Do we really need a hard cap to compete?

Published: September 17, 2011

Before I start, I’ll link everyone to this article.

I’ll start by saying that I am definitely in favor of any system that creates parity and makes things easier for small markets. OTOH, I don’t think it’s a good idea to sacrifice the entire season for a system that may not guarantee the parity and competitive balance that we seek.

You see, the NHL whacked an entire season and yet according to Forbes, the league loses more money than the NBA does and the parity level is no different than it was before the lockout. What we do see is Phoenix going bankrupt, Atlanta moving and the Islanders failing to get a new building due to losing money and looking for handouts.

Back to the NBA lockout, it’s become clear that the players are taking a hard stand against a hard cap. It’s possible that they sit a whole entire season for us to get a hard cap but think of all the fans that would be lost. A good chunk of the money they gain from a hard cap would be lost as a result of all the fans who move on from the NBA out of anger that the season was lost. 

My thinking is this. Not only would a season be lost but a hard cap could have consequences. Teams that want to sign star players but only have $3 million in cap space would have to sacrifice said player to stay under the cap.

I’ve been reading various other board and websites and came across some good ideas that would allow for parity and competitive balance without having a hard cap. This would not only pacify the players which would lead to labor peace but would keep the fans in place. The players would have to make concessions in return for keeping the soft cap if want more competitive balance. Some ideas include..

-Limit teams to just 2 players in the upper bracket in the max salary range. This would ensure that we have no more “super teams”.

-Limit the MLE to teams under the luxury tax or if there is no more luxury tax, create a threshold around $10 million above the soft cap. This way, the Heat won’t be able to build their team around MLE type players. The Lakers did this by signing Fisher and Artest to the MLE and that helped in a big way towards seeing them win those recent 2 titles.

-More revenue sharing. Assuming we get a 50/50 split of revenue, the NBA will be profitable. With profitability, we will see a system where you can have revenue sharing. With financial issues tossed aside, we won’t have a system where you have struggling teams trade good players for expiring contracts. Memphis wouldn’t have traded Gasol for junk and that would again limit what the big market Lakers could spend over the cap.

Yeah, it’s a soft cap but with no Gasol to resign, there is no $90 million plus payroll but probably something closer to $75.

Take away the MLE signings of Fisher and Artest and you’re back to where the rest of the league is.

Lower the amount of the max salaries and you don’t have Kobe making $30 million. This practically creates a hard cap by default.

These are just some ideas but the main point is that a hard cap isn’t the be all and end all that some people are frantic about.

This post was submitted by Seattle Needle.


  1. Jordan

    September 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I completely agree with all these statements. The NBA should just first lower the amount of max contracts and (like u said) limit teams to only 2 max contract players so there are no super teams, and allow teams like Lakers to alter Kobe’s, Bynum, and Gasol’s contracts.

    I think these are sufficent amounts for all 3 of those players:

  2. da ThRONe

    September 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I am a fan of having a tighter cap ceiling. That’s 12% higher than the cap and a cap floor that’s 12%the lower than the cap. With luxury taxes that’s 3 to 1 that starts at every dollar over the cap. Eliminate all exception and bird rules. Every dollar paid in to players count against the cap.

  3. 42

    September 22, 2011 at 6:49 am

    People seem to equate hard cap and low hard cap.

    I think we could very well see a system with soft cap but no exceptions, except things like min salary deals, 10-day deals, to keep rosters going. Think Chris Rock and his favoring of bullet control to gun control.

    The ‘problem’ is the middle class. This actually stems from the max deal. By locking up one of the few top talents to an efficient deal, you have more money to spend on ‘Robin’. This, sadly, also changes the maket for ‘Potsie’. As way leads on to way, we end up here.

    • Seattle Needle

      September 22, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      Basically, my system is one that has a hard AND soft cap. It’s a soft cap with a hard cap on mid level exceptions above it. What this means is that you set a soft cap at a number like $50 million and then create a mid level exception threshold at a number that’s either equal to the lux tax threshold or if the lux tax goes away, then you come up with a number that’s around $10 to $15 million above that.

      This works because it still allows teams that are capped out to sign MLE players, thus keeping the middle class intact. Let’s say a team is capped out at $51 million. They will still have over $10 million below the lux tax or mid level exception threshold. This way, they have plenty of room to not only sign an MLE player but still have a few left over for exercising the bird rights on a player.

      The teams that won’t be able to sign the MLE player are the one’s who will be in lux tax territory. This way, we add a level of competitive balance that we didn’t see before. Teams like the Celtics and Lakers won’t be able to add to their team via the MLE. They will be stuck with minimum salary players and late first round picks.

      Same for the Heat. With a payroll around $65 million, they would be stuck with what they have now and have to make it work.

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