The most common method over-the-cap teams use to sign free agents from other teams is the mid-level exception, but it’s not the only tool those clubs can use to squeeze an extra player onto the payroll. The biannual exception is a way to sign a player who commands more than the minimum salary and less than the mid-level.
As its name suggests, the biannual exception can only be used every other year. Even if a team uses only a portion of the exception, it becomes unavailable the following year.
The biannual exception is available only to limited number of clubs, even among those that didn’t use the biannual the season before. Teams with player salaries, cap holds and cap exceptions that add up to less than the salary cap lose their biannual exception, as well as their full mid-level exception and any trade exceptions. They must use their cap room to sign players. Additionally, teams lose access to the biannual exception when they go more than $4MM over the tax threshold, exceeding what’s known as the tax apron. So, only teams over the cap but under the tax apron can use the biannual exception.
If a team uses all or part of the biannual exception, it triggers a hard cap for that season. Clubs that sign a player using the biannual can’t go over the tax apron at any time during the season in which the contract is signed.
The biannual exception provides for a starting salary of $2.077MM in 2014/15. That’s approximately 3% greater than the starting salary in a biannual deal this past season, and the figure will continue to rise by about 3% each year under the collective bargaining agreement. A biannual contract can be for either one or two seasons, with a raise of 4.5% for the second season. Teams also have the option of splitting the exception among multiple players. The bi-annual exception becomes pro-rated starting on January 10th, so it’s rarely used for late-season signees.
Five teams used the biannual exception in 2013/14, the most since 2009/10, as I noted last summer. Those five — the Nuggets, Wizards, Timberwolves, Warriors and Pacers — are ineligible to sign a player via the biannual in 2014/15. That’s true for Golden State even though Jermaine O’Neal only signed a one-year contract, for Denver even if Nate Robinson opts out, and for Washington even though the team traded Eric Maynor.
Previous versions of this post appeared on April 23rd, 2012 (by Luke Adams) and May 1st, 2013.
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.