How The New CBA Rules Affect The Trail Blazers

A summary of the terms for a new CBA that the league and the players have made in their 'handshake agreement' was released by Sam Amick of SI.com over the weekend. So even though the actual CBA has not been completed or officially voted upon by either side, discussions about the implications of the new rules have been posted by Larry Coon, by Chad Ford and John Hollinger, by our own Dave Deckard, and by a myriad of others over the last few days.

There are a few implications for Blazer players, however, that I have yet to see in print. So, after the jump, I want to take a closer look at how the revealed details could and will affect individual members of the Trail Blazers in the months and years to come. In each case, I'll be quoting from the released summary of agreed-upon provisions and trying to provide some analysis of how it applies to the player:

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Brandon Roy

Brandon's relationship with the Trail Blazers could be determined in the coming weeks based upon whether or not the franchise decides to waive him under terms of an Amnesty clause that was summarized in this way:

Each team permitted to waive 1 player prior to any season of the CBA (only for contracts in place at the inception of the CBA) and have 100% of the player’s salary removed from team salary for Cap and Tax purposes.

Ben has already put together an excellent summary of how either using or not using this amnesty clause on Brandon's contract will affect the team going forward and there's no reason for me to duplicate either his efforts or the discussion that's going on in the comments section of that post. Let me simply say that, no matter which choice is eventually made, it will have huge implications for the franchise and its attempts to win a championship during the next few seasons.

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Greg Oden

As a restricted free agent with full Bird Rights, Greg has surely followed reporting on the labor negotiations closely as they directly influence the type of contract that he can expect to sign either with the Trail Blazers or with another team. Perhaps most relevant are these details regarding contract length and contract size:

Maximum contract length of 5 years for Bird players and 4 years for other free agents.

Maximum annual increases of 7.5% for Bird and Early Bird players, and 4.5% for other players.

Rules governing maximum individual salaries for new contracts are the same as under the 2005 CBA

So although his starting maximum salary amount hasn't been decreased by the new agreement, the maximum length of contract that he could potentially sign with the Trail Blazers has been reduced to 5 years and the maximum length of an offer sheet that he could sign with another team has been reduced to 4 years. Additionally, the maximum yearly raise he can expect in a multi-year contract offer has been reduced from 10.5% to 7.5% with the Trail Blazers and from 8% to 4.5% with any other team.

Also of interest to both Greg and the Trail Blazers is this detail:

Period for a player’s prior team to match an Offer Sheet that a Restricted Free Agent receives from a new team shortened from 7 to 3 days.

So if Greg receives an offer sheet from another team, Portland would only have 3 days to decide whether or not they wanted to match that offer. In light of the short, frenzied free agency period about to strike the NBA, this perhaps makes it more likely that another team would make try to make an offer to Greg, as the period of time that they would be 'in limbo' waiting for a decision has been more than halved.

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Nicolas Batum

Nic is about to start the 4th year of his rookie scale contract and as such is eligible for negotiations on an extension. The amount of such an extension would be limited by the details listed above (ie, the maximum amount of the first year hasn't been decreased but the maximum yearly raise has been decreased to 7.5%) and the length is affected by this detail:

Maximum of 4 new years for rookie extensions (except maximum of 5 new years for a maximum-salary Designated Player rookie extension – team can have only 1 Designated Player on its roster at any time).

So, unless the team decides to offer him a maximum contract amount (highly doubtful, in my opinion), his extension can only be for 4 years beyond the 2011-12 season.

One other detail comes into play regarding such an extension:

Base Year Compensation (BYC) in connection with the Traded Player Exception is eliminated, except in sign-and-trade transactions

Under the previous CBA, giving Nic a significant raise in an extension would have resulted in him becoming a Base Year Compensation player, greatly affecting the ability of the team to trade him for at least 18 months, should they decide it was necessary to do so. That will no longer be the case for Nic. If you are unfamiliar with the previous rules about BYC, this article may help you understand the complexities that were in place under the prior agreement and why this change makes a difference.

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Patty Mills

Patty may not be part of this season's Trail Blazer roster after signing with Xinjiang in China, but that doesn't mean that he won't possibly be playing for Portland at some point in the future. Portland currently holds Early Bird Rights on Patty and even if he doesn't play for the team this year, they can retain those rights in the 2012-13 offseason by making him another Qualifying Offer next summer. That Qualifying Offer would be affected by these two details:

Qualifying Offer amounts are the same as in 2005 CBA

All Qualifying Offers fully guaranteed.

So, the amount of a Qualifying Offer to Patty in June of 2012, should the Trail Blazers choose to make it, would be for the same $1.17 million that this year's Qualifying Offer was for. The major difference is that, although this year's Qualifying Offer to Patty was completely unguaranteed (because his 2010-11 contract was completely unguaranteed at the time it was signed), any future Qualifying Offer to Patty will be fully guaranteed. This could influence whether or not the team decides to make such an offer in the future.

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Nolan Smith

As Portland's 2011 1st Round Pick, Nolan's rookie contract will be affected by the following detail:

First-year salary amounts for first round picks to be set at or about levels shown in 2005 CBA for 2010-11 season until reduction in the rookies scale is proportional to reduction to overall system (i.e., approx. 12% lower than under the 2005 CBA).

Under normal circumstances, the rookie scale for 1st round picks would increase from season to season. However, it appears that Nolan, as the 21st pick in the 2011 draft, will have a salary this year comparable to that of Craig Brackins last year (as he was the 21st pick in the 2010 draft).

Otherwise, it would appear that his contract will be structured similarly to rookie scale contracts under the previous CBA - 2 guaranteed years plus 2 years of team options.

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Joel Freeland and Victor Claver

Joel and Victor haven't yet played for the Trail Blazers, but Portland continues to hold their draft rights. Should they be signed by Portland at some point in the future to play in the NBA, the above detail about rookie scale amounts could apply - that is to say, the amount of a rookie scale contract next year or even the year after that is not guaranteed to be larger than what it will be this year.

Additionally, it should be noted that the new agreement might also affect their contract amount should they be signed to an amount other than their rookie scale. The previous CBA made allowance for teams to sign 1st round draft picks to an amount higher than 120% of rookie scale if 3 years had passed since the player was drafted. In this case, the team would use either cap space (if they had any) or another exception such as the MLE instead of the standard rookie player exception limited by the rookie scale. For example, this is how San Antonio signed Tiago Splitter in 2010 to a contract that was significantly higher than his rookie scale amount. It's unclear whether or not the new CBA will continue to allow this practice - but if it is, the primary means that Portland could potentially use to sign either Joel or Victor under this provision would be the Mid-Level Exception (MLE). And the size of Portland's MLE in years to come could be influenced by the following:

Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: Set at $5M in years 1 and 2, growing 3% annually thereafter; maximum contract length of 4 years; can be used every year.

Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: Set at $3M in year 1, growing 3% annually thereafter; maximum contract length of 3 years; can be used every year.

So, should (for example) the Blazers decide that they'd like to make a contract offer to Joel Freeland and he insists on an amount higher than rookie scale, the amount available to them in their MLE could be reduced if their team salary commitments at the time put them above the luxury tax threshold. The implications of this reduction are numerous:

  • The maximum amount of a contract offer would be reduced if the "Mini MLE" were in play
  • The maximum length of the contract would also be reduced
  • Additionally, if Joel were willing to play for $3 million in 2012-13, this would leave nothing left of the MLE after signing him, as opposed to having $2 million leftover if the full MLE were available.

Now, you might be thinking that the Trail Blazers could alternately use their Bi-Annual Exception (BAE) to sign another free agent in this scenario. However, this might not be an option, as outlined in the new agreement:

Bi-Annual Exception can only be used by non-taxpayers. Amount set at $1.9M in year 1, growing 3% annually thereafter. Exception cannot be used in 2 consecutive years and has maximum contract length of 2 years (same as under 2005 CBA).

All points to think about in possible projections for signing one or both of these previous 1st round picks.

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Other General Implications For The Trail Blazers

The summary also lists other provisions of the new CBA that could also directly affect Portland in the years to come. Some of these might have been pointed out by others, but I thought I should also include them in this analysis:

  • The reduction of cash available to be sent out as part of trades from $3 million per trade to $3 million per year. Portland has historically used cash as part of trades - especially to buy draft picks - and this could become a factor.
  • The reduction in length of contracts using a Disabled Player Exception from 5 years to 1 year. Long term injuries are unfortunately something that we Portland fans have had to deal with in the past, and should the organization find themselves in a position where they have to replace a player who incurs a serious injury, this limitation could come into play if the injured player ends up being out of commission for longer than one season.
  • Teams that are under the tax threshold can bring back 150% + $100,000 (up to $5 million) of the salary that they send out in trade. Teams that are over the tax threshold can only bring back 125% + $100,000 of the salary that they send out in trade. Being over the tax threshold could limit some of Portland's options in making trades.
  • Teams that use the full MLE or the BAE cannot be more than $4 million above the tax threshold at any point later in the season. Again, as the Trail Blazers potentially look to be at/near/above the threshold for the next several years, this rule could limit later personnel transactions.

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More details about the new CBA are sure to be revealed in the weeks to come. As they are, this list of Blazer-related implications is sure to grow. But for now, these are the major changes in the new agreement that I see that could affect how Portland conducts the business of basketball. Feel free to share your own thoughts on these issues, or to point out anything that I might have missed.


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