Who will be the chief beneficiary of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?
Wait, I can answer this one myself: us!
Everyone who loves basketball was buoyed by the official announcement last week that the league and the players’ union had reached tentative agreement on a new seven-year deal (with an out after six years), avoiding a potential lockout next summer. The deal maintains the current “band” players will receive of Basketball Related Income of between 49 and 51 percent (though the expectation is with all the money in the NBA system, the players’ cut will almost certainly be 51), and it maintains the “one-and-done” Draft system, allowing players to declare for the Draft a year after their high school classes graduate.
That there was next to no public argument from the union about maintaining either of these institutions going forward -- and no objection by the league to substantial increases across the board in every category of player contract -- showed just how sanguine $24 billion in television money can make everyone.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts each had motivation to keep things moving along the current path. A majority of owners have achieved financial stability, buoyed as much by the league’s enchanced revenue sharing plan as the new TV money, and by the financial givebacks from players coming out of the 2011 lockout.
But players are dividing a much, much larger financial pie than they were five years ago -- about $1.5 billion richer -- with the likelihood of bigger increases in the years to come.
“We all came to the table in good faith,” NBPA President Chris Paul said Sunday. “Our executive committee, and Michele and the guys at the union were amazing. They worked countless hours … throughout this collaboration, as far as all the different owners, and trying to get on the same page of what works best for our league. Everything’s not going to be perfect, but it’s what works best for our league.”
The smart thing to say is that we have no idea what all of the ramifications of the new deal on every team will be.
But the Warriors’ formation of the NBA’s latest super-team by signing Kevin Durant last summer spooked both the league and many of its teams, who put in several safeguards during the 2011 lockout to try and prevent that from happening. So the league and union agreed to several modifications to the existing rules to try and give teams more ability to retain their core players and not have them poached.
The previous CBA had a single “designated player exception” for a team to use on one player that was on his rookie scale contract. That player could get a five-year max deal extension from his team before hitting the final year of his rookie deal -- in essence, giving him a new six-year deal with his team. The idea was that a team would have a better opportunity to keep a young core player if it could tie him up with max dollars before he hit free agency -- and, indeed, several teams took advantage of the rule -- Oklahoma City (Russell Westbrook), Houston (James Harden), the Clippers (Blake Griffin), Chicago (Derrick Rose), Indiana (Paul George), Cleveland (Kyrie Irving) and Washington (John Wall).
Those players were eligible to get up to the max for players with less than seven years’ experience in the final year of their rookie contracts -- 25 percent of the cap. But they could also earn up to 30 percent of the cap in their new deals if they reached certain criteria while on their rookie deals: being named to the first, second or third All-NBA team twice, being voted in as a starter to the All-Star team twice or winning the NBA Most Valuable Player award once. (That’s why the DPE is better known as the “Derrick Rose Rule,” after the then-Bulls guard won the MVP award in 2011.)
The new CBA will have four designated player exceptions -- two for players still on their rookie deals, and two new ones for veterans. They will work as before: a team can now give up to four players on its roster a new six-year contract -- a five-year max extension added to the final year of their existing deals.
The idea is to give the incumbent team still more chances to keep its core group together.
The veteran DPE can be used either to give a player an extension or to re-sign him as a free agent. Players have to have been drafted by their current teams to be eligible for the extension or for the team to use the DPE to re-sign them as free agents.
The criteria for a veteran DPE are similar to those for players on their rookie deals -- the player has to have been league MVP (or, in the veterans’ case, Defensive Player of the Year) or made one of the three All-NBA teams the previous season, or been All-NBA/DPOY in two of the previous three seasons, or league MVP once in the previous three seasons.
The new rule would, for example, allow Oklahoma City to offer Westbrook a new six-year max contract next July that would keep him from potentially becoming a free agent following the 2017-18 season. (Westbrook already qualifies for the veteran DPE, having been a second-team All-NBA selection in 2014-15 and a first-teamer in 2015-16.)
Westbrook agreed to a three-year extension in OKC last year for $85 million that bumped up the salary in the final year of his old deal and added two additional years, through the 2018-19 season -- the final year being a player option.
After next season, though, Westbrook will also be eligible for a max deal for players with 10 or more years’ experience -- and 35 percent of the cap rather than 30 percent.
As with most everything CBA-related, I checked Sunday with the great Larry Coon, whose CBA primer is the gold standard for checking any and every bit of cap minutae. Coon pointed out that if Westbrook opts in for the final year of his current deal, he couldn’t then sign a new extension until August of 2018 -- two years after he signed the previous one. If he elected to opt out of the last year of his current deal, Westbrook could then sign a five-year extension with the Thunder for more than $219 million in the summer of 2018.
By contrast, if Westbrook were to opt out of the deal and explore unrestricted free agency in 2018, he could only get a four-year deal from another team. It would still be for a humungous amount of coin -- $162.5 million. But that last year that the incumbent team can offer now (and, keep in mind, under the new deal, the incumbent team can offer annual eight percent raises; a non-incumbent can only offer five percent raises) becomes a staggering amount of money from which to walk away.
But if a player were to turn down a max offer like that, at least the team will have a pretty good idea much earlier in the process if it was going to lose him, allowing teams to plan ahead with more certainty.
That shouldn’t be an issue for teams like the Warriors, even though the conventional wisdom posits that having more money in the system should make it harder for “superteams” to stay intact.
As many have pointed out, for example, the Warriors may have problems bringing their whole roster back if they give both Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant separate max deals next summer -- more than $200 million for Curry, for whom Golden State has Bird rights, and who qualifies for the veteran DPE, allowing him 35 percent of the team’s cap -- and $36 million next year for Durant, from whom it does not have Bird rights. The Warriors would have to thus clear cap room to give Durant his max.
The Warriors have a little more than $37 million committed for 2017-18 already in five players, including Klay Thompson ($17.8 million) and Draymond Green ($16.4 million). If the 2017-18 cap remains at its current projection of $103 million, and Golden State needs $36 million of it cap room for Durant -- unless he agreed to a smaller deal with the Warriors as an Early Bird free agent -- mandatory cap holds to fill out the rest of the roster would hamstring the Warriors’ ability to sign their other free agents, including 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala and veteran guard Shaun Livingston.
“The coolest part to me has been traveling to these road arenas, the former players that are broadcasters and stuff like that, coming up and saying ‘thank you.’ I always tell them, too, ‘not me. It’s the players that made this happen.’ "
But if the mid-level and other exceptions are also increasingly significantly under the new rules, elite teams like the Warriors will have more weapons with which to lure veteran players who may be willing to take a short-term financial haircut to play for a contender.
Those same exceptions will be available to rebuilding teams like the Heat as well. But cap room is more important to teams like Miami, which hopes to have enough room next summer to be able to add two max players. But as cap expert Albert Nahmad pointed out last week, the Heat could face difficulty executing a quick rebuild.
To make sure current young players under contract also benefit in the new deal, rookie scale deals also will increase under the new deal, on a sliding scale, depending on what year you were drafted during the previous three years. The upshot, though, is that teams like the Heat will have less cap room than they’d previously budgeted because their players on rookie deals will be making more money now than they were scheduled to under the old CBA.
There won’t be much impact on teams that have the bulk of their players signed long term, like Cleveland. The Cavs’ top seven players -- LeBron James, Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye -- are all under contract for 2017-18, and while James has a player option for the 2018-19 season, Irving, Love, Thompson and Smith are all already inked for that season, too. (Because Love came to Cleveland via trade, he’s not eligible for one of the new DPEs; Irving, though, would be.)
Despite all the economic improvements to the rank and file, Paul is most proud not of the new exceptions and raises for current players, but for the dramatically enhanced benefits package for retired players, that will be paid for both by the union and the league.
“That’s bigger than the game,” Paul said. “That’s bigger than any one player now. That’s about the NBA and itself, as far as the players that came before us and the players that come after us. Young guys that are 19, 20 years old, they have no idea what that means right now. They don’t know what a co-pay is, and they don’t know what all that stuff is. I think we’re the first league to put this in place. It’s big. And it really brings the players together …
“The coolest part to me has been traveling to these road arenas, the former players that are broadcasters and stuff like that, coming up and saying ‘thank you.’ I always tell them, too, ‘not me. It’s the players that made this happen.’ And it’s huge. You’ve got a family. You know how big that is.”
… AND NOBODY ASKED YOU, EITHER
There is some ill a-brewing towards my rest/For I did dream of money bags tonight. From Lee Cheatham:
The ongoing and controversial issue of resting healthy players is prevalent in the NBA, and much to the chagrin of avid fans, they're missing the opportunity to watch the best athletes in the world showcase their talents. Coach Gregg Popovich adopted this "maintenance program" strategy several years ago to keep his aging veterans fresh for a long playoff run, but it has morphed into coaches periodically resting young players. There's been a public outcry denouncing this egregious act from the aforementioned ardent aficionados, ticket holders, sponsors et al. Some analysts have recommended only resting players at home games, but that is an injustice to the local fans whose unwavering support enables star players to sign lucrative contracts. I commend the NBA for addressing this issue by commencing next season in mid-October; ergo, minimizing back- to-back contests and thus eliminating four games in five nights.
What is your take on this issue of resting healthy players? How about resting players during practice sessions? Do you have any recommendations for coaches on how to maintain players' health while still providing the optimal product on the court for the fans?
I think, while understandable, the practice of resting players is terrible for fans. Teams are going to do it, though, when their medical staffs recommend rest, and we have to figure out how to deal with it in the future. I do agree, though, that if you have to rest guys, the default should always be for home games. Cavs fans have 41 chances a year (plus playoffs) to see LeBron James in Cleveland; Utah fans have one chance to see him in Salt Lake City. That can’t work out in every case, but that should be the goal. And when a player is rested on the road, unless he’s not traveling with the team, he should have to come early to the arena on the first bus and be made available to fans in a controlled area of the building to sign autographs or take pictures with fans.
I remain a useful idiot. From Hernan Alberto Rojas Roldan:
You're an idiot!
Just kidding. Hehe.
Your list is great, and I mostly agree with it. However, I think T-Mac should be in for Vince Carter. No favoritism or anything, it's just that McGrady was a two-time scoring champion and was a very clutch player (13 points in 33 seconds).
Also, why not add Rondo? 18-18-18 in a game, something that only Chamberlain and the Big O ever accomplished. Scored 44 against the Heat in the conference finals, has led the league in assists thrice, once had 20+ assists and no turnovers, holds franchise records for different franchises, etc.
Just my thoughts.
You could make a case for McGrady -- who was on my “next” list. The playoff record makes it difficult for me, but I understand that wasn’t TMac’s fault, necessarily. I just don’t think Rondo rises to that Greatest 75 level. He’s been a very, very good point guard and has been great in select playoff games, but he’s not one of the 75 greatest players of all time in my opinion.
And … DJ? From Andrew Cavarlho:
Why does Dennis Johnson keep getting left behind? Hall of Fame and now Top 75?
Lots of players on the list got NO RINGS. Dennis had rings with 2 teams, the Supersonics and Celtics.
No Rings: Barkley, Gary Payton, Chris Paul, Mitch Richmond. None of these 4 players done better than Dennis Johnson.
A fair argument for the player Larry Bird called the best he’s ever played with, Andrew. I would not include him because, while titles do matter, they aren’t the only criteria I’d use in picking the 75 greatest players. You wouldn’t really argue that Elgin Baylor isn’t one of the 75 best players ever because he didn’t play on a championship team (yes, I know he was technically on the Lakers’ 1972 team, but he’d retired at the start of the season), right? Or that DJ was better than Jerry West or Oscar Robertson because he has two rings and they each only have one? As for Barkley, GP and the others you’ve mentioned: you can make a case, as you have, for Johnson to be on instead of any of them.
And a correction for you, too: Payton won a ring in 2006 as a member of the Miami Heat.
Send your questions, comments, and other remarkably stupid things to do in a convenience email@example.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!
(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)
1) LeBron James (24.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 8.5 apg, .514 FG, .579 FT): If you have 11 seconds to kill, watch LBJ morph from 18 to 31 years old http://imgur.com/UKgHrkM. Sometimes it feels like it’s just been 11 seconds since his first game in Sacramento in 2003.
2) James Harden (27 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 12.8 apg, .449 FG, .789 FT): Brings new meaning to the word “weaponized.”
3) Russell Westbrook (24.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 11 apg, .377 FG, .917 FT): His 50th career triple double in Saturday’s win over Phoenix was the first 20-point, 20-assist triple-double in the league since 1988 (Chris Paul had 20 points and 20 assists -- with no turnovers!-- just a week ago, but it wasn’t in a triple-double performance).
4) Kevin Durant (25.3 ppg, 9 rpg, 5 apg, .560 FG, .824 FT):Because of course.
5) Kawhi Leonard (19 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.3 apg, .513 FG, 1.000 FT): Just 13 points in Sunday’s win, marking the first time this season he’s scored less than 20 points in back to back games.
BY THE NUMBERS
8 -- Retired Spurs jerseys, after the team raised Tim Duncan’s number 21 to the rafters of AT&T Center Sunday. Duncan joins guard Johnny Moore (00), Avery Johnson (6), Bruce Bowen (12), James Silas (13), Sean Elliot (32), George Gervin (44) and David Robinson (50).
17 -- NBA teams with a single NBA D-League affiliation, after the Orlando Magic announced last week that it was buying the Erie BayHawks franchise and relocating it to Lakeland, Fla., beginning next season.
9 -- D-League games in which that league will use four- and five-person referee crews, beginning the day after Christmas with a Westchester-Long Island matchup.
I’M FEELIN’ …
1) As this is the last pre-Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa column, Happy Holidays to all, including, but not limited to:
Long Tall Adam, Brother Tatum, Bass, Frank, Coyle, Broussard.
Michele Roberts, D Jenkins and the crew at the PA.
Birdman Birdman, Khris Middleton, Chris Bosh, and all others who are coming back from injuries. You’re not forgotten.
Popovich, Kerr, Rivers, Lue, Casey, Stevens, Clifford, Budenhozer, D’Antoni, Fizdale.
Steven Adams, Al Jefferson, Greg Monroe, Demetrius Jackson, Paul Pierce, James Johnson, Jerian Grant, Darrell Arthur, Aaron Harrison, Vince Carter.
Corey Brewer, Mike Miller, Trevor Booker, Jimmy Butler, Otto Porter.
Matthew Dellavedova, Markieff Morris, Luke Babbitt, John Henson.
Derrick Jones, Jr., James Ennis III, Wade Baldwin IV.
AJ Hammons, CJ Miles, DJ Augustin, JJ Redick, PJ Tucker, RJ Hunter, TJ McConnell.
Stephen Curry, Mike Dunleavy, Jerami Grant, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Gerald Henderson, Kevin Love, John Lucas III, Wesley Matthews, Larry Nance, Jr., Austin Rivers, Glenn Robinson, Klay Thompson.
Jarell Martin, Kawhi Leonard, CJ McCollum, Isaiah Thomas, Marreese Speights, Sean Kilpatrick, Serge Ibaka, Zach LaVine, Andre Iguodala, Eric Gordon, Dion Waiters, Treveon Graham, Malcolm Brogdon, Ish Smith, Thomas Robinson, Paul Zipser, Garrett Temple, Sasha Vujacic, Leandro Barbosa, Quincy Pondexter, Andre Roberson, Rishaun Holmes, Jusuf Nurkic, Richard Jefferson, Rakeem Christmas, Kyle Korver, Rudy Gobert, Ian Mahinmi, Seth Curry, Terrence Ross.
And to my Turner peeps … what can I say? You all are my second family and a damn fine one to be a part of. I am luckier than any man has a right to be to be doing what I love with all y’alls.
2) This is the best extended stretch of basketball I’ve seen Bradley Beal play in his career. He’s aggressive, he’s looking to score, he’s keeping his dribble, he’s making plays and he’s competing every night at both ends.
3) Congrats to West Virginia’s Bob Huggins for winning his 800th career college basketball game Saturday.
4) I desperately need some good news.
NOT FEELIN’ …
1) If you can explain what’s currently going on with Donatas Motiejunas and his career, and why the Rockets have invested so much time and sweat into someone they seem quite indifferent about, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
2) I would say it’s about time for the Sixers to end this experiment and find another home for Nerlens Noel.
3) Hope Lamar Odom is going to rehab for the right reason, and not because he’s going to talk about it on television. If he is indeed focusing on himself and getting off of drugs, that is well worth doing. But if he’s doing it for the family brand … it won’t end well.
4) The great Frank Deford wrote two great profiles in Sports Illustrated about two guys named Howard.One was Howard Cosell, the illustrious broadcaster and original member of the Monday Night Football booth; the other was Howard Bingham, who died last week at 77. Bingham was less known, but certainly more loved by more people; he was a photographer who befriended and was befriended by Muhammad Ali in the early 1960s, and remained a part of Ali’s camp throughout his boxing career.
But by all accounts, Bingham -- a gentle man with a stutter -- was one of the very few people in Ali’s life who never wanted or asked for anything from the rich, famous man. He was, simply, his friend. Here is Deford’s piece, well worth reading to get a sense of the fact that Ali needed to be Bingham’s friend just as much as Bingham became Ali’s friend. RIP.
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