How the NBA's New CBA Impacts Trade Market, Free AgencyDecember 15, 2016
The full deal isn't done just yet, but the NBA announced Wednesday it had reached a tentative accord with the NBPA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Once ratified, the agreement will bring about significant changes to roster sizes, season length, player salaries and D-League assignments. You can find details on those proposed tweaks in reports from NBA.com's David Aldridge and The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Here, we'll narrow the focus to how the new rules could impact potential trades and free agency.
Thanks for Staying
The last CBA generally prevented marquee players from leaving the small-market clubs that drafted them, despite extension rules that actually made it smarter for most to choose free agency over the three-year add-on. Kevin Durant hung around with the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise for nine years before bouncing, Anthony Davis re-signed with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2015, and, mostly, stars entering restricted free agency after their rookie deals didn't leave.
John Wall, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson—just a few recent examples of a larger trend in which just about everyone of consequence agreed to a new deal with his incumbent team.
The new CBA makes extensions far more appealing.
Wojnarowski reports "Designated veteran star players will be able to sign five-year extensions with a year left on their current deals—an additional year over the four years previously allowed."
And as ESPN.com's Zach Lowe explains, cap restrictions won't matter in deals of this kind:
The upshot there: Guys like Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George could ink new extensions this summer, which would keep them under contract with their teams for six more years. Best of all for their current teams, they'd never even reach free agency—if they qualify.
Get ready to be even angrier about biased or uninformed voting. It's going to matter even more now.
With Aldridge reporting the maximum salary for players with 7-9 years of experience (all three of Westbrook, Cousins and George fall into that window) will be $31 million per season, you can see the allure. Now, instead of waiting until free agency to re-sign (which so many big names did), it makes more sense for top assets to re-up via the extension.
The allure of bigger markets and more endorsement dollars will always be a temptation. The new CBA doesn't change any of that. We should expect players such as Paul Millsap and Gordon Hayward (and other free agents this summer) to at least entertain a move. But their current teams have more to offer now than ever.
This is going to have a chilling effect on free agency.
To Trade or Not to Trade?
Potential trade partners trying to get their hands on stars good enough to qualify for the designated player label might find themselves frustrated, too.
Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post explains why:
However, if players agree to those extensions before being traded, they suddenly become far more valuable.
If you're the Boston Celtics, and you have the choice of trading for Cousins before or after he signs a massive extension with the Kings, you're probably trying to work out a way for Sacramento to sign him and then ship him over. That way, you've got far more certainty than you would if you'd traded for him with just a year left on his contract.
It's unclear how the CBA might work to avoid sign-and-trade moves like that, but as it stands now, the six-year designated player provision seems to have the power to both retain stars and make them more tradable—depending on the timing.
One possible side effect to keep an eye on: These longer deals could further incentivize tanking.
If the result of this new provision allowing longer contracts with an incumbent team is fewer stars hitting free agency, the draft naturally takes on a more important role in roster building. There are only so many ways to accumulate talent. So if that franchise-altering star is now harder to find via trade or never hits free agency at all, you'd better believe teams will double down on maximizing their draft assets.
What About Superteams?
Both Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry can become unrestricted free agents this summer (Curry for sure, and Durant if he opts out of the second year of his deal), and it remains to be seen how the new CBA will impact them.
Teams can always exceed the cap to retain their own players, but it'll be interesting to see if Durant qualifies for one of the Golden State Warriors' new designated exceptions. Bontemps reports teams can give out two at a time, and you'd have to assume Curry, a lifelong Warrior with every award criteria you can imagine, will get one.
The tenure rules aren't clear, but with Durant only having one year of service with the Dubs, it's possible he'll fall short. Again, we don't know the full scope of the exception, but the rest of the league is probably hoping something in the new provision makes it a little harder for the Dubs to keep their core together.
The new extension rules should make it less likely for players in Durant's position last summer to choose free agency in the first place. That, in theory, could make it harder for the next superteam to form.
Three for Two
A minor detail, but one that'll impact free agency all the same: ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports teams will now have only two days (not three) to match offer sheets extended to their own restricted free agents.
Nothing major here, other than teams' cap space being tied up for one fewer day and, possibly, the chance for a club missing on its first shot at an RFA to get another one out if his incumbent team matches quickly.