Your Unofficial Guide to NBA Free Agency Terms

The 2018 NBA Free Agency period begins from July 1st. It will be a whirlwind of player signings, player movements, massive contracts and major decisions which will alter the futures of the players, teams, and the NBA. Before, during and after the Free Agency period, terms like Salary Cap, Bird Rights, Supermax, Restricted Free Agent, Unrestricted Free Agent will circulate the airwaves. If you have ever wondered, what do those terms even mean? This blog is going to answer all your questions.

1. What is Free Agency?

When a player’s existing contract expires and he doesn’t sign an extension with the team, he becomes a Free Agent.

2. What are the types of Free Agents?

Two: restricted and unrestricted.

Usually, restricted free agents are players whose first NBA contract has expired. Their current team can match any opposing team’s offer on the player, ensuring that the player stays with them.

On the other hand, an unrestricted free agent can sign with any team of his choice. This situations happens after his second NBA contract or if the current team renounces their rights of the player. This player is free to sign with any team for any amount of money.

3. What is the Salary Cap?

It is the limit to the total amount of  money that the NBA teams can use to pay their players’ salaries. The salary cap is in place to control costs and maintain parity in the league. This limit is determined as a portion of the NBA’s total revenue from the previous season. The NBA penalizes teams which exceed the salary cap by levying a luxury tax.

4. What are Bird Rights?

Bird rights or the Larry Bird Exception allows a team to exceed the salary cap (without paying any luxury tax) and sign its own free agents, provided that a certain set of criteria are met. It’s named after Larry Bird because in 1983, the Boston Celtics were the first team that the NBA allowed to exceed the salary cap and sign Larry Bird.
To be signed under the Larry Bird Exception, a player must play for the same team for at least three seasons without being waived or changing teams through Free Agency. The team with a player’s Bird Rights can also offer one more year than any other team offering a contract.

5. What is a Supermax?

The absolute best players of the NBA, with an MVP award in one of the past three seasons/ made an All-NBA team or won Defensive Player of the Year in two of the past three seasons; can get a five (or six) years contract at 35 % of the salary cap as the designated player. As long as they stayed with their original team during this time.

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