According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Oklahoma City Thunder have traded Vit Krejci to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Moe Harkless and a second-round pick. The move will have little impact on either team’s performance on the court, but it might be significant for Atlanta financially.
Chet Holmgren suffered a season-ending injury during an offseason pro-am game for the Thunder. As a result, they qualified for a handicapped player exception worth half of his pay. They were granted that exception last week and are using it to absorb Harkless’ $4.5 million contract while also receiving a second-round pick. By terminating that deal, the Hawks have dropped below the luxury tax threshold.
In the broader scheme of things, doing so may save the Hawks a lot of money. While Atlanta is currently below the threshold, they are almost guaranteed to surpass it in the near future as players such as De’Andre Hunter, DeJounte Murray, and Onyeka Okongwu sign market-value contracts. The Hawks have avoided the repeater tax by remaining below the tax line this season.
The Thunder’s rationale was clear: they were already far enough below the tax line to absorb a player like Harkless, so this transaction equates to buying a second-round selection for the cash cost of the contract gap between Harkless and Krejci, which works out to approximately $3 million. Krejci averaged 6.2 points in 30 games for the Thunder last season, but with so much young talent on the team, there simply wasn’t a path to consistent playing time for him. Maybe the Hawks will give him more opportunities, but even if they don’t, the savings alone make this deal worthwhile for them.