Player movement is one of the key issues facing the NBA as it negotiates its next Collective Bargaining Agreement with the National Basketball Players Association. The NBA is a copycat league, and with each playoff series victory that the Miami Heat accumulates, the likelihood that other star players will team up to pick a destination spot in free agency increases.
SI.com reports that the NBA has proposed a "franchise tag", a designation that would potentially increase the incentive for star players to remain with their current team rather than bolt in free agency.
A team would be allowed to designate one player for preferential contractual treatment, including more overall money, more guaranteed money and at least one extra year on his contract. A player would have to agree to such a designation. It is designed to work as an incentive to get a player to remain with his team rather than as a roadblock to free agency, the sources said.The National Football League's franchise tag essentially delays free agency by granting the team the ability to lock a player into an extra year. The NBA's version, as described in the report, would work more like a negotiating tie-breaker than as a method of restriction.
The idea behind the league’s new proposal would be to increase the gap between what teams can offer a “designated player” and what non-designated players can get on the open market.
Teaming up isn't a new phenomenon and it's one the league has worked to control for decades. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, star players like LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard had an extra financial incentive to remain with their current team. In the case of James and Bosh last summer, though, that incentive wasn't enough to keep them from bolting to the Heat. Strengthening those incentives makes sense.
If a star player like, say, Joe Johnson hit free agency under this system, the Atlanta Hawks would be able to go financially above and beyond any other offers to retain him. After testing the waters last summer, Johnson re-signed with the Hawks in part because they were able to make him the largest contract offer. This franchise tag, as outlined, would have further strengthened Atlanta's position by increasing the distance between their maximum offer and the offers his other suitors were able to make. Bolting, therefore, would come at an additional financial cost to him.
Money is a powerful motivator. It's already the single biggest reason why many players choose to stay put rather than team up. Providing an additional incentive in this manner would marginally decrease player movement and provide an added protection to the teams, especially to those located in smaller markets.
As described, there's no reason for the players to balk at this proposal because it would only affect the most highly-coveted players and it would incentivize their loyalty rather than limit their options. The vast majority of teams should welcome this development. At first glance, this looks like a win-win.