The salary cap for the 2017/18 NBA league year won’t be finalized and announced for several more days, which means we’re still relying on the NBA’s $99MM projection when we calculate the value of maximum salary contract or attempt to determine how much cap room teams will have.
[RELATED: NBA Maximum Salary Projections for 2017/18]
However, while some contract figures won’t be finalized until we know where the salary cap ultimately lands for 2017/18, others have already been established. In the case of the mid-level, bi-annual, and room exceptions, the NBA’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement includes specific figures for the ’17/18 season, so we already know what the values of those exceptions will be next year.
Listed below are the maximum annual and total values of each of these exceptions, along with a brief explanation of how they work and which teams will have access to them.
Mid-Level Exception (Non-Taxpayer):
The non-taxpayer mid-level exception is the primary tool available for over-the-cap teams to add free agents. As long as a team hasn’t dipped below the cap and doesn’t go over the tax apron (currently projected to be $127MM) at all, it can use this MLE, which runs for up to four years with 5% annual raises.
In 2016/17, this exception was only worth up to $5,628,000 in year one, so it will rise in value significantly next season. That makes it a legitimate option to land second- or third-tier free agents who would have required cap room to sign in the past.
Mid-Level Exception (Taxpayer):
If an over-the-cap team currently projects to be a taxpayer, or expects to move into tax territory later in the 2017/18 season, it will have access to this smaller mid-level exception for taxpaying teams. If a team uses more than $5.192MM of its mid-level exception, it is forbidden from surpassing the tax apron (projected at $127MM) at any time during the league year. So even if a team isn’t above the apron when it uses its MLE, it might make sense to play it safe by avoiding using the full MLE and imposing a hard cap.
In 2016/17, the taxpayer mid-level exception – which was only used by the Cavs – was worth $3,477,000. The taxpayer MLE can be used to sign a player for up to three years, with 5% annual raises.
Although this is also a mid-level exception of sorts, it’s colloquially known as the “room” exception, since it’s only available to teams that have used cap room. If a club goes under the cap, it loses its full mid-level exception, but gets this smaller room exception, which allows the team to go over the cap to sign a player, once the team has used up all its cap space.
In 2016/17, this exception was worth $2,898,000, and resulted in some valuable signings, including Seth Curry (Mavericks), Dion Waiters (Heat), Zaza Pachulia (Warriors), and Nene (Rockets). It can be used to sign players for up to two years, with a 5% raise for the second season.
The bi-annual exception, as its name suggests, is only available to teams once every two years. Of the NBA’s 30 clubs, only the Clippers used it in 2016/17, signing Luc Mbah a Moute to a deal that started at $2,203,000. That means the league’s other 29 teams could theoretically use it this season.
Still, even if a team didn’t use its BAE in ’16/17, that club doesn’t necessarily have access to it for the coming year. As is the case with the non-taxpayer MLE, this exception disappears once a team goes under the cap. It’s also not available to teams over the tax apron — using the BAE creates a hard cap at the apron.
The BAE can be used to sign players for up to two years, with a 5% raise after year one.