Thus far, the only things to come out of the NBA labor "negotiations" is a lot of rhetoric ("We'd rather cancel the next season than see it go on as it has been.") and one side calling the other liars ("That $340 million they lost last year isn't right.").
The owners want to reduce the basketball-related income (which I will refer to as BRI from now on) and the players aren't amenable to that. The owners want a true hard cap, which the players say they won't agree to under any circumstances. The owners want less years on contracts and a form of franchise tag, neither of which the players will agree to. They want non-guaranteed contracts, though dropped their insistence to have them in the next CBA.
Oh, it seems a lot of non-negotiation seems to have emerged from the labor talks, too.
Today, I will tackle the franchise tag issue and the guaranteed contract issue (even a part of the BRI issue.) The owners want to reduce the length of maximum contracts but add a franchise tag clause to the CBA, which is the equivalent of your wife hugging you close and telling you she never wants you to leave, now get the hell out. With a little concession on both sides, this can easily be solved.
Institute a hard cap and set it at $50 million. The owners are going to get their hard cap, or harder cap, as you'll see, so you may as well agree to it. Then create a version of the Larry Bird exception that allows you to exceed the salary cap for your own players, but only for your own players and only under certain circumstances.
Next, install a base-year salary that every player is subject to, no matter their status as a rookie, All-Star, superstar, MVP, the greatest player in the league or a big fat bum. This will be based on years of service in "professional basketball." Yes, you count college and the Euroleague in professional.
The NBA seems to want to pump up the NCAA and Euroleague anyway, so this will help them do so. It also helps with some of those troublesome buyouts for Euroleague players. That would mean every player in the NBA can make a base salary of $1 million, based on the amount of years they have been playing basketball since graduating from high school. This is the amount they are guaranteed.
So, for example, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams and Brandon Knight would have a base salary of $1 million next season. Nolan Smith could make a base salary of $4 million.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You think it won't work because that means Brian Cardinal would make a $12 million base salary next season. No, because you choose to pay them that base, but you don't have to.
Basically, as players accrue years in the NBA they are eligible to make more, but only the elite will get that guaranteed base. Basically, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Deron Williams—the superstars and All-Stars—are all going to get that guaranteed base. Cardinal, sadly enough, will not.
Now comes the tricky part. Install a clause in the salary cap that states teams can only exceed the cap on their own players' incentives. What are incentives? Making the All-Star team, being named to one of the All-NBA teams, being named to the defensive teams, winning NBA Finals MVP or winning the regular season MVP.
That's it. Nothing else. You assign monetary value to each of those incentives.
Being named to the All-Star team, defensive team or All-NBA team would be a $5 million bonus. (This fixes the dual problem of the NBA All-Star game voting process being bad, too, because you would have to fix it now.) Being named the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year or Finals MVP would be worth a $7 million bonus. Add in a time escalator based on years of service (meaning Kobe Bryant would make more next season if he won MVP than James would.)
Done! That's it nothing else. You get your base salary, the incentive of making the All-Star game and the end of the year awards. That is how you make your money.
Oh wait, the franchise tag.
Well, that seems simple, too. You are only eligible to earn the incentives to your contract after you have been on your team for four full seasons, unless you are traded or a rookie.
That means if Howard wants to sign with the Lakers next year, he can sign a four-year $42 million contract, and that would be all that he makes. If he stayed in Orlando, however, he would make at least $60 million more because he will always be an All-Star and always be on one of the NBA teams and the defensive team. That is the incentive to stay with your team.
Four years, $42 million dollars or four years, $102 million dollars. He wouldn't leave Orlando under those circumstances. Chris Paul wouldn't leave New Orleans.
Oh, yeah, if you aren't eligible to earn the incentive for something, you aren't eligible to win it either. That would exclude Howard from being in the All-Star game, being the NBA MVP, being on the defensive teams and the NBA teams, being the Finals MVP and winning the defensive player of the year award if he went to L.A.
This allows extra incentive for players who stay with their teams and also gets some fresh blood into the All-Star game as well as the end of the year awards.
Finally, you grandfather in all of the existing NBA contracts but give each team a one-contract amnesty, like in 2005. This allows you to essentially buy out a player's contract but waive him from your team and not have his salary number count towards your cap.
This would have to be done within seven days of a new CBA being ratified. Teams that are grossly over the salary cap would have to make massive trades, further dispersing the talent from the haves to the have-nots.
That is it. The owners get their version of a hard cap and are able to restrict player movement. The players become directly responsible for how much they make. The hard workers who believe in earning their money make the most and the underperformers make less. This allows the teams that have a lot of underperformers to find more talent and compete, and it also keeps all of the best talent from going to one place and forming super teams.
Is it basic? Yes. Does it need tweaking? Absolutely.
But this is the outline for making both sides happy and getting the NBA back before we miss games. Too bad there's no negotiating going on.