In successive NBA Collective Bargaining Agreements, tools were put in place to protect teams from the threat of losing their best young talent to free agent, and theoretically corrected a situation that had come with years of traveling in the opposite direction.
The growth of unity, the liberation of player movement, the unraveling of the mystery of “loyalty” (especially when applied), and the sharp growth of the concept of player power, where all free agency was once essentially constrained – and thus barely possible – all together allowed players to leave teams they were once said to be on, and to create a new market from which they are leaving. This became especially true of the younger types who dared to actually use the freedom given to them that their ancestors never had. And that came to a point outside the 2003 season.
That summer, Golden State Warriors sophomore guard Gilbert Arenas became a free agent. The 2001 runoff picks broke out in his first two NBA campaigns, and he had an 82-game start in 2002-03, averaging 18.3 points and 6.3 assists per game in an unexpected but most intriguing breakout. However, due to the details of the contract the Warriors gave him, Arenas became a free agent two years later.
All free agents with three years or less of NBA experience can be made restricted free agents, whether they want it or not, if their incumbent team makes a suitable bid. [The sole exception is if a first-rounder had a team option year on his rookie scale contract declined, which did not apply here.] That was true then and still holds true today. So the Warriors may have felt safe even though Arenas was able to sign big offers with other teams. theory had the ability to match them.
However, they did not have this ability. application. Since Arenas has only been on the team for two years, the Warriors only had early Bird rights over him, and as an overcapacity team, there were no pay gaps. The restricted free agency instrument did not give them full authority to simply match any contract Arenas signed with another team; only gave them the right to match any contract Arenas signed with another team, As long as the Warriors’ Arenas are something they can give.
Simply put, then it can still be bid higher. And they were. The Washington Wizards signed Arenas to a six-year $64,020,000 contract starting at $8,536,000 in the first season; With neither full Bird rights nor salary cap, the most Golden State could offer in that first season was an amount equal to the league’s average salary in the previous season, and the maximum allowable starting amount for early players independent of Bird at the time. . That amount was just $4,917,000. Then the Warriors couldn’t play.
The following year, when Carlos Boozer did essentially the same thing, the entire company compounded when the Cleveland Cavaliers signed a unique offer paper that Zydrunas Ilgauskas couldn’t go against the Utah Jazz without pulling out an extraordinary fake payroll, and they turned it down. to do. In this case, the loss was made worse as Cleveland turned down Boozer’s team option, hoping to tie him up long-term for a minimum salary. Boozer had other ideas and better offers.
The two moves led to what is popularly referred to as Arenas Provision (it could easily be called Boozer Provision, but Arenas got the tag because he got there first). Beginning with the 2005 CBA, the gap has effectively been closed as teams can no longer sign the other team’s one or two year veteran free agent for contracts with cap numbers higher than the full Intermediate Exception value. the amount of money could be more and the limit goes up on the back end of the deal, which is best explained here). And in general, this stopped the already extremely rare practice.
Since the arrival of Arenas Provision, the situation has rarely resurfaced. The limitations of the provision, as well as the increased regularity of runoff picks (or coveted un-drafted players) who received three- or four-year contracts through the cap area or portions of the Mid-Level Exception, meant a gripping move with less viability and fewer candidates. For example, only three of the 2001 draft class runoff picks (Trenton Hassell, Terence Morris, and Jamison Brewer) signed three-year deals, unlike nearly all of them today.
Relatively recently, however, in the summer of 2012, the Arenas provision came to light when the Houston Rockets tried to test this with their new contracts for Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, who did not sign three-year contracts. opportunities. Similarly, the Toronto Raptors handed Landry Fields an amount on the bidding paper that could trigger the use of the Arenas provision if the New York Knicks matched that same summer. They didn’t. In fact, none of the three matched. And that has been the entire Arenas ruling to date.
So by next summer, the Bulls will have to do something with Ayo Dosunmu.
Contrary to the new norm, the Bulls did not sign a three-year deal to Dosunmu, the 2021 runoff pick. From this distance it’s unclear whether this is at the team’s or Dosunmu discretion – the NBPA advises agents to stay away from three- and four-year contracts with first-round non-rookies, but as can be seen above, the advice is that it’s often ignored. However, whatever the reason, Dosunmu only got two years and is therefore going free agency next summer.
As the rules regarding overtime were liberalized in the 2017 CBA – giving the same players who signed the first three-year non-rookie scale contracts the option to extend their contracts and opt out of free agent altogether, further encouraging and further reducing the possibility of signing such deals, the Arenas provision is likely to come into play. There is still no such mechanism for veterans of two years. Dosunmu is going to free agency next summer whether she and the team want it or not. The only way it won’t happen is if it’s waived before then.
Of course this has no chance of happening because Ayo has become a very important player for the Bulls.
Taking advantage of Lonzo Ball’s prolonged absence, Dosunmu moved from substitute to substitute and key starting player during his first season and a quarter. In 19 games this season (all starts), he averages 10.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game on 50.4% shooting, which belies the fact that he’s been doing his best work on the defensive end. map.
So Dosunmu, far from being outside, may well be on his way to being the first player in a few years to test his team’s determination when it comes to Arenas procurement.
The new parameters of the post-2005 CBA Arenas provision limit an eligible player’s first-year salary of any bid table to no more than the full amount of the Intermediate Non-Taxpayer exemption. This limitation means that the player can match the bid table using the Early Bird exception of their current team (which has the same starting amount as the MLE as seen in the Arenas example above), the MLE itself, or an equivalent amount of cap space. After that, the second year salary is limited to the standard 5% raise.
That’s when things can get weird. The third year salary may be as high as it would have been if the first year salary was not capped, and the fourth year salary could increase to 4.5% of the third year salary. These large increases are only possible if the full limited amount is given in the first two years, but if given then huge potential increases can come into play.
Any team that signs Dosunmu to such a restored deal should be able to fit in the average salary. for the entire contract and not just the first year at the MLE size – for example, a team that is $17.5 million below the cap is limited to bidding a total of $52.5 million over three years or $70 million over four years – that’s why we can’t see big salary increases coming in the near future. Given that, it might not be a huge problem. Therefore, in 2023/24, the same team with the same hypothetical $17.5 million salary gap (using the hypothetical Non-Taxpayer MLE amount of $11,368,000 according to the current NBA projection) could sign Dosunmu to a deal that would result in:
- 2023/24: $11,368,000
- 2024/25: $11,936,400
- 2025/26: $22,834,034
- 2026/27: $23,861,566
Total: 70 million dollars
It’s not precise, but very descriptive.
Also note that Bulls must be in a position where they are eligible to use the full value of the Intermediate Non-Taxpayer Exemption to be able to afford it. If they’re properly loaded with a payroll that they can use only the Taxpayer version, a Non-Taxpayer MLE offering will outrank them regardless of Dosunmu’s restricted status.
Also note that the Bulls (or any eligible re-signed team) cannot circumvent the process by negotiating a trans-MLE deal with the respective player and bypassing the offer page stage entirely. Arena supply and these special conditions only occur in an offer page scenario. If the Bulls want to re-sign Dosumu without the involvement of another team, they’re limited to the full value of the Non-Taxpayer MLE or the early Bird exception with no major backend jumps.
The 10/5/5 player Ayo Dosunmu is now probably doesn’t deserve this hypothetical $70 million figure. However, with efficiency and defense it can be a 15/5/5. To put it in context, Derrick White received $70 million in over four years in overtime, which he signed with the San Antonio Spurs in December 2020, just before the start of a season in which he averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds. the game. Whether you have White or Dous on your team, you have to admit that this is imminent.
If Dosunmu signs a deal that sees the big jump in the backend, a saving grace is that the big contracts of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic will expire until they are signed. But these players will need to be replaced by something more than Dosunmu can offer, especially on offense. If you think it might take a leap or two from what it currently is, you can explore paying above the MLE, but if you do, offensive improvements will need to be made in all areas.
For the Bulls, if another team thinks Ayo can do it, it’s faking it. Their faltering soon after their plan to form a second-tier superteam didn’t work, they’re at a crossroads in their roster plan, or so they should be. They need two-way young players like Dosunmu, but they can’t increase their capacity for a fourth start. An OG Anunoby-like development curve should be on the cards, which would be an expensive gamble to take.
Perhaps then they should downsize their role and reduce the risk.