Last year, NBA players, coaches, analysts, and fans alike sacrificed the first few months of last season due to the NBA lockout. Many different factors prevented the two sides from striking a deal, until this feat was eventually accomplished and basketball resurfaced on Christmas day.
However, the Collective Bargaining Agreement did not accomplish one of its primary tasks, and this was particularly evident in the James Harden trade last night.
Reigning Sixth Man of the Year and Olympian James Harden, a key cog in this young Oklahoma City team, was shipped to Houston along with Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, and Daequan Cook for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and future draft picks.
The Thunder attempted to sign the coveted shooting guard to an extension, as the deadline of Halloween is rapidly approaching, but the two sides failed to reach an agreement. Oklahoma City offered Harden a four-year contract worth roughly $55 million, but Harden was insistent on earning a max contract, which he certainly would have commanded in the open market from plenty of teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns.
This trade represents much more than just a contract disagreement.
The new CBA was designed to heavily tax teams for going over the luxury tax threshold, supposedly hindering teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, who have more assets because they are located in larger markets. However, this same tax prevented the Thunder from retaining Harden.
The tax increases exponentially with every year a team is over the threshold. Even if the Thunder had amnestied center Kendrick Perkins and made other cost-cutting moves, they would still find themselves above this threshold, and thus would still have to pay significant funds.
Is the new Collective Bargaining Agreement effective?
Teams in bigger markets have clearly not changed their game plans based on this new taxation plan. The Lakers still have three players that will make the max—Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard—not to mention the lucrative deals of Steve Nash and the overpaid Metta World Peace.
Teams like the Brooklyn Nets have all five of their starters earning upwards of $10 million this season, including max contract players Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. Four of these five deals were negotiated the summer after this new agreement, and the fifth (Johnson) came in a trade that same offseason.
Without the expensive television packages and billion-dollar arena, the Thunder struggle to compete with these larger markets, and thus were forced to pay the price.
Not only did this bargaining agreement hurt the Thunder by making them sacrifice one of their biggest assets, but it did not affect the wealthier teams in the league.
A core of Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka could have been intact for over a decade with all four players at 24 years of age or younger. For now, we all must ponder what could have been due to the ineffective CBA.