Possible New CBA: What’s New, What’s Missing?

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No one in the NBA wanted to see another lockout. All summer, the NBA and the Players Association talked frequently about not wanting to kill the golden goose that was welcoming average NBA players into the $100 million club.

Equally, NBA owners have finally started to turn the profitability corner enough to stay where they are with the revenue split between the owners and the players. In fact, with the new television and apparel deals, the owners are pretty happy with the cash-flow their teams are seeing these days and franchise values are going up astronomically.

So the story for months was that positive talks were taking place and that a new labor deal was not only likely, but it was expected to be finalized well in advance of the December deadline for both sides to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Meetings last week in New York seem to have firmed up the rough framework of a new CBA (which hasn’t fully been revealed). And while some of the glaring issues seem to have been addressed, there are still a few areas that may not get touched in the new agreement.

The biggest adjustment will be to the salary cap exceptions and rates that are fixed values in the current labor deal. Even with a ballooning NBA economy, things like rookie-scale values, veteran minimum deals and cap exceptions like the Mid-Level and Bi-Annual are not defined by the salary cap value, so those amounts did not see the drastic increases that normal salaries saw. This has been addressed in the new deal; it looks like instead of fixed amounts, those will be floating amounts tied to a percentage of the salary cap. If the cap goes up, those go up. If the cap goes down, so would those values. It seems like the new math that will drive those values could make them worth as much as 50 percent more in the coming year.

There will be some changes to how contract extensions work and when players will be eligible to sign them. The current deal makes signing an extension almost unfavorable for most players. The current deal does not allow players to cash in on ballooning cap figures and that’s expected to be adjusted to make staying with the same team a little more attractive for both sides. With that said, what does not seem to be coming is a franchise designation.

For some time, cap pundits have suggested that a super-max contract or franchise tag system like the NFL uses would help teams retain their own star players, rather than seeing their stars bolt for new teams because there is no financial incentive to stay with their original organization. There will be some tweaks coming designed to address this and make it harder for “superteams” to assemble, but there does not seem to be an overwhelming vehicle for retention like a super-max player or a tag system.

The NBA also seems to have relented on its pursuit of a tougher early entry rule as it pertains to the NBA Draft. From the day Adam Silver took over as Commissioner of the NBA, he routinely labeled increasing the age limit as one of his top priorities. The current “one-and-done” rule requiring a player to be one year removed from his high graduating class and turn 19 in the year he gets drafted will remain unchanged.

One big change is that the owners and players have agreed to a two-way contract structure as it pertains to the D-League. Also, there has been considerable talk that teams would soon be allowed to carry a potential 16th and 17th player specifically for D-League assignment under the new two-way contract.

A two-way deal will allow a player to be paid one rate for the games and days he spends in the D-League and another (more lucrative) rate for the time that player is on the primary NBA team. NBA teams have found some workarounds to offset the incredibly low D-League salaries, such as using partially guaranteed money, but they lose the protections to retain that player. The two-way deal is expected to resolve that and create a real mechanism for a team to invest in developing a player without wasting a valuable roster spot.

It’s believed that the NBA Labor Committee will present the framework of the new deal to the Board of Governors in the coming days, while the Players Association is expected to go over the deal to the rank and file NBA players around the same time. Both sides will have to vote on the deal, but this is considered by many to be a formality.

Sources close to the process say that there is still a large number of “B-List” items that the attorneys for both sides have to work through. A finalized deal is not in the immediate future, but there is an expectation that a new CBA is coming fairly soon. Reaching a new deal without the bloodshed that most expected will be a huge milestone for the NBA and its players.