The NBA and the players’ union reached an agreement late Monday night on several critical issues that help clarify the offseason calendar as the league prepares for a quick turnaround going into its 2020-21 season.
NBA free agency will begin on Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. PST, less than 48 hours after the draft and just 10 days before players are expected to report to training camp – setting up a frenetic marketplace for team front offices as they try to squeeze roster construction and the balancing of books into a matter of days.
The two sides also locked in key financial terms for the upcoming season – a reduced 72-game slate that begins Dec. 22 – including a $109.1 million salary cap and a $132.6 million luxury tax cap.
While the NBA is anticipating a steep decline in revenue for next year that will affect bottom lines, keeping the cap and tax figures steady should help bring stability to an offseason that has been roiled in uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBA and NBPA also agreed to terms to keep up to 20 percent of player salaries in escrow for the next two seasons while the league determines how much of a revenue hit it will take next year.
The short turnaround of the offseason reflects the urgency the NBA is feeling to recoup television revenue and re-track to its traditional schedule in a season when it expects few fans to be allowed to attend games. After finishing the 2019-20 season in the bubble at Disney World in Florida in October, the NBA is scurrying to start a season that would finish no later than July 22. The league and the NBPA agreed in separate meetings to those terms last week before hammering out more details this week in a joint effort.
For the teams in Los Angeles, both expected to be title contenders, the shortened offseason represents an added constraint to getting back to the top. The defending champion Lakers are widely expected to re-sign star free agent Anthony Davis to a max salary contract, but they now have limited financial wiggle room to build their roster around him and LeBron James. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are both under contract for next season with the Clippers, but the team will look to add pieces to improve on last season’s second-round playoff exit.
The NBA has not yet lifted a moratorium on trades: ESPN reported that the league has discussed lifting it two to three days before the draft.