The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association avoided the prospect of a lockout this summer by agreeing to a new seven-year collective bargaining agreement early Saturday morning, according to multiple reports.
The players and team governors still need to ratify the new CBA, so neither side has released the full text yet. However, the details trickling out will have a major impact on team-building strategies moving forward.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the new CBA will contain a second salary-cap apron—$17.5 million over the luxury-tax line—which will prohibit teams above that threshold from having access to the taxpayer mid-level exception in free agency. That could help even the playing field between deep-pocketed ownership groups and their smaller-market brethren who aren’t willing to spend deep into the luxury tax.
The NBA was initially pushing to institute an “upper spending limit”—another term for a hard salary-cap limit that teams could not cross—although the NBPA deemed that a non-starter in negotiations. The implementation of a second apron appears to be a compromise aimed at crimping the spending ability of teams willing to spend deep into the tax.
Not only does the new CBA impact those teams’ spending ability, but it also reportedly has mechanisms to give more flexibility to lower-spending teams.
“As a counter to those spending limitations, the new CBA is expected to create more spending and trade opportunities for teams at the middle and lower spectrum of spending,” Wojnarowski reported. “There will be an opening of more opportunities in the free-agent market, including larger trade exceptions.”
As Shams Charania of The Athletic initially reported in late February, the two sides also agreed to increase the amount of money teams are allowed to offer players in extensions. The current CBA limits teams to offering a starting salary of no more than 120 percent of the player’s previous salary or the estimated average salary (whichever is greater). The new CBA bumps that up to 140 percent, according to Wojnarowski, which could make it more realistic for some players—but not all—to sign extensions.
The new CBA also includes a new in-season tournament, which could begin as soon as the 2023-24 season, per Wojnarowski. Much like the WNBA’s Commissioner Cup, the pool-play games will be part of the typical regular season, and eight teams will then advanced to a single-elimination tournament in December. Players on the winning team will each receive $500,000, according to Charania, which is relative peanuts to the league’s top stars but could be a significant incentive for players on smaller contracts.
To combat the league’s ongoing load-management issue, the two sides agreed to set a mandatory minimum of 65 games played for players to be eligible for major individual awards or the All-NBA team, according to multiple reports. Wojnarowski noted that minimum “does come with some conditions,” although the specifics remain unclear for the time being.
One oft-rumored change did not make it into the new CBA, as the “one-and-done” rule for the NBA draft will remain in place. Wojnarowski reported Friday that neither the league nor the players’ union “ultimately felt strongly enough on change to make it a significant bargaining chip.”
Had the new CBA nixed the one-and-done rule, players could have entered the draft straight out of high school. Charania reported in late February that the players’ union was “pushing for conditions that would facilitate veteran players providing tutelage and orientation to the high schoolers entering the league.”
During All-Star Weekend, NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio expanded on that.
“We recognize that we really do need to make sure that we have the structure in place if we’re going to have people join the league at the age of 18,” she said. “We also appreciate that there’s a lot of benefit to really having veterans who can bring those 18-year-olds along. And so, certainly anything that we would even consider, to be quite honest, would have to include a component that would allow veterans to be a part of it as well.”
According to Wojnarowski, the “rise of significant financial opportunities for players before joining the NBA”—including the rise of name, image and likeness rights in collegiate sports—”softened the NBPA’s belief there needed to be an aggressive push for lowering the draft limit.”
More details are sure to emerge about the new CBA once both sides have ratified it. Based on what’s been reported so far, front offices will have plenty of changes to navigate as they begin planning for the offseason.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NBA.com, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Spotrac or RealGM. All odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.