Feb 20, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) brings the ball up the court during the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Thunder 122-119. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Trade Rumors: Crushed Under Weight of CBA

Hyperventilating over fantasyland trade ideas is in vogue. The reality of the trade deadline will be much less fantastic. Actual deals will be smaller in size and scope and involve more players unlikely to make a dent in the consciousness of most casual NBA fans than the big name commercial starring names being bandied about.

The AP’s Jon Krawczynski has a pretty unspectacular breakdown of why. It’s the new and improved collective bargaining agreement. And it’s been at work for awhile now. Examples?

Dallas let Tyson Chandler, the lynchpin of their title team from 2010-11, leave to team up with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire in New York. Chicago did not match Houston’s offer for up-and-coming center Omer Asik and the Knicks let Jeremy Lin leave for Houston.

And that was before the new CBA really flexes. Here’s the meat and potatoes:

When owners and players agreed to a new deal that ended the most recent lockout, the players insisted on not having a hard salary cap – like in the NFL – that teams could not exceed under any circumstance. In the name of leveling the playing field for big and small-market teams, the owners responded by getting new restrictions put in place to make it as painful as possible for teams who go over the cap to continue doing business that way for any length of time.

Under the previous agreement, if a team exceeded the luxury tax level by $4 million, it paid an additional $4 million in tax penalties. If it went over by $14 million, it paid $14 million in penalties.

Next season, because of various increases in penalties, that $4 million will cost a team $6 million. And the team that goes over by $14 million will be hit with a $26.25 million bill.

To make matters worse, any team that exceeds the cap “apron” – which is $4 million over the existing luxury tax level – is not allowed to bring in a player in a sign-and-trade deal. That team also will only be able to offer a three-year mid-level exception deal to a free agent rather than the four-year exception that teams under the apron can offer, putting them at a bargaining disadvantage on the open market.

And to top it all off, any team that has exceeded the cap in three of the previous four seasons starting in 2014-15 will be subject to “repeater rates,” which increase the penalties even further.

“Any well-managed team is going to think about the future consequences of their roster management,” Stern said.

Whether it’s the end of the Super Friends era or not. You can bet the Thunder weren’t thinking about the CBA when James Harden, instead of Kevin Martin, was torching them last night. Tough choices abound. Most will be decided by financial impact, rather than fantasy impact.

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