The picture of what the next NBA season might look like and when it will start is becoming clearer with reports trickling out here and there from all over.
Nothing’s official yet, of course, so this is all, ultimately, just rumblings, albeit rumblings from well-connected industry insiders, meaning there’s likely some fire behind all this smoke.
Here’s a quick rundown of the latest regarding the 2020-21 NBA season.
League believes players will agree to Christmastime start
In the latest episode of his podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said he believes the NBA is the one in the drivers’ seat in negotiations around a revised collective bargaining agreement.
“I don’t think the players have much of a leveraging point here,” Windhorst said. “They’re probably going to have to agree to this.”
There’s an expectation around the league that both the NBA and NBPA will agree to a revised CBA so next season can start close to the league’s annual Christmas showcase around Dec. 22.
The reason for this, Windhorst explained, was purely financial. The ESPN reporter revealed that the NBA’s finance committee met prior to Friday’s Board of Governors meeting and concluded that starting the season earlier the better it will be for revenue.
As The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported last week a Dec. 22 start could result in an additional $500 million in projected value for both teams and players.
“The owners’ finance committee, there’s a group of owners who make up the finance committee, had a meeting and in that meeting they looked at everything and decided, 'You know what? We need to play sooner rather than later,’” said Windhorst.
Players more likely to sit out games for rest?
Should the season start on Dec. 22, that would mean there was only a 72-day gap between the championship-clinching Game 6 of the NBA Finals and the start of the 2020-21 season.
Now, as Windhorst said, the players are unlikely to put up much of a fight here about this because the financial implications for the league also impact them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy about it, either.
For the two finalists, in particular, this kind of turnaround time may be far too short and, according to Jared Dudley, some members of his champion Los Angeles Lakers and stars on other teams may decide to find rest when needed during the regular season, even if it ends up upsetting some of the league’s partners.
Dudley’s responding quote tweet made reference to an appearance by his Lakers teammate Danny Green on The Ringer NBA Show where Green was asked about the proposed Dec. 22 start and Green half-jokingly said there probably won’t be guys there, including LeBron James.
The financial reasons behind starting the season so quickly after ending the last are sound, but the physical and mental fatigue experienced from the previous will still be felt and as such, guys perhaps sitting out more games than usual may be a repercussion for this course of action that we’re just going to have to expect.
Training camps to open Dec. 1
The New York Times’ Marc Stein is reporting that with likely Dec. 22 start for next season, Dec. 1 has “emerged” as the probable start for NBA training camps.
If what Stein is hearing is true, then that would align with the usual three-week training camp and exhibition schedule in the lead-up to a regular NBA season. It also may offer a little more clarity on the start of NBA free agency.
Right now there’s no date set for free agency but with a range of the draft on Nov. 18 and the start of training camps on Dec. 1, free agency is likely to open in that week in between those two dates, meaning it’s likely to be a fast and furious period with teams needing to get their off-season business in a hurry before training camp begins.
Salary cap unlikely to drop
The issue of what next season’s salary cap will be also has yet to be figured out but, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks speaking Monday on The Lowe Post podcast, the salary cap is unlikely to fall below the current $109-million figure and may even rise.
“The teams I’ve talked to have said the cap will be no lower than $109 million,” Marks said. “That’s what they’ve been assured. It could be $111 million.”
A raised salary cap is good news for the NBA as a whole as it suggests the league could be returning to strong financial health and would particularly be good news for free agents like Fred VanVleet and DeMar DeRozan or guys whose max extensions are kicking in next season like Pascal Siakam.
But even if the cap were to remain flat at $109 million, one thing that teams do want to see happen, according to Marks, is to see the luxury tax threshold increase to about $139 million from the $132.7-million level it’s at now to help facilitate the trade market.
Marks says that should the tax level stay the same as it is now it would only benefit teams with cap space and the trade market would freeze.