Why Players’ union rejected salary cap smoothing, what that means for 2016

NBA players back out

The tidal wave of cash from the new $24 billion television deal is going to wash over the NBA in the summer of 2016, and the salary cap is going to jump from $63 million this season to about $90 million in a couple.

The NBA wanted to smooth that out, to raise the cap more gradually over a few years. The league thought the players’ union would go for this because players in multiple free agent classes would benefit from the cap going up. Plus the money short of the players’ 51 percent of league revenue would still have been split up among all the players, so they still receive the extra cash.

Executive Director Michelle Roberts and the players’ union said no, there will be no smoothing.

Why? Sean Deveney of the Sporting News asked a union source for their thinking.

But, a source with knowledge of the thinking of players association chief Michele Roberts said, “The union should not have to police how much the owners spend. That’s not the job of the union. All of the caps that are on salaries now, the max deals and the shorter lengths and all of that, it’s all stuff that has been done to protect owners from themselves. Michele has been pretty strong on saying, hey, it’s not the job of the players to protect owners from other owners. Why should that fall on the players?”


The union felt smoothing would help depress players salaries from rising as fast as they should or could under a more open system. This line of thinking ties back to the players’ belief that they sacrificed (read: lost big) in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, when the players share of league revenue fell from 57 percent to close to half. They are not going to be cooperative now, and they expect to get concessions in the next CBA talks in 2017.

But this dramatically changes the 2016 summer landscape — everyone is going to have money to spend. As in at least 23 teams will have $40 million or more to blow. Teams like the Lakers and Knicks will have even more space and be able to take on multiple max salaries if they desire. It’s going to be a chaotic spending spree unlike the league has ever seen. Kevin Durant and LeBron James will be among the free agents. From ESPN’s Brian Windhorst here is a description of the impending chaos.

• There may be some free agents this summer who only accept one-year contracts so they can retest the market in 2016, when it will be awash with available cash.

• The likelihood of a lockout in 2017 when both sides can opt out of the current CBA just increased significantly, if not unexpectedly.

If nothing else you should take that last line away from all this — 2017 is shaping up to be a nasty lockout and CBA battle.