Players and teams have to meet certain criteria to earn Bird rights and Early Bird rights, but Non-Bird rights are something of a given. They apply to players who’ve spent a single season or less with their teams, as long as they end the season on an NBA roster. Teams can also claim Non-Bird rights on Early Bird free agents if they renounce them. The primary utility in doing so would be so that the team could sign the free agent to a one-year contract, a move that’s not permitted via Early Bird rights.
Teams are allowed 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 greatest. Contracts can be for up to four years, with 4.5% annual raises. The cap hold for a Non-Bird player is 120% of his previous salary, unless the previous salary was the minimum. In that case, the cap hold is equivalent to the two-year veteran’s minimum salary, which is $980,431 for the 2016/17 season.
The salary limitations that apply to Non-Bird rights are more severe than those pertaining to Bird rights or Early Bird rights, so in many cases, the Non-Bird exception isn’t enough to keep a well-regarded free agent. For instance, the Raptors will have Non-Bird rights with Bismack Biyombo if he turns down a player option worth slightly less than $2.941MM for next season. Biyombo showed his value as an efficient rebounder and one of the league’s toughest interior defenders this season. The Raptors can only use Non-Bird rights to sign him for 120% of his salary from this past season without dipping into another exception or opening cap space, and it’s unlikely they’ll have much room with more than $69.9MM in guaranteed salary on the books and DeMar DeRozan poised to enter free agency, too. Biyombo made just $2.814MM this year, and Non-Bird rights would provide for just $3,376,800 next season, much less than what the best backup centers signed for a year ago.
Non-Bird rights might not be of aid to the Raptors and Biyombo, but there are cases in which the exception proves helpful. Alan Anderson is coming off an injury-marred season for the Wizards, who are hoping to preserve as much cap space as possible. Anderson’s cap hold will be only 120% of the $4MM salary he received on the one-year contract he signed with Washington in the summer of 2015. Thus, the Wizards wouldn’t sacrifice much flexibility if, instead of renouncing him, they retained his Non-Bird rights, thus keeping his $4.8MM cap hold on the books so they can use Non-Bird rights to re-sign him once they’ve used their cap space on other free agents.
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.
Earlier versions of this post appeared in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.