Friday brought good news to NBA fans. The league and the players association have reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement that will extend from the 2023/24 season up until at least the 2029/30 season. There will be no lockouts for the rest of the decade.
The announcement was a little surprising because many believed owners would try to limit player movement after having several stars force trades, but the NBA business is booming, with team valuations reaching new heights, which seems to have smoothed the negotiations over.
The new tentative CBA does come with some significant differences, from the way teams can spend money to the criteria for awards. Here’s everything important we know so far.
The league is limiting how much the teams with the highest payrolls can spend
One of the key differences between this CBA and the last one is that it includes a second apron. For those not familiar with the current apron, which was at around $6 million over the tax line this past year, it was a tool that was introduced with the intention of adding restrictions for teams with the highest payrolls. Those restrictions acted as a de facto hard cap when a team over the tax line went over the apron by using its taxpayer’s mid-level exception, receiving a player in a sign-and-trade transaction or using its bi-annual exception.
The new CBA goes one step further by removing the taxpayer’s mid-level exception entirely for teams that cross the second apron set at $17.5 million over the tax line, further limiting their ability to add free agents. Additionally, those teams will not be allowed to trade picks seven years in the future, use cash in trades and sign free agents from the buyout market. It’s a change that comes with a lot of restrictions in terms of adding new talent but should only affect a handful of franchises.
It might seem counterintuitive to punish owners willing to pay a premium to contend, but it seems the league is focusing on trying to inch closer to competitive balance. If that’s the case, the new rules, which will reportedly include changes that would allow for bigger trade exceptions for non-taxpaying teams, could potentially help.
There will be a midseason tournament
The addition of a new midseason tournament is probably going to get the most attention out of all the announcements, and for good reason. The NBA will do what a lot of top international leagues have been doing for decades and host a separate event that could bring a lot of new eyeballs and revenue.
The full details for the new midseason tournament are not clear yet but we do know that it will be a single elimination tournament, which could spice things up in a similar way that the play-in did. To qualify for it, teams will participate in pool games baked into the regular season schedule. Eight teams will get in and will fight for the crown. The winning players and coaches will get extra money, which should help increase their motivation to go all out, especially since the event will be over by December, leaving them with plenty of time to get ready for the playoffs.
Tournaments like this have been a success in other leagues, so the potential for this to become a huge competition is there. It might take some time to get the NBA viewing public to care, but it’s an interesting gamble.
Teams will have three two-way spots available instead of just two
The introduction of two-way spots that teams can use to give players a chance without having them count against their regular roster spot number has been a success and the NBA sees it. Now instead of just having two two-way spots available, teams will have three, raising their total roster number to 18.
The way this will work is straightforward, but the impact could be big. Now teams will have an extra spot to develop fringe players in the G-League while having their rights and the ability to call them up. It’s also a win for the players association, which has essentially ensured that 30 more players will be tied to NBA organizations. There really is no apparent downside here.
The league is cracking down on load management
The most controversial of the changes is the one that makes it a requirement to appear in at least 65 games for players to be considered for postseason awards. There will surely be some sort of provision to protect players who have endured serious injuries, but this could change how teams manage their stars.
Load management is nothing new, as Spurs fans know, but it has become more prevalent recently. Teams are essentially listening to their medical staff and scheduling rest for their more frail or valuable players. As a result, some of the biggest stars sit out games that they are able to play. Fans clearly don’t like this, since it means often missing the one chance to see their idols in person, and the league’s broadcasting partners have surely expressed their unhappiness with this trend, as it has the potential to ruin marquee matchups.
The problem with the change is that it punishes players for something they have no control over. If the coaching staff tells a star that they are sitting, the star can’t check himself into the game. As an example, it wasn’t the Spurs stars’ decision to take rest days as often as they did. It was Gregg Popovich’s and the medical staff’s. It’s understandable for the league to want to improve its product, but there’s potential for some conflict between players and teams here.
There are other tentative changes, but they are not hugely significant. The aforementioned four, however, could really have a huge impact on how the league develops in the coming years. There’s reason for optimism but also for caution because it’s impossible to anticipate what unintended consequences will come from these new rules. For now, what we know for sure is that at least a lockout was avoided, which is good news on its own.