The National Basketball Players Association is preparing players for the possibility that the start of the 2020 free agency period will be postponed by several weeks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
As Wojnarowski explains, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in major uncertainty about the league’s projected revenues for the 2020/21 season. Delaying the October 18 free agency start date would give both the NBA and NBPA more time to formulate the parameters of the 2020/21 salary cap and luxury tax lines.
The NBA previously projected a $115MM salary cap and a $139MM tax threshold for the ’20/21 season. However, that projection was released in January and hasn’t been updated in recent months to account for the pandemic, which has had a huge financial impact on the league.
According to Wojnarowski, with the October 16 draft fast approaching, front offices around the NBA are concerned about the lack of updated cap and tax projections in place, since those estimates allow teams to make roster decisions with a clearer sense of the financial ramifications.
Before finalizing its projections, the league will likely want to wait as long as possible to determine whether fans can safely be allowed to return to arenas next season. As Woj notes, the NBA may also deviate from its usual formula to determine next year’s salary cap, artificially smoothing it to avoid a significant drop based on lost revenues. The NBA and NBPA continue to collectively bargain those issues.
The NBA’s tentative offseason schedule would allow free agents to begin negotiating with teams at 5:00 pm central time on October 18, just two days after the draft. The new league year is officially scheduled to begin on October 19.
However, that calendar was created when it looked as if next season would begin as early as December 1. If the start of the ’20/21 regular season is pushed back, there may not be as much urgency to open free agency that soon. According to Wojnarowski, the NBPA has been privately suggesting to players that the season could start sometime in late December or in the new year.
Although Wojnarowski’s report suggests that free agency seems more likely than not to be delayed, it’s not clear whether this year’s draft date will be affected. According to Woj, many teams have interest in connecting the draft and free agency and postponing them together.