The Mid-Level Exception rule is essentially redundant, and that could just be the start
April 27th, 2016

The Mid-Level Exception was introduced in the 1999 Collective Bargaining Agreement, and quickly became a vital tool in the interminable team building struggle, if not for many, the most vital. For teams over the salary cap, the Mid-Level Exception (also known in its infancy as the Middle-Class Exception, and never since then) was a way to continue to sign players for significantly more than the minimum salary, thereby enabling themselves to add players of decent to good quality despite having already spent the theoretical maximum any team could spend on players. In practice, then, the MLE was, to an extent, the most powerful weapon most teams could have – with it, there was less incentive to stay under the cap. However, the 2011 CBA shifted the balance back and provided a far greater incentive to stay under the cap. By introducing the post-cap room MLE and other mechanisms (such as the ability for teams under the salary cap to make amnesty waiver claims, which does not matter anymore but which certainly did to begin with), there was more reason to stay under the cap; concurrent as it was with the rules shortening contract length, and a much-heightened awareness in the internet era of the importance of salary cap management, it was not only preferable to stay under the cap but much more important to do so. Far fewer teams had cap room in years past compared with today – compare the three that had cap room in the summer of 2009 (under the 2005 CBA, where the MLE ruled the day) with the 15 in the summer of 2013 (when the benefits of the new 2011 CBA were ripe for the taking). Simultaneous to that shift in the balance came big revenue spikes in the league, which drove the salary […]

Posted by at 11:32 PM

Given ultimate freedom, Sam Hinkie did half the job
April 15th, 2016

Last week, Philadelphia 76ers general manager and president of basketball operations Sam Hinkie announced his resignation from the team. The move came a few months after the Sixers’ ownership hired long-time NBA executive Jerry Colangelo as chairman, a move that precipitated a reduction in Hinkie’s role and influence and which ultimately led to his departure. Hinkie announced his resignation to the franchise’s owners via a 13-page internal letter, one almost immediately released publicly by ESPN’s Marc Stein. It is a letter well worth reading in full, providing as it does a first-hand insight into the mind of arguably the NBA’s most unique, enigmatic, reclusive and polarising executives. Hinkie’s resignation was a surprise, and the public release of his resignation letter even more so. But the contents of it should not be. That letter is in style, tone and content, a final report from a hedge fund manager to his investors, a management consultant restricting a struggling business, an interim CEO brought in to get the college ready for Ofsted inspectors. Only briefly touching on the basketball side of the operation, the end product is described in terms of asset management and ‘repositioning’ because that is the task with which Hinkie was charged (or at least, the one he chose to take on). The largely triumphant tone of Hinkie’s letter speaks to a job description, real or perceived, that was primarily if not exclusively concerned with taking apart what went before and accumulating as many assets as possible. To that end, Hinkie primarily chooses to evaluate himself on how he did that half of the job. However, that job description is at best only half of the job required of a successful basketball front office. And while Hinkie may not have been brought in to do only half the job, it […]

Posted by at 11:19 PM