Given the Miami Heat's smashing success this postseason, Superteams and the player movement that helps create them are a hot topic around the NBA.
Back in May, we noted a report that the NBA had reportedly included a franchise tag designation in a proposal to the National Basketball Players Association that would have provided greater protections for teams looking to increase their ability to retain star players. Unlike the National Football League's tag, the NBA's version would have simply strengthened the enticements available for a player's current team to keep a player rather than effectively locking a player up by preventing him from entering free agency.
On Wednesday, NOLA.com reported that NBA commissioner David Stern contradicted the report of a proposed franchise tag in his State of the Union speech from Miami before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
“That hasn’t been proposed,” Stern said. “We have historically tried to make it more attractive for a player to stay with his current team, and I’m sure that trend will continue, if not enhanced.If the NBA did shift to a hard cap system, it would certainly help serve the purpose of keeping star players in place. Why? Because big-market and high-spending teams are the franchises that tend to attract stars in free agency and they aren't likely to have the patience to create significant room under the salary cap to be able to sign a player out-right and remain under the cap. Keep in mind how difficult it was for the Heat to create room under the soft cap system to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and then retain Dwyane Wade. They had to essentially slash-and-burn their roster. That process would be significantly more difficult to manage under a hard cap system.
“But as you consider this with respect to the small-market teams, and you think about what a harder cap might do for them, and you consider what revenue sharing might do for them, there are sort of limits what the committee is thinking about, and the franchise tag is not one of them. Although a strong incentive for a player to stay with his team and the ability of the team to keep the player is there.’’
One other related point of discussion has been the elimination of sign-and-trades. This, too, would go a long way to keeping star players put. Without a sign-and-trade option, only teams that were under the cap could attempt to sign big-name and big-dollar free agents. With a sign-and-trade provision, teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks are able to acquire star players as long as they send back salary or assets in return to make the numbers work.
The player movement question is a tricky one. A modified franchise tag would have been welcome by the league's smaller markets and struggling franchises. Given that 22 teams are reportedly losing money this season and that everyone has quickly seen how powerful a team can become if star players move in unison, odds are something will be added to the new CBA that will at least slow down that flow.
We just aren't sure exactly what that is yet.