The NBA is essentially an 11-month sport at this point, with only a (very) brief hiatus in transactions and/or game action occurring in August. In 2017, though, that wasn’t even the case, with the high-profile nature of the Kyrie Irving trade (and preceding rumor mill) that captivated the league during the once-annual down time. With that (and the league’s growing popularity) in mind, it may not make sense to tweak much of anything surrounding the NBA calendar, but the Houston Rockets and others are reportedly looking to potentially do just that.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe caught up with the Rockets about a proposal that executive vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas recently presented during a league-wide meeting. In short, the league’s calendar would flip to the point where free agency would take place before the NBA Draft began, presenting significant changes in the way that all 30 teams operate during the offseason.
As with anything, there are valid arguments on all sides, and Lowe notes that those in favor of the change insist “that conducting free agency first would allow teams to use cap space more efficiently — and increase trade activity at the draft.” Rosas was even quoted as saying that “teams are paralyzed” in the current set-up, particularly if they are looking to open up considerable salary cap space in pursuit of a free agent that may not be likely to ever end up in that specific location.
On the flip side, there is the “don’t mess with a great thing” angle and, of course, the notion that the league’s savvier teams are rewarded, at least theoretically, for planning coherently and taking advantage of the current rules. With anything, there are pitfalls (and Lowe’s piece is absolutely worth a full read for context) but, before getting anywhere, specifics would even have to be ironed out with regard to implementing th new calendar.
In addition to concerns with the league’s overall accounting system and current moratorium, not everyone would want the equivalent of a year-end effort if that came to pass.
It is unclear exactly how Houston’s proposal would unfold. Rosas hopes to build a calendar not so different from today’s version: free agency commencing in late June, the draft around July 10, and the start of summer league perhaps a week after that. But that would push the NBA’s calendar back by at least a week or 10 days, and some opponents of Houston’s proposal fear an NBA in which urgent business persists well into August, sources say. Everyone needs vacation.
The Rockets have addressed that by building in a two-week window stretching from August into September in which all transactions would be banned — a new moratorium.
It is easy to be satisfied with the present-day alignment of the league’s calendar and it already creates a festival atmosphere from the end of the NBA Finals until the end of free agency and/or Summer League. Still, keeping an open mind on change is probably a good idea and the Rockets certainly wouldn’t be alone in advocating for a tweak that would flip the draft and free agency, even if not immediately.