According to an official memo, as reported by SI.com and found via Rob Mahoney, the new CBA will use either NBA starts or minutes played to determine the rookie qualifying offer given to certain players:
- Any first round draftee who hits one of two benchmarks — either 41 games started [edit: word omitted at first posting] per season or 2000 minutes played per season — in the two seasons preceding the qualifying offer will now receive the amount that goes to players taken with the 9th pick.
- Players drafted in the second round (or who remain undrafted) who meet these criteria will now receive the qualifying amount that goes out to players taken with the 21st pick.
- Any top 14 pick who doesn’t meet these new requirements will now receive the qualifying amount that goes out to players taken with the 15th pick.
The new CBA’s strange rookie qualifying offer mechanics could lead to some interesting shenanigans involving playing time and starts. It’s very easy to imagine scenarios in which coaches and management decide to withhold minutes or starts to young players in order to secure a cheaper qualifying offer. For example, what if a player is a few starts short of the threshold with only a few games to go in the season? Why wouldn’t the team prevent the player from starting in order to save a few bucks?
And in some cases, this could be more than just a few bucks. For the 2011-12 season, the 1st pick (who happens to be Kyrie Irving) would stand to lose about $4.7 million if he didn’t meet the benchmarks. Likewise, the 30th pick (who happens to be Jimmy Butler) would stand to gain about $937 000. A 2011-12 second round pick (or undrafted player) stands to make at most around $2.8 million if he meets the benchmarks.
These new rules were clearly instituted into the new CBA in order to appease NBA players, who have been upset with the NBA rookie scale contracts that massively underpay the most productive rookies. The players would like the chance to increase their pay given better performance. Of course, like the All-Star and All-NBA team provisions, these rules won’t apply to very many players, and in fact the scenario that is most likely to occur is the demotion of draftees taken in the top 15 picks. For example, five members of the 2007 draft class — Yi Jianlian, Brandon Wright, Acie Law, Julian Wright, and Al Thornton — would have been demoted under the new system. But the new rules would only benefit five players — Jared Dudley, Wilson Chandler, Aaron Brooks, Aaron Afflalo, and Marc Gasol (a second round pick) — and NBA teams would gain more from the demotions than the players would gain from hitting the benchmarks.
Keep your eyes peeled over the next couple of seasons to see how this one turns out. It could turn out that this rule will help make sure that coaches play players for reasons unrelated to performance. Of course this is nothing new, but this CBA we have it in writing.