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Lockout Over: Time to learn new CBA rules and how to win with them (and celebrate a bit too)

See you soon! (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
See you soon! (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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What a glorious morning this was: waking up to 'how u' emails from SBNation peoples, then a constant stream of celebratory posts, tweets, and comments over the end of the BBA lockout. It's still a .GIF party in this morning's thread, so have a ball.

As it stands now, this tentative agreement will be ratified and free agency can begin on December 9th. Though the new 66 game schedule has yet to be configured, figure that the opening of the Bulls season will still be Christmas day against the Lakers. How great is that...honestly. I'm smiling as a type. Now smiling more that I typed about how I was smiling as I typed that last bit.

But a shortened offseason means we don't have much time to get back into form. That's right, worrying cynically over how the Bulls can win the NBA title.

The new CBA rules are trickling out as the hours pass, and be sure to check the SBNation storystream often for updates. So far, for all the negotiating and damage done to the sport (mostly due to BRI, which matters little to fans), it looks to be a fairly similar structure: a soft salary cap with exceptions and a separate cap level triggering a luxury tax. The cap & tax level is reportedly staying at or near last season's (approximate) $58m/$70m with the Bulls in between those two figures. And while the cap exceptions do still exist, they'll reportedly be more restricted than under the previous CBA.

Zach Lowe has a great breakdown of the new setup for cap exceptions and how the luxury tax effects them. Basically, the league wanted  not only for the luxury tax to be punitive in terms of dollars, but also restrict a tax-paying team from adding more salary through exceptions. They proposed a full mid-level exception for 5yrs/$20m, and tax-paying teams a 'mini-MLE' of 3/$9m. There was a compromise on that:

Every team can use the full mid-level exception, provided doing so does not take the team more than $4 million over the tax line.

If you use the full mid-level to get to or approach that barrier looming $4 million over the tax line, you cannot cross it by re-signing your own free agents via Larry Bird Rights. You can cross it to sign rookies or guys on veteran minimum contracts.

That's important information, especially for some of the Bulls more higher-salaried rivals (see the full post for a Celtics example). But fortunately (I originally wrote 'luckily', but this was indeed skill from Gar Paxdorf) it does not affect the Bulls this coming offseason. Assuming the non-guaranteed deals of Bogans/Pargo/Lucas are waived, and draftee Jimmy Butler will be signed, the Bulls are roughly at $63m in committed salaries, so full MLE wouldn't put them to the point that would invoke these new stipulations. And they don't have any important free agents (with apologies to Kurt Thomas) to re-sign anyway.

(The Bulls will, of course, look to sign Derrick Rose to a contract extension. But that wouldn't be a free agent signing, Rose can't be a FA until after this coming season)

So, why was KC Johnson armed at the ready with his cold bucket of water?

Bulls' plan will be to monitor other teams' amnesty cuts and see if they can sign somebody for vets' minimum. They should be capped out.

Obviously this isn't official, and Bulls management themselves don't know all the new rules yet. But KC is very plugged-in, and though he softened the above statement a bit in his follow-up article, the tax was still invoked as reason to expect the Bulls not to use the MLE this shortened and exciting offseason.

But so everyone's clear, it doesn't look like the new rules concerning the MLE and the luxury tax apply to the Bulls right now.

The reported 'concern' is over future payrolls starting with next offseason, when Rose's likely extension would kick in putting the Bulls firmly near luxury tax land. As KC mentions in his article, the Bulls would then have future extension choices with Taj Gibson and Omer Asik (that reminds me you guys! We get to watch Taj and Asik again soon!) that would theoretically raise the Bulls payroll even higher. But the new rules wouldn't keep them from resigning their own guys, or using the full MLE, it'd only keep them from doing both.

So if the Bulls sign a full MLE player this offseason, what's being really talked about when referring to the 'cost' of going into the tax is the literal payment of it. And as to not get into the philosophy of that too much, I'll be brief: it should be paid if it gets a better team.

The amnesty clause does indeed look to be in the new CBA, and that will provide some interesting low-priced candidates. And maybe the best fit for the team can be had at a veterans minimum deal. But all options should be on the table this offseason, including using the full MLE as well as a trade for a potentially high-priced player (hi OJ Mayo!) to not necessarily get the best value, but the best player. The Bulls options to add talent to vault other championship contenders only decreases as this team moves forward.

So while this weekend is about celebration first and foremost, as pointed out by BasketballSmurf in the comments:

"I'm preemptively upset about something that may or may not happen 2 weeks from now because of a poorly sourced report...its good to be back."

Indeed. Isn't that what BlogABull is all about?

Beyond watching the game we all love, I'm also very happy today to be blogging with you all again, and am excited to make this our best season yet. Happy lockout eradication day.