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Report: NBA, players union in ‘serious conversation’ for new CBA, with draft age lowered to 18

NBA Draft 2022 at Barclays Center in NY

NEW YORK, NY, USA - JUNE 23: (L-R) Blake Wesley, Walker Kessler, Jaden Hardy, Tari Eason, Jalen Williams, Jalen Duren, AJ Griffen, Dyson Daniels, Johnny Davis, Jabari Smith, Bennedict Mathurin, Chet Holmgren, Jaden Ivy, Paulo Banchero, Shaedon Sharpe, Jeremy Sochan, TyTy Washington, Keegan Murray, Ochai Agbaji, Ousmane Dieng, Malaki Branham, Mark Williams, Marjon Beauchamp, Nikola Jovic pose for a group onstage during the 2022 NBA Draft on June 23, 2022 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York City, United States. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A long-discussed return to allowing 18-year-olds straight out of high school to make the leap to the NBA appears on the way sooner rather than later, part of the “serious conversation” the NBA and NBPA are having toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

There is a mutual opt-out date of Dec. 15 when either the NBA (meaning the owners) or the players union could opt out of the current CBA, effective July 1. The goal of both sides has been to have a new agreement before Dec. 15 that would roll into place after the current CBA. Sources around the league expect no work stoppage — both sides are profiting from the current system and nobody wants a work stoppage that messes with that flow (and would be a PR disaster in a time of inflation and economic concerns nationally).

But there will be tweaks to the CBA. Here are the highlights via Charania.

• At the top of the list is doing away with one-and-done, Charania reports.

The league and NBPA are expected to agree on moving the age eligibility for the NBA Draft from 19 years old to 18, clearing the way for the return of high school players who want to make the leap to the NBA, per sources with knowledge of the discussions.

This would kick in as early as the 2024 NBA Draft, although the details are still being hammered out.

• Stiffer luxury tax penalties in some cases are on the table. Some owners were put off by the Warriors spending more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax penalties on their way to the title last season. Both the Warriors and Clippers are on pace to break that $350 million barrier this season, and with that, some owners want to make the tax even more punitive (a hard cap is out of the question, it would lead to a players’ strike).

However, as Warriors owner Joe Lacob pointed out during the Warriors playoff run, the core of their team is players they drafted, developed and retained, not high-priced free agents. He questioned whether teams should pay the same tax penalties for keeping their own players as opposed to teams built through trades and free agency. There could be owners who see the Warriors model — or what the Grizzlies are doing, for example — and think they should see some tax relief. This is a complex topic that isn’t just a concern of the owners, the players are always happy when an owner is willing to spend.

• The sides are talking about setting up a mental health designation for a player to miss a game (or games), similar to a player being listed as out due to a sore knee or sprained ankle. The NBA would be the first major professional sports league to take this step. After Ben Simmons sat out much last season in part due to not being mentally ready to play (he also had back issues), the owners likely will seek some kind of checks and balances on the system. But with DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love at the forefront, the NBA has been the most progressive league in addressing mental health concerns and this would be a step in that direction.

• There also is talk of finding ways to help players create generational wealth after their playing days end. While NBA players today — on the whole — are smarter with their money than previous generations of players (part of that is they are making more), NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio wants a system that could create more equity for the players and give them more financial opportunities.

“Thinking about the players’ contributions to the game and how they can be compensated for it will mean there will have to be more equity structures in place. It could be the sale of a team. It could be the deals they are entering where they are receiving equity beyond the four or five years that a contract exists. It’s much broader, and I don’t think historically we’ve looked at it. It’s been the here and now.”...

To do that, Tremaglio thinks it will require setting up an infrastructure alongside the league that does not currently exist. And she feels very positive that it is something both sides can come to an agreement on.

The NBA and NBPA representatives are expected to meet this week and continue talks toward a new CBA.