The NBA and NBA Players Union are nearing labor peace, working towards an extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) by December 15. The goal for both the owners and players is to reach a new, long-term deal early, avoiding a lockout next summer.
Exact details of an agreement that has yet to be reached are obviously unavailable, but some of the working concepts have leaked. The basic split of basketball related income (BRI) is expected to remain unchanged from the 49-51 percent band in the current deal.
The sooner a new CBA can be hashed out, the better for teams who need to make decisions based on salary-cap projections for the offseason and the summers to come. Leading up to previous lockout years, teams were essentially working in the dark, hoping future rule changes wouldn’t blow up their plans.
With a new deal arriving, likely well before the February 23 trade deadline, teams should have the necessary information to plan ahead.
Already, the NBA raised its cap projection for the 2017-18 season to $103 million, with a $123 million luxury-tax threshold. The league had originally predicted a $107 million cap, but rolled it back to $102 million when teams began to spend at such a high level in July.
That extra million in cap may not be enough to offset some of the prospective rule changes that could additionally limit spending power.
The working assumption is that minimum salaries, exceptions and rookie-scale contracts for first-round picks will jump by roughly 50 percent.
When calculating cap space, teams are charged a rookie-minimum salary for every open roster spot through 12 players. The current CBA dictates next season’s minimum to be $562,493, but it could scale up by 50 percent to $843,740.
A team with eight players would have $1.1 million total in four roster charges based on the current rules. That would jump to $2.2 million with a higher minimum salary—offsetting a $1 million bump in the NBA’s salary cap.
Similarly, the top overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft has a rookie-scale salary of $5.1 million for next season. If the new CBA raises that by 50 percent as well, the player would take up $7.6 million unsigned. Teams currently have the latitude to pay up to 120 percent of that scale amount, which is why some franchises delay signing their first-rounders until after they’ve used every-last bit of salary cap space.
Exceptions also count against the cap. Teams that might have had $7.8 million in cap this past summer would technically be over by virtue of the Mid-Level Exception ($5.6 million) and Bi-Annual Exception ($2.2 million). In that situation, the exceptions could have been renounced to allow the team to sign a player at $7.8 million. Otherwise the team could stay over and use the exceptions to sign two or more players at a combined $7.8 million.
Factoring in a 50 percent bump, the Mid-Level would climb to $8.7 million and the Bi-Annual to $3.4 million. Together, teams over the cap would have $12.1 million in spending power to spend, with $8.7 million being the most they could give in starting salary to a single player.
A team that might be $12.1 million under the cap would have the choice of staying over with their exceptions.
Maximum salaries may stay flat, given how much they’ve jumped with the NBA’s current $94.1 million salary cap, but the criteria may change. Currently, players with up to six years of experience project to max at $24.2 million, those with seven to nine top out at $29 million and 10 or more would start at about $33.9 million.
Another key factor in determining space is the various formulae to determine a free agent’s cap hold. When a player’s contract expires, they still take up salary cap space on a team’s books until they’re re-signed, renounced or ink with another franchise.
The new CBA is expected to raise the cap hold for players at the end of rookie-scale contracts. Instead of giving Kawhi Leonard an extension, which would have limited the San Antonio Spurs’ spending power in 2015, the team let him become a restricted free agent with a $7.2 million cap hold. After using their space to bring in LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs gave Leonard a deal starting at $16.4 million. That $7.2 million would jump to $8.7 million (300 percent of his previous salary instead of 250 percent).
Victor Oladipo’s cap hold would have been $19.7 million next summer at 300 percent of his $6.6 million salary (up from $16.4 million). Instead, the Oklahoma City Thunder gave him an extension starting at $21.0 million.
As far as standard free agents not coming off rookie-scale deals, it’s unclear if the cap holds will climb, and if so by how much?
Finally, the new agreement is not likely to contain another amnesty clause, a mechanism in the current CBA to erase a single contract from a team’s cap (although the player still receives their salary).
The following is an estimate of the maximum cap space teams would have if they let all their free agents go. Rookie-scale contracts and empty roster charges are multiplied by a factor of 1.5. The working assumption is that teams will finish in the same draft order as last season. Obviously, that won’t be the case, but it’s just a bit too early in the year to take the standings seriously.
|Potential Free Agents|
|Golden State Warriors||$58.6||Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West, Ian Clark, James McAdoo, Anderson Varejao, JaVale McGee|
|Sacramento Kings||$54.7||Rudy Gay, Arron Afflalo, Anthony Tolliver, Matt Barnes, Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Omri Casspi, Ty Lawson, Jordan Farmar|
|Chicago Bulls||$53.9||Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Michael Carter-Williams, Isaiah Canaan, Cristiano Felicio, R.J. Hunter|
|Philadelphia 76ers||$47.3||Nerlens Noel, Ersan Ilyasova, Sergio Rodriquez, Gerald Henderson, Richaun Holmes, Robert Covington, Hollis Thompson, T.J. McConnell|
|Brooklyn Nets||$40.7||Bojan Bogdanovic, Luis Scola, Greivis Vasquez, Randy Foye, Anthony Bennett, Sean Kilpatrick, Joe Harris|
|Los Angeles Clippers||$39.3||Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marreese Speights, Brandon Bass, Raymond Felton, Alan Anderson, Paul Pierce (retiring)|
|Denver Nuggets||$39.0||Danilo Gallinari, Mike Miller, Jarnell Stokes|
|Dallas Mavericks||$37.0||Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Quincy Acy, Salah Mejri, Dorian Finney-Smith, Nicolas Brussino|
|Boston Celtics||$32.2||Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Jonas Jerebko, Kelly Olynyk, James Young, Demetrius Jackson, Jordan Mickey, Gerald Green|
|Utah Jazz||$32.2||Gordon Hayward, George Hill, Boris Diaw, Shelvin Mack, Joe Ingles, Jeff Withey, Raul Neto, Joel Bolomboy|
|Los Angeles Lakers||$31.9||Jose Calderon, Nick Young, Tarik Black, Marcelo Huertas, Metta World Peace, Thomas Robinson|
|Phoenix Suns||$30.6||P.J. Tucker, Alex Len, Leandro Barbosa, John Jenkins, Alan Williams, Derrick Jones|
|Orlando Magic||$29.7||Serge Ibaka, Jeff Green, Jodie Meeks, C.J. Watson, C.J. Wilcox, Damjan Rudez, Arinze Onuaku, Stephen Zimmerman|
|New Orleans Pelicans||$28.3||Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, Dante Cunningham, Terrence Jones, Lance Stephenson|
|San Antonio Spurs||$25.7||Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Dewayne Dedmon, David Lee, Jonathon Simmons, Bryn Forbes, Nicolas Laprovittola|
|Indiana Pacers||$25.4||Jeff Teague, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, Lavoy Allen, Aaron Brooks, Kevin Seraphin, Joseph Young, Rakeem Christmas, Glenn Robinson III, Georges Niang|
|Miami HEAT||$21.4||Wayne Ellington, Josh McRoberts, Derrick Williams, Udonis Haslem, James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Luke Babbitt, Willie Reed, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder|
|New York Knicks||$20.9||Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, Justin Holiday, Sasha Vujacic, Maurice N’dour, Marshall Plumlee, Ron Baker|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||$18.9||Jordan Hill, Brandon Rush, Shabazz Muhammad, Adreian Payne, John Lucas III|
|Atlanta Hawks||$16.0||Paul Millsap, Tiago Splitter, Kyle Korver, Kris Humphries, Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Scott, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mike Muscala, Ryan Kelly|
|Houston Rockets||$12.0||K.J. McDaniels, Tyler Ennis, Nene, Bobby Brown, Kyle Wiltjer|
|Toronto Raptors||$13.2||Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, Jared Sullinger, Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet|
|Charlotte Hornets||$0||Spencer Hawes, Ramon Sessions, Roy Hibbert, Brian Roberts, Christian Wood, Aaron Harrison, Treveon Graham|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||$0||Mike Dunleavy, DeAndre Liggins, Jordan McRae, Kay Felder, Chris Andersen, James Jones|
|Detroit Pistons||$0||Aron Baynes, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Reggie Bullock, Beno Udrih, Darrun Hilliard, Michael Gbinije|
|Memphis Grizzlies||$0||Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Vince Carter, JaMychal Green, Troy Williams|
|Milwaukee Bucks||$0||Greg Monroe, Tony Snell, Michael Beasley, Jason Terry, Steve Novak|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||$0||Andre Roberson, Nick Collison, Anthony Morrow, Joffrey Lauvergne, Jerami Grant, Semaj Christon|
|Portland Trail Blazers||$0||Mason Plumlee, Festus Ezeli, Pat Connaughton, Tim Quarterman|
|Washington Wizards||$0||Otto Porter, Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton, Daniel Ochefu, Danuel House, Sheldon McClellan|
Teams can make trades or buy-out players to open up additional cap space. Several players have non-guaranteed salary, or team/player options. In most cases, to get to maximum cap room, the assumption is all players without 100 percent locked in salary are off the books.
Rest Assured, the 1-16 NBA Playoff Format Is Coming… Kinda
Based on Adam Silver’s comments, it’s safe to assume that the NBA will soon reformat the playoffs.
If there’s one thing Adam Silver has proven in his four years as the NBA’s Commissioner, it’s that he isn’t afraid to do things his way.
And if Silver has his way, the league will eventually figure out how it can implement a system that results in a more balanced playoff system. On Saturday, though, he revealed that it’s probably closer to a reality than many of us realize.
During his annual All-Star media address, Silver admitted that the league will “continue to look at” how they can reformat the playoffs to both ensure a better competitive balance throughout and pave the way for the league’s two best teams to meet up in the NBA Finals, even if both of those two teams happen to be in the same conference.
“You also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in the Finals,” the commissioner said on Saturday night.
“You could have a situation where the top two teams in the league are meeting in the conference finals or somewhere else. So we’re going to continue to look at that. It’s still my hope that we’re going to figure out ways.”
Since Silver took over the league, he’s been consistent in implementing dramatic changes to improve the overall quality of the game. Although Silver didn’t take over as the league’s commissioner until 2014, he was instrumental in getting the interested parties to buy into the notion that the “center” designation on the All-Star ballot was obsolete.
As a result, beginning with the 2013 All-Star Game, the Eastern and Western Conference teams have featured three “frontcourt” players, which essentially lumps centers in with forwards and eliminates the requirement that a center appear in the All-Star game. That wasn’t always the case.
From overhauling the league’s scheduling to reduce back-to-back games to implementing draft lottery reform to, this year, eliminating the traditional All-Star format which features the Eastern Conference versus the Western Conference, it’s become clear that Silver simply “gets it” and isn’t afraid to make revolutionary changes if he deems them to be in the overall best interest of the league.
At this point, everyone realizes that something needs to be done about the league’s current playoff system.
Last season, for example, the Western Conference first round playoff series featured the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder squaring off against one another. Only one series—the Los Angeles Clippers versus Utah Jazz—went seven games.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, the first round series that were contested weren’t exactly compelling. The Cleveland Cavaliers steamrolled the conference to the tune of a 12-1 run to their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. It wasn’t the first time that the public questioned the wisdom behind separating the playoff brackets by conference, but the dominance of the Cavs and LeBron James specifically (who is expected to win the Eastern Conference for the eighth consecutive time this season) has caused renewed scrutiny.
The most common solution offered to this point has been to simply take the 16 best teams across the league, irrespective of conference, and conduct the playoffs as normal.
From afar, this solution seems simple enough, but the obvious concerns are twofold.
First, if the Celtics and Clippers, for example, were pitted against one another in a first round series, the travel would be considerable. Private charter flight or not, traveling is taxing, and the prospect of having to make five cross-country trips over the course of a two-week span would certainly leave the winner of such a series at a competitive disadvantage against the opponents they would face in subsequent rounds, especially if the future opponent enjoyed a playoff series that was contested within close proximity.
Atlanta to New Orleans, for example, is less than a one hour flight.
Aside from the concerns about geographic proximity, the other obvious issue is competitive balancing of the schedule, which seems to be an easier issue to fix.
Using the Pelicans as an example, of the 82 games they play, 30 are played against the other conference—in this case, the Eastern Conference. The other 52 games would all be played within the conference. If playoff seedings were going to be done on a 1-16 basis, the scheduling would have to be realigned in a way to essentially pit all teams against one another evenly. It wouldn’t be fair for a team like the Celtics to be judged on the same standard as the Pelicans if the Celtics faced inferior teams more often.
On Saturday night, Silver revealed that the league’s brass has been thinking about this and is trying to find a solution, and in doing so, he may have tipped his hand.
As a multinational conglomerate, the NBA values the inclusion of as many markets as possible. Wanting to improve the overall quality of the product, though, there are interests that may not align fully.
What’s obvious with this year’s All-Star game is that the NBA has found a way to balance the two.
Rather than eliminating the conference designations altogether and simply choosing the “best” 24 players to be in the All-Star game, the league still chose All-Stars based on their conference, but then distributed them within the pool to allow for better competition.
That’s exactly what Silver revealed the NBA is considering doing with the playoffs. It makes perfect sense, and it’s probably just a matter of time before it’s implemented.
A report from ESPN notes that the idea that the league is kicking around would essentially do exactly what the league did with the All-Star selections with the playoff teams: choose the best, then disburse them in a way that allows for competitive balance.
The proposal would have the league’s teams compete as they normally do and would still feature the top eight teams from each conference getting into the playoffs.
Once the teams are qualified, however, they would be re-seeded on a 1-16 basis and crossmatched on that basis.
It’s not perfect, but compromises never are. The travel issues would still persist, but the league would accomplish two goals: the less dominant conference wouldn’t be underrepresented and discouraged from competing, but the two best teams would still be on opposite ends of the bracket.
An NBA playoffs that featured 11 or 12 teams from the Western Conference would be a ratings nightmare for the league, and less competitive markets would frown at the prospect of having to compete against the other conference for a playoff spot. For many small market teams, the millions of dollars generated from a single playoff game often has a significant impact on the team’s operations, so there would naturally be discord.
This system would at least eliminate that contention.
On the positive side, it would allow for the Rockets and Warriors, for example, to meet in the NBA Finals. In both the NFL and MLB, geography hasn’t been a determining factor on which teams battle for the league’s championship. Why should it in the NBA?
With the league having begun regular season play earlier this season, at the All-Star break, most teams have played about 57 games. A lot can change over the final 25 games of the season, but if the seeds were frozen today and the league took the top eight teams from each conference and then crossmatched them, the Los Angeles Clippers would get squeezed out.
Although the Clippers have the 16th best record in the league, they would be the ninth-seeded Western Conference team and would thus be eliminated from postseason contention by the Miami HEAT. The HEAT have the 17th best record in the league but are the eighth-best team in the Eastern Conference, so to preserve the conference weight, the HEAT would win out.
This is what the seedings and matchups would look like…
(1)nHouston Rockets versus (16) Miami HEAT
(2) Golden State Warriors versus (15) New Orleans Pelicans
(3) Toronto Raptors versus (14) Philadelphia 76ers
(4) Boston Celtics versus (13) Portland Trail Blazers
(5) Cleveland Cavaliers versus (12) Denver Nuggets
(6) San Antonio Spurs versus (11) Oklahoma City Thunder
(7) Minnesota Timberwolves versus (10) Milwaukee Bucks
(8) Washington Wizards versus (9) Indiana Pacers
Here, the Celtics would face the nightmarish scenario of having to travel to and from Portland for their playoff series, while virtually every other series would feature much more friendly travel (especially the Spurs-Thunder and Raptors-Sixers).
The Cavs would have a very tough road to the Finals, having to beat the Nuggets, Celtics and Rockets if the seeds held. The Celtics would have a similarly tough road, as they’d have to get past the Blazers, Cavs and Rockets.
At the end of the day, the Rockets and Warriors would be aligned in such a way as to avoid one another until the championship, and that’s a benefit to all observers.
One of the unintended consequences of implementing this system would be to make every single game count. If the Celtics were able to move up to the second seed, for example, their road to the Finals, in theory, could become much much easier, comparatively speaking.
The end result would be less resting of players during the course of the season and certainly less instances in which star players take the final week of the regular season off in other to be fresh.
There’s no perfect solution, but just as the league has found a clever way to serve multiple interests as it relates to the All-Star game’s competitiveness, they’ve seemingly found a way to follow suit with the playoffs.
It’s only a matter of time before we see it actually implemented.
NBA All-Star Saturday Recap
Brian Slingluff recaps All-Star Saturday from Los Angeles.
Basketball Insiders is here to recap an eventful All-Star Saturday that led to three first-time champs in the various skills contests. Let’s get right to it.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
In Saturday night’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the “Bigs” team, boasting 3 All-Stars, set out to claim a third straight title. The competition kicked off with Joel Embiid coming from behind to best Al Horford, and sharpshooter Lauri Markkanen swishing his first 3 point attempt to eliminate Andre Drummond. On the Guard side, Buddy Hield had an early lead before losing out to Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jamal Murray upset hometown favorite Lou Williams.
In the semifinals, Markkanen was able to dispatch Joel Embiid, who struggled with the pass portion of the competition, and Dinwiddie topped Jamal Murray by making his first 3 pointer for the second consecutive round.
In the Final round, Dinwiddie finally missed a 3 pointer, but it did not matter as he finished with a wire to wire victory over Lauri Markkanen. Dinwiddie, competing in front of his friends and family, was able to end the Bigs’ two year win streak in impressive fashion.
JBL Three Point Contest
The event started off with Tobias Harris scoring a solid 18 points. Wayne Ellington was next, sporting the hot new alternate Miami Vice jersey. Ellington started off cold and heated up on his last three racks, ending up with a score of 17. Devin Booker and former three-point champion Klay Thompson tied for a round-high 19 points. Paul George, Bradley Beal, and Kyle Lowry struggled from the start and never found a rhythm, falling short of making the championship round. Defending champion Eric Gordon never got it going, and would not defend the title, scoring only 12 points.
In the Championship round, Tobias Harris was on fire through the first 3 racks, but quickly got cold, scoring 17 points. Devin Booker was next and could not miss, scoring 28 points, leaving Klay Thompson a high number to match. Thompson fell just 3 points short, and Devin Booker was crowned the 2018 JBL Three Point Champion.
Verizon Slam Dunk Contest
The final and most anticipated event of the night started with Donovan Mitchell bringing out a second hoop, bouncing it off the second backboard and finishing with an impressive windmill dunk, scoring a 48. Victor Oladipo followed with a difficult look-away alley oop dunk attempt that he was unable to complete, totaling 31 points from the judges. Dennis Smith Jr. had a nice reverse double pump that got 39 points and Larry Nance Jr., in a throwback Phoenix jersey, payed homage to his father’s cradle dunk, nailing it almost exactly for a score of 44 points.
Oladipo started the next round of dunks by borrowing Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther mask, and scoring 40 points with a tomahawk windmill dunk. Smith Jr. hit a seemingly impossible reverse 360, through the legs, switching hands dunk for a perfect score of 50. Nance Jr. pulled off a Vince Carter level windmill, nearly missing a perfect score. Mitchell jumped over comedian Kevin Hart to advance to the finals against Larry Nance Jr.
In the Finals, Nance started things off with a windmill alley-oop with some help from Larry Nance Sr., garnering a score of 46. Mitchell completed the difficult one handed alley-oop he had attempted in the previous round, scoring a perfect 50. Nance Jr. answered with an incredible double pass off the backboard dunk, scoring yet another 50 points. Mitchell ended the contest with a Vince Carter tribute dunk, coming out on top by just two points. It capped off an exciting Saturday night, setting things up for the main event on Sunday, Team LeBron versus Team Stephen.
David Nwaba and the Road Less Traveled
David Nwaba speaks to Basketball Insiders about his unconventional path to the NBA.
A player’s path to the NBA usually follows the same formula: A star in high school, a strong college career, and then eventually being selected in the NBA Draft. However, there are times when a player’s path is more unconventional. In the case of David Nwaba, he definitely took the path less traveled.
He attended University High School in West Los Angeles, where he was named All-Western League MVP twice as well as being an all-league selection. He finished his senior year in 2011 putting up 22.0 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game.
He went to an NCAA Division 2 school, however, Hawaii Pacific University, but never suited up for them as he redshirted his freshman year. He played a year at Santa Monica Community College, where he was the Western State Conference South Division Player of the Year before transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. According to Nwaba, the decision to leave Hawaii Pacific was made with the NBA in mind.
“It was always a dream of mine, it’s also why I left a Division 2 school that I started at,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “I had bigger dreams of playing D1 and potentially the NBA. So that was a dream of mine. I never thought the journey would go like this but it is how it is.”
Behind Nwaba, Cal Poly made their first-ever NCAA appearance in 2014. They won the Big West Tournament as the seventh seed out of eight teams, and then knocked off Dayton for the right to come in as a No. 16 seed against No. 1 seed Wichita State. Cal Poly would go on to lose to Wichita State, but sparking that run to March Madness put Nwaba on the basketball map.
He didn’t get to the NBA right away, though. His first professional experience came with the then Los Angeles D-Fenders, now South Bay Lakers, the Los Angeles Lakers G-League affiliate. He initially began with the Reno Bighorns, the Sacramento Kings affiliate, but his rights were traded to Los Angeles. His strong play in the G-League was what caught the Lakers’ attention, enough to give him a pair of 10-day contracts, and then one for the rest of the season.
“It was a perfect spot to start up my professional career The G-League is a place to develop your game, and I think I developed a lot,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “I learned a lot about the game, and I think it was a good place for me to start just out of college.”
Although he made a strong impression on the Lakers, Nwaba found out that nothing is ever guaranteed in the NBA. Due to a roster crunch when the team signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over the summer, the Lakers ended up cutting him. He didn’t stay unemployed for long though. Before he had a chance to hit the open market, the Chicago Bulls claimed him off waivers.
He’s since carved out a role as one of the Bulls most dependable players in the second unit. And just like his path to the league, his role is a bit of an unconventional one as a shooting guard. He’s shooting 51.7 percent from the field, but most of his shots come from in the paint. He only shoots 26.3 percent from three-point range. It’s been effective for him though.
“It’s just bringing energy off the bench and just being that defender,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “For the most part, I just try to be aggressive going to the basket, finishing at the rim, making the right plays, just defending and playing hard.”
The Chicago Bulls got off to a slow start this season. They lost 17 of their first 20 games. In December, they started to pick up their play, winning 11 of their 20 games including a seven-game win streak. However, they’ve now dropped eight of their last 11 games. Despite that, Nwaba does see some encouraging signs. And in the Eastern Conference, he’s not quite ready to count out another run.
“We’re developing every game, just building chemistry amongst each other,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “Who knows, all it takes is just a streak of eight to ten games or something and we’re already back in the playoff race. You never know, anything can turn around. It’s still a long season, a lot of games to be played, and a lot of time to develop our game. We’ve still got a lot of time with each other.”