Hoops Rumors Glossary

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Poison Pill Provision

The poison pill provision isn’t technically a term that is defined in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, the concept of a “poison pill” has colloquially come to refer to a pair of NBA concepts.

The first of those concepts relates to the Gilbert Arenas Provision, which we’ve explained in a separate glossary entry. When a team uses the Arenas provision to sign a restricted free agent to an offer sheet, that team can include a massive third-year raise that is often referred to as a “poison pill.”

No current NBA contracts fit this bill, but the one Tyler Johnson signed in 2016 did — the Nets included a third-year raise in that four-year offer sheet. After the Heat matched, they had to deal with Johnson’s cap hit jumping from $5.88MM in the second year of his contract to $19.45MM in the third year.

However, the concept we’re focusing on today doesn’t involve Johnson, the Arenas provision, or RFA offer sheets. Instead, this second meaning of the “poison pill” relates to players who recently signed rookie scale extensions, something 10 players did in 2020.

The “poison pill provision” arises if a team extends a player’s rookie scale contract, then trades him before the extension officially takes effect. It’s not a situation that arises often, but it features its own set of rules, since extensions following rookie contracts often create a large gap between a player’s current and future salaries.

For salary-matching purposes, if a player is traded between the time his rookie contract is extended and the start of the following league year (when that extension takes effect), the player’s incoming value for the receiving team is the average of his current-year salary and the annual salary in each year of his extension. His current team, on the other hand, simply treats his current-year salary as the outgoing figure for matching purposes.

Let’s use Kyle Kuzma as an example. Kuzma signed a three-year, $39MM rookie scale extension with the Lakers this year, which locks him up through the 2023/24 season, assuming he picks up his final-year player option. However, he’s only on the books for $3,562,178 in 2018/19.

If the Lakers sought to trade Kuzma this season, the poison pill provision would complicate their efforts. From Los Angeles’ perspective, Kuzma’s current-year cap hit ($3,562,178) would represent his outgoing salary for matching purposes. However, any team acquiring Kuzma would have to view his incoming value as $10,640,545 — that’s the annual average of the four years and $42,562,178 he has left when accounting for both his new and old contracts.

As we explain in our glossary entry on the traded player exception, NBA rules dictate that over-the-cap teams must send and receive approximately the same amount of salary in any trade. So applying the poison pill provision to a player like Kuzma and creating a $7MM+ discrepancy between how two trade partners account for him would make salary-matching much more difficult than usual, especially since so many teams this season are hovering around the luxury-tax and hard-cap thresholds.

Trades involving a player who recently signed a rookie scale extension are already rare. After all, those players are generally young, and a player who signed an extension is promising enough to have warranted a long-term investment. Those aren’t the type of players that teams typically move, so it’s not as if guys like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, and De’Aaron Fox would be trade candidates this season anyway.

The poison poll provision further disincentivizes a deal involving one of those recently-extended players by complicating salary-matching rules, making those trades even rarer. In other words, even the players who could theoretically be available just months after signing rookie scale extensions, such as Kuzma or Clippers sharpshooter Luke Kennard, are unlikely to be dealt this season.

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 was published in 2012 and 2018. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Traded Player Exception

Relying on the trade machines at ESPN.com or TradeNBA.com may be the simplest way for NBA fans to verify whether or not a trade will work under league rules, but it’s worth examining the primary tool in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that determines a trade’s viability — the traded player exception.

Teams with the cap room necessary to make a trade work don’t need to abide by traded player exception rules. However, if a team makes a deal that will leave its total salary more than $100K above the salary cap, the club can use a traded player exception to ensure the trade is legal under CBA guidelines.

There are two different types of traded player exceptions used in NBA deals. One applies to simultaneous trades, while the other applies to non-simultaneous deals.

In a simultaneous trade, a team can send out one or more players and can acquire more salary than it gives up. In a non-simultaneous trade, only a single player can be dealt, and the team has a year to take back the equivalent of that player’s salary, plus $100K.

Let’s look into each scenario in greater detail….


Simultaneous:

In a simultaneous trade, different rules applies to taxpaying and non-taxpaying clubs. A non-taxpaying team can trade one or more players and take back….

  1. 175% of the outgoing salary (plus $100K), for any amount up to $6,533,333.
  2. The outgoing salary plus $5MM, for any amount between $6,533,333 and $19,600,000.
  3. 125% of the outgoing salary (plus $100K), for any amount above $19,600,000.

Here’s a recent example of these rules in effect:

Read more

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Gilbert Arenas Provision

Gilbert Arenas hasn’t played in the NBA since 2012, but his legacy lives on in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NBA introduced the Gilbert Arenas provision in the 2005 CBA as a way to help teams retain their restricted free agents who aren’t coming off standard rookie scale contracts.

While Arenas isn’t specifically named in the CBA, the rule colloquially known as the Arenas provision stems from his own restricted free agency in 2003. At the time, the Warriors only had Early Bird rights on Arenas, who signed an offer sheet with the Wizards starting at about $8.5MM. Because Golden State didn’t have $8.5MM in cap room and could only offer Arenas a first-year salary of about $4.9MM using the Early Bird exception, the Warriors were unable to match the offer sheet and lost Arenas to Washington.

The Arenas provision limits the first-year salary that rival suitors can offer restricted free agents who have only been in the league for one or two years. The starting salary for an offer sheet can’t exceed the amount of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which allows the player’s original team to use either the mid-level exception or the Early Bird exception to match it. Otherwise, a team without the necessary cap space would be powerless to keep its player, like the Warriors were with Arenas.

An offer sheet from another team can still have an average annual salary that exceeds the non-taxpayer’s mid-level, however. The annual raises are limited to 5% between years one and two, and 4.5% between years three and four, but a team can include a significant raise between the second and third years of the offer.

As long as the first two years of a team’s offer sheet are for the highest salary possible, the offer is fully guaranteed, and there are no incentives included, the third-year salary of the offer sheet can be worth up to what the player’s third-year maximum salary would have been if not for the Arenas restrictions.

Based on a projected three percent salary cap increase for 2021/22, here’s the maximum offer sheet a first- or second-year RFA could receive this coming summer:

Year Salary Comment
2021/22 $9,536,000 Value of non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception.
2022/23 $10,012,800 5% raise on first-year salary.
2023/24 $30,913,906 Maximum third-year salary for a player with 1-2 years in NBA.
2024/25 $32,305,032 4.5% raise on third-year salary.
Total $82,767,738 Average annual salary of $20,691,935.

In order to make the sort of offer outlined above, a team must have enough cap room to accommodate the average annual value of the contract. So a team with $21MM in cap space could extend this offer sheet to a first- or second-year RFA. But a team with only $17MM in cap space would have to reduce the third- and fourth-year salaries in its offer sheet to get the overall average salary of the offer down to $17MM per year, despite being able to comfortably accommodate the first-year salary.

The application of the Arenas provision is infrequent, since first- and second-year players who reach free agency rarely warrant such lucrative contract offers. First-round picks sign four-year rookie deals when they enter the NBA, so the Arenas provision generally applies to second-round picks or undrafted free agents whose first NBA contracts were only for one or two years.

The Arenas provision hasn’t been used for the last several offseasons. Based on our data, it was last relevant during the 2016 offseason, when multiple teams made use of the Arenas provision as they attempted to pry restricted free agents from rival teams.

One relevant example from that summer was Tyler Johnson‘s restricted free agency with Miami. The Heat had Early Bird rights on Johnson, who had only been in the NBA for two seasons. The Nets attempted to pry him away with an aggressive offer sheet that featured salaries of $5,628,000, $5,881,260, $19,245,370, and $19,245,370. It wasn’t the maximum that Brooklyn could have offered Johnson, but the massive third-year raise was a tough pill for Miami to swallow.

Overall, the deal was worth $50MM for four years. If the Heat had declined to match it, the Nets would have flattened out those annual cap hits to $12.5MM per year, the average annual value of the deal. However, due to the Arenas provision, Miami was able to match Brooklyn’s offer sheet with the Early Bird exception, even though the Heat wouldn’t have been able to directly offer Johnson a four-year, $50MM contract using the Early Bird exception.

When a team matches an Arenas-provision offer sheet, it also has the option of flattening those cap charges. However, that option is only available if the team has the cap room necessary to accommodate the average annual value of the deal. Otherwise, the club has to keep the unbalanced cap charges on its books. When Johnson’s cap hit for the Heat jumped from $5,881,260 to an eye-popping $19,245,370 in 2018/19, it became an albatross — the team eventually sent him to Phoenix in a salary-dump deal at the 2019 deadline.

This coming offseason, there aren’t many restricted free agents who will be candidates for an Arenas-provision offer sheet. A handful of intriguing RFAs-to-be, including Duncan Robinson, Devonte’ Graham, and Gary Trent Jr., were former second-round picks or undrafted free agents, but they’ll all have three years of NBA experience when they hit the open market, so the Arenas rule won’t apply to them.

The best candidate for an Arenas-provision offer sheet may be Lakers wing Talen Horton-Tucker, who turned heads during a strong preseason in December. However, Horton-Tucker’s regular season playing time has been limited and his production has been modest. Teams may be tempted to put pressure on the Lakers by presenting THT with an aggressive offer sheet, but unless he takes another major step forward, it’d be surprising to see him get a three- or four-year free agent offer worth more than the standard non-taxpayer’s MLE.

Finally, just because a club is given the opportunity to use the Arenas provision to keep its restricted free agent doesn’t mean it will necessarily have the means. Here are a few situations in which the Arenas provision wouldn’t help a team keep its restricted free agent:

  • If a team only has the taxpayer mid-level exception or room exception available, it would be unable to match an offer sheet for a Non-Bird free agent if the starting salary exceeds the taxpayer mid-level or room exception amount.
  • A team would be unable to match an offer sheet for a Non-Bird free agent if it uses its mid-level exception on another player, including another one of its own Non-Bird free agents. A team could use Early Bird rights to match if those rights are available, however.
  • If the player is a Non-Bird or Early Bird free agent with three years of NBA experience, the Arenas provision would not apply — only players with one or two years in the league are eligible.

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, 2015, and 2018 by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Gilbert Arenas Provision

Gilbert Arenas hasn’t played in the NBA since 2012, but his legacy lives on in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NBA first introduced the Gilbert Arenas provision in the 2005 CBA as a way to help teams retain their restricted free agents who aren’t coming off standard rookie scale contracts.

While Arenas isn’t specifically named in the CBA, the rule colloquially known as the Arenas provision stems from his own restricted free agency in 2003. At the time, the Warriors only had Early Bird rights on Arenas, who signed an offer sheet with the Wizards starting at about $8.5MM. Because Golden State didn’t have $8.5MM in cap room and could only offer Arenas a first-year salary of about $4.9MM using the Early Bird exception, the Warriors were unable to match the offer sheet and lost Arenas to Washington.

The Arenas provision, created to help avoid similar situations, limits the first-year salary that rival suitors can offer restricted free agents who have only been in the league for one or two years. The starting salary for an offer sheet can’t exceed the amount of the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception, which allows the player’s original team to use either the mid-level exception or the Early Bird exception to match it. Otherwise, a team without the necessary cap space would be powerless to keep its player, like the Warriors were with Arenas.

An offer sheet from another team can still have an average annual salary that exceeds the non-taxpayer’s mid-level, however. The annual raises are limited to 5% between years one and two, and 4.5% between years three and four, but a team can include a significant raise between the second and third years of the offer.

As long as the first two years of a team’s offer sheet are for the highest salary possible, the offer is fully guaranteed, and there are no incentives included, the third-year salary of the offer sheet can be worth up to what the player’s third-year maximum salary would have been if not for the Arenas restrictions.

If we assume the salary cap for 2020/21 will remain unchanged ($109.141MM), the maximum offer sheet a first- or second-year RFA could receive this offseason would look like this:

Year Salary Comment
2020/21 $9,258,000 Value of non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception.
2021/22 $9,720,900 5% raise on first-year salary.
2022/23 $31,650,600 Maximum third-year salary for a player with 1-2 years in NBA.
2023/24 $33,074,877 4.5% raise on third-year salary.
Total $83,704,377 Average annual salary of $20,926,094.

In order to make the sort of offer outlined above, a team must have enough cap room to accommodate the average annual value of the contract. So a team with $21MM in cap space could extend this offer sheet to a first- or second-year RFA. But a team with only $17MM in cap space would have to reduce the third- and fourth-year salaries in its offer sheet to get the overall average salary of the offer down to $17MM per year.

The application of the Arenas provision is infrequent, since first- and second-year players who reach free agency rarely warrant such lucrative contract offers. First-round picks sign four-year rookie deals when they enter the NBA, so the Arenas provision generally applies to second-round picks or undrafted free agents whose first NBA contracts were only for one or two years.

One noteworthy example of the Arenas provision at work was Tyler Johnson‘s restricted free agency in 2016. The Heat had Early Bird rights on Johnson, who had only been in the NBA for two seasons. The Nets attempted to pry him away with an aggressive offer sheet that featured salaries of $5,628,000, $5,881,260, $19,245,370, and $19,245,370. It wasn’t the maximum that Brooklyn could have offered Johnson, but the massive third-year raise was a tough pill for Miami to swallow.

Overall, the deal was worth $50MM for four years. If the Heat had declined to match it, the Nets would have flattened out those annual cap hits to $12.5MM per year, the average annual value of the deal. However, due to the Arenas provision, Miami was able to match Brooklyn’s offer sheet with the Early Bird exception, even though the Heat wouldn’t have been able to offer Johnson a four-year, $50MM contract using the Early Bird exception outright.

When a team matches an Arenas-provision offer sheet, it also has the option of flattening those cap charges. However, that option is only available if the team has the cap room necessary to accommodate the average annual value of the deal. Otherwise, the club has to keep the unbalanced cap charges on its books. That’s why Johnson’s cap hit for the Heat jumped from $5,881,260 in 2017/18 to an eye-popping $19,245,370 in 2018/19, essentially turning the young guard from a good value to a salary-dump candidate overnight.

In 2020, there aren’t many restricted free agents who will be candidates for an Arenas-provision offer sheet. Top RFAs like Brandon Ingram and Bogdan Bogdanovic have four years of experience, so the rule won’t apply to them. The best candidate for an Arenas-provision offer sheet may be Grizzlies guard De’Anthony Melton, who emerged as an important rotation player in his second NBA season. But I’d be pretty surprised if Melton gets an offer worth more than the standard non-taxpayer’s MLE.

Finally, just because a club is given the opportunity to use the Arenas provision to keep its restricted free agent doesn’t mean it will necessarily have the means. Here are a few situations in which the Arenas provision wouldn’t help a team keep its restricted free agent:

  • If the team only had the taxpayer mid-level exception or room exception available, it would be unable to match an offer sheet for a Non-Bird free agent if the starting salary exceeded the taxpayer mid-level or room exception amount.
  • A team would be unable to match an offer sheet for a Non-Bird free agent if it used its mid-level exception on another player, including another one of its own Non-Bird free agents. A team could use Early Bird rights to match if those rights are available, however.
  • If the player is a Non-Bird or Early Bird free agent with three years of NBA experience, the Arenas provision would not apply — only players with one or two years in the league are eligible.

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. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Hard Cap

The NBA’s salary cap is a “soft” cap, which is why every single club’s team salary comfortably surpassed $109,141,000 at some point during the 2019/20 season. Once a team uses up all of its cap room, it can use a series of exceptions, including the mid-level, bi-annual, and various forms of Bird rights, to exceed the cap.

Since the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t feature a “hard” cap by default, teams can construct rosters that not only exceed the cap but also blow past the luxury tax line ($132,627,000 in ’19/20). While it would be nearly impossible in practical terms, there’s technically no rule restricting a club from having a team salary worth double or triple the salary cap.

However, there are certain scenarios in which a team can be hard-capped. Those scenarios are as follows:

  1. The team uses its bi-annual exception to sign a player.
  2. The team uses more than the taxpayer portion of the mid-level exception to sign a player (or multiple players).
    • Note: In 2019/20, the taxpayer MLE was worth $5,718,000, compared to $9,258,000 for the full non-taxpayer MLE.
  3. The team acquires a player via sign-and-trade.

A team making any of those three roster moves must ensure that its team salary is below the “tax apron” when it finalizes the transaction and stays below the apron for the rest of the league year. The tax apron was set $6MM above the luxury tax line in 2017/18 (the first year of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement) and creeps up a little higher each season as long as the cap keeps increasing.

For the 2019/20 league year, the tax apron – and the hard cap for certain clubs – was set at $138,928,000. Assuming the cap doesn’t change by much for the 2020/21, the apron figures to remain relatively unchanged for next season.

Last offseason, before the Warriors acquired D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade deal, they had to dump Andre Iguodala‘s $17MM+ salary in a trade and waive Shaun Livingston‘s partially guaranteed contract to ensure their team salary was below the apron upon acquiring Russell.

Golden State then had to remain below the apron for the rest of the season, which was why the team spent much of the year carrying fewer than 15 players on standard contracts — even an extra minimum-salary player would’ve compromised the Warriors’ ability to stay below the hard cap. Golden State made some trades at the deadline that created some breathing room below the apron and allowed the club to fill its 15-man roster.

Many other teams technically faced hard caps during the 2020/21 season, but the Warriors were the team most affected by the restrictions imposed upon them. Most of the other teams with hard caps never got close to the $138,928,000 apron.

Once the 2020/21 league year officially gets underway, the Warriors will no longer be subject to the hard cap. And as long as they don’t use their bi-annual exception, acquire a player via sign-and-trade, or use more than the taxpayer portion of the mid-level, they won’t face a hard cap next season. So even though the Dubs already have a projected $142MM+ in guaranteed money on the books for ’20/21, they’ll still be able to make full use of their $17MM+ trade exception and $5.72MM taxpayer MLE if they so choose.

Finally, it’s worth noting that even though the Warriors will likely start the 2020/21 league year above the apron, that doesn’t mean they can’t become hard-capped at some point later in ’20/21. For example, if Golden State kicked off the offseason by trading Andrew Wiggins‘ $29.5MM contract without taking back any salary in return, then subsequently used its full, non-taxpayer mid-level exception, the team would once again be prohibited from surpassing the apron for the rest of the league year.

In other words, the hard cap applies from the moment a team completes one of the three transactions listed above, but isn’t applied retroactively.

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 the Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Waivers

When a team releases a player, he doesn’t immediately become a free agent. Instead, the player is placed on waivers, which serves as a sort of temporary holding ground as the other 29 NBA teams decide if they want to try to add him to their roster.

A player remains on waivers for at least 48 hours after he is formally cut by his team. During that time, a team can place a waiver claim in an attempt to acquire the player. If two or more clubs place a claim, the team with the worst record takes priority (before December 1, records from the previous season determine waiver order).

If a team claims a player off waivers, it assumes his current contract and is on the hook for the remainder of his salary. The claiming team also pays a $1,000 fee to the NBA office. If no claims are placed on the player, he clears waivers at 4:00 pm CT two days after his release (or three days later, if he was cut after 4:00 pm CT) and becomes an unrestricted free agent.

While the waiver format is simple enough, not every team will have the salary cap flexibility to make a claim for any waived player it wants. There are only a handful of instances in which a club is able to claim a player off waivers:

  • The team is far enough under the salary cap to fit the player’s entire salary.
  • The team has a traded player exception worth at least the player’s salary.
  • The team has a disabled player exception worth at least the player’s salary, and he’s in the last year of his contract.
  • The player’s contract is for one or two seasons and he’s paid the minimum salary.
  • The player is on a two-way contract.

Since most NBA teams go over the cap and sizable TPEs and DPEs are somewhat rare, the majority of players who are claimed off waivers are either on minimum salary contracts or two-way deals. Claiming those players simply requires an open roster slot.

More often than not though, waived players go unclaimed. In that case, the player’s original team remains on the hook for the rest of his salary. Unless the player is in the final year of his contract and is waived after August 31, his club has the option of “stretching” his remaining cap hit(s) over multiple years using the stretch provision, which we explain in a separate glossary entry. A team that waives a player and uses the stretch provision on him cannot re-acquire that player until after his contract would have originally expired.

In the case of any player without a fully guaranteed contract, the non-guaranteed portion of a player’s salary is removed from a club’s cap immediately once the player is waived.

When a player is “bought out” by his club, he’s placed on waivers as part of the agreement. He and his team agree to adjust the guaranteed portion of his contract, reducing the amount owed to the player by the team, assuming he clears waivers.

Here are several more notes related to waiver rules:

  • Players can be waived and claimed off waivers during the July moratorium (or, in 2020, during the October moratorium).
  • A player waived after March 1 is ineligible for the postseason if he signs with a new team.
  • A player on an expiring contract can’t be waived between the end of the regular season and the start of the next league year.
  • A player claimed off waivers can’t be traded for 30 days. If he’s claimed during the offseason, he can’t be traded until the 30th day of the regular season.
  • If a player is traded and then is waived by his new team, he cannot re-sign with his old club until one year after the trade or until the July 1 after his original contract would have expired, whichever is earlier.
  • A player who has Early Bird or full Bird rights retains Early Bird rights if he’s claimed off waivers.
  • If a team makes a successful waiver claim, it doesn’t lose its spot in the waiver order — the 30th-ranked team at the end of a season remains atop the waiver priority list until December 1 of that year, even if that team makes multiple offseason claims.
  • A team with a full roster can submit a waiver claim and wouldn’t have to clear a spot on its roster for a claimed player until it is determined that the claim is successful.

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 and 2018.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: NBA Draft Lottery

The NBA’s draft lottery, which takes place annually between the end of the regular season and the draft, is the league’s way of determining the draft order and disincentivizing second-half tanking. The lottery gives each of the 14 non-playoff teams – or whichever clubs hold those teams’ first-round picks – a chance to land one of the top four selections in the draft.

Although the top four picks of each draft are up for grabs via the lottery, the remaining order is determined by record, worst to best. The league’s worst team isn’t guaranteed a top-four spot in the draft, but is tied for the best chance to land the first overall pick and will receive the fifth overall selection at worst.

The first four picks are determined by a draw of ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14. Four balls are drawn, resulting in a total of 1,001 possible outcomes. 1,000 of those outcomes are assigned to the 14-non playoff teams — for instance, if balls numbered 4, 7, 8, and 13 were chosen, that combination would belong to one of the 14 lottery teams. The 1,001st combination remains unassigned, and a re-draw would occur if it were ever selected.

The team whose combination is drawn first receives the number one overall pick, and the process is repeated to determine picks two, three, and four. The 14 teams involved in the draft lottery are all assigned a specific number of combinations, as follows (worst to best):

  1. 140 combinations, 14.0% chance of receiving the first overall pick
  2. 140 combinations, 14.0%
  3. 140 combinations, 14.0%
  4. 125 combinations, 12.5%
  5. 105 combinations, 10.5%
  6. 90 combinations, 9.0%
  7. 75 combinations, 7.5%
  8. 60 combinations, 6.0%
  9. 45 combinations, 4.5%
  10. 30 combinations, 3.0%
  11. 20 combinations, 2.0%
  12. 15 combinations, 1.5%
  13. 10 combinations, 1.0%
  14. 5 combinations, 0.5%

If two lottery teams finish the season with identical records, each team receives an equal chance at a top-four pick by averaging the total amount of outcomes for their two positions. For instance, if two teams tie for the league’s fourth-worst record, each club would receive 115 combinations and an 11.5% chance at the first overall pick — an average of the 125 and 105 combinations that the fourth- and fifth-worst teams receive.

If the average amount of combinations for two positions isn’t a whole number, a coin flip determines which team receives the extra combination. For example, if two clubs tied for the league’s third-worst record, the team that wins the coin flip would receive 133 of 1,000 chances at the first overall pick, while the loser would receive 132. The coin flip also determines which team will draft higher in the event that neither club earns a top-four pick.

The table below displays the odds for each lottery team, rounded to one decimal place. Seeds are listed in the left column, while the picks are noted along the top row. For our purposes, the first seed is the NBA’s worst team.

Seed 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
1 14 13.4 12.7 12 47.9
2 14 13.4 12.7 12 27.8 20
3 14 13.4 12.7 12 14.8 26 7
4 12.5 12.2 11.9 11.5 7.2 25.7 16.7 2.2
5 10.5 10.5 10.6 10.5 2.2 19.6 26.7 8.7 0.6
6 9 9.2 9.4 9.6 8.6 29.8 20.6 3.7 0.1
7 7.5 7.8 8.1 8.5 19.7 34.1 12.9 1.3 >0
8 6 6.3 6.7 7.2 34.5 32.1 6.7 0.4 >0
9 4.5 4.8 5.2 5.7 50.7 25.9 3 0.1 >0
10 3 3.3 3.6 4 65.9 19 1.2 >0 >0
11 2 2.2 2.4 2.8 77.6 12.6 0.4 >0
12 1.5 1.7 1.9 2.1 86.1 6.7 0.1
13 1 1.1 1.2 1.4 92.9 2.3
14 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.7 97.6

It’s worth noting that the NBA’s lottery format was changed in 2019, with that year’s draft representing the first one that used the new system. Previously, only the top three spots were determined via the lottery and the odds were weighted more in favor of the league’s worst teams.

The odds-smoothing effects of the new system were felt immediately. The Pelicans, Grizzlies, and Lakers – who claimed the Nos. 1, 2, and 4 picks, respectively, in 2019 – each ranked outside of the top six in the initial lottery standings.

In 2020, the lottery format has been tweaked slightly to account for the fact that the NBA was unable to play out its full regular season. The eight teams that were not invited to Orlando to participate in the resumption of the season will receive the top eight spots in the lottery standings. The final six spots will go to the six clubs that don’t make the postseason in Orlando, sorted by their records through March 11.

We previously broke down what the 2020 lottery odds will look like if the Nets, Magic, and Grizzlies all hang onto their playoff spots. This year’s event has been postponed until August 25.

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. Information from Tankathon.com and Wikipedia was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in 2012, 2013, and 2019.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Sign-And-Trades

Each year when the offseason rolls around, a ton of NBA free agents sign new contracts and teams around the league consummate trades. On a few occasions, these two forms of transactions are combined into something called a sign-and-trade deal. Sign-and-trades occur when a team re-signs its own free agent, only to immediately send him to another team in exchange for players, draft picks, and/or cash.

In order for a sign-and-trade deal to be completed, the following criteria must be met:

  • A free agent must be signed-and-traded by the team with whom he finished the season. For instance, the Cavaliers could sign-and-trade Tristan Thompson this offseason, but another team couldn’t sign Thompson and immediately move him.
  • If the free agent is restricted, he can’t be signed-and-traded after he signs an offer sheet with a rival team.
  • A team acquiring a player via sign-and-trade cannot be over the tax apron after the deal, and can’t have used the taxpayer mid-level exception.
  • A free agent can’t be signed-and-traded once the regular season is underway.
  • A free agent can’t be signed using the mid-level exception or any exception that doesn’t allow for a three-year contract.
  • A player receiving a designated veteran contract can’t be signed-and-traded.

Sign-and-trade contracts can be worth any amount up to the player’s maximum salary (with 5% annual raises), and must be for either three or four years. However, only the first year of the deal has to be fully guaranteed.

If a sign-and-trade contract includes a signing bonus, either team can agree to pay it, though if the signing team pays it, it counts toward that club’s limit for cash included in trades for that league year. As for trade bonuses, they would kick in upon any subsequent trades rather than as part of the sign-and-trade transaction itself.

Under some previous Collective Bargaining Agreements, there was more incentive for players to work out sign-and-trade deals, since the contract restrictions weren’t as strict. For example, when Anthony Davis hits free agency this offseason, he’d be eligible for a five-year contract worth up to a projected $200MM if he re-signs with the Lakers, but only four years and approximately $148MM with another team (note: those estimates are based on a $115MM cap projection that now appears unlikely).

Prior to 2011’s CBA agreement, Davis could have received that more lucrative five-year deal even if Los Angeles had signed-and-traded him. But in the unlikely event that the Lakers sign-and-trade Davis this offseason, he’d only be eligible for that four-year, $148MM max.

Under the current CBA, there’s less incentive for teams and players to participate in sign-and-trades. Generally, if a player wants to change teams, it makes more sense for him to sign with the new team outright, rather than making that club give up assets to complete the acquisition. Even the player’s old team may prefer to simply let the free agent walk and claim the resulting cap space, rather than taking back unwanted assets in a sign-and-trade.

There are other roadblocks as well. A team acquiring a player via sign-and-trade subsequently becomes hard-capped for the rest of that league year. Plus, a signed-and-traded player’s salary may be viewed differently than it would be in a standard trade for salary-matching purposes, which can compromise a team’s ability to meet those salary-matching requirements.

However, if a potential suitor is over the cap and under the tax, a sign-and-trade can make sense — especially if that club wants to sign the player for more than the mid-level amount, or if the club can offer the free agent’s prior team something of value.

During the 2019 offseason, sign-and-trades made a comeback in a big way. After just four sign-and-trade deals were completed between 2015-18, a total of 10 players were signed-and-traded last July.

In some cases, those sign-and-trades were a result of teams opting to get something back for restricted free agents who may have signed offer sheets elsewhere (ie. Malcolm Brogdon, Tomas Satoransky, Delon Wright). In other instances, clubs losing maximum-salary free agents turned those deals into sign-and-trades in order to get something back for their departing stars (ie. D’Angelo Russell for Kevin Durant; Terry Rozier for Kemba Walker).

It’s not clear if sign-and-trades will continue to be quite so popular going forward or if a confluence of factors made 2019 an outlier. Still, last summer’s deals provided a blueprint for how sign-and-trade deals can benefit all parties in the right situation.

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 version of this post were published in 2013 and 2019 by Luke Adams.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Qualifying Offers

Players eligible for restricted free agency don’t become restricted free agents by default. In order to make a player a restricted free agent, a team must extend a qualifying offer to him — a player who doesn’t receive one becomes an unrestricted free agent instead.

The qualifying offer, which is essentially just a one-year contract offer, varies in amount depending on a player’s service time and previous contract status.

If a player reaches free agency with three or fewer years of NBA service time under his belt, his qualifying offer is worth 125% of his prior salary, or his minimum salary plus $200K, whichever is greater.

For instance, after earning $1,416,852 this season, Grizzlies guard De’Anthony Melton will be eligible for a qualifying offer worth a projected $1,907,576 this offseason, based on a $115MM cap — that’s calculated by adding $200,000 to his projected minimum salary for 2020/21 ($1,707,576).

The exact value of Melton’s qualifying offer will depend on where exactly the ’20/21 salary cap ends up, since minimum salary increase or decrease at the same rate as the cap. If the cap drops significantly, it’s possible he’d instead receive a QO worth $1,771,065 (125% of his previous salary).

Bogdan Bogdanovic is one example of a player whose qualifying offer will be 125% of his previous salary no matter where the cap lands. Bogdanovic is earning $8,529,386 in 2019/20, far above the minimum, so the Kings guard will receive a qualifying offer worth 125% of that figure: $10,661,733.

The qualifying offer for a former first-round pick coming off his rookie scale contract is determined by his draft position. The qualifying offer for a first overall pick is 130% of his fourth-year salary, while for a 30th overall pick it’s 150% of his previous salary — QOs for the rest of the first-rounders fall somewhere in between. The full first-round scale for the draft class of 2016, whose first-rounders will be hitting free agency this summer, can be found here, courtesy of RealGM.

Here are a pair of examples for this offseason: 2016’s second overall pick, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, is coming off a fourth-year salary of $7,265,485, so he must be extended a qualifying offer of $9,481,458 (a 30.5% increase) to become a restricted free agent. Meanwhile, the 19th overall pick, Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley, will be eligible for a qualifying offer of $3,895,424, a 42.6% increase on this season’s $2,731,714 salary.

A wrinkle in the Collective Bargaining Agreement complicates matters for some RFAs-to-be, since a player’s previous usage can impact the amount of his qualifying offer. Certain players who meet – or fail to meet – the “starter criteria,” which we break down in a separate glossary entry, become eligible for higher or lower qualifying offers. Here’s how the starter criteria affects QOs:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a same qualifying offer equal to 120% of the amount applicable to the 15th overall pick.
    • Note: For the summer of 2020, the value of this QO will be $4,642,800.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to 120% of the amount applicable to the ninth overall pick.
    • Note: For the summer of 2020, the value of this QO will be $5,087,871.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to 100% of the amount applicable to the 21st overall pick.
    • Note: For the summer of 2020, the value of this QO will be $3,752,338.

Spurs big man Jakob Poeltl is one example of a player who falls into the first group, since he didn’t meet the starter criteria this year. The No. 9 overall pick in 2016, Poeltl will be eligible this offseason for a QO worth $4,642,800 instead of $5,087,871. Conversely, Suns forward Dario Saric (a former No. 12 overall pick) met the starter criteria and will be eligible for a QO worth $5,087,871 instead of $4,791,213.

A qualifying offer is designed to give a player’s team the right of first refusal. Because the qualifying offer acts as the first formal contract offer a free agent receives, his team then receives the option to match any offer sheet the player signs with another club.

A player can also accept his qualifying offer, if he so chooses. He then plays the following season on a one-year contract worth the amount of the QO, and becomes an unrestricted free agent at season’s end if he has at least four years of NBA experience. A player can go this route if he wants to hit unrestricted free agency as early as possible, or if he feels like the QO is the best offer he’ll receive. Accepting the qualifying offer also gives a player the right to veto trades for the season.

No restricted free agents accepted their qualifying offers during the 2019 offseason, but Rodney Hood did so with the Cavaliers in 2018. When Cleveland agreed to send him to the Trail Blazers prior to the 2019 trade deadline, Hood had to give his consent to be dealt, which he did.

Finally, while the details outlined above apply to players on standard NBA contracts who are eligible for restricted free agency, a different set of rules applies to players coming off two-way contracts. For most of those players, the qualifying offer would be equivalent to a one-year, two-way salary, with $50K guaranteed.

If a player coming off a two-way contract is ineligible to sign another one – either because he’s coming off a two-year, two-way deal, he has already been on two-way deals with his current team for at least two seasons, or he has four years of NBA service – his qualifying offer would be a standard, minimum-salary NBA contract. The guarantee on that QO would have to match or exceed what a two-way player would earn in the G League.

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. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Maximum Salary

There are many NBA players technically on maximum salary contracts, but most of those players aren’t earning identical salaries this season, making the league’s “maximum salary” something of a misnomer. While each NBA player has a maximum salary that he can earn in a given season, that number varies from player to player, with a handful of factors playing a part in determining the exact figure.

The primary factor in determining a player’s maximum salary is his years of service. If a player has been in the NBA for no more than six years, he can earn up to 25% of the salary cap in the first year of his deal. Players with seven to nine years of experience can earn up to 30%, while veterans with 10 or more years in the NBA are eligible for up to 35% of the cap. In 2019/20, the salary cap is $109,140,000, meaning the maximum salaries are as follows:

Years in NBA Salary
0-6 $27,285,000
7-9 $32,742,000
10+ $38,199,000

The figures above help explain why nine-year veteran Kemba Walker, who signed a maximum salary contract as part of a sign-and-trade to the Celtics last July, is earning a salary of $32,742,000 this season. But they don’t explain why Lakers star Anthony Davis, who is also in that 7-9 year window and is on a max contract of his own, is earning just $27,093,018.

The reason Davis’ maximum salary is a few million shy of Walker’s is that those league-wide maximum salary figures only apply to the first year of a multiyear contract. When a player signs a maximum contract, he can receive annual raises of up to either 8% or 5%, depending on whether he signs with his previous team or a new team. So by the third, fourth, or fifth year of his contract, he could be earning significantly more or less than the updated max for that season.

Davis signed his maximum salary contract extension in 2015 and it went into effect in 2016/17, when he had fewer than six years of NBA experience. Although he has received annual 8% raises since then, those raises haven’t been enough to keep up with the annual cap growth and with his move into the 7-9 year window. As a result, he’s earning about $5.65MM less than his actual max in 2019/20, despite being on a “max contract.”

Davis will get to start over on a new max deal in ’20/21, assuming he turns down his player option this offseason. If he wants to maximize his earnings going forward, he’ll likely opt for a shorter-term deal that gives him the opportunity to sign a new contract in 2022 when he gains 10 years of NBA experience and qualifies for a starting salary of up to 35% of the cap.

Here are a couple more ways a player’s usual maximum salary can fluctuate:

  • A free agent’s maximum salary is always at least 105% of his previous salary. For example, Warriors star Stephen Curry is earning $40,231,758 this season. He’s under contract for two more years after 2019/20, but if he were eligible for free agency this offseason, he’d be able to sign for a starting salary of up to $42,243,346 (105% of this year’s salary), even if that figure exceeds 35% of the 2020/21 cap.
  • In certain situations, players eligible for new contracts can earn the maximum salary for the level above the one they’d typically fall into. For instance, a player receiving a designated rookie extension can earn up to 30% of the cap instead of 25% if he meets certain criteria. A veteran can become eligible to earn up to 35% of the cap instead of 30% if he meets the same criteria, which are related to MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, or All-NBA honors.

A player who signs a maximum salary contract can receive a trade kicker as part of his deal, but he can’t cash in on that bonus for any amount beyond his maximum salary in a given league year. For instance, Karl-Anthony Towns‘ max salary contract with the Timberwolves features a 5% trade kicker, but if he had been traded this season, he wouldn’t have been eligible to receive that bonus, since he’s already earning his maximum salary of $27,285,000.

Similarly, a maximum salary player whose team finishes the season below the minimum salary floor isn’t eligible to receive a share when the team distributes that money to its players, since his max salary for that year can’t be exceeded.

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 previously published by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.