David Stern made a bold statement to the media last October: the NBA needs to cut $750-800 million dollars off payroll (or roughly 35%).
According to Stern, league losses were close to $380 million last season and early estimates were that losses this year would be nearly $340 million-$350 million. The Association also predicted that 22 teams will lose money this season.
Basically, if you think the NFL lockout is ugly, just wait for the NBA season to end. Basketball is going to make this little football disagreement look like a junior high break-up.
But there's a way for the league to save itself. Here's the plan.
First of all, the NBA's salary cap must become a hard cap. However, because teams have trade exceptions and contracts signed for mid-level exemptions, the loopholes in the NBA's cap are as deep as Joakim Noah is tall. Ger rid of the loopholes, and put a hard ceiling in place like the NHL has, and owners will think at least once before handing someone a max contract again.
However, you can't lock a hard cap on a broken system; there issues are deep enough that it will take time for teams to adjust to a firm cap. So there needs to be a buffer in place.
Top that end, the Association needs to stop giving owners the ability to grossly overpay players. A cap increase isn't necessarily what the league needs every year. My proposal is for the league to freeze the salary cap for the next three seasons. This will help control spending, and will give teams a few years to get some of the ugly deals off their books.
After three years, the league will begin raising the cap again, but the ceiling will be concrete.
Finally, there's no way a league in which 22 of 30 teams can afford a PR hit like contraction. Even if nobody cares about Toronto, the Players' Association doesn't want a contraction draft, and the impact on free agency would be ridiculous.
So here's the big money part of my proposal: cut the roster limit by one.
I have put together a list of 30 players, one representing each franchise. I looked at each roster and selected one player that was either grossly overpaid or whose contributions were underwhelming.
The league and players' association would need to work out a buyout package that was agreeable for the players that were losing their jobs, potentially shifting the financial burden of those buyouts to the league office and off the books of the individual teams.
Some of the guys I have on the chopping block could, and likely would, get another gig quickly. The point is, no coach in the game runs more than 9 players out there at any time. There's still a practice squad and the D-League if an injury happens, but reality is simple: there are too many players in the league that aren't good enough to be making as much money as they are.
Also, if you consider that this plan eliminates 30 players from the league, it accomplishes a similar impact on the league to contracting two teams. The global overhead remains for all 30 teams, but this is a bold step to beginning a league-wide savings program to rebuild health of the sport.
Am I cutting one third of the salaries in the league? or $800 million? No. But you can't expect this generation of NBA players to care about legacy or health of the game. Nobody's going to hand their check back. But if 22 of 30 teams are losing money, dramatic changes need to be made.