We’ve seen how the NBA not implementing cap smoothing played out.
2016 free agents – like Jared Dudley, who got $30 million over three years from the Suns – cashed in. Free agents in subsequent classes got squeezed. The Warriors opened max cap space in 2016, signed Kevin Durant and upended most ideas of competitive balance. Then, with the league mostly thin on cap space, Golden State got DeMarcus Cousins on the cheap.
Even after seeing the results, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts has defended her decision to reject the cap smoothing. She called smoothing a “disgraceful request” that “offends our core.”
One problem: Her constituents – at least according to Dudley, now with the Nets – disagree.
Dudley on The Woj Pod:
Sometimes, when the league comes to you about something, you just fight just to fight it. That’s natural.
Michele Roberts is obviously a smart woman. She probably gauged both it ways. She probably talked about it. But, yeah, anytime the league comes to us – or vice versa. If we came to the league about something, they’ll fight back first and then they might let it go through.
What we know now, it definitely would have been smoothed in. To let Kevin Durant go to the Warriors, if the league could take that back, the league would have fought it, too. I don’t think the league wanted that. Players didn’t want that. If you had all players vote on it, they wouldn’t have wanted that.
Players might have voted for cap smoothing at the time. It’s impossible to evaluate fully without seeing the specific proposal, but it seems rejecting smoothing benefited players collectively but harmed more players than it helped. A one-player, one-vote system easily could have favored smoothing. (The same logic partially explains max contracts, as there are more role players to outvote superstars in how to allocate players’ share of revenue.)
That’s why I was surprised by how seamlessly Roberts was reelected. I thought there’d be more bitterness from 2017 and 2018 free agents. I thought players on the other 29 teams would resent the union’s part in turning Golden State into a behemoth.
But Roberts has clearly gained an overall level of respect from players. Because according to Dudley, who I bet has a keen understanding of his peers’ opinion here, players disagree with her on this issue.