Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
After that dud of a trade deadline, answer this: Has the new CBA done what owners wanted it to do? Meaning, give more teams a chance?
Steve Aschburner: Certainly, the new CBA had a seat at the table — at the head of the table, frankly — on deadline day. It initially was depressing to see multi-millionaires and billionaires knuckling under to a luxury-tax mechanism, stymieing the very reason (hopefully) they became sports owners — to chase a championship. Then I thought about an NBA in which talent truly is more evenly distributed, with even the deep-pocketed clubs opting to concede star players to smaller-revenue markets. And then I remembered the concept of unintended consequences that we’ve seen in the political arena, in science, and so on. More veterans working ever more cheaply to ride LeBron James‘ or the Next Big Thing’s jersey tails to rings? Smaller-market GMs letting their draft and trade skills slacken while they overpay the wrong players? This new CBA is a fresh pig in a snake’s belly — it’s got to slide along for a spell before we know what the real effects are.
Fran Blinebury: It is far too early to tell if the Flag of Stern will be replaced by the Flag of Lenin and the whole league will soon be one big cooperative, with “Imagine” replacing the national anthem before each game. I always believe that richest clubs and capitalism will find a way. There’s a reason that wall is down in Berlin. But you will have to be much, much smarter about it.
Jeff Caplan: I do think this will ultimately be the case and we’ve seen early evidence of that with James Harden making the Rockets a playoff contender and Rudy Gay giving Toronto a boost. Here’s the thing with the CBA: It’s going to be impossible for teams to pay three superstars like Miami is now. Two is going to be the limit, and even then holding payroll under the luxury tax won’t be easy. For franchises like the Knicks, Lakers and Nets that can spend far more freely than others, well, they can certainly bloat their payrolls and take their chances. However, only one team can win the championship. So there will always be disappointed big-spenders that will want to make changes. The new CBA makes it much more difficult for luxury tax teams to get out of big contracts and restructure rosters. So if you spend big, say, like the Nets, and it doesn’t work, they’ll either be stuck with those contracts or be forced to trade a player like, for example, Deron Williams, and hope for the best possible return. Teams with cap space like the Dallas Mavericks hope to pick off a star player or close-to-star player in this fashion, similar to Houston nabbing Harden. So, to the greater point, I think more teams — and we’re seeing it now — want to stay under the luxury tax and that should mean that more quality players get spread throughout the league.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Even among those of us who believe the shoulder shrug of a deadline was more than the CBA at work — it was also the lack of big-time talent on the market — there is no question the payroll guidelines will have an impact. The next step is this summer, when a lot of sign-and-trades will be off the table. The teams with better cash flow will always have an advantage. But, yes, more teams will have a chance.
John Schuhmann: There are still a few teams — Lakers, Knicks and Nets — with seemingly unlimited budgets, and the more punitive taxes might not scare them away from spending money. But the restrictions on the MLE and sign-and-trades will definitely make it more difficult to compile “superteams.” So yeah, I do think that things will balance out a little more. But no matter a team’s budget, smart management is still critical to long-term success.
Sekou Smith: I don’t think the new CBA alone is responsible for what did (or did not) transpire at the deadline. It certainly had an impact on some teams. But the pool of available game changers was rather shallow. And that put fewer teams in the mix to swing bigger or even potential blockbluster deals like we’ve grown accustomed to over the past few seasons. Time will tell if the new CBA rules create the parity so many think it will. The free agent summer of 2014 will be the first real test to see how many big time players move around.