The NBPA has tentatively approved ownership's proposal for the 2020-21 NBA season, it announced Thursday. That proposal includes starting on Dec. 22, in time for the league's marquee Christmas slate of games. The schedule will be 72 games long. Certain details are still being negotiated, but an offseason timeline is starting to take shape. Teams are reportedly expected to open training camp on Dec. 1, less than a month from now and almost certainly overlapping with the active portion of free agency, which does not yet have a definitive opening date.
The plan had initially received quite of a bit of resistance from the players, who wanted a longer offseason after the mentally exhausting Orlando bubble. The Lakers and Heat will now have an offseason just over two months long after reaching the NBA Finals. The Celtics and Nuggets will both lose a significant amount of time off of their offseasons as well. However, this plan gets the league on track to return to its typical October-June schedule for the 2020-21 plan, and ensures that as much revenue as possible will be preserved even as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
While the season's schedule is now mostly set, the league's finances are still being settled in negotiations. A final agreement on that front is not expected until next week. The latest reporting indicates that the players should expect escrow withholdings of around 18 percent.
The salary cap is expected to remain at its 2019-20 level of $109.14 million. Charania is reporting that the league is planning for a minimum of two percent annual growth in the cap and luxury tax each season for the remainder of the CBA. That is relatively light by modern standards. The cap rose over seven percent between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, but the word minimum suggests that the growth could approach normal levels. The original 2021-22 projection of $125 million, however, now appears to be a pipe dream. The original 2020-21 projection of $115 million might be a more accurate expectation for the 2021-22 season.
The league's moratorium on transactions is expected to be lifted sometime before the Nov. 18 NBA Draft. While no official start date for free agency has been agreed upon, the current expectation is that it comes very quickly after the Draft, perhaps as soon as Nov. 20. In many cases, players may sign contracts and immediately join their new teams at training camp. Given that condensed timeframe, the league's typical movement moratorium at the beginning of free agency may need to be voided. If a cap is agreed upon in advance, though, it would not be needed.
The NBA lost four months to the coronavirus between March and July. It is now desperately trying to make up that time and return to its original schedule. The 2020 offseason was a casualty of that. In order to get the league's finances back on track as quickly as possible, basketball will return far sooner than anyone could have expected.