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What we know, what changes and what doesn’t in new NBA CBA

Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson detail how the new CBA will impact the NBA, including the inception of a new mid-season tournament, changes made to award eligibility, and alterations to the luxury tax and payroll spending.

There were no screaming headlines or pronouncements of doom leading up to the NBA and NBPA announcing a new seven-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), mainly because there just wasn’t much drama or tension in the talks (and the sides did a good job not negotiating through the media).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and players union executive director Tamika L. Tremaglio have an excellent working relationship, not the underlying distrust and animosity between the sides that helped fuel the last NBA lockout a dozen years ago. Also, both sides are making a lot of money — and about to make more with the new television deal in a couple of years — and nobody sane wanted to screw that up with a work stoppage. So the sides found a middle ground and got a deal that’s not radically different from the last one (the split of basketball-related income is not changing).

However, there are changes in the CBA. Nothing is official yet (both the owners and players have to vote to approve it), but here’s what we know about the new CBA.

• NBA players will now be able to invest in NBA and WNBA teams under the new CBA (owners were banned from playing under the old rules). This is an opportunity for players to tap into the real wealth of the sport — rapidly rising franchise values — and it will be done through a private equity firm.

• Players also can be sponsored by sports gambling ventures — not betting on games, but working with the companies — as well as cannabis businesses. Both those gambling and cannabis companies must be in states where those businesses are legal.

• Teams now can have more than two designated super-max players, that had limited teams moves before (for example, Brooklyn with Ben Simmons, when it was trying to add to the talent pool around Durant/Irving). As noted by Wojnarowski at ESPN, Cleveland may be the biggest beneficiary with its young core, it might have had to trade Darius Garland or Donovan Mitchell to give Evan Mobley the max he deserves in a year. Now the Cavs do not.

• The sides agreed to a smoothing of salary cap increases once the next national broadcast rights deal is struck, with the cap going up by 10% a season (the players do still get their 50% split of revenue, it’s just not all being dumped into the salary cap at once, as happened in 2016; that cleared the way for Kevin Durant to go to Golden State and had other teams signing questionable longer-term deals).

• That salary cap will increase because, for the first time, league licensing revenue will be added to the Basketball Related Income (BRI) split between the owners and players. That is an estimated $160 million for next season.

• The mid-season tournament is happening, likely starting next season. The group-play games will be part of the regular season as this is Adam Silver’s attempt to add weight and meaning to those early regular season games. The top eight teams from group play then enter a single-elimination tournament.

• Players on the winning team of the mid-season tournament will earn an extra $500,000. That would dramatically impact the earnings of players at the end of the bench (and even the middle of it sometimes), but often not the stars that decide games.

• Players will no longer face discipline from the league for marijuana use, which has been taken out of the league’s drug testing program.

• All-NBA voting will be positionless under the new CBA. This is a needed change. The best example is Joel Embiid, who has finished second in MVP voting the past two years but has made zero first-team All-NBA squads because Nikola Jokić (the MVP winner) gets that nod. Making it positionless is fairer, it allows All-NBA to be the 15 best players in the league. (It will not end the debates, however, because drawing the line between the 14th and 15th best players in the league and 16th or 17th is still splitting hairs.)

• To qualify for All-NBA or other end-of-season awards such as MVP, players must take the court for at least 65 games (however, there reportedly are conditions on that number, which have yet to be detailed by the league). The NBA’s goal is to reduce star players missing games due to load management, and if that 65-game limit were in place this season (it is not) then likely All-NBA players such as Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Ja Morant would be ineligible (again, depending on the yet-to-be-detailed conditions).

• Changes are being made to penalize the highest-spending teams that far exceed the luxury tax, something some owners had pushed hard for (they wanted more drastic measures, such as an upper spending limit, but the players were never going to allow that as it was a hard cap by another name). The new CBA creates a second tax apron $17.5 million above the luxury tax line, and teams that exceed it will not be able to use the taxpayer mid-level exception to add a player, nor will they be able to bring back more money in a trade than the money they send out.

• For example, this season, that second-apron would apply to six teams (the Clippers, Warriors, Bucks, Celtics, Mavericks and Suns) and they would have limits on how they could add players.

• To balance that out, teams below the tax will have expanded opportunities in free agency or to generate larger trade exceptions (as an incentive to spend more).

• The mid-level exception will go up by 7.5% starting next season (it was expected to be around $11.3 million next season), and the room exception will jump by 30% (it was expected to be about $5.8 million).

• The luxury tax brackets will rise yearly as much as the salary cap does (under the previous CBA they did not, they were locked in at $5 million increments).

• In an effort to help teams retain players, veteran contract extensions can start as high as 140% of the previous year’s salary (up from 120% in the current CBA).

• Also, non-max rookie contract extensions can now be five years. (Previously, only max rookie extensions could be five years, the rest had to be four.)

• There will be a third two-way player contract allowed per team.

• The one-and-done rule remains, the league is not changing its draft-age minimum (one year after a player’s class graduates high school).