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The Proposed NBA CBA and its Impact on the Toronto Raptors

Confused about the new CBA and its potential impact on the Toronto Raptors?  Have no fear, the HQ brings you the definitive breakdown...

In Grantland's giant testament to their appreciation for the NBA's return posted yesterday, former Ohio State basketball bench-dwellar Mark Titus goes through his top 15 reasons he's excited about the upcoming NBA season.

Amongst them?

 -Having to be reminded at least once a month that there's a team in Toronto.    

Yes indeed, there is still a team in Toronto, albeit not a very good one considering last season's 22 win campaign.

As we race towards what appears to be a December 9th free agency start date, there will be lots to discuss on the site regarding personnel and team decisions but before getting into any of that, I figured it would be wise to go through what the new CBA is expected to look like, and how it will impact the Toronto Raptors.

To that end, I grabbed Larry Coon's trusty new breakdown, and dug in...


Amnesty provision

This is a biggie.  In 2005 you may recall that one player could be waived under the newly negotiated CBA and said player's salary would not count towards the luxury tax.

In the proposed 2011 plan, again a player can be waived but this time, the salary of said player will not only not count against the luxury tax, but won't count against the salary cap either.  As well, this amnesty provision can be exercised prior to the start of any season, not just the upcoming one.

This is huge for a team like Toronto.

As noted in previous discussions on the topic, Toronto has some candidates that make sense for the provision (Linas Kleiza, Jose Calderon etc) but there really are no Gilbert Arenases or Rashard Lewises on the roster, and it may make a lot more sense to hold onto this card for a season or two.

Also of interest regarding this rule, "amnestied" players can be acquired by teams with cap room by submitting a bid essentially before said player hits free agency.  

So let's use an example here to illustrate the rule from a Raptors' vantage point.

Say Washington decides to use the amnesty provision on Rashard Lewis so he indeed is waived by the team. If Toronto decided they wanted Lewis to add a veteran presence to the team, they could submit a bid then for his services. If Toronto submitted the top bid, say $5M per season whereas Minnesota and Houston bid only $4M, then Lewis would go to Toronto and the Dinos would only be on the hook for $5M of his salary per season, the remainder being paid by Washington.

Minimum team salary

In contrast to the amnesty clause, the new proposed CBA rules regarding minimum salary likely won't have a direct impact on the Toronto Raptors.  Unlike teams such as Sacramento and the LA Clippers who in the past have had to take on salary just to make the league's minimum spend levels per team (75 percent of the salary cap under last CBA), the Raps usually spend at a fairly good clip. (In fact in a recent post on SB Nation, Tom Ziller identified the Dinos as a "sober waffle" amongst the league's clubs in terms of spending habits.)

Under the new proposed CBA, that 75% number is being upped to 85% and then 90% in the contract's latter years but the importance in calling it out here is that the higher salary could affect teams' decisions regarding "who to amnesty."  Clubs that are close to the min spending thresholds may hang onto players who would look good in a Raptors' uniform, simply to ensure they meet new minimum team salary requirements.

Luxury tax

As you may have read by now, teams will be paying a stiffer penalty in the proposed CBA for going above the luxury tax threshold.  Instead of a dollar per dollar tax, starting in 2012-13, teams pay "an incremental tax that increases with every $5 million above the tax threshold ($1.50, $1.75, $2.50, $3.25, etc.). Teams that are repeat offenders (paying tax at least four out of the past five seasons) have a tax that is higher still -- $1 more at each increment ($2.50, $2.75, $3.50, $4.25, etc.)."

For Toronto again, this isn't a major issue as the club hasn't strayed into the league's upper stratosphere of team spending all that often.  But this new luxury tax might help TO because some of the league's traditional big spenders, simply won't be able to stomach the stiffer tax, and perhaps not add some of the players they would have in the past.  Hopefully this translates into increased opportunities for the Raps to add talent, talent that they may not have had the same access to in years' past.

Attached to the luxury tax talk, we have less benefits for taxpaying teams, looking to add talent.  Under the proposed CBA, taxpaying teams now cannot use the biannual exception, have a smaller midlevel exception, can take on less salary in trades, and starting in 2013-14, "teams more than $4 million above the tax level cannot receive a player in a sign-and-trade transaction."

These terms of course were put in to help improve competitive balance and as an example of this, a free agent may choose a $5M offer from the Raptors because a tax-paying club like Dallas can only offer $3M.

Stretch provision

This is an interesting one.  In the past, the remaining guaranteed salary of waived player was applied to the team's salary cap across the remaining years of the player's contract.

Under the new CBA though, said player's remaining salary and his cap hit "may be stretched across twice the number of seasons remaining on the contract, plus one."

So for example, if the Raptors end up signing someone during this upcoming free agent period to a three year deal, who then pulls a Jason Kapono, they could waive that deal and stretch the salary and cap hit across seven seasons.

This only applies to contracts signed starting under the new CBA (so no go on doing this with Jose or Linas for instance), but it's a huge boost to teams that were previously handcuffed by signing bad long-term deals.  (Think Hedo had BC not been able to deal him.)


Midlevel exception

Under the old CBA, the midlevel was five years starting at an average salary of $5.765M with eight per cent raises. Now, as mentioned above, there are two options; one for tax-paying teams, one for non-tax paying teams.

For non-taxpaying teams, the midlevel starts at a $5M base salary with 4.5 per cent annual raises. Contracts can only be four years max.

Tax-paying teams are limited to being able to sign players to three-year deals with only a $3M base salary.

Teams with cap room, meaning they're not only under the luxury tax bar but also the salary cap, can sign players to a new mini midlevel deal for two years starting at $2.5M.

For the Raptors this amounts to protection from more Jason Kapono/Linas Kleiza type deals, as well as another shot at quality talent that perhaps a luxury tax paying team can no longer afford.


A few other notes of interest under the new proposed CBA:


  • Cap holds have been reduced for most players who have Bird rights or were first-round picks and teams have three, not seven days, to match offer sheets.  This should help promote player movement and allow teams to open up more cap space during the free agent period.  it also allows clubs to hold onto underperforming draft picks at lower salaries, something the Dinos probably would have loved to have taken advantage of with Andrea Bargnani.
  • New contracts have dropped in length from six years for Bird free agents to five years, and from five to four years for everyone else.  Translation: Toronto could have kept Bosh for five years under this new CBA but would have been on the books for a year less with Hedo.
  • Also, rookies who meet certain criteria during their first four years (either win an MVP award, make an All NBA team twice, or are All-Stars twice) are eligible to obtain higher max salaries.  (What some are calling the Derrick Rose clause.)  Hopefully this is something Jonas Valanciunas is eligible for at some point in the near future.
  • Players coming off their original, rookie contracts can now be signed to four year, not five year extensions. The exception though is that one "franchise player" can be given the five year extension per team.  Again, this is to try and keep stars with small market clubs.
  • For trades, taxpaying teams can acquire "no more than 125 percent plus $100,000 of the salaries they trade away (same as 2005 CBA)."  Non-taxpaying teams though can acquire "up to the lesser of 150 percent plus $100,000, or 100 percent plus $5 million of the salaries they trade away." Again, the salary matching changes hopefully help player movement and cut down on some of the wacky trades we've seen in the past where players are used as "throw-in's" just to make salaries match.
  • If a player is traded and subsequently waived by his new team, said player cannot re-sign with his old team for one year following the trade.  You may remember countless examples in the past of players doing this (Big Z in Cleveland, Rasheed in Detroit) since under the old CBA, the time period was only 30 days.

So there you have it.

As noted, the amnesty clause probably has the most immediate impact on the team regarding potential personnel decisions but a number of the other points regarding length of contracts and salary caps will have to be immediately digested by Bryan Colangelo and co before they jump into what promises to be a crazy next few weeks.