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, Matt Barnes will be a Non-Bird player for the Clippers at the end of this season — he signed a one-year contract with the Clips last summer, so he'll only have one year on his Bird clock. Since Barnes was on a minimum salary, his Non-Bird rights only make him eligible for a salary worth 120% of that amount for next season, which other suitors will easily be able to top. As such, the Clippers may have to use another cap exception (likely the mid-level) if they want to re-sign Barnes.
While Barnes' Non-Bird rights may not help the Clippers re-sign him, there are instances where the exception could prove more useful. For instance, Nick Young signed a one-year, $5.6MM deal with the Sixers last offseason, so his Bird clock is at just a single year. Using the Non-Bird exception, Philadelphia could offer him a salary starting at up to $6.72MM, 120% of his 2012/13 salary. Given Young's production this past season, that should provide more than enough flexibility for the Sixers to bring him back, should they so choose.
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.
This post was initially published on April 20th, 2012.