Nba Free Agency
Nothing rivals the offseason drama created by NBA free agency. Fans of different small market teams look at this time of year with dread as their team's latest all-star scurries off to a big-market team in cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles in the name of garnering more media attention and scoring better endorsement deals. NBA fans saw such a scenario play out with many 2010 free agents, best exemplified by LeBron James bolting from Cleveland and Chris Bosh exiting from Toronto to form a pro basketball triumvirate with Dwayne Wade in Miami.
Which players in 2011 will ditch their current team for bigger fame and fortune elsewhere? This guide to how NBA free agency works will help basketball fans get an idea of what can take place over the summer:
- Unrestricted free agent: This is the crop of NBA players every team usually targets because there are no strings attached when signing them. When a player's contract expires at the end of a season, they become an unrestricted free agent. That player is allowed to sign with any team.
- Restricted free agent: Less NBA teams pursue players in these circumstances because it is hard to actually sign them. A team may offer a restricted free agent an offer sheet, but his current team has first right of refusal. They have seven days to match the terms of the offer sheet and keep the player. Many teams who try to pry away restricted free agents will often frontload the offer sheet with a signing bonus to force the original team to let the player walk to avoid taking a salary hit.
- Player option: A player who holds a player option has the right to extend his contract for one more season at a salary equal to or greater than the amount he was paid under the previous season of the contract. Sometimes players will exercise their player option and opt out of their contract to test the market. This maneuver is designed to force their current team to sign them to a richer contract or sign a more lucrative contract elsewhere.
- Team option: This works similar to a player option except that the team holds the right to extend a contract one more season. NBA teams will exercise team options to keep a valuable player playing under a less expensive rookie contract for one more season or to get rid of a non-productive player in an effort to clear salary cap room to sign another player.
- Sign and trade: Teams will work out sign and trade deals with other teams to get compensation for losing an unrestricted free agent. This can be in the form of other players, draft picks, cash and trade exceptions. Players signed under this arrangement cannot be traded until December 15th of the same year and their contract must be for a minimum of three years, with the first year guaranteed.
NBA free agency operates much differently than other professional sports because of a soft salary cap, unlike the NFL and NHL, and the lack of mandatory compensation for signing free agents, unlike the MLB. It does lend a ton more entertainment value each year, though, to what would be an otherwise boring NBA offseason