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Non-Bird Rights

We've outlined how teams can use Bird or Early Bird exceptions to re-sign players who have been on their roster for multiple seasons. The third related cap exception in the group is the Non-Bird exception, for players who are considered Non-Qualifying Veteran Free Agents. Non-Bird rights are earned when a player spends just a single season with his team after having signed as a free agent or being claimed off waivers.

Because a partial season is generally considered a full year for Bird purposes, every veteran player who finishes the season on an NBA roster should qualify for at least the Non-Bird exception. Even if a player is waived halfway through the season and signs a rest-of-season contract with another team, he'll earn Non-Bird rights at the end of the year.

Teams are permitted to sign their own free agents using the Non-Bird exception for a salary starting at 120% of the player's previous salary, 120% of the minimum salary, or the amount of a qualifying offer (if the player is a restricted free agent), whichever is greater. Contracts can be for up to four years, with 4.5% annual raises.

Because the amount a team can offer its Non-Bird free agent is so limited, the exception may not be enough to retain an impact player. For instance, Jeremy Lin will be a Non-Bird player for the Knicks at the end of this season — he was claimed off waivers by the team in December, so he'll only have one year on his Bird clock. The amount of Lin's qualifying offer will only be about $1.03MM, which other suitors will easily be able to top. As such, the Knicks will have to use another cap exception (likely the mid-level) if they want to re-sign Lin.

Kwame Brown is another example of a player who would have Non-Bird rights at season's end. He signed a one-year deal with a new team last December, so his Bird clock will be at just a single year at season's end. Using the Non-Bird exception, the Bucks could offer him a salary starting at up to $8.1MM, 120% of his 2011/12 salary, though of course there's no chance they'll do so.

The cap hold for a Non-Bird player is 120% of his previous salary.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

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