Danny Ainge is up to his old ways at his new job. Now president of basketball operations for the Utah Jazz, Ainge just completed his first full year in charge and it has been a success by most measures. He got comically large hauls of draft picks and young players for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Lauri Markkanen, included in the latter deal, put forth a shocking All-Star season by averaging north of 25 points per game and established his place as a long-term foundational piece. He was, unfortunately, so good that the Jazz ended up with the ninth pick in the 2023 NBA Draft but that was the only downside of an otherwise stellar start to the rebuild.
Utah hasn't been super active in free agency this summer, though. They traded for John Collins because the Atlanta Hawks were willing to give him away for a bag of chips. Otherwise, the Jazz have been silent. Until Saturday, when they extended a contract offer to Philadelphia 76ers restricted free agent Paul Reed. This would normally not be super out of the ordinary. Reed is a good player who will never get a chance to play big minutes while Joel Embiid is on the roster, and that combined with his restricted free agent status makes him a perfect target for a rebuilding team with cap space to burn like Utah.
However, the structure of the contract that Ainge put together makes it clear that the offer was created to screw Philly. The Jazz offered Paul a three-year deal worth $23 million. However, the final two years of the contract are only guaranteed if his team reaches the second round of the playoffs next season. You know, the round the Sixers have made it to but not been able to get past in four of the last five seasons.
It's pretty funny but wouldn't do anything unless there were a more tangible consequence. And there is, reader. There is. Per Woj's ESPN article on the offer:
If the 76ers match the offer sheet, they would exceed the $165 million luxury tax threshold and incur an additional $14 million in luxury tax penalties. Reed would have veto power on trades for a year if he remains in Philadelphia.
Ainge really sticking it to 'em! Not only would matching this offer effectively cost them $29 million between Reed's first-year salary and the luxury tax penalty, they also have to give Reed a no-trade clause for the next year. Daryl Morey would be unable to flip Reed at the deadline if they need help elsewhere on the roster and being over the luxury tax line before trading James Harden makes things even more complicated.
Tremendous work by Utah, really. The Sixers could simply not match, which leaves them with a hole behind Embiid on the depth chart, and the Jazz could easily get out of Reed's contract this time next year. They are almost certain not to reach the second round of the postseason, which means Reed's salary the final two years of the deal wouldn't be guaranteed and they can move on with no consequence. Or they can re-up with Reed if he's good.
It is a perfect deal for the Jazz and the worst possible deal someone could've offered Reed in the Sixers' eyes. Ainge isn't in their division anymore but he has not forgotten the many years of history they share, it seems.