How the new CBA affects the Miami Heat
What are the ripple effects of the newly-signed CBA, and how do they affect the Miami Heat?
The NBA Players Association and the league owners agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement this weekend. The agreement was officially ratified Monday, preventing a possible work-stoppage this summer, which is always a promising sign for the NBA.
From what we know about the new CBA, there will be an in-season tournament for the first time, a games-restriction on awards voting, some salary cap constraints and effects on roster orlconstruction — among other things!
The new CBA is expected to take effect this upcoming offseason, so let’s peel back the onion and see how this directly affects the Miami Heat.
There will be an in-season tournament for the 2023-24 regular season, which plans to be incorporated within the schedule. The winning team will receive $500K per player.
From a game’s played perspective (discussed more below), there’s a chance that this incentives players to play more in the regular season. Though I’d imagine role players would be more incentivized towards the financial benefit than, say, LeBron James — a literal billionaire.
This will also give Miami a chance to see where they stack up against the league’s best in a more competitive setting. Even if it’s not that different than a typical ol’ regular season game, an in-season tournament theoretically helps them further evaluate their strengths and weaknesses for the long season ahead.
Who knows, it could possibly give them a better understanding of what they might need to address at the trade deadline or in the buyout market, if they’re eligible (also more on that below).
Starting next year, part of the new CBA will have a provision where a player can earn certain postseason awards if they play at least 65 games. That includes All-NBA, defensive player of the year and MVP.
For one, this rule incentives players to play more. Four players who made it last year — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant — would not have fit these parameters because their max game limit with fall below 65 games.
James, Joel Embiid and Kawhi Leonard would have missed the cutoff in 2018-19 (the last full season before ‘21-22); Jimmy Butler, Curry and Embiid would have in 2017-18; Durant would have in 2016-17, as would DeMarcus Cousins in 2014-15.
Load managing for precautionary reasons has steadily increased over the last several seasons, especially with the cultural devaluation of the NBA regular season.
But there’s also a grey area with load managing solely because it’s a back-to-back — the most common time to load manage — with legitimate injuries; Jimmy Butler’s “load managed” his compromised knee since arriving in Miami. In each of the last two and four of the last five regular seasons, Butler’s missed a chunk of at least 25 percent.
At 64 games played this season, he could miss one more game and still be eligible to make an All-NBA or All-Defensive team, assuming those rules were hypothetically in-place already.
Over a full 82-game slate, Bam Adebayo’s second-team All-Defensive honor would be the only other award that would not have counted under these new parameters, but this will be something to monitor over the next several seasons leaguewide.
Good news for Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg and Co. — the Heat can now roster three two-way players, and not two!
The Heat have both of their spots currently filled up with Jamal Cain and Orlando Robinson. The Heat have frequently gotten an above-average success rate from its two players, most notably from Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin.
Orlando Robinson’s impacted the Heat bench unit as a backup 5 before Miami acquired Kevin Love and Cody Zeller and shipped Dewayne Dedmon to the Spurs for cash considerations.
Duncan Robinson, Strus, Vincent and Martin were all able to parlay their two-way performances into standard contracts, including a five-year, $90 million deal for Robinson and a three-year, $21 million deal for Martin.
Salary cap/Tax Apron Constraints:
Speaking of roster construction, the Heat *could* be in an even bigger pickle heading into the 2023-24 offseason.
The Heat currently have seven guaranteed contracts on the books, in addition to Victor Oladipo’s $9.5 million player option and Haywood Highsmith’s $1.9 million non-guaranteed contract, which would become fully guaranteed on July 15, 2023.
Assuming Oladipo opts into his deal, the Heat would have over $173 million allocated to nine players alone next season — roughly $11.1 million above the projected $162 million luxury tax threshold and $2.6 million above the projected tax apron. Thus, Miami would not have the opportunity to use their full mid-level exception (projected ~$11.4M) or acquire anyone via sign-and-trade without shedding additional salary elsewhere because of the hard cap.
But the new CBA introduces a new restriction for the NBA’s most prominent spenders: A second tax apron, projected to be approximately $17.5 million above the tax threshold.
Here’s what the second tax apron will prohibit, if the threshold’s passed:
Teams cannot use taxpayer MLE to sign one or multiple free agents.
Teams cannot send out cash in trades.
Teams cannot take back more salary in trade than they sent out.
Teams cannot trade first-round picks seven years away.
Teams cannot sign free agents via the buyout market.
Woj reported that there will be a smoothing out process with the new tax apron — so perhaps the restrictions won’t go into place until 2024-25, allowing teams to prepare for the future consequences by heading into the tax.
But since the said process hasn’t been determined yet, let’s assume this second apron would be in place for the 2023-24 season for a second.
As I mentioned above, the Heat would already be above the first tax apron, limiting their flexibility. The Heat will have four unrestricted free agents this offseason: Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Kevin Love and Cody Zeller. They also have three restricted free agents, including Omer Yurtseven.
The Heat own the bird rights for Vincent and Strus, so they can sign them to any amount with eight percent raises. Though Love and Zeller are both non-bird rights players. Since Love signed a prorated bi-annual exception worth $3.1 million, Love would be eligible to sign a four-year deal worth over $16 million (beginning at $3.7 million) while Zeller — who signed the minimum — would only be eligible for a four-year deal worth over $10 million (beginning at $2.4 million).
Combining those two first-year salaries together equals an additional $6.1 million, which doesn’t include the possible extensions that Vincent and Strus could accrue. There’s the scenario where Miami opts to re-sign just one of Love or Zeller, or neither.
All options are realistically on the table, but assuming this tax levy is enacted, Miami has even more questions to answer than before when free agency arrives.
If they don’t move salary — like Kyle Lowry or Duncan Robinson — Miami will have a “pick your poison” situation between re-signing their own free agents or using their mid-level exception to sign free agents, as well as maintaining future flexibility.