NBA Free Agency 2011: 5 Ways the New CBA Could Affect Free Agency
The owners and players are nowhere close to a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement, and it looks like there will be a lockout starting July 1.
Of course, a lockout means no free agents can be signed, no players can be traded and teams are not allowed to have contact with their players. Once the CBA expires, there are no rules in place, so player movement is not allowed.
The new rules, whatever they are, will affect the amount of salary cap space each team has, because the owners are seeking to cut the percentage of basketball-related income that goes to the players in the new agreement.
Whether or not the owners are successful in getting the players to give up a portion of their "piece of the pie," they will surely be looking to accomplish these five things in collective bargaining negotiations...
1. Shorter Contracts
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One of the things that is definitely going to be on the owners' wish list in negotiations is to shorten the length of maximum contracts. They have no interest in being hamstrung by the high-salaried, long-lasting contracts of players like Eddy Curry, who was dead weight on the New York Knicks payroll for years.
A counter to that point would seem pretty easy: Be more cautious with who you give your money to. While the players are likely to resist the owners on this point, shorter contract length could actually benefit them in some ways.
Shorter contracts allow for players to become free agents faster and more times throughout their careers, allowing them to cash in multiple times. Right now, a player who signs a maximum contract extension with his original team would be in the latter stages of his prime, or past it, by the time he comes up for his second contract.
If the length of a maximum contract was shortened to four years, it would allow them to be free agents up to two or three times while still in their prime years.
2. Hard Cap
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The issue of a hard salary cap is one that the owners will likely not budge on, and the sticking point that could lead to a prolonged lockout.
There are currently exceptions to the salary cap for signing a player whose Larry Bird Rights are under control by their current team, the mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception. A hard cap would mean no more exceptions, and the spending limit would be the same for every team.
This obviously affects high-salaried teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, whose highest-paid player, Kobe Bryant, makes more than half as much as the hard cap number the owners are seeking.
In addition, it could also halt the growth of the so-called Super Teams like the Big Three joining up in Miami.
3. Franchise Tag
The owners' proposal submitted to the players earlier this year included a modified version of the NFL's franchise tag.
Under the NFL's version of the franchise tag system, a team can prevent any one player on its roster from becoming a free agent by paying that player to a predetermined one-year salary based on a number of factors.
The NBA's version won't work exactly like that, but it will provide incentives for players to stick with their original teams. The players, whose newfound power to determine where they play and with whom is one of their prized rights, will resist this with great force.
The freedom to choose where you work, with whom and for how much is important to players and they are unlikely to acquiesce to a deal that has this provision in it.
4. Salary Rollbacks
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If the owners get their hard cap, it is likely that they will be seeking to "rollback" the salaries of players already under contract as well to aide the process of getting all teams under the cap threshold.
This means that players like Carmelo Anthony, who insisted on being traded to the New York Knicks this season rather than signing with them over the summer so he could get his maximum contract extension, would see their salaries reduced by as much as 25 percent over the next three years.
This issue was seen as one of the major sticking points of the recent NHL lockout, and it took the players over a full season to finally give in to the owners' demands. If the NBA owners are as prepared as the NHL guys were to sacrifice a season to get anything they want in the deal, we could be in for an extended lockout.
5. Rookies: Salary Scale and D-League
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The NBA owners, like their NFL counterparts, will want to regulate the amount of compensation the youngest and most inexperienced players on their team can receive.
The current rookie scale allows for players drafted in the second round to reach free agency, and thus their market potential, years sooner than those drafted in the first round. Working against future rookies in negotiating better deals for them is that they are not in the players union yet. Only current players are in the union, and they will likely be much more concerned with how veteran contracts are governed in the new agreement.
Another rookie/young player issue likely to come up is that if the D-League. The current system takes away a roster spot from the NBA team if they assign a player to the D-League. If they are to change that in the new agreement, we could see a system similar to that of baseball or hockey, with extra roster spots or player options to be moved up and down from the NBA to the D-League.