Under the NBA’s previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, the values of various salary cap exceptions like the mid-level and bi-annual were established years in advance, but the league’s current CBA tweaked how those exceptions are calculated.
Rather than being determined ahead of time, the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions – along with several other cap-related figures and exceptions – are dependent on the movement of the salary cap from year to year. If the cap increases by 5% from one league year to the next, the exceptions increase by the same rate.
As such, we don’t know yet exactly what those exceptions will be worth in 2021/22, but we can make an educated estimate. When the NBA updated its salary cap projections last November, the league said the cap would increase by a minimum of 3% and a maximum of 10% in ’21/22.
While that’s a pretty wide range, there’s a general belief that an increase on the lower end (3%) is the most likely outcome, given the projected revenue the league has lost this year due to not being able to fill arenas. If the cap does increase by 3%, the values of the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions would increase by 3% too.
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Based on a 3% cap increase, here’s what the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions would look like in 2021/22:
||Taxpayer MLE||Room MLE|
The standard mid-level exception is available to over-the-cap teams that haven’t dipped below the cap to use room and don’t go over the tax apron. It can run for up to four years, with 5% annual raises. Once a team uses the standard/non-taxpayer MLE, that team is hard-capped at the tax apron for the rest of the league year.
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The taxpayer mid-level exception is for in-the-tax teams, or teams that want the flexibility to surpass the tax apron later. It can run for up to three years, with 5% annual raises.
The room exception is for teams that go under the cap and use their space. Once they’ve used all their cap room, they can use this version of the mid-level exception, which runs for up to two years with 5% annual raises.
The bi-annual exception – which can be used for contracts up to two years, with a 5% raise after year one – is only available to teams that are over the cap and under the tax apron.
It can also only be used once every two years, which will disqualify the Nuggets, Lakers, and Bucks from using it in 2021/22 — they all used their BAE in 2020/21.