Initial Impressions of the New NBA

[Ed: this post bumped to top. Endless Brandon Roy Amnesty Clause talk posted below.]

People are swamping the mailbox talking about various aspects of the new CBA and how they might affect the league and the Blazers.  Ben is doing an excellent job of keeping us updated on the unfolding particulars and the potential wrinkles as they go public.  Storyteller, as always, gives us a great view of the financial implications for Portland and for the rest of the league.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I feel like I'm being tossed about in successive waves of information like I was wading in the ocean.  In my experience there are two ways we can handle this.  We could attempt to anchor ourselves to a fixed point and fight against the waves, trying to hold onto solid ground.  We might succeed but it would be a lot of work and the view would be limited.  It's considerably more fun to just lift your feet and float along, letting the ocean take you where it will and delighting in the experience.  There will be plenty of time to dry off and find sure footing when the tide goes out.  So for now, let's go with general impressions from drifting in the deluge of news.

  • The cap may not be as hard as the owners wished but going over the luxury tax is going to be serious business.  How many owners adamantly refused to exceed the threshold when the ratio was dollar-for-dollar?  Only the most daring would chart such a course when the ratio is $3-4 per dollar over.  It's not so much the initial move that kills you, but what it means for all subsequent moves.  Taking between $18-24 million per year to pay a $6 million guy would make even the stoutest stomach churn.  I don't think the luxury tax works as well as the league would wish in maintaining competitive balance, but this will be closer than the old system.
  • The different trade requirements for teams over and under the luxury tax toughens the system as much as the financial penalty.  Not being able to execute the same trades as your opponents makes you think twice.  Ditto with the exceptions.  Now going over the threshold isn't just a money decision but a competitive flexibility issue.
  • What the sam heck is the league office going to do with 50% of the luxury tax overruns?  Build a platinum, gem-encrusted statue of David Stern for the lobby?
  • The most brilliant move of all may be the amnesty clause bidding system wherein teams with cap space can place bids on the services of waived players instead of said players going willy-nilly.  One of the big issues with the amnesty clause is that it makes little or no difference to the player himself where he ends up.  Because he gets his original salary while his new (usually minimum) paycheck reverts to his old team as an offset there's no incentive to search for a good deal.  Instead these guys head for the sunniest shores, presumably a competitive balance problem.  It also creates a lot of weirdly-valued $2 million guys with talent potentially far greater than their salary.  The bidding system allows the "not-haves" to take a chance on these guys at a reasonable price, returning some sense of commensurate value to the process and sending more dollars to the teams that had to waive them.  Somebody in that bargaining process must play board games, because this is a classic catch-up mechanism employed in many of them.  One wonders if this will affect decisions to waive players or not.
  • One of the more problematic moves may be linking the potential raises of young star players to their election to All-NBA or All-Star teams.  Before those designations were nice, but honorary.  Now an All-Star ballot could potentially make a difference of millions of dollars to a young kid.  This opens up questions about the voting system, the exposure players get in various cities, and the criteria by which players are selected.  Is it fair to leave that to a popular vote?   What will the priority of these young players be?  We already hear them saying, "My goal is to make the All-Star team" and question whether it shouldn't be about the team winning instead.  Now we almost need to translate, "No...my goal is really, REALLY to make the All-Star team...twice!"  Don't you start questioning every risky, flashy move after that, especially if it fails?  Granted the percentage of cases where this makes a difference will probably be small, but any element that threatens to take away from team and winning is a potential pitfall.
  • Allowing extension-and-trade moves and eliminating most of the BYC stuff was a nice touch.  There will be a lot less head-scratching from observers and everybody's formerly not-so-good trade machine applications just got better.
  • Linking Qualifying Offer level to performance rather than draft position is interesting and should improve the perception of fairness.  Second-round or undrafted players who perform well enough to play starter's minutes can be retained as well, at a price that puts them in company with lower-tier first-rounders.  There was always cognitive dissonance in that whole "We gave you your big chance but now we're unable by cap rules to afford/offer your extension so someone else will benefit" thing. 
  • Anyone hoping for a nice schedule for the Blazers should probably not hold their breath.  Geographical corner teams always get screwed.  Expect huge doses of back-to-backs and the Blazers getting sent to all kinds of odd places to fill in corners that everybody else's schedule left behind.
  • Anyone hoping for the Blazers to make an extended run with this roster should also not hold their breath.  There's the whole Roy-No Roy question, of course, but bobbing in these waves it feels like the Aldridge-Wallace-Batum-Felton-Oden combination is too expensive and not well-enough matched.  The big questions surrounding the Blazers over the next year may not be who comes but who needs to go.  That'll be an interesting turn-around from the past few years.  Anyone remember the days when we were debating who to pick up with Raef LaFrentz's expiring contract?
  • Speaking of...in some situations expiring contracts could become quite valuable again.  Then again the penalty for making a mistake taking an expensive guy in return are greater too...

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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