June 28, 2023, 2:04 pm
Thankfully the NBA and the Players Association were able to agree to a new CBA, which is great news for us fans because basketball will continue to be played! However, there were a litany of changes with the new CBA, ones that I anticipate will massively dictate how NBA teams go about building their rosters. The CBA is quite an intricate document, but knowing some basic ins and outs can benefit dynasty managers in predicting future roster moves. Below, we’ll dive into the changes that go into effect for the upcoming 2023-2024 NBA season and cite some teams whose rosters could be affected.
Minimum Team Salary
We’ll start with a simple one – if on the first day of the regular season a team’s salary is below the minimum team salary (90% of salary cap), then the team will not receive tax distribution payments. The team will also pay the difference between the two to the NBA which will then distribute that amount to all players in the NBA. Previously, this difference was just paid to players on the specific team.
This change should incentivize teams to hit the minimum team salary at the beginning of the regular season. Teams can achieve this in numerous ways – handing out bloated one-year contracts in free agency; giving out more guarantees to roster camp invites; agreeing to renegotiate-and-extensions with their own players; acquiring salary dumps of other team’s players before the season starts instead of at the trade deadline. Teams like the Rockets, Pistons, Spurs, Thunder, Jazz, and Pacers all project to be well below the Minimum Team Salary – expect these teams to not be afraid of spending big in free agency and potentially be the dumping ground for unwanted contracts. Players like Kevin Porter Jr., Killian Hayes, Tre Jones and Talen Horton-Tucker could see their fantasy values fluctuate accordingly depending on how these teams behave in the off-season.
Mid-Level Exception Changes Galore!
Diving into something more detail-heavy, mid-level exceptions across the board have been modified. Firstly, the room mid-level exception (the exception given to teams who utilize cap space) is increasing from $5.4M to roughly $7.6M and can now be up to three years rather than two. Next, the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (MLE) is increasing to roughly $12.2M from $10.5M. Lastly, there are two sets of changes to the taxpayer mid-level exception (TMLE): It is now limited to 2-years at $5M per year max, and teams above the second tax apron level (to be discussed later) will not have access to the TMLE at all.
Quick and dirty summary – tax paying teams have less spending power via exceptions than before, and cap space and non-tax paying teams have more spending power. Players wishing to be on higher spending teams (typically contending teams) will have to take a larger salary cut than previous, which may or may change their decision on who to sign with it. Additionally, the room exception is now a more lucrative offer than the TMLE, which was not the case previously. This allows the room exception to be a competitive alternative to the TMLE, further muddying the decision waters for players.
With the above changes, we may see a greater distribution of talent across the seventh to ninth spots in bench rotations across the leagues. We may see more veterans opt to take a larger guaranteed contract over chasing that ring. Not only would this lead to varying playtime opportunities for said veterans, it could also lead to rookies and young under-performing players getting less run in the beginning of the season. Pay close note to rumors and rumblings about how teams plan to use these modified exceptions. One team that already seems to be aligning itself to utilize the greater room exception is the Sacramento Kings. With their salary dump of Richaun Holmes’ $12M contract, the Kings could open up nearly $30M in cap space this offseason and still have the capability of using the new and improved room exception. Could they be trying to snipe Draymond Green or Jerami Grant? Side note – these moves would mean the Kings could not bring back Harrison Barnes who could be a nice addition to a different NBA locker room.
New Second Tax Apron and Hardened First Tax Apron
As previously mentioned, the new second tax apron should bring about massive ramifications for the top-spending teams in the league. The bulk of the new restrictions involved with the second tax apron will not come into effect until the 2024-2025 NBA season, so we won’t go into detail on them here. Just know they are rather punitive and will be a deterrence to teams looking to spend above the second tax apron line. The one limitation going into effect for this upcoming year is second apron teams (set at $17.5M above the luxury tax line) will not have access to any type of mid-level exception.
Teams projected to be at this level include the Clippers, Warriors, Bucks, Heat, Suns, and potentially other teams. These teams will have to rely on their own Bird Rights free agents, minimum signings, and draft picks to round out their rosters. Without the TMLE, there is the potential for young prospects and players to earn rotation spots that otherwise vets would have taken. Deep league managers rejoice – perhaps MarJon Beauchamp, Jason Preston, Jalen Johnson, or Nikola Jović could provide steady lower-tier value. These are just some of the names I’m putting on my watch list; look for teams approaching the second apron line to opt for their current crop of cheaper options instead of looking outside the organization for rotation help. We just saw the Warriors make a grand move to alleviate future second apron concerns, dealing Jordan Poole and his 4-year/$128M along with a future protected first to the Wizards for Chris Paul and his potentially expiring $30.8M contract (his $30M in 2024-25 is non-guaranteed). Then there’s John Collins with his 3-year/$78.5M contract that was essentially dumped into the Utah Jazz’s cap space to keep the Hawks out of the tax. This could just be the tip of the iceberg – as discussed earlier, plenty of teams will be trying to reach that minimum salary floor, and there is no shortage of teams that could be looking to dump bloated contracts.
First apron teams (set at approximately $7M above the tax line) also have a minor reason to think about whether to enter this limit or not. Teams into the first apron cannot sign a buyout player if their previous salary was at the MLE level or higher. Buyout guys tend to be overrated, but there is still usually one or two who can play a part down the stretch for fantasy rosters. One of the clearest examples that would not be allowed going forward is the Clippers signing of Russell Westbrook after his trade and subsequent cut from the Jazz. The Clippers did give Westbrook more opportunity to “Let Russ be Russ”, and he was a useful and more efficient player than on the Lakers. However, I still don’t expect this buyout clause addition to have much impact on us dynasty managers.
We’ll end by discussing two changes to extension rules. The first is with veteran salary extensions. Veterans can now sign up to 140% of the previous salary, up from 120%. This could have impacted players like Myles Turner during the previous season. Turner did end up extending but under the renegotiate-and-extend rules, a type of extension rarely seen in the NBA. With this change, I expect even less mid-tier free agents available in upcoming seasons. Players like Kyle Kuzma this past year may have signed an extension with the Wizards; perhaps someone like Markelle Fultz will now be willing to sign an extension with the Magic this upcoming year. Expect some more immediate continuity on rosters with players securing the guaranteed extension and still having the option of seeking a trade later if they desire. Otherwise, this is probably not a huge impact for us dynasty managers.
The second extension change is with rookie extensions. Before, rookie extensions that were up to five years could only be for their max salary. With the new CBA, five-year rookie extensions are possible with any salary level. This change allows teams more options when negotiating rookies extensions similar to the above extension change. I don’t think this change will affect too much for fantasy – we may see similar guarantee numbers as a four-year max but now over five years instead to spread out the cap hit.
Whew, that was a lot of nitty-gritty cap lingo there! The above list was not necessarily a fully-encompassing one, but the major ones we should be aware of. I strongly believe at least a basic understanding of what tools and tricks NBA teams have in building their rosters can be beneficial to how we build our own dynasty rosters. Knowing what resources teams have at their disposal and what player moves can reasonably happen is key to our evaluation of players and their value moving forward. Getting a jump on acquiring players in previous years like Bruce Brown in Denver or Donte DiVincenzo with the Warriors would have paid dividends this past season. When free agency starts, be on the lookout for how teams navigate these new CBA rules, and identify and target those players you believe will be looking at new opportunities for their fantasy value to rise! Any questions, comments, or further discussion wanted? Hit me up on Twitter @MACAttack145 or comment below!