e lines (if they are to exist at all) is a complicated challenge but far from the only one involving the best of the best. For years, the league has used an escalating scale that only allows the most experienced players to get paid the highest annual salaries. Since most players hit their prime before then, it forces teams to overpay post-prime stars or let them go to other teams. The Rose Rule tries to balance this a little, but the next CBA should do better.
4. International player payments
An underappreciated but incredibly important sticking point that makes it hard for talented international players to join the NBA. In the current CBA, teams are only allowed to pay a specified, low amount toward a player’s buyout with a non-NBA franchise. That often means players need to take money out of their own paychecks to make their way over, and that becomes even harder with the undervalued rookie scale for first-round picks.
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In the current system, international players benefit substantially from being drafted in the early second round than the late first. Even lottery pick Dario Saric hurt himself financially coming over in 2016 instead of 2017, and that should never be the case for the best basketball league in the world.
5. New player retention tools
Fourteen months ago, I wrote about the “cornerstone exception,” which had the goal of making it easier for teams to retain franchise stalwarts. That proposal would have allowed franchises to only count half of a qualifying player’s salary on the cap, helping central figures like Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce finish their careers on their original teams without hamstringing them due to loyalty. This is just one of many ideas aimed at fixing a correctable problem in the league.
6. The repeater tax
Partially fueled by the "Big Three" in Miami, the 2011 CBA included an escalating, punitive luxury tax for teams who crossed that threshold in three of four seasons. It partially served its goal of scaring franchises off long-term spending, but the prospect of paying the repeater tax also hurt small market teams like Oklahoma City. Figuring out an effective, fair solution should benefit almost everyone.
7. Options and non-guarantees
The current CBA limits contracts to a single option but provides substantially more flexibility for non-guarantees, which can only benefit teams. Permitting extremely team-friendly deals like the “Hinkie Special” (up to four non-guaranteed seasons at or near the minimum like Robert Covington is still on for another two seasons) without a similar alternative is unconscionable.
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Allowing for multiple option seasons and/or mutual options (both sides have to approve) creates a more fair process that still works because every contract requires the approval of the owner and player.
8. Roster limits (active and inactive)
Reporting indicates that both sides are working towards two-way contracts for D-League players for a 16th and 17th roster spots, which is a great first step. Both sides could build on that by allowing teams to have more players active for games because having 15 healthy players but only being allowed to dress 13 helps no one. Furthermore, teams below the cap should be permitted to sign more than the proscribed maximums because it opens up jobs without hurting anyone.
9. The Over-36 rule
Once upon a time, the Over-36 Rule helped prevent teams from gaming the system by overpaying players who were past their prime in a way that circumvented the intention of the salary cap rules. However, improvements in recovery and training have slowed the aging process for players and still-stars like LeBron James could be affected by the outdated restriction. Either tweaking the rule or eliminating it outright avoids some infrequent but serious problems.
A favorite among owners, players and cap nerds alike, the amnesty provision allows teams to wipe one salary per CBA off their books in terms of both the salary cap and luxury tax. A common complaint is that the amnesty functions as a “get out of jail free” card for bad front offices, but a retooled provision could help solve that problem. By either allowing for teams to trade their amnesty or use the provision on players acquired via trade, the CBA could create an incentive for well-run teams they do not have now while opening up even more money for players.
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If both sides wanted to start the new deal off right, they could even agree to have certain provisions of the new agreement kick in once ratified. That could allow veterans to sign extensions this season and avoid some of the headaches teams and players faced for the last few years.
While there are plenty more issues that would benefit from additional discussion, spending a few months cultivating the best possible solution to all of these problems — coming to an agreement around Christmas or New Year's Day seems like a realistic goal — would create a superior set of rules for the next half-decade or more while also building a more sustainable framework in case the next CBA comes down to the wire.