WITH THE National Basketball Association reportedly pulling in $4.8 billion in revenue last season, it has never been more financially secure. Late Wednesday night, the league and its players eliminated the only thing that could derail the money train by tentatively agreeing on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Once both sides ratify the deal, the NBA reportedly will have labor peace for the next seven years.
While neither side has officially acknowledge any terms, some of the ones being reported could have huge implications for the Sixers' rebuilding plan and their long-term ability to keep rookie cornerstones Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Both involve changes in the length of contracts, and one could come into play for the Sixers as early as next October when they have to sign Embiid to a long-term extension or risk him becoming a restricted free agent.
Embiid missed his first two seasons due to injury, but they still burned off his rookie contract.
If "The Process" continues on his current path and shows he can stay healthy, he'll likely be up for a five-year deal for maximum money.
Under the old bargaining agreement, teams could only designate one player with so little NBA tenure to be eligible for a five-year extension. The new CBA reportedly will allow teams to designate two young players for five-year deals.
Under the old rule, the Sixers could have been put in a position to pick between Embiid and Simmons for the more lucrative five-year deal, guaranteeing the other would be hissed off and feel disrespected.
Former Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love was so upset management picked Ricky Rubio instead of him for the five-year deal that he refused to sign a four-year deal. Love used the system to ultimately force Minnesota to trade him or lose him to unrestricted free agency, getting nothing in return.
The new feature is dubbed the "Kevin Love Rule."
The Sixers, if they elect to, will be able to avoid bruising either Embiid's or Simmons' pride by offering both five-year deals for the maximum when the times come. If either chooses to leave Philadelphia, it won't be because of money, unless the Sixers make a low-ball offer.
The other big change in the new agreement will give the Sixers a better chance to hold on to the stars they develop for the long haul. Teams reportedly will be able to designate veteran players for extension for as long as six years. That could help to ensure that Embiid and Simmons spend the bulk of their prime years in South Philadelphia.
Again, no details have been officially announced, but the reports are that designated veterans could be offered a maximum deal (35 percent of the salary cap) even if his team does not have enough cap space. The caveat is that in that circumstance, the designated player will have to have achieved a special status like being an MVP, All-NBA selection or maybe an All-Star.
The goal of the longer extensions is to help teams in less glamorous markets keep their superstar player by offering substantially more guaranteed money.
Currently, teams have been able to offer their own free agents more guaranteed money with 5-year-deals while other teams can offer four.
That, however, did not stop stars like LeBron James, Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Durant from leaving their first teams for less money.
With a six-year extension in play, a superstar player is going to have to really, really, really hate their situations to leave.
The additional money would be extraordinary if it is a six-year offer at the maximum. The difference between a four- and five-year max is around $20 to $25 million depending on veteran status.
That's a lot of extra scratch, but depending on the player's previous earnings, he might take that hit to chase an agenda other than the biggest paycheck. Durant just did that moving from Oklahoma City to Golden State.
Adding that sixth year, however, would boost the money left on the table to around $50 million or more.
That's an entirely different level of financial sacrifice.
Eventually, Embiid and Simmons, if they reach superstar status, will be in a position to do what Durant did. If the Sixers are still primarily in a losing mode at that time, Philadelphia will look a lot sunnier if ownership can offer $50 million additional green reasons to stick with the program.
This could be a game-changer for free agency. It could keep virtually all super-elite talent from deciding to enter the market.
Ironically, the new clauses suddenly give more importance to the tanking strategy of former Sixers president/general manager Sam Hinkie. At the time, Hinkie did not know how the new CBA would shake out and he certainly was running a different endgame, but he has, nevertheless, put the Sixers in a better position to have success with rebuilding in a newly altered NBA.
If this new policy has the desired results, acquiring a transcendent player via free agency will be nearly impossible.
And since teams aren't inclined to trade superstars, the draft becomes even more significant in trying to get one.
Mostly due to Hinkie's deals, the Sixers have seven first-round picks through the 2020 draft, with the majority to still fall in the lottery. The system has adjusted to where drafting the right players and having better ability to retain them will steer the Sixers even more on the right course.
In hindsight, if this designated player thing is real, now might actually be a legitimate time to say "Thank you, Sam Hinkie."