According to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, negotiations with the NBA Players Association are “going very well,” and there’s “a great sense and spirit of cooperation across the table and a desire to move forward.”
The league’s 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) contains mutual opt-out clauses for both the owners and players, with a Dec. 15 deadline. If neither side opts out, the existing deal will stay in force through the 2020-21 season.
While Silver wouldn’t put a “specific timetable” on negotiations, a hope remains that a revision to CBA can be agreed to prior to the mid-December date.
If either side chooses to opt out, without a new agreement in place, the current CBA will expire on June 30, followed by a lockout until a new deal is ratified.
On the heels of an historic $24.1 million jump in the league’s salary cap, due primarily to the NBA’s lucrative new national television deal, both the owners and players have incentive to avoid a stoppage in play.
Optimism from both Michelle Roberts, the NBPA’s Executive Director, and Silver suggests a new deal may indeed be reached at some point over the next two months.
If the NBA and the Players Association can lock in a deal by mid-December, teams will also have the advantage of understanding the financial landscape of the new deal as they approach the trade deadline and 2017 draft.
Without resolution, teams will be forced to operate in the dark. Early resolution is the best case for all parties, guaranteeing an 82-game 2017-18 season sans lockout.
While details of the negotiation are being held closely between the two sides, what might a new CBA look like? What issues will it need to address?
1. Revenue Split:
Always the big one, the battle over how much of the pie goes to the owners and how much goes to the players is the heart of the negotiation. In 2011, the players accepted a decrease from 57 percent to band in the 49 to 51 percent range. The formula is complex, but for the 2015-16 season, the players’ share was 50.83 percent of $5.3 billion, or $2.7 billion. That number will climb significantly for 2016-17, with television money.
The owners’ argument is that the current CBA is yielding more to the players at roughly 51 percent, than the old system at 57 percent. From the union’s perspective, they took a sizable hit in the last negotiation, team valuations are through the roof, and they deserve to be made whole.
Ultimately, rhetoric only goes so far. At the bargaining table, both sides need to compromise. Will the owners give back, or will the players accept cosmetic changes and status quo on revenue?
Whatever the answer, the NBA currently projects a $102 million salary cap for next season, but raising the player’s stake could translate into a $2 million jump per additional point of BRI – more if revenue climbs above the league’s current expectation.
That assumes the basic structure of a new deal is a basic modification of the existing agreement, and not a complete overhaul.
2. Proportional Scale Salaries
Maximum salaries are tied to revenue. A 10-year veteran’s max climbed from $23 million to $31 million with the jump to $94.1 million. That’s great for players who can get a maximum contract, and it was helpful on a wider scale than usual this summer with most of the league armed with cap room.
In a typical offseason, however, most free agents are hoping to get paid via an exception (Mid-Level, Bi-Annual or Room) or, at worst, a minimum contract. Each of those salaries are based on a set scale in the CBA that is not tied to revenue.
A 10-year veteran on a minimum deal in 2015-16 would have earned $1.5 million. That number rose just $52,472 for the current year. The Mid-Level climbed by only $164,000, despite the $24.1 million cap jump.
Additionally, rookie-scale contracts for first-round draft picks are based on a schedule devised in 2011, independent of revenue.
Top overall pick Ben Simmons was able to sign a contract with the Philadelphia 76ers starting at $5.9 million. A year prior, Karl-Anthony Towns earned $5.7 million in his rookie season.
Look for this imbalance to be rectified in some fashion in a new agreement.
3. Fix Extensions
What worked in the current agreement was the rookie-scale extension. Across the board, young stars like Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard re-upped with their existing teams – which was the league’s goal in the 2011 negotiation.
One aspect was less successful. The Rose Rule was a clever (perhaps too clever) reward for franchise-level players on rookie-scale extensions (with a bump to the second-level maximum). The criteria to qualify included two trips to the All-NBA First, Second or Third Teams, or instead two All-Star starter selections by fan vote. A single Most Valuable Player award would also do the trick.
Given that Zaza Pachulia was almost voted in as an All-Star does more than suggest a flawed system. Davis did not qualify for his Rose Rule extension based on All-Star voting, costing him roughly $24 million.
Meanwhile, All-NBA Teams and MVP are voted on by the media, which is a good or a bad thing, depending on which scribe you ask.
When determining millions of dollars in salary, the requirements should be independent of the fans and media.
That quibble aside, the 2011 CBA killed veteran extensions. With the salary cap jumping higher than the 7.5 percent raise allowed in extension, high-salaried players have had no incentive to sign contract extensions.
The Utah Jazz would presumably prefer for Gordon Hayward to opt out of his 2017-18 salary, and sign an extension at the maximum for next season – but the most he can ink for is a deal starting at $17.3 million.
Naturally, that doesn’t make a lot of sense for Hayward as he’ll be eligible for a maximum deal that could start at approximately $28.8 million (under the current CBA).
Rookie-scale extensions can indicate “max,” while veterans are stuck with a 7.5 percent bump. Instead, Hayward is likely to opt out to become an unrestricted free agent. Perhaps he re-signs in Utah, but he’ll have plenty of suitors from around the league.
4. Draft/Age Limit/D-League
Significant draft reform doesn’t appear to be on the docket, but change could come in an expanded NBA draft.
The NBA Development League has grown to 22 teams. It won’t be long until each NBA franchise has their own affiliate. The draft may expand to a third round, to help populate the talent pool.
A big issue for the D-League is budgeting, with salaries maxing out at approximately $25,000. A new CBA will presumably help fund the NBA’s minor league, which may take the form of two-way contracts – that pay one rate when a player is in the NBA, and a lower amount in the D-League.
Additionally, Silver has made it well known that owners would prefer a higher age limit – with players entering the NBA two years removed from graduating high school. The current CBA requires players to wait a year after high school.
The union may not like the idea, but if the league concedes in another area, the NBA entry age could change.
5. Numerous Additional Items
The actual list of topics for the owners and union is lengthy, from luxury tax computation to drug testing, escrow, amnesty, cap holds, international buy-outs, trade limitations, etc.
Typically, the biggest hurdle is revenue split, but the minutia can be overwhelming. That an agreement may be hashed out without the duress of lockout should help the league and union attack the secondary and tertiary issues with clearer heads.
The Case for Upperclassmen in the NBA Draft
College upperclassmen are becoming increasingly viable options in the NBA Draft, writes David Yapkowitz.
Each year when the NBA draft comes around, there seems to be an aversion to taking upperclassman with a top selection. More specifically, it’s college seniors who often find themselves getting drafted in the second-round if at all.
It can be understandable. NBA teams are clearly looking for a home run pick with a lottery selection. They’re looking for a player who they can build a foundation around for years to come. College seniors often project as solid role players to strengthen a team once that foundational superstar is already in place.
However, recent years have seen the entire first round dominated almost entirely by freshmen and sophomores. In 2017, a college senior wasn’t drafted until the San Antonio Spurs took Derrick White with the 29th pick. The Los Angeles Lakers followed that up with Josh Hart. Hart ended up having a better rookie season than a few of the underclassmen taken ahead of him.
A few other upperclassmen, Frank Mason III, a senior, and Dillon Brooks, a junior, both had better rookie seasons than many of the freshmen taking before them as well. Junior Semi Ojeleye is playing a major role for the Boston Celtics who are in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In 2016, Malcolm Brogdon, another college senior, was taken in the second-round with the 36th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and was a starter for a playoff team.
Senior Tyrone Wallace was taken with the last pick in the draft at No. 60 that year. When a rash of injuries hit the Los Angeles Clippers this season, Wallace stepped in right away as a starter at times and helped keep the team afloat in the playoff picture.
There were a few college seniors that went undrafted in 2016, players such as Fred VanVleet Yogi Ferrell that have had better NBA careers to this point that a lot of the underclassmen taken ahead of them.
This isn’t to say that NBA teams should completely abandon taking young, underdeveloped players in the first-round. The Spurs took Dejounte Murray, a freshman point guard, over Brogdon, Wallace, VanVleet and Ferrell. That’s worked out well for them. It’s more a testament to having a good front office and scouting team than anything else.
But maybe NBA teams should start expanding their horizons when it comes to the draft. There appears to be a stigma of sorts when it comes to upperclassmen, particularly college seniors. If a guy can play, he can play. Of course, college production is often not the best means of judging NBA success, but it does count for something.
With the 2018 NBA draft about one month away, there are a few interesting names to look at when it comes to college seniors. Players such as Devonte’ Graham from Kansas, Theo Pinson from North Carolina, Chandler Hutchinson from Boise State, Jevon Carter from West Virginia and Bonzie Colson from Notre Dame are all guys that should be on NBA team’s radars.
Sure, none of those guys are going to turn into a superstar or even an All-Star. But you’re probably going to get a player that becomes a solid contributor for years to come.
Again, it’s understandable when teams take projects in the lottery. After a long season of losing, and in some cases years of losing, ownership and the fanbase are hungry for results. They don’t want a top pick to be used on a player that projects as only a solid contributor.
But after the lottery, the rest of the draft gets a little murky. A good front office will find an NBA caliber player whether he’s a freshman or a senior. The NBA Draft isn’t an exact science. Nothing is ever for sure and no player is guaranteed to become the player they’re projected to be.
College upperclassmen tend to be more physically developed and mentally mature for the NBA game. If what you’re looking for is someone who will step right in and produce for a winning team, then instead of wasting a pick on the unknown, it might be better to go with the sure thing.
NBA Daily: Are the Houston Rockets in Trouble?
Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals may have been the perfect storm for Houston, writes Shane Rhodes.
The Houston Rockets took a gut punch from the Golden State Warriors, but they responded in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
After they dropped the first game of the series, Houston evened things up at one apiece Wednesday night with a 127-105 blowout win over Golden State. With the Warriors struggling on the offensive end and Houston rebounding from a less than stellar Game 1, the Rockets rolled through the game with relative ease.
But was their improved demonstration a fluke? While fans may not want to hear it, Game 2 may have been the perfect storm for Houston.
The Rockets’ gameplan didn’t change much from Game 1 to 2. They attacked Steph Curry relentlessly on the offensive end, James Harden and Chris Paul took plenty of shots in isolation and their role players got shots to drop that just weren’t going down in Game 1. Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker exploded for 68 points while shooting 66.7 percent from three after scoring just 24 the previous game. The trio averaged only 35.8 points collectively during the regular season.
Meanwhile, Golden State couldn’t buy a bucket; starting Warriors not named Kevin Durant scored just 35 points. Curry shot just 1-8 from downtown while Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguadola combined for just 19 points while shooting 35 percent from the floor. All of that will undoubtedly change.
So, going back to Oakland for Game 3, where do the Rockets find themselves? Not in a great place, unfortunately.
Golden State did their job: they stole a game — and home-court advantage — from the Rockets at the Toyota Center. Now, as the series shifts back to Oracle Arena and, assuming the Warriors return to form in front of their home crowd, Houston will have their work more than cut out for them. If Curry, Thompson and Durant all have their shot falling, there isn’t much the Rockets can do to keep up
The Warriors, aside from Curry, played great team defense in Game 2, something that will likely continue into Game 3. The Rockets hit plenty of tough, contested shots — shots that won’t drop as they move away from the energy of the home crowd and shots that Golden State would gladly have Houston take again and again and again. Harden and Paul didn’t exactly bring their A-game in Game 2 either — the two combined for a solid 43 points but took an inefficient 38 shots to get there. If the two of them play like that at Oracle, the Warriors will abuse them in transition, something that can’t happen if the Rockets want to steal back the home-court advantage.
The aforementioned trio of Gordon, Ariza and Tucker are unlikely to replicate their Game 2 performance as well, and relying on them to do so would be foolish on the part of Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. Devising a game plan that will keep the offense moving while not leaning heavily on the role players will be of the utmost importance — if the offense returns to the bogged down effort that Houston gave in Game 1, the Rockets stand no chance.
Meanwhile, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will likely adjust his defense in an effort to limit the Rockets effectiveness in the isolation while also trying to find somewhere to hide Curry on the defensive end. It almost certainly won’t be the same sets that Houston throttled in Game 2 which will take another toll on the Rockets offense, especially if they fail to execute.
Not everything looks bad for Houston, however. Faced with a do-or-die scenario, Harden, Paul and co. were the more aggressive team from the jump. Pushing the pace flustered the Warriors and forced some pretty bad turnovers consistently throughout the night. If they come out with the same kind of energy and pace, the Rockets could have Golden State on their heels as they did in Game 2.
Budding star Clint Capela also has plenty of room to improve his game, as he has averaged just 8.5 points and eight rebounds through the first two games of the series — the Rockets need him to play his best basketball of the season if they want a chance to win.
Still, the Warriors are virtually unbeatable at home. The team has lost three games this postseason, just four times over their last two playoff trips and not once at Oracle, making the Rockets’ task even more daunting than it already was. Like Game 2, Game 3 should be played as a do-or-die situation for the Rockets because, if they don’t come out with the same aggressive, up-tempo energy, things could be over quickly.
NBA Daily: Hope Not Lost for Mavs
The Dallas Mavericks were the lottery’s biggest losers, but VP of basketball operations Michael Finley still believes the team will land an elite talent.
Dallas Mavericks vice president of basketball operations Michael Finley knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the draft process. In 2018, he’s an executive for the third-worst team in the league that somehow slipped to the fifth overall pick in Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery, but in 1995 he was a kid from the University of Wisconsin hoping to get drafted.
Finley was a first-round pick that summer, ironically selected by the Phoenix Suns, who won the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft earlier this week, but he says he doesn’t even remember the lottery. The lottery wasn’t the event then that it has since become.
“The lottery wasn’t this big when I was in the draft,” Finley told Basketball Insiders. “I don’t even remember how the lottery process played out when I was coming out of college. It’s grown so much, but the league has grown. It’s good for fans, and it’s good for people to get excited about this process.”
Of course, the irony in getting excited about a draft pick isn’t lost on him.
“It’s kind of weird that [fans] are celebrating the losing process, isn’t it?”
Not surprisingly, Finley wasn’t especially thrilled to see his team fail to reap the rewards of a Dallas Mavericks season that was stepped in that losing process. The lottery odds will change next year, and Finley believes that’s a good thing.
“It’s a good thing to change the system a little,” he says. “It will help keep the integrity of the game intact, especially toward the end of the year. It also will be even more suspenseful than these lottery events have been in the past.”
That’s next year, though. This year, the Mavericks are tasked with finding an elite player at a pick lower than they expected. Finley’s trying to look at things optimistically.
“It could have been sixth,” he said. “It’s still in the top five, and going on what we did this season, we don’t want to be in this position next year, so hopefully the guy we pick at #5 will get us out of the lottery and back into the playoffs.”
In fact, having that selection doesn’t preclude the team from finding a star, especially in a draft this loaded. Most agree that Luka Doncic and DeAndre Ayton are the prizes of the draft, but there are other guys available with All-Star potential. Marvin Bagley, Trae Young, Michael Porter, Jr., and Mo Bamba all have incredibly high ceilings. The Mavs may yet do something meaningful with that selection.
“It’s a strong draft, and a lot of the draft is going to go with what player fits what team in a particular system. If you’re lucky enough to get that perfect combination, the players that are in this draft are really good and have the capability of helping a team right away.”
That’s what Finley and the rest of the Mavericks’ organization hopes will happen in 2018-2019.