Ways to Improve CBA
Okay the lockout has officially got to me. Not being able to laugh at teams for over paying guys during the off season is one thing. But missing out on the summer league, my favorite time in the basketball season (I don't care for the heat I'll get for saying that), is another. What are some ways that the flawed CBA can be fixed, so both sides will benefit? I have a few points here:
Bird Rights: The bird rights have got to go. Well, not the idea, but the fact that the pay increases apply to all players. As Ken Berger pointed out, the Bird rights were intended for only star quality players. Now, this rule applies to every scrub out there. One of the reasons why contracts are more bloated than they should be.
MLE and Bi Annual Excaption: Hey Lakers, Knicks and any other team willing to pay luxury tax money, thanks for spending the money needed to be a championship contender. For doing so, we'll award you with a free $6 million so you can sign anyone you want. As long as you spend the cash you always do, you can use it any year. And because deep down, we hate smaller market teams, you can use it to relieve the guys suffering in those markets. I mean who wants to play in Cleveland anyways? In 2011-2012, the only exceptions should be to draft picks, minimum contracts and the guys who get what next on my list.
Franchise Tag: In the NBA today, too many guys trying to form their own super teams. Although it makes the league more compelling, it hurts both the teams who lost the stars and the middle of the pack teams who just witnessed their chances of beating such powerhouses dwindle. There are several resons why this problem will continue to persist under the old CBA, but to really put the pressure on guys trying to leave, I suggest a franchise tag. In my CBA, a tag is basically a big incentive, limited to 1 per team. However, it would be independent from the players contract. I liked Berger's idea of a tier 1 and 2 tag, but I don't think there are 60 guys worthy of such an honor or cash. A tag would be at least 5 years in length and at most 10. It will also promise that player a guaranteed max contract and at least of 125% the amount on the contract, and 75% of it will count against the teams cap. But like an incentive, the player will have to meet playing requrements determined by the team. Of course these are the basics, if it was to work a lot of smaller details would have to be included.
Revenue Sharing: Whether the NBA is losing the money they say they are is debatable. But they are losing money and I'm sure we all can agree the NBA has a handful of guys making way more than they should, even for league standards. Bump that 58% down a tad.
Salary Cap: The NBA and MLB has proven that when everyone can pay whatever they want, you'll have to pay to play. I like the idea of a flex cap and if there was one, if the league kept its rules of determining the cap (51% of BRI-player benefits and dividing it by 30), the room between the cap and the point of going over would be double the average player salary. But then what would teams like the lakers, who, next year, have more than that in payroll do? Honestly, I don't know, but right now the best answer would be to renegotiate those guy.
This is just my opinion, and while I don't plan on inheriting the throne from David Stern, I want to see basketball again. And I want to see the leauge not lose $340 million. What do you guys think?
I have to say that I agree with almost everything you said, especially the flex cap and the application of bird rights, but I do not see the need to eliminate completely the MLE if there was a flex cap system put in place (just change some of the details of it, like who qualifies for an MLE).
Nice ideas, this would be the ultimate comprimise, but this is a fight between babies, one with a golden spoon in its mouth and the other with a silver spoon. And we are all bebies with a wooden spoon watching and hoping the two brats get a deal done.
When you say bump the revenue down a tad bit, what specific number did you have in mind. I was thinking 48-52 for the players seem reasnoble. But a week or two ago, Adam "Bald Baby" Silver was talking about the revenue eventually being somthing like 62-38 in favor of the owners, I was like are these guys crazy! And frickin players want average saleries to be 7 million. 7million! That is crazy. I just want to see Basketball, and soon.
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The owners want to get rid of the mid level exception while the players not only want to keep it but add a 2nd one with more penalties heaped on teams that utilize a 2nd one.
I’ve always maintained that I support the concept and existence of the MLE but that it had to be limited so that the big markets don’t take advantage of it and create a league where competitive balance and parity gets tossed to the side. With the luxury tax in place during the just expired collective bargaining agreement, my thinking was that if you limited the MLE to the teams whose payroll fell in the window of the soft cap of $58 million and the lux tax threshold of $70 million and disallowed it for big market teams who were already well above the threshold, you would have a league with much more parity.
Towards the end of June, when the league and players were trying to come to an agreement, the league made a proposal to the players that included something called a “flex cap” which sounded very similar to what I wrote in the previous paragraph. While details were somewhat sketchy, the rough draft idea was that teams could slightly exceed the soft cap in order to sign MLE players or resign a player using their early bird or bird rights but that they could only exceed it to a certain extent before hitting a hard cap.
The players countered that they don’t want any form of a hard cap and that since the “flex cap” still used a hard cap above the flex cap, it would be considered a hard cap and thus, a non starter.
Since this is a compromise oriented article, my solution is to meet halfway. I like the idea of a hard cap as long as you have the layers of a flex cap/midlevel exception threshold cap then a soft cap and a minimum cap where at least 75% of the soft cap must be spent by owners on player payroll. Since current payrolls are so high, you would have to phase this in over a 3 year period. For me, it would look something like this…
2011-12 season……$95 million hard cap followed by a $68 million flex cap and then a $55 million soft cap.
2012-13 season……$88 million hard cap followed by a $65 million flex cap and then a soft cap of $53 million.
2013-14 season…….$78 million hard cap followed by a $62 million flex cap and then a cap of $51 million.
2014-15 season……League would finally get to a hard cap of $70 million, $60 million flex cap and a $50 million soft cap. Adjustments from here on out would be based on whether revenue is increased or decreased as a whole for the league.
The concept of how this works is simple. Like it is now, teams who want to sign a free agent to a contract exceeding the MLE would have to get below the soft cap.
Teams could exceed the soft cap by resigning their own free agents AND using the MLE or any portion of it as long as their payroll falls below the flex cap level. For example, if they have $3 million below the threshold and the MLE is $4 million, a concept I’ll get into later, they would only be able to spend $3 million of the MLE instead of the full $4 million.
Teams could then only exceed the flex cap up to the hard cap by signing their own free agents.
The owners could then decide if they want the flex cap/mid level threshold to also act as a luxury tax threshold depending on if revenue sharing solves their in house problems or not.
In summation, I think the players would be wise to accept a hard cap but not at the ridiculously low number of $45 million. Get it up to $70 million with the possibility of going up or down based on league revenue and you have a legitimate middle ground.
Example on how this would effect the rest of the league:
The hard cap numbers of $95 million for the first year and $88 million for the 2nd year are derived from contracts already on the books for players. $95 million represents the largest payroll, this case being the Lakers and since the owners aren’t allowed to terminate any guaranteed deals YET, another concept that I’ll get into later, we have to set a cap where the largest payroll is.
In year 2 of the deal, the Lakers have options on both Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. The thinking behind the $88 million is another compromise. They would have room to keep one but have to get rid of the other.
On the flip side, the Lakers wouldn’t be able to improve their roster beyond signing their 2nd rounders to minimum deals since they would already be up against the hypothetical hard cap and wouldn’t be able to improve their roster via the MLE since they are also well above the hypothetical flex cap number of $68 million. Not only the Lakers but world champion Dallas, Boston, Orlando and Miami would be at a disadvantage due to being too close to or over the flex cap number. Dallas would be limited to concentrating on their own free agents like Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea, Boston with Big Baby and Jeff Green while it would be James Jones and Mario Chalmers or bust for the Heat.
On the other hand, teams on the cusp like New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Milwaukee would be far enough under to sign an MLE level player and thuse create a level of parity and competitive balance that the league has stated that it’s looking for.
2. ALLOW THE OWNERS TO TERMINATE ONE GUARANTEED DEAL OVER THE FIRST FIVE YEARS OF THE CBA AND THEN ONE MORE DURING THE 2ND FIVE YEARS.
This is one I could actually do without but with public pressure to limit or get rid of guaranteed contracts at an all time high, I concede this to the spirit of compromise. Plus, with a hard cap in place, teams are going to need to be able to get out from under mistakes and allowing for this clause makes that an easier task.
The thinking behind limiting it to one per five years or two over the course of a hypothetical, league proposed 10 year deal is that the public outcry from hard line fans and owners is for the most part, overblown. If you look at the history of team payrolls, it’s rare that a team has more than 1 or 2 horrible contracts that limit their ability to improve. Being able to get rid of just one of the them would usually put a team below the cap or at least in position to better the team via the MLE or portion of it.
If a team needs to get rid of more than one deal then I place the blame at the feet of management. At that point, they need to look themselves in the mirror as opposed to just trying to find ways to get more money back from the players.
I also add a phase in for this concept as well, only this time for the players benefit. We can point our fingers all we want and laugh at how much the players spend but at the end of the day, it’s their money and they can spend it how they see fit. They signed their contracts with the thinking that they would see every penny of it and have bought houses, cars and various goods for family members and friends, financing all of it based on their respective contracts. The phase in would make it so the owners would not be able to terminate any deals during the first 5 years of the cba until the summer of 2013. That gives players time to re-finance or prepare for the possibility of their contract being voided.
Another benefit to the players is that while someone will most likely get their contract terminated, that means that there is an available opening for someone else to get a well deserved contract whereas had the opening not existed in the first place, said player would most likely have to play for the minimum or in Europe as opposed to getting the MLE or contract created by cap space due to the outgoing contract. In short, the good players get paid while the overpaid jake loses out. Owners, fans and players win. Overpaid chump who didn’t live up to his deal gets tossed. I don’t see how you can argue with that.
I will also add that the concept of rollbacks is a no go as well due to what I pointed out above. A contract is a contract and you can’t just go back on what has been signed. Giving the Gilbert Arenas’, Brandon Roy’s and Mike Miller’s of the world a 2 year warning is a good compromise.
Also, make it so that not only is there a 2 year phase in period from the time the cba is ratified but also allow for all players to have completed 2 years on their deal before it’s eligible for termination. This protects players who get hurt in the first year. At least now, they have a 2nd year to fall back on and when you get down to it, injury isn’t their fault but the result of unfortunate circumstances so they shouldn’t be punished in full.
For those of you who want more and think the players are lazy, I will disagree with you but comfort you with the knowledge that nobody knows in advance who will be terminated. Therefore, it adds incentive to ALL players to play hard, team oriented ball despite the fact that only one can be terminated and should help improve the on court product all the more.
Also, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!! For those of you who want all contracts to be non guaranteed, we would actually be thrown back to a situation where this is less parity in the league. Big, attractive market teams could just terminate as many contracts as they need during a summer in which there are a number of big time free agents and just build more super teams. And trust me, it would happen. If the Heat could do it despite not being able to terminate guaranteed deals, imagine what the Lakers could do if they had that at their disposal.
How this effects teams around the league:
Teams like Orlando can take advantage of this after 2 years since they will still have 2 horrible contracts in Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas on the books. By getting rid of one of them, they can better convince Dwight Howard that changes are coming and that the team can improve if he’s patience.
3. NATIONAL TV SLIDING SCALE
Revenue sharing is a big source of controversy. As mentioned before, the players believe that the majority of the league’s problems are a result of the lack of revenue sharing and that if the league could install a system of more revenue sharing, the players wouldn’t have to give back as much. This is true to a certain extent but as we’ve seen in Major League Baseball, it doesn’t stop the big spenders from spending more on talent. They can write a luxury tax bill that allows the little guy to be profitable but at the expense of the fans. You see, the small market owners just keep the money instead of spending on free agent talent to make the team better. If they keep their payroll low enough, they can be profitable but then wind up losing 100 games or so.
This is why a cap is necessary so the combination of a hard cap to go along with revenue sharing makes everyone a winner in this mess. The question now becomes, how do we go about implementing a system of revenue sharing that’s fair for the small market but doesn’t take away too much from the large market? You see, new owners in Detroit, Phoenix, Brooklyn and Golden State can say that they spent as much on their respective teams with the knowledge that they would get a large return on their investment due to being in a large or succesful NBA market. Having to give away too much to the little guy will make their investment a long term loser or so they project.
I actually agree with this sentiment to a certain extent. Some will argue that there is something fundamentally wrong with forcing large markets to share and that it’s borderline communist and un American. While I think that’s going too far, a good solution would be for the league to disperse their national tv money differently. Teams wouldn’t be forced to share their earned revenue but rather the LEAGUE itself would be deciding that for the good of the game, the gap needs to be closed so we’ll take it upon ourself to decide how to disperse the money that WE NEGOTIATED.
As it stands now, teams get roughly $32 million per season as a result of the national tv deal that Stern inked with Disney and Turner. Despite this equal dispertion, there is still a wide gap dividing the haves and have nots. Some teams are very profitable while others lose money in the eight figure range. In order to rectify this situation, the league should be able to disperse this money depending on how much revenue the teams bring in on an individual basis for the previous season. I will use the 2008-09 season as an example. The Lakers led the league in revenue earned, followed by the Knicks, then Detroit, then Chicago, Houston, Cleveland and Dallas.
At the bottom of the league, you had Memphis in last, followed by Milwaukee, New Jersey, New Orleans and then Minnesota at #26.
My system would then pay the top grossing team, the Lakers in this case, $17.5 million. The #2 team would get $18.5 million, followed by #3 at 19.5 million and so on, adding one million to each team in the ranking order. By the time you get to #26 Minnesota, you have $42.5 million, then $43.5 million to New Orleans, $44.5 to Jersey/Brooklyn then $45.5 and finally $46.5 to the lowest ranking team.
To some, this is an ugly form of welfare. My counter argument is that it’s not welfare. Franchises shouldn’t be penalized for being in small markets. Fans shouldn’t suffer losing season after losing season because their team can’t create enough revenue to compete. This is just a way of bridging the gap some. According to Forbes, the high ranking teams would still be profiting well above $30 million while if you add $15 million to a team at the bottom, they go from losing $5-10 millon to profiting $5-10 million. In short, the big guy doesn’t get hurt much while it makes all the difference for the little guy.
4. TWEAK THE NUMBERS
From here, it gets easy. You keep most of the elements of the old cba but just lower the numbers. What most people forget is that this recently concluded collective bargaining agreement was even more owner friendly than the cba that was ratified in 1999 after the big lockout. That 1999 deal was considered to be a huge victory for the owners. If that was a huge victory then the 2005 deal should’ve been considered a landslide. So what happened?
In my opinion, the cap just kept going too high. With revenues in the league going up just about every year, there’s no reason why teams should becoming less and less profitable. If only 8 teams spent the luxury tax yet 22 of them lost money, then the simple answer is that the cap and lux tax threshold were just too high. The cap was determined by overall revenue created and since the large markets were mostly responsible for that revenue, the cap wasn’t fairly determined. Sure, the big market will still be profitable but the small markets weren’t seeing more generated revenue so the cap would eventually be too high for them. So……
a) Lower the cap. As mentioned earlier, the soft cap should get down to $50 million in 2015 and then from there, base the number at less than 40% of BRI as opposed to the current 48%.
b) Lower the amount of the max salary by reducing the percentage that players can get. Currently, 0-6 year vets can max out at 25% of the cap, 7-9 year vets get 30% and veterans with over 10 years experience can get 35%. Lower it to 20%, 25% and 30%.
c) Lower the length of contracts to 5 years maximum if you resign with your current team and 4 if you switch teams as free agents from the current 6 and 5 setup. Limit MLE signees to 3 year deals. The combination of a 5 year deal and a 20% max for players coming off their rookie deal would make for a $10 million base salary on a hypothetical $50 million cap. With 10% raises, this would make the total deal come out to $60 million over 5 years. This is well below the $100 million deals that we see all over the place and would lower the total payroll to the point that teams would still be under the hard cap and opportunities would still be abundant for free agents.
d) Add a “Keith Van Horn” provision. Dallas was able to use KVH’s bird rights to their advantage despite the fact that he was almost 2 years into retirement. It was a loophole that made a mockery of the system. To fix this problem, players should no longer have bird rights if they’ve been out of the league for over a year. The whole point of bird rights is to allow teams to retain their stars. If a player is out of the league for over a year, he really isn’t much of star anymore.
e) Add a “Big Z” provision. When Cleveland dealt Zydrunas Ilgauskas to Washington for Antawn Jamison, the Wizards then waived Big Z and he then went back to Cleveland. They basically got Jamison for nothing. Other teams have taken advantage of this loophole as well. To get rid of it and the possibility of teams colluding together in the future, a new simple rule should be put in place that says a team can’t bring a player back until the following season.
f) Make the raises in contracts be 10% for someone resigning with his team and 5% if they leave via free agency. Those numbers are easy to factor in your head and are lower than the current 10.5 and 8.5. Lower raises means lower overall contract and lower payroll.
g) KEEP THE GRANDFATHER CLAUSE AND FORGET ABOUT FRANCHISE TAGS!! This is a clause that allows for teams to resign their own free agents to a number that is above the max. For example, if a free agent is coming off his 8th year in the league and he makes $17 million, he should be eligible for a 5% raise off that $17 million. That would bring his new base salary to $17.85 million. With a hypothetical $50 million cap and a 25% max for 7-9 year vets, that would mean that he could only sign for a max of $12.5 million elsewhere. That’s a difference of over $5 million on the base salary alone and probably is enough to keep the player from leaving. It’s one thing for Lebron James to take a $2.3 million base salary cut but if you more than double that, he probably stays in Cleveland so future free agents will have less incentive to leave and eliminates the need for franchise tags, something the players union is justifiably fighting.