Blog Entry

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets

Posted on: July 4, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 9:37 am
Posted by Royce Young

NBA owners want a hard cap. It's probably one of the three biggest reasons we're stuck in a lockout right now. Owners want a hard cap, or at least one they're trying to disguise by calling it a "flex cap," and the union has basically said they will never, ever accept a hard cap.

And when the hard cap topic is brought up, people always wonder how a $55 million hard cap would affect a team like the Miami Heat. Between Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, those three soak up about $47 million on the Heat payroll. And that's just for 2011-12. In 2013-14, that number will be about $58 million, so even the suggested $62 million "flex cap" the league talked about would leave the Heat only $4 million to fill out their roster.

The super-together, we're-a-real-team Mavericks? Yeah, their total payroll added up to nearly $90 million last season, third highest in the league. That's about $30 million over the current salary cap but because it's a soft cap, it was fine. (Fine in the sense it didn't break any rules, but still, pretty outrageous.)

The feeling though with this hard-cap business is how much it'll affect teams like the Lakers, Heat, Bulls and Knicks. Now their greatest assets -- money and market -- don't mean as much because in a hard-cap system, signing multiple big contract stars just isn't an option. Victory for the small markets, right?

I'm not so sure about that.

I wonder about a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the smallest-market teams in the league. The feeling is that a hard cap would help smaller markets compete because talent would get distributed a bit more evenly throughout the league. With teams unable to pay a bunch of guys on the roster $15 million or go $30 million over the cap line, either players would have to take a serious pay cut or go somewhere else.

Except in the case of the Thunder, a straight hard cap would destroy them.

Kevin Durant just signed a five-year extension that will pay him around $16 million a year. Russell Westbrook, an All-Star point guard at the age of 22, is eligible for an extension and would probably have it if there weren't a lockout. He's probably a max player or close to it. So that would be another major mark on the cap for the Thunder. Then the other guys -- Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Eric Maynor -- are all eligible for extensions next summer.

If the league has a stiff cap of even $60 million, how can the Thunder dream of re-signing these guys and keeping the core intact?

Answer: They can't.

That has been Thunder GM Sam Presti's plan since Day 1, though. He wanted to draft a bunch of young guys and let them grow together. Let them progress, develop and become a team all together. And when they did, lock them all up long-term and have yourself a contender for the next decade. It has worked. The Thunder just went to the Western Conference finals with one of the youngest teams in the league and should be in the mix for at least the next five.

Unless of course they have to let a couple of their big pieces walk.

Last season the cap was set at $58.04 million and the Thunder were one of only five teams under that number. While a lot of smaller markets prefer not to bust into luxury tax territory, most likely OKC would be there after those key pieces were extended. So while they're under now, that probably wouldn't be the case in the future.

Reality is, a hard cap might have more of an affect on the little guys, which is who the league wants you to think it desperately wants to protect. But basically, with a hard salary cap system, building through the draft and letting a core grow together is no longer the way to go. Put together a roster with five good players that need extensions and you're out of room after three. Maybe you can get four, but how do you add another nine guys to fill out a 13-man roster?

What we might see is the Maverick Plan instituted as the way to win in the NBA. Now again, they totaled nearly $90 million, but I just mean the idea. Grab one star player and fill in the rest with a couple rookie-level contracts and a bunch of aging veterans willing to take $5 million or less. The Mavs had one star and everyone praised them for it. But in a hard-cap world, that might be best philosophy.

Because a team of Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka probably can't exist just as one of LeBron, Wade and Bosh can't. Doesn't exactly seem right, does it? The idea is a hard cap would help restore some competitive balance and the bigger markets wouldn't be able to just dwarf the small ones by going $30 million over the cap like the Mavericks did. The Thunder would never do that.

At the same time, while the playing field might be leveled in terms of payroll, it could come at the cost of breaking up the band and redefining how a small-market team must build.

Every team that's using the draft to build -- which is the sound and socially blessed way to structure a team -- would have to reconsider. The Cavaliers might've just committed 80 percent of their future cap to Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson if those two pan out. Same for the Jazz with Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. The future for those teams might be just enjoying the four years you get with them on their rookie contracts and then choose one to keep. I don't really think that's what the NBA has in mind, but that's going to be what happens. Small markets probably will take the brunt of a hard cap much harder than the big ones. Or at least the good small-market franchises that understand how to build.

Who knows what the NBA landscape will look like when the dust clears in this lockout mess. The players have taken a hard line on a hard cap and supposedly will refuse to back down. The owners though are committed in their efforts to get one. Yeah, it'll reduce salaries. Maybe the system will stay the same but just instead of Harden getting a $10 million-a-year extension, he would get $6 million. That's possible.

But this is the NBA and just because a new salary system is in place doesn't mean the league doesn't have impulsive general managers that are ready to snatch away a player like Harden and give him that $10 million a year simply because they know the Thunder can't go that high. That'll be the world teams operate in. One where the Thunder Way is no longer the blueprint for small-market building success.

Maybe the players have a point, huh?

Since: Dec 9, 2006
Posted on: July 5, 2011 9:31 pm

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets

I hate to say, however, I believe most of you are missing the point. I think owners and fans are sick of players getting big dollar contracts as free agents and not performing. Many of these young "men" suddenly turn into Mr. Potato Head after the ink is dry on the contract. Case in point, Dampier, LaFrentz, Eddie Curry and many more...

Eliminate the guaranteed contracts and put in a signing bonus system similar to the NFL. It may not be popular, but, some of these so called men need to earn their contracts. If I do not produce at work, my employer just finds someone cheaper and willing to work harder. I can not think of many Knicks fans showing up to games in Eddie Curry jerseys, in support of the money that was wasted on someone more closely resembling the Hindenburg. 

Long gone are the days of players playing hard because they love the game. It is now just about playing hard for the next contract. But just like respect, contracts need to be earned. If you want my respect, then show up every night, not just when you feel like it. 

Nuff said...

Since: May 25, 2007
Posted on: July 5, 2011 8:52 pm

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets

I agree that much needs to be done to solve the NBA's issues. But if you are going from the 1999 championship thru the 2011 championship (13 seasons). How does one arrive at only 3 different champions? I count 6. San Antonio, Los Angeles, Detroit, Boston, Miami and Dallas. ??

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: July 5, 2011 8:16 pm

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets

This writer has no idea what he's talking about.  The best way to prove he's wrong is just take a look at the NHL and what happened after they implemented a hard cap 6 years ago.  It took missing a complete season to get it done but it happened and the league is a lot better because of it.   Prior to the lockout and hard cap the Wings and Devils won 6 of the previous 10 stanley cups.  Since then?  In 6 seasons, 6 different winners and 10 teams that made the finals............  They started at a 40 million dollar hard cap and in only 6 seasons it's already up to 64 million and growing..

In the NBA and the last 13 years only THREE franchises have won a championship... THREE....   That is the reason the NBA is dying..... there is no interest anymore because it's near impossible for an underdog to win it all.   There are at least 25 teams that under the current rules won't see a championship anytime soon..... can you say boring?????

Since: Mar 15, 2011
Posted on: July 5, 2011 7:16 pm

pay the money

the greedy owners need to open their huge bank vaults and pay the players all the money they are demanding---forget the hard cap--it's not fair to the players, since many would get less money for all the work they do to make millions for owners.

Since: Jun 16, 2008
Posted on: July 5, 2011 6:32 pm

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets

Wow, That movie quote isn't over used.....

Since: Apr 30, 2008
Posted on: July 5, 2011 5:47 pm

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets

How can you talk about the effects of a hard cap with out figuring a reduction in players salaries. The two go hand in hand. Even the players have reportedly offered to scale back their percentage so a reduction in salaries is almost garunteed.

Using a hard cap, which reduces the amount teams spend on salaries and then figuring that players will earn the same amout under the new CBA will not work for any size market larger or small. This makes this whole article irrelevant.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: July 5, 2011 5:25 pm

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets

As soon as I saw the crying about OKC not being able to hang onto a marginal player like Harden, I knew that this guy must be on some kind of performance dehancing drugs. Thank God he's not the GM of any of my favorite teams!

Since: Aug 3, 2010
Posted on: July 5, 2011 5:21 pm

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets

Just another example why sports writers are not journalist.  They lack any ability to use the logic God gave some, and that the rest learn in logic & philosophy courses.  Or maybe it is what you get when you earn your degree online.  The vast majority of today's writers are a scourge placed upon educated, who possess the skills of critical reasoning. 

He spends about 11 mini paragraphs describing the detriments of a hard cap, and 1 line describing the possible benefits.  What is clear about this writer as with many others They Hate the IDea That the Super Teams will be ended.  These writers have been the support needed for the building of the Super Teams. Maybe they just don't like covering the NBA the way it was, for the most part.  But, one thing is for sure they want super teams, and they don't care one tiny bit - if that means as many as 20 USA teams are closed down and shipped to oversea's cities: like (Paris, or Moscow, Or Mexico). 

Because that is where this super team philisophy is headed - overseas. and writers like this one will be cheering all the way.


ps.  The NBA has a goal to have 10-15 teams overseas in 10 years. Where do you think they are going to get the players - Overseas. Yea a couple a team, but the bulk will be players from Memphis, Minnesota, Cleveland, Charlotte, Golden State, and so on. Not only will our jobs have been sent overseas, but soon our basketball.

Since: Aug 28, 2007
Posted on: July 5, 2011 4:34 pm

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets

Absolutely idiotic article...we are all now dumber for just reading it.

Since: Jul 5, 2011
Posted on: July 5, 2011 4:18 pm

Hard cap could mean hard times for small markets

A hard cap will help small markets. No more player orchestrated "Dream Teams". If OKC can't re-sign Durant no one else can either without eating up significant cap space.

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