NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Matt Bonner attends a press conference after the NBA and NBA Player's Association met to negotiate the CBA at The Helmsley Hotel on November 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
After a nasty lockout, the league and the players union agreed on a new CBA. There weren't that many drastic changes since the owners were more concerned with getting a bigger share of basketball-related income than with changing the league, but tweaks were made that could have an effect on the Spurs' offseason plans. Let's see what changed, what stayed the same, and how it all affects our team.
Re-signing Own Free Agents: Bird Exceptions
Larry Bird Exception: The Bird rights' system stayed the same, but the maximum number of years a team can offer its own free agents has decreased from 6 to 5. The Spurs have Bird rights to Tim Duncan, but I doubt he will sign for more than a couple of years, so the change doesn't really affect the Spurs this season.
Early Bird Exception: A team can resign its own free agent after 2 seasons of service to a contract up to 104.5% of the past season's average salary. The minimum number of years in the new contract is two and the maximum is four. The Spurs have early Bird rights to Danny Green, who is also a restricted free agent. More on Danny in a second.
Non-Bird Exception: A team can resign its own free agent after only one season of service with this exception. The problem is the contract cannot exceed 120% of said player's salary in the previous season or 120% of the minimum salary, which does the Spurs no good when it comes to Boris Diaw, who will surely get a better offer than that. It might help with Patty Mills, who has made his intentions of declining his player option and testing free agency clear, since the Spurs could offer him up to four years starting with a $1.2 million salary.
The new CBA has two different MLEs, one for tax-paying teams and one for non tax-paying teams, but it's not as cut-and-dry as it seems, since there is an "apron". The "apron" was introduced in the new CBA to determine which teams get non tax-payer benefits and is applied to teams that are either under the luxury tax threshold or less than $4 million above the tax line. The Spurs shouldn't come close to being $4 million over the tax line, but other teams might be restricted by or benefit from it.
PATFO will have the full version MLE available to work with. The non tax-payers MLE allows a team to offer up to $20 million over four years, instead of the $9 million over three years that tax payers can offer. That means San Antonio could be a more attractive destination for free agents looking to join a contender, since the Spurs can offer more money than, say, the Knicks or the Lakers. Unfortunately, the Spurs will be forced to decide between resigning Boris Diaw using this exception or spending it on someone else. The exception can be split, so in the off chance that Diaw re-signs for less that the full MLE, the Spurs could use the rest on someone else.
The Bi-Annual Exception survived the negotiations and will also be available, since the Spurs didn't use it this past season. This would allow the Spurs to offer a two-year, $4 million contract to a free agent, provided they are not over the apron.
Restricted Free Agency
The Spurs have a restricted free agent to whom they hold Early Bird rights in Danny Green. This means that unless they renounce those rights, the Spurs can match any offer Danny Green gets by extending him a qualifying offer.
The maximum any other team can offer Danny is slightly more than the average salary from the previous season (around $5 million). The biggest change the new CBA includes is a "starter criteria", which kicks in when a player starts 41 games or plays at least 2,000 minutes in the regular season. For second round draft picks that meet that criteria like Green, the qualifying offer climbs to the equivalent of the qualifying offer for the 21st pick in the same draft (Darren Collison), which is $3,342,175.
The minimum Green could get from the Spurs is that $3 million number and gives him more power if the Spurs decide to re-sign Green outright without waiting for the market to set his value. Since the minimum he would get from the Spurs next season is a pretty big step up for him, salary-wise, Green could agree to play next year for the qualifying offer (which would allow him to veto trades), and then become an unrestricted free agent in 2013. It also sets a higher "floor" for his agent to start negotiating and could shift the focus of talks from money to guaranteed years.
If the Spurs decide to go the traditional route and extend the qualifying offer, there could also be some problems. The other big change in restricted free agency is the amount of time a team is given to match an offer sheet. If some other team makes Green a contract offer he likes, he can sign that offer sheet and the Spurs would have three days to match it, instead of the seven allowed in the old CBA. If that happens early in the free agent signing process, the decision to re-sign Green could dictate what the team's priorities will be in the offseason.
Amnesty and Stretch Provisions
Amnesty Provision. With Richard Jefferson and his albatross of a contract gone, the Spurs have no real candidate for amnesty. Stephen Jackson can't be amnestied since he wasn't on the team before the new CBA passed, and the Spurs have no other bad contracts. The amnesty is a one time exception, which makes using it on Matt Bonner's contract seem wasteful. Having it just in case something bad happens with either Parker or Ginobili (who will both play in the Olympics) would probably be the smartest thing to do.
Stretch Provision. The stretch provision allows teams to waive players and "stretch" the cap hit for two times the length of a contract plus one more year. Basically, a player with two years left on a contract would count against the cap for five years but in a smaller sum. This provision can be used as many times as a team wishes, but only with contracts signed or extended under the new CBA. It doesn't really help the Spurs, since all of their existing contracts, except the rookies', were signed before the new CBA was in place.
Those are the changes in the CBA that can affect the Spurs this offseason. The changes in restricted free agency are the more damning, but the Spurs should be able to retain Green if they so choose. If you have any CBA-related questions you should go here or ask in the comments and I'll see if I can answer.