NBA players more likely to force lockout than accept hard salary cap, report says

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The NBA made waves last week when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski announced that the league wanted to create an upper spending limit on team salaries to limit the payroll of some of its biggest competitors in the market. The Golden State Warriors set the NBA record for the highest payroll last season, and the Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets have a shot at doing it this season, and many league owners view those expenses as untenable from the point of view of financial and competitive balance.

Of course, the league can’t do anything about it without the consent of its players, who would surely push back against such a decision. “There will be a lockout,” a player side source told Marc Stein, “before there is a cap.”

The NBA’s current salary structure is built around a soft salary cap. Teams must stay below the cap if they plan to sign outside free agents without using exceptions or making grossly lopsided trades from a salary perspective. However, the cap is considered “soft” because there are a number of mechanisms a team can use to exceed it, including cap exceptions, bird rights to a team’s own free agents, and trades that fall within the allowed parameters of 125% of the league. The league has a strict cap mechanism in place, but it can only trigger in three very specific circumstances: when a team uses the mid-tier exception for non-taxpayers, the semi-annual exception, or acquires a player by signature and exchange. . This hard ceiling lasts for one season.

The type of hard cap the league is proposing would be much stricter, essentially creating a single limit for team spending that the entire league would have to follow each year. This is a third rail problem for gamblers as it would limit their earning potential. Take Golden State, for example. If Draymond Green opts for the final year of his contract or re-signs, the Warriors will have five players earning more than $24 million next season. According to this proposal, they should probably move at least one of them. Additionally, teams like the Warriors, Clippers, and Nets pressure other teams to spend more in order to compete.

Creating a real hard cap would cost players money, plain and simple. They will not accept a revised system that would take money out of their wallets. If the owners insist on this kind of structural change, they will either have to offer the players something extremely valuable in exchange or accept the possibility that it will lead to a lockout.

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