Josh Childress' defection to Greece and the return of ex-Raptors Jorge Garbajosa and Carlos Delfino to Europe have a lot of people concerned that bigger stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James might follow suit. Theoretically, some super-rich owner of foreign team in a league with no salary cap might make a ridiculous offer to an NBA superstar and lure him away from the best basketball league in the world.
As NBA commissioner, I would try to work in a "franchise tag" into the next Collective Bargaining Agreement when the current one expires after the 2010-11 season. This tag would enable every NBA team to name one player on its roster who could earn a salary greater than the established cap which applies to every other player in the league. This player's salary would not count against the team's salary cap and would not be used in luxury tax calculations.
The "franchise player salary" would naturally have its own set of rules. For the main points, let's say that a franchise-tagged player must have played in the NBA for at least the previous four consecutive seasons and his annual salary can't exceed $25 million US — which is more than $5 million more than a player with 10 or more seasons of NBA experience can make in the first season of a contract under the current agreement.
While every team would have the ability to apply this tag to its best player, there would probably only be around 10-15 players in the league at one time who would actually merit this level of compensation — so I would be surprised if more than half the teams in the league actually used this new rule in a given season. And super-rich NBA owners couldn't stack their rosters by signing multiple franchise players over different seasons because no team would be allowed to have more than one "franchise contract" on their books at any one time.
There will undoubtedly be some owners who will oppose this rule because their small market status supposedly prevents them from being able to afford this kind of contract. As far as I'm concerned, if you don't have the financial wherewithal to spend an extra $25 million per season for the kind of player who can elevate your team to legitimate championship contention, you aren't rich enough to be owning a professional NBA team. Would MLSE be willing to fork out that kind of dough to, say, keep Chris Bosh
in the fold? That's another discussion altogether — and that discussion would have to include the question of whether or not Bosh
is a true franchise player.
The NBA is a league of stars and I think this rule would be a step towards keeping those stars on this side of the ocean. It's not without its downside, but have you got a better idea? Of course you do — so let's hear it.