Part of the motivation for the hardline owners during the NBA lockout was to never let what happened with LeBron James going to Miami to ever happen again. To never let what Carmelo Anthony did to the Nuggets ever happen again (they lost the ‘Melo part of the fight). Small market owners didn’t like players banding together to go to a better market and win together and they couldn’t stop it.
Except, in the system concessions made in the last 48 hours the Heat and Knicks may be the biggest winners.
The way the rules are set up those two teams are in good position to bring in mid-level players and some depth to put around their stars that could put them over the top.
The biggest move was owners allowing teams that are not more than $4 million over the luxury tax line to use the full mid-level exception of $5 million, according to multiple reports. That $4 million window makes a world of difference for the Heat and should allow them to:
• Use the entire $5 million mid-level exception in free agency without having to use the amnesty clause on Mike Miller to waive him and get his contract off the books.
• Use the entire mid-level exception on a free agent and still be able re-sign restricted free agent Mario Chalmers and rookie point guard Norris Cole.
Mike Miller could still be let go by the Heat, but if they think he could contribute they no longer have to get rid of him to clear the way for others. It will depend on his recovery from thumb and knee injuries. But they have $67 million on the books and options now.
The Knicks have $7 million less on the books for next season than the Heat, meaning they can bring in a mid-level player to go around Anthony and Amare Stoudemire plus use a second exception to get a guy. They can use the $14.2 million deal of Chauncey Billups (in its last year) as the base for an offer to try and get Chris Paul or Dwight Howard and if it works they still might be able to get a mid-level player again next season.
Even teams like the Lakers and Mavericks — teams with owners willing to spend and in a “win now” mode due to a core that only has a few more years in their championship window — also may benefit in the short term. It will cost them more in tax, but they can go get a mid-level exception guy, the kind of role players they need around their stars.
Over time, the goal of this labor deal will be to flatten out the payroll disparity in the league — teams have to spend up to $49 million next season and $90 million payroll will be almost impossible due to the tax structure. (One should not confuse that with parity or competitive balance, the owners like to tell you those things go hand-in-hand but they do not.)
But in the short term two teams who need good role players to go around their stars may have been the biggest winners in the last 48 hours.