Search Results for: Bird Rights

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Bird Rights

The Bird exception, named after Larry Bird, is a rule included in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players. A player who qualifies for the Bird exception, formally referred to as a Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, is said to have “Bird rights.”

The most basic way for a player to earn Bird rights is to play for the same team for at least three seasons, either on a long-term deal or on separate one- or two-year contracts. Still, there are other criteria. A player retains his Bird rights in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via trade. For instance, the Celtics will hold Evan Fournier‘s Bird rights when he reaches free agency this offseason, despite just acquiring him in March. His Bird clock didn’t reset when he was traded from Orlando to Boston.
  2. He finishes a third season with a team after having only signed for a partial season with the club in the first year. The Heat signed Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson during the final week of the 2018/19 season. When their contracts expire during the 2021 offseason, they’ll have full Bird rights because those few days they spent with Miami at the end of ’18/19 started their respective Bird clocks.
  3. He signed for a full season in year one or two but the team waived him, he cleared waivers, and didn’t sign with another team before re-signing with the club and remaining under contract through a third season. This one’s a little confusing, but let’s use Glenn Robinson III as an example. Partway through his one-year contract with the Kings this season, Robinson was waived. He has yet to join a new team. If the Kings were to re-sign Robinson to a two-year contract in the offseason, without him joining a new team in the interim, they’d have his full Bird rights at the end of that deal.

A player sees the clock on his Bird rights reset to zero in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via free agency.
  2. He is waived and is not claimed on waivers (except as in scenario No. 3 above).
  3. His rights are renounced by his team. However, his Bird clock picks up where it left off if he re-signs with that team without having signed with another NBA team. For example, Bismack Biyombo had full Bird rights last offseason, then had those rights renounced by the Hornets as the team attempted to gain extra cap room. Since Biyombo eventually signed a new one-year deal with Charlotte, he’ll regain his full Bird rights this summer — that wouldn’t have been the case if he had signed with a new team.
  4. He is selected in an expansion draft.

If a player who would have been in line for Bird rights at the end of the season is waived and claimed off waivers, he would retain only Early Bird rights. Meanwhile, a player with Bird rights who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year contract (or a one-year deal with a second-year option) would lose his Bird rights if he’s traded. As such, he receives the ability to veto trades so he can avoid that scenario.

[RELATED: Players with the ability to veto trades in 2020/21]

When a player earns Bird rights, he’s eligible to re-sign with his team for up to five years and for any price up to his maximum salary (with 8% annual raises) when he becomes a free agent, regardless of how much cap room the team has. The maximum salary varies from player to player depending on how long he has been in the league, but regardless of the precise amount, a team can exceed the salary cap to complete the deal.

A team with a Bird free agent is assigned a “free agent amount” or cap hold worth either 190% of his previous salary (for a player with a below-average salary) or 150% of his previous salary (for an above-average salary), up to the maximum salary amount. For players coming off rookie scale contracts, the amounts of those cap holds are 300% and 250%, respectively.

The Hawks, for instance, will have a cap hold worth $12,411,906 for John Collins on their 2021/22 books — 300% of his $4,137,302 salary for ’20/21. Atlanta could renounce Collins and generate an extra $12MM+ in cap flexibility, but the Hawks would then lose the ability to re-sign him using Bird rights, which would force them to use either cap room or a different cap exception to re-sign him. As such, it’s a safe bet that Atlanta will keep Collins’ cap hold on its books until his free agency is resolved.

Ultimately, the Bird exception was designed to allow teams to keep their best players. The CBA ensures that teams are always able to re-sign them to contracts up to the maximum salary, assuming the player is interested in returning and his team is willing to go over the cap.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ and salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in previous years by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Clippers’ Jason Preston Undergoes Right Foot Surgery

Clippers rookie guard Jason Preston underwent surgery on his right foot on Thursday in Los Angeles, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who hears from sources that Preston is expected to miss a “significant” portion of the 2021/22 season.

The team confirmed the procedure, announcing in a press release that Preston had ligaments in his foot repaired. He’ll miss an “extended” period of time and has no timetable for a return.

It’s a tough blow for the Clippers and for Preston, who was the 33rd overall pick in the 2021 draft and signed a three-year contract with two fully guaranteed seasons. He reportedly sustained the injury in a group workout prior to the start of training camp.

A 6’4″ guard, Preston played his college ball at Ohio University, where he averaged 15.7 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 7.3 RPG in 20 games (34.6 MPG) as a junior in 2020/21. The Clippers are high on his passing skills, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link), and thought he had made strides since playing for the team in Summer League, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

Preston joins Kawhi Leonard as the Clippers players who are expected to miss a substantial chunk of the season.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Non-Bird Rights

Players and teams have to meet certain criteria to earn Bird rights and Early Bird rights, but Non-Bird rights are practically a given. They apply to a player who has spent a single season or less with his team, as long as he finishes the season on an NBA roster. Even a player who signs on the last day of the regular season and spends just one day with his club would have Non-Bird rights in the offseason.

Teams can also claim Non-Bird rights on Early Bird free agents if they renounce them. The primary motivator to do so would be to allow the team to sign the free agent to a one-year contract, a move that’s not permitted via Early Bird rights.

Teams are eligible to sign their own free agents using the Non-Bird exception for a salary starting at 120% of the player’s previous salary, 120% of the minimum salary, or the amount of a qualifying offer (if the player is a restricted free agent), whichever is greatest. Contracts can be for up to four years, with 5% annual raises.

The cap hold for a Non-Bird player is 120% of his previous salary, unless the previous salary was the minimum. In that case, the cap hold is equivalent to the two-year veteran’s minimum salary. If a Non-Bird free agent only has one year of NBA experience, his cap hold is equivalent to the one-year veteran’s minimum salary.

The salary limitations that apply to Non-Bird rights are more severe than those pertaining to Bird rights or Early Bird rights, so in many cases, the Non-Bird exception may not be enough to retain a well-regarded free agent. For instance, the Sixers held Alec Burks‘s Non-Bird rights last summer, but couldn’t have used them to match or exceed the offer the veteran wing received from the Knicks.

Because Burks had been on a minimum-salary contract in 2019/20, Philadelphia’s ability to offer a raise using the Non-Bird exception was extremely limited — the 76ers would have only been able to offer 120% of the veteran’s minimum using his Non-Bird rights, whereas the Knicks’ $6MM offer easily topped that. If they’d badly wanted to retain Burks, the 76ers would have had to use cap room or another exception to make a competitive offer.

The Lakers will be in a similar situation this offseason with Andre Drummond, who will only have Non-Bird rights. If L.A. wants to retain Drummond, the team will have to use cap room or its mid-level exception to make its best offer, since they’ll be limited to a starting salary in the $3MM range via the Non-Bird exception.

Holding Non-Bird rights on a free agent didn’t really help the Sixers with Burks and it won’t help the Lakers with Drummond, but there are cases in which the exception proves useful.

For instance, the Clippers only had Non-Bird rights on Marcus Morris last offseason, but because his ’19/20 salary was $15MM, Los Angeles was able to offer a starting salary worth any amount up to $18MM (120% of his previous salary). That gave the club plenty of flexibility to re-sign Morris without using cap room or another exception — he received a four-year, $64MM contract.

Another deal completed by the Clippers in November provides an example of a team using Non-Bird rights on a minimum-salary player. Patrick Patterson, whose minimum salary would have been $2,564,753 in 2020/21, was eligible to sign for up to 120% of that amount via the Non-Bird exception. As such, his one-year deal with Los Angeles is worth $3,077,704.

Finally, it’s worth noting that a player who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year deal and will have Early Bird or Bird rights at the end of that contract would surrender those rights if he consents to a trade. In that scenario, he’d only finish the season with Non-Bird rights.

This happened to James Ennis in 2020, when he agreed to a trade that sent him from Philadelphia to Orlando. Ennis would have had Early Bird rights if he had finished the season with the Sixers, but allowing the trade meant he only had Non-Bird rights during the 2020 offseason. As a result, the Magic had to use a portion of their mid-level exception to re-sign him to a one-year, $3.3MM deal that could’ve otherwise been completed with the Early Bird exception.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in previous years by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Early Bird Rights

Bird rights offer teams the chance to sign their own free agents without regard to the salary cap, but they don’t apply to every player. Other salary cap exceptions are available for teams to keep players who don’t qualify for Bird rights. One such exception is the Early Bird, which applies to players formally known as Early Qualifying Veteran Free Agents.

While the Bird exception is for players who have spent three seasons with one club without changing teams as a free agent, Early Bird rights are earned after just two such seasons. Virtually all of the same rules that apply to Bird rights apply to Early Bird rights, with the requirements condensed to two years rather than three. Players still see their Bird clocks restart by changing teams via free agency, being claimed in an expansion draft, or having their rights renounced.

As is the case with Bird rights, a player’s clock stops when he’s released by a team and clears waivers, but it would pick up where it left off if he re-signs with that same team down the road without joining another club in the interim. For instance, if Glenn Robinson III – released by the Kings earlier this season before the end of his one-year contract – were to sign a new one-year deal with Sacramento during the 2021 offseason, the team would have his Early Bird rights in the 2022 offseason.

The crucial difference between Bird rights and Early Bird rights involves the limitations on contract offers. Bird players can receive maximum-salary deals for up to five years, while the most a team can offer an Early Bird free agent without using cap space is 175% of his previous salary (up to the max) or 105% of the league-average salary in the previous season, whichever is greater.

These offers are also capped at four years rather than five, and the new contracts must run for at least two years — the second year can be non-guaranteed, but can’t be a team or player option.

Richaun Holmes (Kings), Danny Green (Sixers), Derrick Rose (Knicks), T.J. McConnell (Pacers), and Enes Kanter (Trail Blazers) are among the most notable free agents who will have Early Bird rights at the end of the 2020/21 season.

In some instances, teams can benefit from having Early Bird rights instead of full Bird rights if they’re trying to preserve cap space. The cap hold for an Early Bird player is 130% of his previous salary, significantly less than most Bird players, whose cap holds range from 150-300% of their previous salaries.

That could help a team like the Knicks, who project to have cap space in the 2021 offseason. The cap hold for Rose, who is earning $7.68MM this season, will be a shade under $10MM. His starting salary on a new deal could be higher than that.

If the Knicks reach an agreement to re-sign Rose near the start of free agency, they could wait to make it official, keeping his cap hold on the books until they use the rest of their cap room, maximizing that space. Then they could go over the cap to finalize Rose’s deal using the Early Bird exception.

However, having a player’s Early Bird rights instead of his full Bird rights puts a team at a disadvantage in other cases. For instance, when Christian Wood reached free agency last offseason, his Early Bird rights only allowed the Pistons to offer a starting salary of up to about $10.05MM, a figure the Rockets topped in their three-year, $41MM offer.

In order to match or exceed that number, Detroit would have had to use cap room — having Wood’s full Bird rights would’ve allowed the Pistons to make a far more substantial offer without cap space. The Kings could find themselves in a similar dilemma with Holmes this summer.

Meanwhile, some players with limited NBA experience are subject to a special wrinkle involving Early Bird rights, called the Gilbert Arenas Provision, which applies to players who have only been in the league for one or two years. We cover the Arenas Provision in a separate glossary entry, so you can read up on the details there. It would apply this offseason to a player like Lakers wing Talen Horton-Tucker.

Finally, one more distinction between Bird rights and Early Bird rights applies to waivers. Players who are claimed off waivers retain their Early Bird rights, just as they would if they were traded. Those who had Bird rights instead see those reduced to Early Bird rights if they’re claimed off waivers. This rule stems from a 2012 settlement between the league and the union in which J.J. Hickson was given a special exception and retained his full Bird rights for the summer of 2012 even though he had been claimed off waivers that March.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ and salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in previous years by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bird Rights

The Bird exception, named after Larry Bird, is a rule included in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players. A player who qualifies for the Bird exception, formally referred to as a Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, is said to have “Bird rights.”

The most basic way for a player to earn Bird rights is to play for the same team for at least three seasons, either on a multiyear deal or separate one-year contracts. Still, there are other, more complicated criteria. A player retains his Bird rights in the following scenarios:

  • He changes teams via trade, rather than being waived or signing elsewhere as a free agent. For instance, MarShon Brooks is in the third year of his contract. He has been traded three times, from the Nets to the Celtics, the Celtics to the Warriors and the Warriors to the Lakers, but he still has his Bird rights because he hasn’t been waived.
  • He finishes a third season with a team after having only played partial seasons with the club for one or both of the first two years (without signing elsewhere in between).

However, a player sees the clock on his Bird rights reset to zero in the following scenarios:

  • He changes teams via free agency.
  • He is selected in an expansion draft.
  • He is waived and is not claimed on waivers.
  • His rights are renounced by his team.

If a player has earned Bird rights, he is eligible to sign a maximum-salary contract for up to five years with 7.5% annual raises when he becomes a free agent. The maximum salary will vary depending on how long the player has been in the league, but regardless of the amount, a team can exceed the salary cap to complete the deal.

Although the Bird exception allows teams to exceed the cap, a team cannot necessarily use free cap room to sign free agents and then re-sign its own players via Bird rights. A team with a Bird free agent is assigned a “free agent amount” or cap hold worth either 190% of his previous salary (for a player with a below-average salary) or 150% of his previous salary (for an above-average salary), up to the maximum salary amount. For players coming off rookie scale contracts, the amounts of those cap holds are 250% and 200%, respectively.

The Mavericks, for instance, will have a $6.042MM cap hold for Vince Carter on their 2014/15 books — 190% of his $3.18MM salary this season. Dallas could renounce Carter and clear that $6.042MM in cap space, but the Mavs would lose his Bird rights if they did that. That would force them to use either cap room or a different cap exception to follow through on their plan to re-sign him.

Ultimately, the Bird exception was designed to allow teams to keep their best players. The CBA ensures that teams are always able to re-sign them to contracts up to the maximum salary, assuming the player is interested in returning and his team is willing to go over the cap.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Versions of this post were initially published on April 17th, 2012, and May 2, 2013 by Luke Adams.

Bird Rights

The Bird exception, named after Larry Bird, is a rule included in the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players. A player who qualifies for the Bird exception, formally referred to as a Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, is said to have "Bird rights."

The most basic way for a player to earn Bird rights is to play for the same team for at least three seasons, either on a multiyear deal or separate one-year contracts. The criteria are a little more complicated than that though. A player retains his Bird rights in the following scenarios:

  • He changes teams via trade, rather than being waived or signing elsewhere as a free agent. For instance, Anthony Morrow is in the third year of his contract. He has been traded twice, from the Nets to the Hawks and then to the Mavericks, but will earn Bird rights at season's end because he was never waived during those three seasons.
  • He finishes a third season with a team after having only played partial seasons with the club for the first two years (without signing elsewhere in between).

However, a player sees the clock on his Bird rights reset to zero in the following scenarios:

  • He changes teams via free agency.
  • He is selected in an expansion draft.
  • He is waived and is not claimed on waivers.
  • His rights are renounced by his team.

If a player has earned Bird rights, he is eligible to sign a maximum-salary contract for up to five years with 7.5% annual raises when he becomes a free agent. The maximum salary will vary depending on how long the player has been in the league, but regardless of the amount, a team can exceed the salary cap to complete the deal.

Although the Bird exception allows teams to exceed the cap, a team cannot necessarily use free cap room to sign free agents and then re-sign its own players via Bird rights. A team with a Bird free agent is assigned a "free agent amount" or cap hold worth either 190% of his previous salary (for a player with a below-average salary) or 150% of his previous salary (for an above-average salary). For players coming off a rookie-scale contract, the amounts of those cap holds are 250% and 200%, respectively.

The Hawks, for instance, will have a $12.75MM cap hold for Devin Harris on their 2013/14 books — 150% of his $8.5MM salary this season. Atlanta could clear that $12.75MM in cap space by renouncing Harris, but then would lose his Bird rights. If the Hawks wanted to re-sign him at that point, they'd have to use either cap room or a different cap exception.

Ultimately, the Bird exception was designed to allow teams to keep their star players. The CBA ensures that teams are always able to re-sign their veteran stars to maximum contracts, assuming the player is interested in returning and his team is willing to go over the cap.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

This post was initially published on April 17th, 2012.

Bird Rights

The Bird exception, named after Larry Bird, is a rule included in the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players. A player who qualifies for the Bird exception, formally referred to as a Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, is said to have "Bird rights."

The most basic way for a player to earn Bird rights is to play for the same team for at least three seasons, either on a multiyear deal or separate one-year contracts. The criteria are a little more complicated than that though. A player retains his Bird rights in the following scenarios:

  • He changes teams via trade, rather than being waived or signing elsewhere as a free agent. For instance, Ramon Sessions is in the third year of his contract. He has been traded twice, from the Timberwolves to the Cavs and then to the Lakers, but will earn Bird rights at season's end because he was never waived during those three seasons.
  • He finishes a third season with a team after having only played partial seasons with the club for the first two years (without signing elsewhere in between).

However, a player sees the clock on his Bird rights reset to zero in the following scenarios:

  • He changes teams via free agency.
  • He is waived and claimed by another team on waivers.
  • He is selected in an expansion draft.
  • His rights are renounced by his team.

If a player has earned Bird rights, he is eligible to sign a maximum-salary contract for up to five years with 7.5% annual raises when he becomes a free agent. The maximum salary will vary depending on how long the player has been in the league, but regardless of the amount, a team can exceed the salary cap to complete the deal.

Although the Bird exception allows teams to exceed the cap, a team cannot necessarily use free cap room to sign free agents and then re-sign its own players via Bird rights. A team with a Bird free agent is assigned a "free agent amount" or cap hold worth either 190% of his previous salary (for a player with a below-average salary) or 150% of his previous salary (for an above-average salary). For players coming off a rookie-scale contract, the amounts of those cap holds are 250% and 200%, respectively.

The Celtics, for instance, will have a $15MM cap hold for Ray Allen on their 2012/13 books — 150% of his $10MM salary this season. Boston could clear that $15MM in cap space by renouncing Allen, but then would lose his Bird rights. If the Celtics wanted to re-sign him at that point, they'd have to use either cap room or a different cap exception.

Ultimately, the Bird exception was designed to allow teams to keep their star players. The CBA ensures that teams are always able to re-sign their veteran stars to maximum contracts, assuming the player is interested in returning and his team is willing to go over the cap.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Bird Rights

The Bird exception, named after Larry Bird, is a rule included in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players. A player who qualifies for the Bird exception, formally referred to as a Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, is said to have “Bird rights.”

The most basic way for a player to earn Bird rights is to play for the same team for at least three seasons, either on a multiyear deal or separate one-year contracts. Still, there are other criteria. A player retains his Bird rights in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via trade. For instance, the Cavaliers would hold Andre Drummond‘s Bird rights if he opts for free agency this offseason, despite just acquiring him in February. His Bird clock didn’t reset when he was traded from the Pistons to Cleveland.
  2. He finishes a third season with a team after having only signed for a partial season with the club in the first year. Patrick McCaw finished the 2018/19 season on a contract with the Raptors, then re-signed with Toronto on a two-year deal in the summer of 2019. When that contract expires, McCaw will have full Bird rights because of the partial season he spent with the Raptors last year, which started his Bird clock.
  3. He signed for a full season in year one or two but the team waived him, he cleared waivers, and didn’t sign with another team before re-signing with the club and remaining under contract through a third season. This one’s a little confusing, but let’s use DeMarcus Cousins as an example. Partway through his one-year contract with the Lakers, Cousins was waived last month and has yet to join a new team. If the Lakers were to re-sign Cousins to a two-year contract in the offseason, without him joining a new team in the interim, they’d have his full Bird rights at the end of that deal.

A player sees the clock on his Bird rights reset to zero in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via free agency.
  2. He is waived and is not claimed on waivers (except as in scenario No. 3 above).
  3. His rights are renounced by his team. However, his Bird clock resumes where it left off if he re-signs with that team without having signed with another NBA team. For example, Mike Scott had his rights renounced by the Sixers last July, as Philadelphia attempted to gain cap flexibility. Scott eventually signed a new two-year deal with the 76ers and will have full Bird rights at the end of it.
  4. He is selected in an expansion draft.

If a player who would have been in line for Bird rights at the end of the season is waived and claimed off waivers, he would retain only Early Bird rights. Meanwhile, a player with Bird rights who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year contract (or a one-year deal with a second-year option) would lose his Bird rights if he’s traded. As such, he receives the ability to veto trades so he can avoid that scenario.

[RELATED: Players with the ability to veto trades in 2019/20]

When a player earns Bird rights, he’s eligible to re-sign with his team on a maximum-salary contract for up to five years with 8% annual raises when he becomes a free agent, regardless of how much cap room the team has. The maximum salary will vary for each player depending on how long he has been in the league, but regardless of the amount, a team can exceed the salary cap to complete the deal.

A team with a Bird free agent is assigned a “free agent amount” or cap hold worth either 190% of his previous salary (for a player with a below-average salary) or 150% of his previous salary (for an above-average salary), up to the maximum salary amount. For players coming off rookie scale contracts, the amounts of those cap holds are 300% and 250%, respectively.

The Pelicans, for instance, will have a cap hold worth $21,796,456 for Brandon Ingram on their 2020/21 books — 300% of his $7,265,485 salary for 2019/20. New Orleans could renounce Ingram and clear an extra $21MM+ in cap space, but the Pelicans would lose the ability to re-sign him using Bird rights in that scenario, which would force them to use either cap room or a different cap exception to re-sign him. As such, the club figures to keep that cap hold on its books until Ingram is officially re-signed.

Ultimately, the Bird exception was designed to allow teams to keep their best players. The CBA ensures that teams are always able to re-sign them to contracts up to the maximum salary, assuming the player is interested in returning and his team is willing to go over the cap.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ and salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in previous years by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Non-Bird Rights

Players and teams have to meet certain criteria to earn Bird rights and Early Bird rights, but Non-Bird rights are something of a given. They apply to players who’ve spent a single season or less with their teams, as long as they end the season on an NBA roster.

Teams are permitted to sign their own free agents using the Non-Bird exception for a salary starting at 120% of the player’s previous salary or 120% of the minimum salary, or the amount of a qualifying offer (if the player is a restricted free agent), whichever is greater. Contracts can be for up to four years, with 4.5% annual raises. The cap hold for a Non-Bird player is 120% of his previous salary.

The salary limitations that apply to Non-Bird rights are more severe than those pertaining to Bird rights or Early Bird rights, so in many cases, the Non-Bird exception isn’t enough to retain a well-regarded free agent. For instance, the Mavs have Non-Bird rights with Devin Harris, who signed a one-year, minimum salary contract with the team in the summer of 2013 after playing with the Hawks in 2012/13. Dallas can only use Non-Bird rights to sign him for 120% of what he made in 2013/14. The guard nearly signed a three-year, $9MM contract in 2013 with the Mavs before a toe injury scuttled the deal, so it’s reasonable to suspect that Harris is in line for a heftier raise than his Non-Bird rights can provide. That would force the Mavs to use another exception or cap room if they’re to re-sign him, which could prove tricky, given the team’s plans to use cap space to attract marquee free agents.

Non-Bird rights might not be of help to the Mavs and Harris, but there are cases in which the exception proves useful. Jermaine O’Neal signed a one-year, $2MM deal with the Warriors in the summer of 2013 after finishing up 2012/13 with the Suns. Golden State can offer up to $2.4MM for 2014/15, 120% of his 2013/14 salary. That gives the Warriors an advantage over other teams for a still-valuable backup who’ll probably command more than the minimum salary.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post, written by Luke Adams, appeared on April 20th, 2012 and April 26, 2013.

Early Bird Rights

Bird rights offer teams the chance to sign their own free agents without regard to the salary cap, but they don’t apply to every player. Still, there are other salary cap exceptions available for teams to keep players who don’t qualify for Bird rights. One such exception is the Early Bird, available for players formally known as Early Qualifying Veteran Free Agents.

The Bird exception requires a player to spend three seasons with his club without changing teams as a free agent, but Early Bird rights are earned after just two such seasons. Virtually all of the same rules that apply to Bird rights apply to Early Bird rights, with the requirements condensed to two years rather than three. Players still see their Bird clocks restart by changing teams via free agency, being claimed in an expansion draft, or having their rights renounced.

The crucial difference between Bird rights and Early Bird rights involves the limits on contract offers. Bird players can receive maximum salary deals for up to five years, while the most a team can offer an Early Bird free agent is 175% of his previous salary or 104.5% of the league-average salary, whichever is greater. These offers are also capped at four years rather than five, and the new contracts must run for at least two years.

Another distinction between Bird rights and Early Bird rights applies to waivers. Players who are claimed off waivers retain their Early Bird rights, just as they would if they were traded. Those who had Bird rights instead have those reduced to Early Bird rights if they’re claimed off waivers. This rule stems from a 2012 settlement between the league and the union in which J.J. Hickson was given a special exception and retained his full Bird rights for the summer of 2012 even though he’d been claimed off waivers that March.

Teams can benefit from having Early Bird rights instead of full Bird rights when they’re trying to preserve cap space. The cap hold for an Early Bird player is 130% of his previous salary, significantly less than most Bird players, who take up either 150% or 190% of their previous salaries.

One example of a player who will have Early Bird rights this summer is Kirk Hinrich of the Bulls. Hinrich is coming off the second season of a two-year deal with Chicago after having finished the season before with Atlanta. The Bulls can use the Early Bird exception this summer to offer up to 175% of his salary from this year, which would be $7,103,250. It’s likely that will be more than 104.5% of the league average salary, which will probably be close to $6MM when the league calculates the figure during the July Moratorium. Those Early Bird rights might come in handy for Hinrich, who figures to battle D.J. Augustin for the backup job behind Derrick Rose. Augustin only has Non-Bird rights.

A special wrinkle involving Early Bird rights, called the Gilbert Arenas Provision, applies to players who’ve only been in the league for two years. We covered the Gilbert Arenas Provision in another glossary entry.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post, which were written by Luke Adams, appeared on April 19th, 2012 and April 24th, 2013.

Non-Bird Rights

We've outlined how teams can use Bird or Early Bird exceptions to re-sign players who have been on their roster for multiple seasons. The third related cap exception in the group is the Non-Bird exception, for players who are considered Non-Qualifying Veteran Free Agents. Non-Bird rights are earned when a player spends just a single season with his team after having signed as a free agent or being claimed off waivers.

Because a partial season is generally considered a full year for Bird purposes, every veteran player who finishes the season on an NBA roster should qualify for at least the Non-Bird exception. Even if a player is waived halfway through the season and signs a rest-of-season contract with another team, he'll earn Non-Bird rights at the end of the year.

Teams are permitted to sign their own free agents using the Non-Bird exception for a salary starting at 120% of the player's previous salary, 120% of the minimum salary, or the amount of a qualifying offer (if the player is a restricted free agent), whichever is greater. Contracts can be for up to four years, with 4.5% annual raises.

Because the amount a team can offer its Non-Bird free agent is so limited, the exception may not be enough to retain an impact player. For instance, Matt Barnes will be a Non-Bird player for the Clippers at the end of this season — he signed a one-year contract with the Clips last summer, so he'll only have one year on his Bird clock. Since Barnes was on a minimum salary, his Non-Bird rights only make him eligible for a salary worth 120% of that amount for next season, which other suitors will easily be able to top. As such, the Clippers may have to use another cap exception (likely the mid-level) if they want to re-sign Barnes.

While Barnes' Non-Bird rights may not help the Clippers re-sign him, there are instances where the exception could prove more useful. For instance, Nick Young signed a one-year, $5.6MM deal with the Sixers last offseason, so his Bird clock is at just a single year. Using the Non-Bird exception, Philadelphia could offer him a salary starting at up to $6.72MM, 120% of his 2012/13 salary. Given Young's production this past season, that should provide more than enough flexibility for the Sixers to bring him back, should they so choose.

The cap hold for a Non-Bird player is 120% of his previous salary.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

This post was initially published on April 20th, 2012.

Early Bird Rights

Ideally, if a team is interested in re-signing its own free agent at any cost, the player will have earned Bird rights, allowing his club to offer up to the maximum salary to retain him. However, there are also salary cap exceptions available for signing players who have yet to earn full Bird rights. One lesser exception is the Early Bird, available for players formally known as Early Qualifying Veteran Free Agents.

Whereas the Bird exception requires a player to spend three seasons with his club without being waived or changing teams as a free agent, Early Bird rights are earned after just two such seasons. Virtually all of the same rules that apply to Bird rights apply to Early Bird rights, with the requirements condensed to two years rather than three. Players still see their Bird clocks restart by changing teams via free agency, being claimed in an expansion draft, or having their rights renounced.

The crucial difference between Bird rights and Early Bird rights involves limits on contract offers. While Bird players can receive maximum salary deals for up to five years, the Early Bird exception cannot be used to offer a max deal. The most a team can offer an Early Bird free agent is 175% of his previous salary or 104.5% of the league-average salary, whichever is greater. These offers are also capped at four years rather than five, and must be for at least two years.

One example of a player who will earn Early Bird rights after this season is the Knicks' J.R. Smith. Smith is in his second season in New York without having being waived, and isn't on a rookie contract. As such, the Knicks could use the Early Bird exception this summer to offer up to 104.5% of the league-average salary to keep Smith in New York for up to four more years. While it's not clear yet whether Smith will even opt out of his deal, or whether he'd accept that sort of offer, having the ability to use the Early Bird exception means the Knicks wouldn't have to use their mid-level to try to retain the Sixth Man of the Year.

The cap hold for an Early Bird player is 130% of his previous salary.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

This post was initially published on April 19th, 2012.

Non-Bird Rights

We've outlined how teams can use Bird or Early Bird exceptions to re-sign players who have been on their roster for multiple seasons. The third related cap exception in the group is the Non-Bird exception, for players who are considered Non-Qualifying Veteran Free Agents. Non-Bird rights are earned when a player spends just a single season with his team after having signed as a free agent or being claimed off waivers.

Because a partial season is generally considered a full year for Bird purposes, every veteran player who finishes the season on an NBA roster should qualify for at least the Non-Bird exception. Even if a player is waived halfway through the season and signs a rest-of-season contract with another team, he'll earn Non-Bird rights at the end of the year.

Teams are permitted to sign their own free agents using the Non-Bird exception for a salary starting at 120% of the player's previous salary, 120% of the minimum salary, or the amount of a qualifying offer (if the player is a restricted free agent), whichever is greater. Contracts can be for up to four years, with 4.5% annual raises.

Because the amount a team can offer its Non-Bird free agent is so limited, the exception may not be enough to retain an impact player. For instance, Jeremy Lin will be a Non-Bird player for the Knicks at the end of this season — he was claimed off waivers by the team in December, so he'll only have one year on his Bird clock. The amount of Lin's qualifying offer will only be about $1.03MM, which other suitors will easily be able to top. As such, the Knicks will have to use another cap exception (likely the mid-level) if they want to re-sign Lin.

Kwame Brown is another example of a player who would have Non-Bird rights at season's end. He signed a one-year deal with a new team last December, so his Bird clock will be at just a single year at season's end. Using the Non-Bird exception, the Bucks could offer him a salary starting at up to $8.1MM, 120% of his 2011/12 salary, though of course there's no chance they'll do so.

The cap hold for a Non-Bird player is 120% of his previous salary.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Early Bird Rights

Ideally, if a team is interested in re-signing its own free agent at any cost, the player will have earned Bird rights, allowing his club to offer up to the maximum salary to retain him. However, there are also salary cap exceptions available for signing players who have yet to earn full Bird rights. One lesser exception is the Early Bird, available for players formally known as Early Qualifying Veteran Free Agents.

Whereas the Bird exception requires a player to spend three seasons with his club without being waived or changing teams as a free agent, Early Bird rights are earned after just two such seasons. Virtually all of the same rules that apply to Bird rights apply to Early Bird rights, with the requirements condensed to two years rather than three. Players still see their Bird clocks restart by being claimed off waivers, changing teams via free agency, being claimed in an expansion draft, or having their rights renounced.

The crucial difference between Bird rights and Early Bird rights involves limits on contract offers. While Bird players can receive maximum salary deals for up to five years, the Early Bird exception cannot be used to offer a max deal. The most a team can offer an Early Bird free agent is 175% of his previous salary or the league-average salary, whichever is greater. These offers are also capped at four years rather than five.

One example of a player who will earn Early Bird rights after this season is the Knicks' Landry Fields. Fields is in his second season in New York without having being waived, and isn't on a rookie contract. As such, the Knicks could use the Early Bird exception this summer to offer up to the league-average salary to keep Fields in New York for up to four more years. While Fields likely won't receive an offer that large, having the ability to use this exception means the Knicks won't have to dip into their mid-level to retain the 23-year-old.

The cap hold for an Early Bird player is 130% of his previous salary.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Bird Rights

The Bird exception, named after Larry Bird, is a rule included in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players, as most NBA fans know. A player who qualifies for the Bird exception, formally referred to as a Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, is said to have “Bird rights.”

The most basic way for a player to earn Bird rights is to play for the same team for at least three seasons, either on a multiyear deal or separate one-year contracts. Still, there are other criteria. A player retains his Bird rights in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via trade. For instance, the Sixers hold Tobias Harris‘ Bird rights as he approaches 2019 free agency, despite just acquiring him in February. His Bird clock didn’t reset when he was traded from the Clippers to Philadelphia.
  2. He finishes a third season with a team after having only signed for a partial season with the club in the first year. Wayne Selden finished the 2016/17 season on a contract with the Grizzlies, then re-signed with Memphis on a two-year deal in the summer of 2017. With that contract about to expire, and Selden – who was recently traded to the Bulls – will have full Bird rights because of those few weeks he spent with the Grizzlies at the end of ’16/17, which started his Bird clock.
  3. He signed for a full season in year one or two but the team waived him, he cleared waivers, and didn’t sign with another team before re-signing with the club and remaining under contract through a third season. This one’s a little confusing, but let’s use Ben McLemore as an example. In the second year of a two-year contract, McLemore was waived last month by the Kings and has yet to join a new team. If Sacramento were to re-sign McLemore in July and kept him for the entire 2019/20 season, the team would have his full Bird rights, assuming he doesn’t join another team in the interim.

A player sees the clock on his Bird rights reset to zero in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via free agency.
  2. He is waived and is not claimed on waivers (except as in scenario No. 3 above).
  3. His rights are renounced by his team. However, his Bird rights are restored if he re-signs with that team without having signed with another NBA team. Dirk Nowitzki had his rights renounced by the Mavericks last July, for example, as Dallas attempted to gain cap flexibility. After re-signing with the Mavs, Nowitzki retained his full Bird rights.
  4. He is selected in an expansion draft.

If a player who would have been in line for Bird rights at the end of the season is waived and claimed off waivers, he would retain only Early Bird rights. Meanwhile, a player with Bird rights who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year contract (or a one-year deal with a second-year option) would lose his Bird rights if he’s traded. As such, he receives the ability to veto trades so he can avoid that scenario.

[RELATED: Players with the ability to veto trades in 2018/19]

When a player earns Bird rights, he’s eligible to re-sign with his team on a maximum-salary contract for up to five years with 8% annual raises when he becomes a free agent, regardless of how much cap room the team has. The maximum salary will vary for each player depending on how long he has been in the league, but regardless of the amount, a team can exceed the salary cap to complete the deal.

A team with a Bird free agent is assigned a “free agent amount” or cap hold worth either 190% of his previous salary (for a player with a below-average salary) or 150% of his previous salary (for an above-average salary), up to the maximum salary amount. For players coming off rookie scale contracts, the amounts of those cap holds are 300% and 250%, respectively.

The Mavericks, for instance, will have a cap hold worth $17,091,162 for Kristaps Porzingis on their 2019/20 books — 300% of his $5,697,054 salary for 2018/19. Dallas could renounce Porzingis and clear an extra $17MM+ in cap space, but the Mavs would lose his Bird rights if they did that, which would force them to use either cap room or a different cap exception to re-sign him.

Instead, the Mavericks may use Porzingis’ Bird rights and his cap hold strategically, perhaps using their cap space on other free agents and/or trades while Porzingis’ $17MM cap hold remains on the books. The Mavs could then circle back and use Bird rights to sign KP to a contract with a starting salary higher than $17MM.

Ultimately, the Bird exception was designed to allow teams to keep their best players. The CBA ensures that teams are always able to re-sign them to contracts up to the maximum salary, assuming the player is interested in returning and his team is willing to go over the cap.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ and salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in previous years by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Bird Rights

The Bird exception, named after Larry Bird, is a rule included in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players, as most NBA fans know. A player who qualifies for the Bird exception, formally referred to as a Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, is said to have “Bird rights.”

The most basic way for a player to earn Bird rights is to play for the same team for at least three seasons, either on a multiyear deal or separate one-year contracts. Still, there are other criteria. A player retains his Bird rights in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via trade. For instance, the Pelicans hold DeMarcus Cousins‘ Bird rights as he approaches 2018 free agency, despite just acquiring him in February. His Bird clock didn’t reset when he was traded from Sacramento to New Orleans.
  2. He finishes a third season with a team after having only signed for a partial season with the club in the first year. Sean Kilpatrick signed his current contract with the Nets in March of 2016. It’s only a two-year deal, so Kilpatrick won’t qualify for full Bird rights this season, but that 2015/16 season counts as the first year on his Bird clock, even though he was only under contract with the club for about a month.
  3. He signed for a full season in year one or two but the team waived him, he cleared waivers, and didn’t sign with another team before re-signing with the club and remaining under contract through a third season. For instance, the Sixers waived Gerald Henderson in June after he spent a single season in Philadelphia. If the club were to re-sign Henderson at some point this season, his Bird clock would move to a second year, rather than resetting.

A player sees the clock on his Bird rights reset to zero in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via free agency.
  2. He is waived and is not claimed on waivers (except as in scenario No. 3 above).
  3. His rights are renounced by his team. However, his Bird rights are restored if he re-signs with that team without having signed with another NBA team. Shabazz Muhammad (Timberwolves) and Udonis Haslem (Heat) were among the free agents who were renounced by their respective teams this past offseason before re-signing with those clubs. They’ve retained their Bird rights.
  4. He is selected in an expansion draft.

If a player is waived and claimed off waivers, and he would have been in line for Bird rights at the end of the season, he would retain only Early Bird rights. Meanwhile, a player with Bird rights who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year contract (or a one-year deal with a second-year option) would lose his Bird rights if he’s traded. As such, he receives the ability to veto trades so he can avoid that scenario.

When a player earns Bird rights, he’s eligible to re-sign with his team on a maximum-salary contract for up to five years with 8% annual raises when he becomes a free agent, regardless of how much cap room the team has. The maximum salary will vary for each player depending on how long he has been in the league, but regardless of the amount, a team can exceed the salary cap to complete the deal.

A team with a Bird free agent is assigned a “free agent amount” or cap hold worth either 190% of his previous salary (for a player with a below-average salary) or 150% of his previous salary (for an above-average salary), up to the maximum salary amount. For players coming off rookie scale contracts, the amounts of those cap holds are 300% and 250%, respectively.

The Bulls, for instance, will have a cap hold worth about $9.6MM for Zach LaVine on their 2018/19 books — 300% of his $3.2MM salary for 2017/18. Chicago could renounce LaVine and clear an extra $9.6MM in cap space, but the Bulls would lose his Bird rights if they did that, which would force them to use either cap room or a different cap exception to re-sign him.

Instead, the Bulls will likely use LaVine’s Bird rights and his cap hold strategically, perhaps using their cap space on other free agents and/or trades while LaVine’s $9.6MM cap hold remains on the books. The Bulls could then circle back and use Bird rights to sign LaVine to a contract with a starting salary much higher than $9.6MM.

Ultimately, the Bird exception was designed to allow teams to keep their best players. The CBA ensures that teams are always able to re-sign them to contracts up to the maximum salary, assuming the player is interested in returning and his team is willing to go over the cap.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Bird Rights

The Bird exception, named after Larry Bird, is a rule included in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players, as most NBA fans know. A player who qualifies for the Bird exception, formally referred to as a Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, is said to have “Bird rights.” The most basic way for a player to earn Bird rights is to play for the same team for at least three seasons, either on a multiyear deal or separate one-year contracts. Still, there are other criteria. A player retains his Bird rights in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via trade. This wrinkle is fairly well-known. For instance, soon-to-be free agent Courtney Lee is in the fourth and final year of his contract, but he’s been traded twice since he signed, from the Celtics to the Grizzlies in 2014 and from the Grizzlies to the Hornets this year. He nonetheless retains his Bird rights for the offseason ahead because he hasn’t been waived.
  2. He finishes a third season with a team after having only signed for a partial season with the club in the first year. Troy Daniels signed a contract with the Rockets in February 2014 and re-signed with the team the following summer to a two-year contract. He’s been traded twice and is now with the Hornets, just like Lee, but that doesn’t matter. He’ll still have Bird rights this summer.
  3. He signed for a full season in year one or two but the team waived him, he cleared waivers, and didn’t sign with another team before re-signing with the club and remaining under contract through a third season. Eric Moreland will have Bird rights next summer if he remains under contract through next season, even though he cleared waivers from the Kings this past summer. That’s because Sacramento re-signed him to a two-year deal about a month later.

However, a player sees the clock on his Bird rights reset to zero in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via free agency.
  2. He is waived and is not claimed on waivers (except as in scenario No. 3 above).
  3. His rights are renounced by his team. However, his Bird rights are restored if he re-signs with that team without having signed with another NBA team. The Mavericks renounced Dirk Nowitzki‘s rights before re-signing him two years ago, but they’d still have his Bird rights in the unlikely event Nowitzki opts out of his contract this summer.
  4. He is selected in an expansion draft.

If a player is waived and claimed off waivers, and he would have been in line for Bird rights at the end of the season, he would retain only Early Bird rights, unless he was waived via the amnesty provision.

When a player earns Bird rights, he’s eligible to re-sign with his team on a maximum-salary contract for up to five years with 7.5% annual raises when he becomes a free agent, regardless of how much cap room the team has. The maximum salary will vary for each player depending on how long he’s been in the league, but regardless of the amount, a team can exceed the salary cap to complete the deal.

A team with a Bird free agent is assigned a “free agent amount” or cap hold worth either 190% of his previous salary (for a player with a below-average salary) or 150% of his previous salary (for an above-average salary), up to the maximum salary amount. For players coming off rookie scale contracts, the amounts of those cap holds are 250% and 200%, respectively.

The Pistons, for instance, will have a cap hold of nearly $8.18MM for Andre Drummond on their 2016/17 books — 250% of his approximately $3.272MM salary this season. Detroit could renounce Drummond and clear an extra $8.18MM in cap space, but the Pistons would lose his Bird rights if they did that, which would force them to use either cap room or a different cap exception to re-sign him. That won’t happen. Instead, Detroit plans to use his Bird rights and his cap hold strategically, committing its cap space on either outside free agents, trades or both while Drummond’s $8.18MM cap hold remains on the books. The Pistons intend to circle back and use Bird rights to sign Drummond to a maximum-salary contract, or match a max offer sheet, with a salary likely in excess of $20MM for next season.

Ultimately, the Bird exception was designed to allow teams to keep their best players. The CBA ensures that teams are always able to re-sign them to contracts up to the maximum salary, assuming the player is interested in returning and his team is willing to go over the cap.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Versions of this post were initially published in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Non-Bird Rights

Players and teams have to meet certain criteria to earn Bird rights and Early Bird rights, but Non-Bird rights are practically a given. They apply to a player who has spent a single season or less with his team, as long as he finishes the season on an NBA roster. Even a player who signs on the last day of the regular season and spends just one day with his club would have Non-Bird rights in the offseason.

Teams can also claim Non-Bird rights on Early Bird free agents if they renounce them. The primary motivator to do so would be to allow the team to sign the free agent to a one-year contract, a move that’s not permitted via Early Bird rights.

Teams are eligible to sign their own free agents using the Non-Bird exception for a salary starting at 120% of the player’s previous salary, 120% of the minimum salary, or the amount of a qualifying offer (if the player is a restricted free agent), whichever is greatest. Contracts can be for up to four years, with 5% annual raises.

The cap hold for a Non-Bird player is 120% of his previous salary, unless the previous salary was the minimum. In that case, the cap hold is equivalent to the two-year veteran’s minimum salary. If a Non-Bird free agent only has one year of NBA experience, his cap hold is equivalent to the one-year veteran’s minimum salary.

The salary limitations that apply to Non-Bird rights are more severe than those pertaining to Bird rights or Early Bird rights, so in many cases, the Non-Bird exception may not be enough to retain a well-regarded free agent. For instance, the Bucks held Brook Lopez‘s Non-Bird rights last summer, but were unable to realistically use them to re-sign the free agent center.

Because Lopez’s 2018/19 salary was only $3,382,000, the club’s ability to offer a raise using the Non-Bird exception was extremely limited — 120% of Lopez’s previous salary worked out to just $4,058,400, which wouldn’t have been a competitive starting point for an offer.

In order to bring back Lopez, who ultimately signed a new four-year, $52MM deal with Milwaukee, the team had to use cap room or another exception. The Bucks ended up making a series of moves that allowed them to carve out the cap space necessary to pay Lopez $13MM annually.

Holding Non-Bird rights on a free agent didn’t really help the Bucks in that scenario, but there are cases in which the exception proves useful. For instance, the Clippers will only have Non-Bird rights on Marcus Morris this offseason, but because his ’19/20 salary is $15MM, Los Angeles would be able to offer a starting salary worth up to $18MM. That should give the club plenty of flexibility to re-sign Morris without using cap room or another exception, if there’s mutual interest in a new deal.

Although no contracts signed during the 2019 offseason fit the bill, Luke Kornet‘s 2018 contract with the Knicks provides an example of a team using Non-Bird rights on a minimum salary player. Kornet, whose minimum salary would have been $1,349,383 in ’18/19, was eligible to sign for up to 120% of that amount via the Non-Bird exception. As such, his one-year deal with New York was worth $1,619,260.

Finally, it’s worth noting that a player who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year deal and will have Early Bird or Bird rights at the end of that contract would surrender those rights if he consents to a trade. In that scenario, he’d only finish the season with Non-Bird rights.

This happened to Rodney Hood in 2019, when he agreed to a trade that sent him from Cleveland to Portland. Because he lost his Bird rights by consenting to the deal, Hood only had Non-Bird rights during the 2019 offseason, so the Trail Blazers had to use their taxpayer mid-level exception to re-sign him.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in previous years by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Early Bird Rights

Bird rights offer teams the chance to sign their own free agents without regard to the salary cap, but they don’t apply to every player. Other salary cap exceptions are available for teams to keep players who don’t qualify for Bird rights. One such exception is the Early Bird, which applies to players formally known as Early Qualifying Veteran Free Agents.

While the Bird exception is for players who have spent three seasons with one club without changing teams as a free agent, Early Bird rights are earned after just two such seasons. Virtually all of the same rules that apply to Bird rights apply to Early Bird rights, with the requirements condensed to two years rather than three. Players still see their Bird clocks restart by changing teams via free agency, being claimed in an expansion draft, or having their rights renounced.

As is the case with Bird rights, a player’s clock stops when he’s released by a team and clears waivers, but it would pick up where it left off if he re-signs with that same team down the road without joining another club in the interim. For instance, if DeMarcus Cousins – released by the Lakers last month before the end of his one-year contract – were to sign a new one-year deal with L.A. during the 2020 offseason, the team would have his Early Bird rights in the 2021 offseason.

The crucial difference between Bird rights and Early Bird rights involves the limitations on contract offers. Bird players can receive maximum-salary deals for up to five years, while the most a team can offer an Early Bird free agent without using cap space is 175% of his previous salary (up to the max) or 105% of the league-average salary in the previous season, whichever is greater. These offers are also capped at four years rather than five, and the new contracts must run for at least two years (with no second-year options).

Christian Wood (Pistons), De’Anthony Melton (Grizzlies), Nerlens Noel (Thunder), and Brad Wanamaker (Celtics) are among the free agents who will have Early Bird rights at the end of the 2019/20 season.

In some instances, teams can benefit from having Early Bird rights instead of full Bird rights if they’re trying to preserve cap space. The cap hold for an Early Bird player is 130% of his previous salary, significantly less than most Bird players, whose cap holds range from 150-300% of their previous salaries.

That could help a team like the Pistons, who project to have cap space in the 2020 offseason. The cap hold for Wood, who is earning a minimum salary this season, will be worth the ’20/21 minimum, but the big man will be in line for a much more lucrative salary than that. If the Pistons reach an agreement to re-sign Wood near the start of free agency, they could wait to make it official, keeping his cap hold on the books until they use the rest of their cap room, maximizing that space. Then they could go over the cap to finalize Wood’s deal using the Early Bird exception.

Meanwhile, some players with limited NBA experience are subject to a special wrinkle involving Early Bird rights, called the Gilbert Arenas Provision, which applies to players who have only been in the league for one or two years. We cover the Gilbert Arenas Provision in a separate glossary entry, so you can read up on the details there. It would apply this offseason to a player like Melton.

Finally, one more distinction between Bird rights and Early Bird rights applies to waivers. Players who are claimed off waivers retain their Early Bird rights, just as they would if they were traded. Those who had Bird rights instead see those reduced to Early Bird rights if they’re claimed off waivers. This rule stems from a 2012 settlement between the league and the union in which J.J. Hickson was given a special exception and retained his full Bird rights for the summer of 2012 even though he had been claimed off waivers that March.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ and salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in previous years by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Bird Rights

The Bird exception, named after Larry Bird, is a rule included in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players. A player who qualifies for the Bird exception, formally referred to as a Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, is said to have “Bird rights.”

The most basic way for a player to earn Bird rights is to play for the same team for at least three seasons, either on a multiyear deal or separate one-year contracts. Still, there are other, more complicated criteria. A player retains his Bird rights in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via trade. For instance, Alexey Shved is in the third year of his contract. He has been traded three times since August, from the Timberwolves to the Sixers, the Sixers to the Rockets and the Rockets to the Knicks, but he still has his Bird rights because he hasn’t been waived.
  2. He finishes a third season with a team after having only signed for a partial season with the club in the first year. If Chris Andersen‘s contract were expiring at season’s end, he would have Bird rights this summer, even though he joined the Heat on a 10-day contract in 2012/13.
  3. He signed for a full season in year one or two but the team waived him, he cleared waivers, and didn’t sign with another team before re-signing with the club for a third year and remaining under contract through the season. If the Hornets re-sign Jannero Pargo this summer and he remains with the team for all of 2015/16, he’ll have Bird rights even though he cleared waivers from the team earlier this season.

However, a player sees the clock on his Bird rights reset to zero in the following scenarios:

  1. He changes teams via free agency.
  2. He is waived and is not claimed on waivers (except as in scenario No. 3 above).
  3. His rights are renounced by his team. However, his Bird rights are restored if he re-signs with that team without having signed with another NBA team. The Hornets renounced Pargo’s rights in 2013 and 2014, but he’d still be in line to become a Bird player in the summer of 2016.
  4. He is selected in an expansion draft.

If a player is waived and claimed off waivers, and he would have been in line for Bird rights at the end of the season, he would retain only Early Bird rights, unless he was waived via the amnesty provision.

When players earn Bird rights, they’re eligible to sign maximum-salary contracts for up to five years with 7.5% annual raises when they become free agents. The maximum salary will vary for each player depending on how long he’s been in the league, but regardless of the amount, a team can exceed the salary cap to complete the deal.

Although the Bird exception allows teams to exceed the cap, a team cannot necessarily use free cap room to sign free agents and then re-sign its own players via Bird rights. A team with a Bird free agent is assigned a “free agent amount” or cap hold worth either 190% of his previous salary (for a player with a below-average salary) or 150% of his previous salary (for an above-average salary), up to the maximum salary amount. For players coming off rookie scale contracts, the amounts of those cap holds are 250% and 200%, respectively.

The Trail Blazers, for instance, will have a cap hold of nearly $10.868MM for Wesley Matthews on their 2015/16 books — 150% of his more than $8.775MM salary this season. Portland could renounce Matthews and clear that $10.868MM in cap space, but the Blazers would lose his Bird rights if they did that. That would force them to use either cap room or a different cap exception to re-sign him.

Ultimately, the Bird exception was designed to allow teams to keep their best players. The CBA ensures that teams are always able to re-sign them to contracts up to the maximum salary, assuming the player is interested in returning and his team is willing to go over the cap.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Versions of this post were initially published on April 17th, 2012, and May 2, 2013, and April 24th, 2014.

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