The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement prevents a team from signing a player and then turning around and trading him shortly thereafter. If a club signs a free agent, without having reached an agreement on a sign-and-trade deal, then that club isn’t permitted to trade that player until December 15 or for three months after his signing, whichever is later.
Since most top free agents finalize new contracts in July, that December 15 date applies to many recent signees around the NBA. Several others can’t be traded until January 15, since they met certain criteria when they signed their new deals. And a few more, who signed after September 15, have unique dates when they’ll become trade-eligible, since the three-month anniversaries of their signings will fall after December 15.
Now that the calendar has turned to November 8, we can add a new category to that list of players with trade restrictions. Because this season’s trade deadline falls on February 7, any free agent who signs with a team between now and February 7 won’t be eligible to be dealt this season. If a player were to sign a contract today, the three-month anniversary of his signing would fall on February 8, the day after the trade deadline.
This restriction won’t impact a lot of players — many of the free agents signed between now and the trade deadline will get non-guaranteed contracts or 10-day deals, and wouldn’t be trade candidates anyway. Plus, different rules apply to players who sign two-way contracts, as their trade restrictions lift after just 30 days.
Still, last season, a number of veterans signed contracts during the three-month period before the trade deadline and made an impact on their respective teams, including Gerald Green (Rockets), Isaiah Canaan (Suns), and Emeka Okafor (Pelicans). Those players were ineligible to be flipped in trades before last season’s deadline, and the same restriction will be placed on any player who makes a similar impact after being signed during the next three months.