranteed years on the deal than they would otherwise for agreeing to the non-guaranteed year. Alonzo Gee and Scotty Hopson spent last summer serving largely this same purpose.
The 34-year-old Ridnour has averaged 9.3 points and 4.5 assists over 830 career games. He remained moderately effective as a veteran leader for Orlando in 2014-15, averaging four points and two assists in 47 games off the bench.