Hoops Rumors Glossary: 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:

  • Commonly called the room exception
  • Contract can cover no more than two seasons
  • First-year salary is worth $2,814,000 for 2015/16

For over-the-cap teams:

  • Commonly called either the full mid-level exception or the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception
  • Contract can cover up to four seasons
  • First-year salary is worth $5,464,000 for 2015/16
  • Once used, the team cannot surpass the “tax apron” ($4MM above tax line) for the remainder of the season.

For teams above the cap and the tax apron:

  • Commonly called the taxpayer’s mid-level exception
  • Contract can cover up to three seasons
  • First-year salary is worth $3,376,000 for 2015/16

Each form of the mid-level allows for annual raises of up to 4.5% of the value of the first season’s salary. So, here are the maximum amounts a free agent could receive this summer under each of the three forms of the mid-level exception:

Room Exception

  • 2014/15: $2,814,000
  • 2015/16: $2,940,630
  • Total: $5,754,630

Non-Taxpayer’s MLE

  • $5,464,000
  • $5,709,880
  • $5,955,760
  • $6,201,640
  • Total: $23,331,280

Taxpayer’s MLE:

  • $3,376,000
  • $3,527,920
  • $3,679,840
  • Total: $10,583,760

Few teams used the mid-level to give out contracts for as much as they could and for as many years as they could to any single player in 2014/15. Spencer Hawes (non-taxpayer’s), Bojan Bogdanovic (taxpayer’s), Kirk Hinrich (room), Mike Miller (room), Jameer Nelson (room) and Udonis Haslem (room) were the only players to sign for the full values of the various mid-level exceptions this past season.

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 and the Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post appeared on April 24th, 2012, May 10th, 2013 and May 11, 2014.

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