How does the NBA salary cap work? All the details explained

How does the NBA salary cap work? All the details explained

Lenah Ann

American professional sports leagues feature a salary cap that helps make the leagues more competitive, and the National Basketball Association is no exception. Fans have time and again taken to social media, inquiring about how the NBA salary cap work has influenced the entire league over the past decades.

How does the NBA salary cap work?
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots over Ivica Zubac of the LA Clippers during the second half of a game at Fiserv Forum on 2 February 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo: Stacy Revere
Source: Getty Images

This salary cap is unique compared to the other American sports leagues. It has a soft instead of a hard cap, which makes it possible to have some exceptions that allow it to go over it. Have a peek into this article to find out more information on how the NBA salary cap works.

How does the NBA salary cap work?

The National Basketball Association, unlike the other American tournaments, has a soft cap which allows teams to exceed the agreed amount to sign and pay players. Consequently, these teams surround themselves with more talent and retain their stars.

However, the cap also prevents teams from spending as much money as they want to form formidable all-star teams to dominate the league with ease.

During the Collective Bargaining Agreements between the NBA and the Players Association, the salary cap was set based on the amount of revenue that the league generates in a particular season.

Does the NBA have salary caps?

Does the NBA have salary caps?
Mason Plumlee gains control of a loose ball in the second half in front of Zach Lavine and Nikola Vucevic on 2 February 2023 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Jamie Sabau
Source: Getty Images

Like any other American professional sports league, it has a salary cap. The 2022/2023 season had an estimated cap of $123.6 million, with a tax level of $150.2 million. On the other hand, the 2023/2024 season salary cap is yet to rise to $134 million with a tax level of about $162 million.

How does a salary cap work in the NBA?

Since it is determined based on the leagues’ revenue, it works by regulating the amount of money allowed to be spent on players without any exceptions. Teams below the line can spend freely or trade markets until it reaches the line.

While those above the line pay luxurious taxes to the league and can only add salary through exceptions.

How is the NBA salary cap determined?

It is determined by a percentage of “basketball-related income” in each season. That said, it is basically a summation of the total revenue the league takes yearly. Players are then given 44.74 percent as a foundation of the cap.

The athletes must receive at least a designated percentage of the total basketball-related income, and the teams can exceed the cap limit through exceptions.

How does a salary cap work in the NBA?
Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers shoots the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on 2 February 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo: Andy Lyons
Source: Getty Images

What is the NBA's salary cap?

It is the limit of money every basketball team is allowed to spend on their players’ salaries. The Collective Bargaining Agreement determines the limit with the consent of both the owners and the athletes' association.

The CBA also determines the minimum and maximum salaries based on the leagues’ experience. Rookies receive a minimum amount, while veterans the maximum.

When was the salary cap introduced in the NBA?

It was introduced in the mid 1940s, cancelled after a season, but later reapplied during the 1984/85 season when the limit was $3.6 million. It was put in place to equalise teams with different economic opportunities.

Consequently, it prevented loaded clubs from acquiring all the best players and gave a fair chance to low-budget rosters who cannot purchase top players. For instance, in the 2020/2021 season, the cap was set at $109.1 million with the luxury tax threshold being at $132.6 million.

In the 2022/2023 season, it rose to $123.6 million, $11.6 million more than the previous season. In the 2023/2024 season, it is alleged to rise to over $133 million.

How is the NBA salary cap determined?
Jimmy Butler steals the ball away from Julius Randle during their game at Madison Square Garden on 2 February 2023 in New York City. Photo: Al Bello
Source: Getty Images

Is the salary cap necessary?

There are different opinions when it comes to the necessity of the cap in different leagues. In basketball, it is crucial to ensure fair competitions. Food for thought! If the wealthiest teams could sign any player they want, then how would other less fortunate clubs compete?

There are other top leagues in the world, such as the English Premier League, that operate without the cap, and it is evident in their structure. This explains why the richest teams in the league have been top tier since its reformation in 1992.

What happens if a team goes over the NBA salary cap?

A team that goes over the NBA cap has to pay the luxury tax, determined by a complicated formula. The formula forces the team to pay a bracket-based amount for every dollar that a player’s payroll exceeds the tax level.

The tax revenue is later distributed equally among non-tax paying teams in the league, and this is why small team owners refuse to go above the cap. Going over to the top creates a domino effect and forces teams to pay higher taxes depending on their total expenditure.

What are NBA salary cap exceptions?

What is the NBA's salary cap?
Giannis Antetokounmpo drives to the basket during the game against the LA Clippers on 2 February 2023 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo: Gary Dineen
Source: Getty Images

There are exceptions that make it possible for teams to get above the particular cap. These exceptions mostly include;

  • The mid-level exception
  • Rookie exception
  • Bi-annual exception
  • Two-way contracts
  • Larry Bird exception
  • 10-day contracts
  • Early-bird exception
  • Traded player exception
  • Non-bird exception
  • Minimum salary exception

How do buyouts impact the salary cap?

Players who agree to a buyout with their teams can be signed by other teams, and the remainder of the contract is paid off by the signing team. In so doing, part of the figure is off their cap and thus the player is allowed to find a new team.

Most NBA veterans sign for a minimum and join contending teams. This is a usual phenomenon when a star is still under contract and in a rebuilding stage, a struggling and younger team.

NBA salary cap as of 2023

How is the NBA salary cap determined?
Ivica Zubac of the LA Clippers during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on 2 February 2023 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo: Gary Dineen
Source: Getty Images

According to the most recent data analysts, in the 2022/23 season, the NBA salary cap is yet to rise to $123.6 million, an increase of $11.6 million over the 2021/22 cap while the 2023/24 season salary cap projection is alleged to be around $133 million to $134 million.

The salary cap has affected every professional sports league in the United States of America since its inception. By now, it is clear how the NBA salary cap operates since it has allowed clubs to compete fairly.

READ ALSO: When does the Hockey World Cup start?

Sports Brief has recently published an article about the Hockey World Cup. Hockey is one of the best sports worldwide and has amassed significant fan bases across social media platforms.

The Hockey World Cup is mostly hosted in the United States of America and Canada. Several teams from all over the world take part in the competition, playing and cheering for their countries. Click on the link above to find more about the anticipated Hockey World Cup.