So, I have some ideas for a new NBA collective bargaining agreement. Other proposals out there include David Aldridge at NBA.com and Tim Donahue at Eight Points, Nine Seconds. My proposal is a lot closer to what the players want than what the owners want. If not covered, you should assume that a given subject will generally be treated the same was as in the previous CBA.
I reject the owners' demand of a hard cap. I just don't feel a need to cater to them until they stop lying about their finances in order to justify taking a bigger slice of the pie. I believe that aggregate player salaries should be pegged to basketball-relate income as is currently done. If revenue goes down, players lose money. The owners proposal using guarantees of fixed dollar amounts are intended to lock players out of a share of expected income growth, especially with the next TV contract.
The compromise that I propose is that players allow for shorter contracts and a harder cap, while accepting a further decrease in income than what they have proposed. Effectively, I am proposing two levels of soft caps, one harder than the other. One is pretty much what the salary cap is now, which is easy to exceed through the use of exceptions. The second is the luxury tax threshold where, in addition to paying a tax, you start to lose exceptions if you go over. This is all contingent on the players and owners coming to an agreement about sharing the BRI. I'm a bit of a pessimist when it comes to believing the owners will make any serious motion towards compromise on dollar amounts, though.
For those who complain about guaranteed contracts, rather than ban guaranteed contracts, I stick with the status quo where contracts can be, but don't have to be, guaranteed. Instead, I opt to shave a year off of the maximum contract length (except for a franchise player) and cap the length of the MLE even more strictly. As compensation to the players, I offer to make the biannual exception an annual one (instead of adding a second MLE like the players asked for). Teams will still find themselves in trouble if they hand out bad contracts, but it will take less time to ride those contracts out and get back to being able to field a more competitive team.
I add a franchise player tag, which allows teams to give a free agent two more years than another team can offer (but the second additional year is only partly guaranteed).
The last two ideas are not necessarily part of the CBA, but are good ideas nonetheless which players should insist upon as conditions for agreeing to a CBA.
- Currently, the soft salary cap is at 51% of basketball-related income, with player salaries capped at 57%. Lower those numbers to a mutually agreed upon amount. The players last offer was 54.3%. Some have suggested an outright 50-50 split of BRI.
- Keep the luxury tax. I suggest setting the luxury tax threshold at 50% of BRI divided by 30 (the number of teams in the league) with the regular salary cap somewhere below that. Some teams will spend more than that, most teams will spend less, and total player salaries will probably be less than 50% of the BRI. Use the current escrow system to give owners rebates if salaries plus benefits exceeds a number such as 52% of BRI. Those numbers can be negotiated downward.
- Make the cap harder by reducing salary cap exceptions for teams over the luxury tax threshold. You lose the bi-annual exception if you were in luxury tax land the previous season. Your mid-level exception starts to decrease by 10% of how much you are over the quantity of the luxury tax threshold plus the average salary, stopping when your MLE is reduced to half of the full MLE, so that big-spending teams have their ability to improve the roster crippled, not eliminated outright.
- Under the Larry Bird exception, teams may offer their own free agents a contract of up to five years. Players signing with new teams are limited to four. This is a decrease of one year.
- Teams may designate a player they have Bird rights to with a franchise tag. They can offer that player a sixth year, but only guarantee up to 67% of that sixth year. Team lose the ability to offer the sixth year if the contract will put the team in the luxury tax or if the team is executing a sign-and-trade. Teams may have only one franchise tag player on its roster.
- Cap the length of contracts signed under the MLE to 3 years. The MLE is the source for a lot of bad contracts where teams tack on more years than are justified and end up throwing away assets to try and unload the contract.
- No more player early termination options. With shorter contracts, they are less necessary and I don't like them anyways.
- Make the bi-annual low-level exception an annual exception available every year (so long as you are not in the luxury tax). I would also consider combining the LLE and MLE into one big exception pool that must be split so that no single player receives more than what would be the MLE. So, if the LLE were $3 million and the MLE were $6 million, you could sign a $5 million and a $4 million player, but you couldn't sign a $7 million and $2 million player.
- Limit the size of a traded player exception to half the difference in salary, but allow teams to combine TPEs. I would also accept having TPEs decrease over time, so that it is eventually worth half of the initial full amount.
- Teams over the cap but under the luxury tax threshold can make trades if salaries are within 150% plus $250,000 of each other, so long as increased salary doesn't put them over the threshold. Teams in the luxury tax are limited to the old 125% plus 100K. Basically, teams that spend more modestly will be better able to make trades that improve themselves. They will be less handicapped by things such as base year compensation and they will, in theory, be able to receive more talent in return for whatever they send out in trades.
- Allow teams to offer restricted free agents two qualifying offers, one for a one-year contract and another for a two-year contract at a lower per/year amount, perhaps 75-80% of the one-year contract. So, if the qualifying offer now is a one-year contract for $8 million, you could offer a two-year $12 million contract instead, or (more likely) give the player the option of choosing between the two.
- While first-round draft picks may be signed to 120% of the rookie scale, players who are not at least 21 during the calender year of the draft and, if a U.S. player, at least two years removed from high school, are limited to 100% of the rookie scale. Players are fiscally punished for coming out early.
- Players who are traded and bought out by their new team cannot sign back with their old team during that season.
- Players may negotiate for a no-trade clause covering the first season only of any contract that is four seasons or longer.
- In determining suspensions for technical fouls amassed during a season, technical fouls awarded in double technical situations shall count as half a technical foul, but the league may review the situation and upgraded it to a full technical foul for the purpose of counting toward a possible suspension. Players given a technical foul in a double technical situation will still have to pay the fine associated with a full technical foul unless the technical is rescinded by the league.
- Create a neutral office to deal with discplinary matters such as technical and flagrant fouls.
- Add two roster spots to accomodate players on hybrid contracts, which pay them less if they are assigned to the D-League. These spots will be limited to players who are 25 or under as of the end of the season or players with less than three years of NBA experience. First-round picks on a rookie scale are not eligible for these hybrid contracts (although they can be assigned to the D-League), but second-round picks are. Teams will be required to carry at least 15 players on their roster, with limits on how many players can be assigned to the D-League at one time.
- A delayed amnesty rule which permits teams to waive a player so that they don't have to pay luxury tax on his salary. Like the "Allan Houston Rule" in 2005, teams would still have to pay the player his salary with it counting against the cap and can't sign or trade for him until after his original contract would have expired. I say delayed because teams that have bad contracts should be punished a bit and have to carry those deals for one year longer. This diminishes the effect of fiscally responsible teams having their competitive advantage of not being idiots muted. So, the amnesty clause can be used between July 1 and October 1 of 2012.
- Executive compensation, especially for owners who pay themselves a salary, shall be publicly disclosed and possibly capped.
- Teams must share revenue from local television contracts.
I have additional ideas which I have considered, but am not sure about yet. They include:
- Limiting the use of Bird or Early Bird exceptions for a team over the luxury tax threshold. This could either be a limit on the number of players signed using those exceptions in a given year or decreasing the maximum contract length or maximum annual raises.
- Dividing BRI into TV/media BRI and other BRI, with the players getting a different percentage of each revenue stream. Some of discussion involves assumptions about future national TV contracts.
- A decrease in the maximum raises in contracts. Maybe by half a percent. It's an idea that should be considered, but I haven't given much thought to the actual numbers that should be involved. The same goes for decreasing the rookie scale. Yeah, but I'm not interested in coming up with an exact amount.
- As an added pressure on teams to keep down salaries, levy an additional luxury tax on teams that have huge salary commitments beyond the current season. I'm not sure about the mechanism for this.
- Under-21 players who are drafted have an additional year of restricted free agency. I am not sure about the effect this would have.