Another NBA Lockout Could Be on the Horizon

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2014 file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before the skills competition at the NBA All Star basketball weekend, in New Orleans. NBA owners hold their end-of-season meeting with Silver, with the potential sale of the Milwaukee Bucks among the most important issues, Friday. April 18, 2014 in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Haber, File)
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (AP Photo/Bill Haber, File)

Flush with more cash than ever, the NBA could be facing another lockout in 2016, league collective bargaining agreement expert Larry Coon writes on his blog.

First, the good news. Next year’s salary cap is projected to rise by about $5 million to $63.2 million, while the luxury tax threshold is projected to be $77 million. In 2015-16, those numbers are projected rise to $66.5 million and $81 million, respectively. The official numbers will come down in July, when the league conducts its annual audit.

The current CBA runs through the 2020-2021 season, but both sides have an opt out in 2016-17. Through the league’s current deal, the players are guaranteed “50 percent of forecasted revenues (the forecasts were made in 2011), plus or minus 60.5 percent of the amount by which the actual revenues exceed (or fall short of) their original forecast, with hard limits of 49 percent and 51 percent of the actual revenues.”

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Where we might run into trouble is if the NBA’s revenue vastly increases, and the league’s TV deal just so happens to expire before 2016-17. As Coon points out, most of the league’s teams are now profitable. Even the Milwaukee Bucks are about to be sold for around $550 million. Coon predicts that the players will opt out after the new TV deal in 2016-17 if the league’s profits are tilted unfairly in the direction of the owners at that time. If the players opt out, they will likely then be locked out. The kicker from Coon:

So I expect the players to opt-out in 2017, and for the league to impose a lockout on July 1, 2017 (because they can't do business without an agreement in place), However, negotiations will be quick and smooth (similar to 2005), and there will be a new CBA in place in time for the 2017-18 season to begin on time.