There were some changes to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement signed last December which have had and will continue to have ramifications for the NBA’s superteams or for teams building towards joining the league’s elite.
Teams are now only allowed to hand out a five-year max contract to one player on the roster and for teams that go over the salary cap, they will be facing increasingly heavy tax bills.
We have already seen one team take a proactive stance to avoid future tax bills when Oklahoma City shipped James Harden to the Houston Rockets to keep their salaries at a manageable level.
With Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka already being paid at a premium, the Thunder were faced with a decision on how to best manage the cap.
Another small-market club drew the ire of one of its stars when the Minnesota Timberwolves handed Kevin Love a shorter-term deal in order to preserve the five-year option for Ricky Rubio.
Love is upset about the decision although it probably has more to do with his perception of the way that the organization handled it.
“I don’t know who labels people stars, but even (T’wolves owner) Glen Taylor said, ‘I don’t think Kevin Love is a star, because he hasn’t led us to the playoffs,’” Love told Yahoo! Sports. “I mean, it’s not like I had much support out there.
“That’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Adrian Wojnarowski’s story goes on to talk about how the contract was presented to Love.
Wolves general manager David Kahn entered the training room after a loss and handed Love the contract offer.
“I’m not the one to always follow professional protocol — but I do know what it is, even at 24 years old,” Love said.
Love also ripped the organization for some past personnel decisions and while he backed the story later, he also said some of the positive things he had said about the franchise did not make the final draft.
While the turmoil in Minnesota is simmering, another team which has to face interesting roster decisions down the road will be the defending champion Miami Heat.
It likely won’t happen this year or next, but the Heat are going to have to decide if they can afford to keep the team’s stars together.
The Heat are currently well above the tax threshold of $84 million and will be as long as the Big 3 of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are around.
All three are tied up to contracts which will see them paid north of $20 million in 2014-15 and while owner Micky Arison has deep pockets, it remains to be seen how deep he would be willing to go.
Of course all three also have the ability to opt out of their contracts just before that season but it would be surprising to see any of them do that.
So, looking ahead, the Heat have four more players under contract for that season and if you were to add another five players to the mix at reasonable rates, Ian Thomson of Sports Illustrated estimated the total payout would be around $93 million.
Currently the luxury tax kicks in at $65 million and if it were to increase by $5 million over the next two years, the Heat would still be facing a tax bill of $48 million at the end of that season.
“They’re going to have to break up their team,” a rival general manager told Thomson.
While the long-term tax ban is also punitive, next year those over the luxury tax are also set to face stiffer penalties as well.
For every dollar over the tax threshold, teams will be forced to pay an extra $1.50 up to $4,999,999. The fines increase every $5 million over that.
The team that will take the biggest hit in this case is the Los Angeles Lakers.
This season the Lakers are set to be hit with a $30-million tax bill but if they hang onto Dwight Howard, that number could approach $95 million next season.
That provides just one more reason for the Lakers to try to find a new home for Pau Gasol.