New Free Agency Rules Will Go Into Effect After Finals End

It’s possible that Friday’s contest between the Celtics and Mavericks will be the final game of the 2023/24 NBA season, with Boston holding a 3-0 lead and looking to complete the sweep. If the Celtics do finish off the series tonight, we’ll get our first look at the new rules related to free agency negotiations that the NBA and players’ union implemented in their most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In past years, teams have been prohibited from negotiating new contracts with free agents prior to June 30 at 6:00 pm Eastern time. That timeline will still apply to teams who wish to speak to other clubs’ free agents, but for the first time, teams will be permitted to negotiate contracts with their own free agents beginning one day after the NBA Finals end. So if the Celtics win on Friday, those negotiations could begin for players around the league on Saturday.

The rule change should put teams in a better position to retain their own free agents. A year ago, for instance, one reason cited for the split between the Sixers and James Harden was Philadelphia’s insistence on waiting until June 30 to negotiate potential contract terms after being docked two second-round picks for jumping the gun on free agency in 2022. Harden reportedly felt as if he was being ignored by management and wasn’t confident the team would make him a lucrative contract offer, prompting him to pick up his player option and ask for a trade.

That type of situation should be easier to avoid now that teams will have an exclusive window between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of free agency on June 30 to talk to their own free agents.

Of course, it’s been considered an open secret over the years that teams and player agents are in contact before they’re legally permitted to be, which is why so many contract agreements (including some complex sign-and-trade deals) are reported in the hours – or even minutes – after free agency opens at 6:00 pm ET on June 30. It will be interesting to see whether that same pattern of reporting occurs the day after the Finals end — in other words, if the Celtics win tonight, will we get a flurry of new deals reported this weekend for free-agents-to-be who are returning to their own clubs? Or will those updates take a little longer to materialize?

Free agent contracts still can’t be officially finalized until after the July moratorium lifts on July 6, so a player who verbally agrees to re-sign with his current team on June 22 could change his mind during the next couple weeks before he officially puts pen to paper. We’ve seen that occur on occasion in the past with free agents who reach tentative deals between June 30 and July 6, then renege on them, but it’s pretty rare and will probably continue to happen infrequently going forward.

Players who won’t be free agents this offseason but who will become eligible to sign contract extensions on July 6 will also be permitted to talk to their current teams about new deals a day after the Finals end, ESPN’s Bobby Marks confirmed to Hoops Rumors.

Like this year’s free agents, those extension-eligible players would also have to wait until after the moratorium ends to formally complete a new contract, unless they’re already extension-eligible, in which case they’re allowed to talk to their respective teams even before the Finals end and can continue to negotiate up until June 30.

Players who will become extension-eligible sometime after July 6 won’t be able to open negotiations during that post-Finals window and will have to wait until the new league year to explore new deals with their clubs.

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