Credit to the NBA and NBPA for working late on a Friday night, because it was nearly midnight on the west coast when they reached an agreement for a new CBA that would go into effect starting with the 2023-24 season. I’m choosing to be upset about it because just when the Phoenix Suns were able to don the title of Big Spender, the NBA decides to communize the market.
The 7-year deal, which includes a mutual opt-out after the sixth year, also establishes an in-season tournament, a prerequisite 65 games played for award eligibility, as well as an additional luxury tax apron.
This additional apron will sit at $17.5 million above the cap, which would apply to this season as well as the following three with the way their payroll sits now. The motive for the change, as explained in reporting from ESPN’s Woj, Tim Bontemps, and Bobby Marks:
“The NBA is curbing the ability of the highest-spending teams, such as the Golden State Warriors and the LA Clippers, to continue running up salary and luxury tax spending while still maintaining mechanisms to add talent to the roster.”
The “curbing” involves restrictions like no more taxpayer mid-level exception (which I recently called the Suns’ only hope at retaining Josh Okogie), trading first-round picks that are seven years away or cash considerations, buyout free agents, and taking on more money than is being sent out.
Well gee, that sounds like almost the entire roster construction of the Suns. Hm.
The NBA’s hope that luxury taxes would solve parity issues is gone and while it remains, these restrictions look a little... well, strict. Before Mat Ishbia even has a chance to pay a luxury tax, he walks into a landscape of roster construction that will become much more difficult to navigate.
By early indications, the CBA will include some way for teams like the Suns to maneuver these restrictions, but details aren’t clear yet. Hm.
In contrast, teams below and slightly above the salary cap will be afforded new opportunities when it comes to their roster building. That includes new exceptions for all and a lesser punishment on lower-end tax teams.
NBA owners when they see a free market that features people more willing to spend than they are pic.twitter.com/l2yBFtNQLD— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) April 1, 2023
All this communistic effort to balance the scales across the league seem pretty effective on their face if you’re a person who aims to create parity, but Saturday evening, there was more reporting on ways that the CBA frees up players:
Game changer: The league's new collective bargaining agreement will give players the ability to invest in NBA and WNBA teams, as well as promote and/or invest in sports betting and cannabis companies, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 2, 2023
You can bet your bottom dollar that Devin Booker will at some point have stake in the team if this idea takes off around the league, further rooting him to the Valley and in the organization. As for Kevin Durant, I’m sure some cannabis companies will be calling given his outspoken use and Arizona’s recent recreational legalization earlier this decade.
A couple of Pandora’s Boxes are opened here — especially the sports betting can of worms, which I simply don’t feel like getting into at this time — and, though we’re missing specific details and clarity (which I’ll update this story with when necessary), it makes me wonder: what are the chances a superstar joins a superteam on a minimum contract with a chunk of ownership stake? LeBron, wanting to get back at Dan Gilbert, I’m looking at you.
Further reporting from Charania on Sunday points to a “Private Equity firm” selected by the NBPA that players can invest in, which sounds a little more league-centralized instead of team-oriented, which could prevent the use of equity as a bargaining chip in negotiations.
Aside from the luxury tax changes, the CBA also includes the following changes:
- salary cap smoothing as a new TV deal approaches in order to avoid a salary cap spike like that summer when Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng were big ticket free agent signings
- a third two-way contract slot; Ish Wainright (before being converted to a standard contract) and Saben Lee filled the only two available slots for the Suns this season, now they’ll get a third, which will help slightly to alleviate the luxury tax restrictions
- in-season tournament that will start in November, including pool play games, with eight teams advancing to a single-elimination tournament in December. The ESPN reported that “The Final Four will be held at a neutral site, with Las Vegas prominent in the discussion.”
- all NBA Draft Combine participants will be required to undergo physicals that will be distributed to teams in the prospects’ projected draft range, eliminating scenarios like when Tyrese Haliburton and his representation reportedly withheld medical info from top 10 teams, including the Suns (granted there wasn’t a Combine that year anyway because of COVID)
Details are continuing to come out as we go as the agreement is finalized, ratified, and set in stone, but my biggest takeaway so far is that a lot of this feels like it’s in direct response to the Durant trade from the money-trading to the future picks rule.
Suns fans aren’t used to being the big spenders, but they are used to feeling like the NBA’s working against them, so we’re back on familiar soil on that front.