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Mid-Level Exception

The mid-level exception is the most common way for NBA teams that are over the salary cap to sign free agents from other clubs. Teams can make use of the mid-level every season, and they can split it among multiple players. Different mid-level exceptions apply based on a team’s proximity to the cap.

The most valuable kind of mid-level exception is available to teams that are over the cap but less than $4MM above the tax threshold. Still, clubs deep into the tax, and even those under the cap, have access to less lucrative versions of the mid-level. Here’s a glance at how all three forms of the exception are structured:

For teams with cap room:

  • Called the mini mid-level, or the room exception
  • Maximum two-year contract
  • Maximum 4.5% annual raises
  • First-year salary is worth $2,732,000 for 2014/15

For over-the cap teams:

  • Called the full mid-level, or the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception
  • Maximum four-year contract
  • Maximum 4.5% annual raises
  • First-year salary is worth $5,305,000 for 2014/15
  • Once used, the team cannot surpass the “tax apron” ($4MM above tax line) for the remainder of the season.

For taxpaying teams:

  • Called the mini mid-level, or the taxpayer’s mid-level exception
  • Maximum three-year contract
  • Maximum 4.5% annual raises
  • First-year salary is worth $3,278,000 for 2014/15.

The value of the starting salary in each exception increases by about 3% each season under the current collective bargaining agreement. Here’s the maximum contract a free agent could receive this summer using each of these three forms of mid-level exception:

Room Exception

  • 2014/15: $2,732,000
  • 2015/16: $2,854,940
  • Total: $5,586,940

Non-Taxpayer’s MLE

  • $5,305,000
  • $5,543,725
  • $5,782,450
  • $6,021,175
  • Total: $22,652,350

Taxpayer’s MLE:

  • $3,278,000
  • $3,425,510
  • $3,573,020
  • $10,276,530

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.

Versions of this post, written by Luke Adams, were initially published on April 24th, 2012 and May 10th, 2013.

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