The NBA is looking to address something it appears to feel may be unfair. On Friday afternoon, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote that the league is pursuing an “upper spending limit” in their new agreement with the NBPA:
“In the wake of large-market contenders Golden State, Brooklyn and the LA Clippers running up massive payrolls and luxury tax penalties, the NBA is proposing a system that would replace the luxury tax with a hard limit that teams could not exceed to pay salaries, sources said.”
The piece adds that this is being met with tremendous resistance from the players union. It makes sense that the players don’t want new limits curbing the amount of total money in their pool. Let the Steve Ballmer’s of the world pay all they want, and keep the pressure on the Jim Dolan’s of the world to at least try and keep up, they’d probably say. Then the MVP and Mr. Irrelevant both get more money. After all, it’s these dudes everyone is coming to see, not the owners. And they have a point.
Zach Lowe added his two cents:
Have heard escalated rumblings of league pursuing this in the last week -- partly/mostly a response to GSW/LAC spending over the last two seasons. Has been a major subject of chatter at games. To put it *very* lightly, the union will object strenuously. https://t.co/T9ruyu4b2b— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) October 28, 2022
This issue entered public discourse when ESPN’s Brian Windhorst quipped that the Golden State Warriors 2022 NBA championship could be considered a “checkbook win.”
Here was more from Windy, last June, per the NY Post:
“[Andrew Wiggins] makes $32 million,” he informed SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt after the game. “They kept Andrew Wiggins and boy did he show up tonight.”
While some teams around the league would’ve looked to dump Wiggins’ steep contract, the Warriors were able to retain their depth piece because of a healthy payroll, according to Windhorst.
“Other teams would have totally gotten rid of him,” Windhorst said. “They stuck with him. They have a $340 million payroll when you consider taxes. You don’t just have to beat the Warriors on the court, you’ve got to beat their checkbook. Taking nothing away from Andrew Wiggins but this was a checkbook win for the Warriors.”
Ask a Warriors fan, and they might tell you, yeah, sorry we were so good at drafting and trading and have an ownership group willing to spend to win! Tough cookies! Ask a Grizzlies fan, (28th largest payroll) and they might say yeah, look it’s an uphill battle trying to beat a team who has like $70M more in talent than you do, lol.
According to HoopsHype, here are the top 15 payrolls:
It’s probably not a coincidence that the five biggest spenders are literally the five top teams per Draft Kings championship odds.
Just want to note, before everyone gets into a froth over "hard cap" proposals: NBA has asked/proposed/floated a hard cap, or something like it, in nearly every CBA discussion since the Paleozoic Era (give or take an era). Then they table it for the next one. wash/rinse/repeat— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) October 28, 2022
Howard Beck warns that this being proposed certainly doesn’t prove it has a chance of being implemented anytime soon. To that point, Woj also wrote that “sides often use the early part of negotiations to float wish lists, and that could be what’s happening with the NBA’s proposal — as opposed to the buildup of a hardline stance that could ultimately lead to a work stoppage.”
So this doesn’t sound imminent. Still, a couple of us at Liberty Ballers talked about it on Twitter earlier in this thread:
This is silly. If you want to win you have to spend money. Not comfortable spending? Don’t buy an NBA team. https://t.co/RKUCyWEjke— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) October 28, 2022
Admittedly, I’m not by any means a cap wiz, nor have I thought critically about this issue enough to have really strong opinions.
But I feel generally, that we don’t want more restrictions on the amount of money these players can make. For example, the Warriors are valued at about $7B.
THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS ARE THE MOST VALUABLE TEAM IN ALL OF BASKETBALL— WarriorsMuse (@WarriorsMuse) October 27, 2022
~$300M when Steph was drafted (18th in the league)
$7B TODAY (1st in the league)
The model franchise.
And while nobody feels bad for Steph Curry, who is very, very wealthy, it can sometimes feel weird that there is a limit on the amount he can earn, despite no real limit on the amount owners can earn from his work. Something seems off there, and there’s lots of issues to talk about and debate.
On the other hand, I don’t love the MLB system where teams can have such infinitely disparate payrolls. Parity is fun. I don’t want the richest people to buy the big market teams in the warmest, most beautiful climates, and also get to pay the most for stars. California is already a draw compared to Indiana or Philly. Do they need even more advantages?
So I asked our Harrison Grimm a question:
So, in the spirit of my Steph Curry example, I agree I don’t want the players to be penalized at all. I don’t mind them making wildly exorbitant sums of money one bit, because they’re the reason me and my best friends talk about the NBA more than probably any other single subject. It’s endlessly fun and it’s because of the stars.
On the other hand, there’s the part of me that rejects the MLB model, where certain teams can spend way, way, way more money than others.
As a Sixers fan, I wish the Sixers had offered Jimmy Butler a max, kept him, paid Embiid, maxed Ben Simmons then traded him for James Harden, and maintained the most bloated tax bill in NBA history, while we giddily imagined Tyrese Maxey getting maxed next summer and carrying the title torch for years to come.
But the objective fan in me thinks it’s unfair that the Oklahoma City Thunder felt they couldn’t keep Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden but fans of some other teams don’t have to think about that because their owners are straight up ballers. Right now, the current Warriors pay like $100M more than the San Antonio Spurs. Weird.
It stinks for fans of like way too many teams, that their owners don’t want to spend like the big dogs. And in spirit, I want parity, and fairness. Not paycheck wins.
So I don’t know the solution. I asked our Bryan Toporek if maybe there was a way they could cap spending into a window, but then simply give players a much bigger slice of the total revenue pie.
But apparently, there are problems either way, and however they did it, there would be teams willing to spend a lot more than other teams.
What do you guys think? Hit us in the replies section.