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A Season of Change: Ideas for the NBA's CBA

With the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring at the end of this season, questions and speculations abound. The principle behind the NBA's CBA is to implement a system that creates a level playing field for all. It's not only a compromise between players and owners, but also a separate meeting of the minds within each of these sides.

For the players, there's a huge disparity in salaries between the stars, the journeymen, and the newcomers to the association. And while there's no doubt that the stars create the huge amounts of fan support and media attention that brings in the billions of dollars needed to sustain such a corporate giant, these same entities couldn't exist without the support of their teammates.

A similar situation lives between the owners of the teams. The large market teams have a decided advantage not only in revenue levels and the ability to overcharge the fans that support them, but also in their ability to spend the vasts amounts of cash that it takes to support more than one of the most prolific athletes available. But without the small market teams and their fans, the incredible earning potential of teams in larger markets would surely suffer.

So with all these factors in mind, the goal is to reach some sort of middle ground. But blocking our way to this middle ground is a Mount Everest of money and egos of a similar stature.

We'd all like to think that the reason behind everyone involved is the same competitive spirit that drives individuals in the lowest levels of amateur sports. Whether it's backyard volleyball, slow pitch softball, or driveway basketball, most of us play these games for the love of the sport. And we watch these amazing athletes for the same reason.

But to pretend that the money doesn't matter would be irresponsible and dishonest. The truth is the money is there and it has to be distributed and put to use in a way that benefits all involved.

I'm no lawyer, and don't claim to have all the answers to these monumental decisions and compromises that must be reached. In fact, like most fans, I can hardly comprehend the vastness of resources that create the sticking points of what will be outlined in the new collective bargaining agreement. But as an avid fan, I do possess a mild understanding of the rules and restrictions involved in trades, free agency, and how the salary cap affects which players might play for my favorite team. And these players are the reason that I have any interest in the CBA and how a lockout would deprive all of us from the wonderful sport of professional basketball.

It was the possibility of not having an NBA season next year that got the wheels spinning. The result was a couple of ideas that I believe could be useful in the forthcoming dispute. These ideas are not designed to help my team specifically, but rather they're based on fairness and the competitive spirit that spawned the creation of almost all sports.

I'm not in a position to have all the facts involved in creating hard numbers that would be put in place. So I'm going off of estimated payrolls and the existing salary cap, luxury tax and various salary exceptions.

My first idea involves the use of dual salary caps. A soft cap similar to the one already in place in the NBA, as well as hard cap that would limit the total payroll of each team. The soft cap could be easily extended into the new CBA. But a hard cap would likely take a couple of years before it could be fully implemented. This is due to the half a dozen teams that are hovering in the estimated range of what would become the hard cap, somewhere in the 90-95 million dollar range.

Tiered luxury tax levels would be the second change that I would implement. The current luxury tax is set at somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 million dollars. Teams whose salaries exceed this amount are required to pay a dollar for dollar penalty for exceeding this amount. This money is then distributed to teams under the existing soft salary cap. Due to the business aspect of the NBA, some teams go to great lengths to either stay under the cap or somehow get in position to receive part of the distributed money with disregard to the competitive nature of the sport itself. 

With a tiered system, some teams that were over the cap could actually receive some money back even if they were required to pay into the luxury tax pool themselves. It would start with a luxury tax level that mirrored the soft cap itself, starting at around 60 to 65 million dollars. This differs from the current tax, which has a buffer between itself and the soft cap. The tiered system would be broken down into 5 million dollar increments. The first tax level might be 50 to 75 percent. With each level after, increasing in 25 percent increments. Teams below the soft cap would receive only a portion of these taxes, but teams in the lower levels of the tax would also get a piece of the pie from the levels above their own. This would encourage teams on the cusp or in the lower levels of the luxury tax to remain competitive on the court, and also enable some of the teams in the smaller markets to concentrate more on players than on payroll.

There are a couple of more ideas that I have. But I'm unsure if they would be practical or beneficial to the philosophy of the CBA. One is performance based incentives for players over a certain salary level. The main problem with performance based incentives is how a players performance is evaluated. Another idea is the ability to combine trade exceptions either together or with a player for the acquisition of a single player. A third idea would be for teams under the soft cap, the ability to combine the mid-level exception with the amount they are under the cap to attain a player that would put them over the soft cap. And one last change would be the creation of a smaller exception similar to the MLE, somewhere in the 3.5 million dollar range. This smaller exception could also be used in conjunction with available dollars under the soft cap for a single players salary.

So there you have it. My shoot from the hip contribution to the NBA. These ideas might not be a perfect solution to all the problems that come with splitting of the enormous financial gains of the association, but good intentions for all were the inspiration.

Reader Submitted

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