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New NBA television contract could raise salary cap $16M in 2016

This is what makes Danny Ainge a great GM: the new TV deal money could come into play as early as next summer, right when the Celtics will be freeing up cap space and rebuilding hard core.

Mike Stobe

Here's the "basketball is a business" angle of it from John Lombardo and John Ourand at Sports Business Journal:

Talks have progressed so rapidly that details are emerging on a massive agreement that would see the league's annual rights fee more than double, with ESPN and Turner combining to pay more than $2 billion per year on average. One source said ESPN already has committed to pay "well over" $1 billion per year, and Turner is not far behind for a media rights extension that would kick in with the 2016-17 season.

As part of the current eight-year deals that end in June 2016, ESPN pays $485 million per year and Turner pays $445 million per year on average, bringing the league's total take at just less than $1 billion per year.

Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk predicts that the salary cap could rise roughly $16M in 2016-2017, but Grantland's Zach Lowe has suggested that the league will look to mitigate such a large hike in the salary cap by increasing the cap of the 2015-2016 accordingly.  Remember: this summer the salary cap jumped from $58.569M to $63.065M.  According to CBA guru Larry Coon, the NBA expects a modest 4.5% increase year-to-year.  This season's nearly $4.5M bump marked a 7.7% increase.  If Feldman's prediction is correct and Lowe's right about the NBA splitting the difference and increasing it $8M next summer and another $8M the following off-season, it could have major repercussions with the Celtics' rebuild.

First of all, it could make the decision on Rajon Rondo a little easier.  Whether Danny Ainge is willing to give him a max contract, big money over a shorter, 3-4 year contract, or something more team-friendly and financially secure over five years, the increase in the salary cap gives both negotiating parties more options.  Check out dangercart's financial case to keeping Rondo in green.  I'm paraphrasing here, but with the timing of Rondo's final year of his contract making him a nine-year vet vet coupled with the fact that this purported increase may not actually happen for another two summers (contrary to Lowe's report), re-signing Rondo to a max deal makes money sense.  That decision will always be more about fit vs. dollars, but a higher salary cap doesn't hurt.

There's also the matter of bringing in another superstar to pair with Rondo.  After striking out with Kevin Love this summer, Ainge could go after another superstar but this time, with cap space rather than by trade.  According to ShamSports, the Celtics have ~$33.6M in total salaries without options but if they pick up Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller's options, it's closer to $40.6M.  That number includes Jeff Green's $9.2M player option and even if he decides to pick it up, the Celtics have options.

For example, Ainge could decide to utilize the stretch provision on Gerald Wallace's final year.  Although he's turned the hearts of many fans with his leadership and hard work, Crash isn't worth the $10M check he'll be cashing this year and next, but if Danny opts to stretch him, next season could be spread over three years making the cap hit ~$3.33M.  That ~$6.66M could mean the difference in getting a guy like Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, or Greg Monroe.

An increased salary cap would also go a long way in retaining all our young players and future draft picks going forward.  The off season preceding the 2016-2017 season could come with decisions on Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller but with more available money down the road, Ainge could decide to lock them in earlier and avoid the restricted free agency nightmare that Detroit and Phoenix have been living through this summer.  A higher cap will certainly proportionately inflate new contracts, but keep this in mind: when the CBA was negotiated three years ago, rookie scale contracts were locked in over the course of the entire CBA (which runs until 2021 with an opt out clause in 2017).  Rookie deals are small to begin with, but with the number of picks that the Celtics could be using over the next four years, their impact is now less.  It's fractional, but every penny counts.

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