The NBA needs to do away with its free-agent timeline rules.
Those rules about teams contacting players before a set date once had a purpose. The league needed to audit its finances and determine salary cap and luxury tax numbers for the following season.
But in this era of big data, precise calculations and technology, the NBA’s free-agent moratorium timeline has run its course.
Team executives weren’t supposed to contact players and schedule meetings with them and their agents until Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and weren’t supposed to meet and discuss contract terms with players until 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, according to NBA rules.
We know that’s not the case, just as it wasn’t the case last season and the season before and the season before …
Players had meetings lined up before 6 p.m. Saturday, and at least two players seemingly had deals lined up with teams before Sunday at 6 p.m. – Kemba Walker with Boston and Kyrie Irving with Brooklyn. Don’t worry about Klay Thompson’s agreement with Golden State. Since he was still under contract with the Warriors, he was free to talk to them.
But Walker and Irving? It’s obvious communication had taken place – at least with an agent as a conduit – before rules allowed.
What is the NBA going to do? Likely nothing. The NBA has fined teams and owners in the past for violating the NBA moratorium rules, but that hardly has been a deterrent. I’m not even sure the NBA cares all that much. NBA free agency has taken on a life of its own and dominates the news cycle.
What should the NBA do? Let’s get to that in a minute.
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The NBA moratorium has – or had – a purpose. The NBA’s fiscal calendar runs from July 1-June 30, and the moratorium was designed to give the league time to calculate financial data for the previous year and set the salary cap and luxury tax figures. Teams needed this information so they could plan and spend accordingly in free agency.
But over the years, the league has become really good at projecting salary cap information long before July 1. In a memo sent in September, the NBA informed teams that the salary cap and luxury tax numbers for 2019-20 would be $109 million and $132 million.
That allowed teams, who employ salary cap specialists, to prepare for the next season way in advance. Each team knew how much money it could or couldn’t spend in free agency.
And when the league’s official cap and luxury tax figures were released Saturday evening, they were on target: $109,140,000 salary cap and $132,627,000 luxury tax.
So, what should the NBA do about its moratorium? Teams, players and agents ignore the rules. And the NBA should, too.
Moving forward, the league should allow players, teams and agents to talk officially as soon as the NBA Finals end or at least after the draft. That way, this façade of dates and times at the end of June/beginning of July meaning something can be avoided.