Understanding NBA Salary Cap: Bi-Annual Exception Explained

Person holding money and calculator

In the world of professional basketball, team owners and general managers often face complex financial decisions regarding player contracts. One such decision is how to best utilize the bi-annual exception within the NBA salary cap system. Understanding this rule can be critical for teams seeking to add talent while remaining under budget constraints.

For example, consider a hypothetical scenario where the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to bolster their bench with an experienced veteran player. With limited funds available due to existing contracts, they may turn to the bi-annual exception as a means of acquiring the necessary talent. However, without a solid understanding of the rules surrounding this provision in the salary cap, they risk overspending or missing out on key players altogether. In order to avoid these pitfalls, it is important for organizations and fans alike to have a clear grasp of what the bi-annual exception entails and how it can be used effectively.

NBA team spending limitations

The NBA is a highly competitive league where teams strive to build the best rosters possible. However, they must adhere to spending limitations set by the salary cap, which ensures that no team has an unfair advantage over another. Failure to comply with these rules could result in penalties and fines for violating the regulations.

One example of how spending limitations affect teams can be seen in the case of the Golden State Warriors during their 2019-2020 season. The team was hit with a hard cap due to their use of sign-and-trade deals involving D’Angelo Russell, limiting their ability to make further roster moves throughout the year .

Teams are given a certain amount of money each year to spend on player salaries, known as the salary cap. This amount varies from year-to-year based on league revenue and other factors. Teams are also allowed exceptions that allow them additional funds beyond what is normally available under specific circumstances.

One such exception is called the bi-annual exception (BAE). The BAE allows teams to exceed their salary cap limit by up to $3.6 million every other year. This exception can only be used once every two years and cannot be combined with any other exceptions or trades.

While this may seem like a small amount compared to some NBA contracts, it can still have significant impacts on team-building strategies, especially for those who operate near or at the salary cap limit . For example:

  • It can provide much-needed depth for contenders without breaking their budget.
  • It allows teams more flexibility when dealing with free agents.
  • It gives players more opportunities for employment than might otherwise exist.
  • It helps promote competitive balance across all NBA franchises.

In summary, complying with NBA spending limitations is critical for maintaining fair competition among teams while promoting financial stability within the league. While there are exceptions like the bi-annual exception that offer some wiggle room for teams, they must be used wisely to avoid penalties and fines.

Bi-Annual exception defined

Having discussed the limitations on team spending, let us now move on to a specific exception that teams can use to sign players despite being over the salary cap. To better understand this concept, consider the hypothetical case of Team A, which has already used up most of its cap space in signing star players for their starting lineup but needs additional support from bench players.

The Bi-Annual Exception (BAE) is a tool available to NBA teams once every two years and allows them to sign one or more free agents whose salaries fall under a certain threshold without exceeding the salary cap. The current BAE amount for 2021-22 season stands at $3.732 million per team.

Teams eligible for BAE must meet certain criteria laid down by the league office; otherwise, they cannot avail themselves of this exception. For instance:

  • Teams above the luxury tax apron are not allowed to use BAE.
  • Teams who have used any portion of their Mid-Level Exception (MLE) will only be able to offer $3.732 million.
  • Only teams with an existing payroll below the “apron” ($143 million in 2021-22) are eligible

To further illustrate how BAE works, take a look at Table 1 below where we compare three different scenarios for a team looking to sign a player worth $5 million:

Scenario Salary Cap Room MLE Available BAE Available
1 $0 No Yes
2 $2m No Yes
3 $9m Yes (up to $9.536m) Not applicable

As seen in Table 1, if Team A had no remaining cap room nor access to MLE but was eligible for using BAE, it could still sign that player by offering him just under $4 million. However, if the team had more cap room or MLE available, it would make sense to use those instead since BAE is a smaller exception.

In summary, Bi-Annual Exception provides teams with limited options of adding talent to their roster while remaining within the confines of salary-cap rules. Its availability every two years makes it an attractive option for contending teams looking for affordable bench players.

The next section will delve into eligibility criteria for Bi-Annual Exception and how they impact its usage by various NBA franchises.

Eligibility criteria for Bi-Annual exception

As defined in the previous section, Bi-Annual Exception is a tool used by NBA teams to sign players for up to two years. Let’s consider an example of how this exception can be utilized.

Assume that team X has already exceeded its salary cap and wants to sign a player for a contract worth $4 million per year. Since the team has already exhausted its Mid-Level Exception, it can use the Bi-Annual Exception as an alternative option to acquire the player.

To be eligible for Bi-Annual Exception, certain criteria must be met by both the team and the player they wish to sign. These include:

  • The team should have paid luxury tax during either of the past two seasons.
  • The contract offered cannot exceed two years in length.
  • The starting salary of the contract should not exceed $3.6 million (2020-21 season).
  • A player who was signed using Bi-Annual Exception cannot be traded until after December 15th.

Using Bi-Annual Exception comes with both benefits and limitations. Here are some pros and cons associated with utilizing this exception:


  • Provides additional flexibility when signing players
  • Can help teams stay competitive without exceeding their budget


  • Limited amount available each season
  • Some players may decline offers due to short-term contracts

Teams do not always utilize Bi-Annual Exceptions, but those who do must make sure they adhere strictly to all eligibility requirements mandated by league regulations.

Below is a table showing examples of players signed under Bi-Annual Exception over recent seasons:

Player Team Year Signed Contract Value
Kyle Korver Milwaukee Bucks 2019-20 $5 Million
Reggie Bullock New York Knicks 2019-20 $4 Million
Damyean Dotson Cleveland Cavaliers 2020-21 $4 Million
Avery Bradley Miami Heat 2020-21 $3.6 Million

It is important to note that the Bi-Annual Exception amount has been adjusted over time due to inflation and other factors. As of the 2020-21 season, it stands at $3.6 million.

In conclusion, understanding how Bi-Annual Exception works can provide valuable insight into NBA team management strategies. Next, we will discuss the maximum value of Bi-Annual exception permitted by league regulations.

Maximum value of Bi-Annual exception

As mentioned earlier, the Bi-Annual Exception is available to teams that are over the salary cap. However, not all teams qualify for this exception. To be eligible for the bi-annual exception, a team must meet certain criteria.

Firstly, a team cannot have used the bi-annual exception in either of the previous two seasons. This rule ensures that the league’s top teams do not use it as a loophole to circumvent their luxury tax obligations year after year.

Secondly, any team using the bi-annual exception can only sign players to contracts worth up to $3.6 million per season and no more than two years in length. This provision prevents smaller-market teams from being outbid by larger-market franchises with deeper pockets.

Thirdly, if a team uses its full mid-level exception (MLE), it becomes ineligible to use the bi-annual exception during that same season. The MLE is usually considered superior because it allows teams to offer longer contracts and higher salaries than what’s permitted under the bi-annual exception.

Finally, a team cannot use both exceptions simultaneously. In other words, they must choose between offering one player an MLE contract or splitting it into multiple smaller deals using the bi-annual exception.

In practice, these eligibility criteria mean that many NBA teams never get to use their bi-annual exceptions. For example, let’s consider last season’s championship-winning Milwaukee Bucks who were already well above the luxury tax threshold before signing Jrue Holiday via trade.

Despite having access to several exceptions including their MLE and disabled player exceptions (DPE), they opted not to use their bi-annual exception at all due to financial constraints imposed by ownership.

In conclusion,{transition} while every NBA franchise would love to have unlimited resources at its disposal when building a championship roster, salary-cap restrictions force even wealthy owners and big-spending general managers to make tough decisions about where to allocate their resources most effectively. The bi-annual exception is just one tool in the salary-cap toolbox, but it can help teams add much-needed depth and talent without breaking the bank or violating league rules.

Next, let’s explore some scenarios where a team might opt to use its bi-annual exception rather than other available options.

Bi-Annual exception usage scenarios

As previously mentioned, the bi-annual exception is a tool that allows NBA teams to sign players in certain circumstances. However, it’s important to understand how this exception affects team salary cap and its usage scenarios.

For instance, let us consider the hypothetical scenario of Team A. They have already used their mid-level exception but still need to strengthen their bench with a veteran player. In such a situation, they can use the bi-annual exception to sign a player for up to two years without affecting their salary cap significantly.

But when utilizing the bi-annual exception, there are some limitations that teams should keep in mind:

  • The maximum value of the contract offered cannot exceed $3.7 million per year.
  • This exception can only be used once every two seasons by teams over the luxury tax threshold.
  • Teams under the salary cap or those who have not utilized this exemption during the previous season can use it without any restrictions.

To further illustrate these limitations and provide clarity on how much relief this tool offers for teams, we present below a table showcasing different situations where the bi-annual exceptions come into play:

Scenario Salary Cap Situation Bi-Annual Exception Value
1. Over Luxury Tax Threshold; Used MLE Last Season Hard Capped at Tax Apron ($138M); $3.6M
2. Under Salary Cap Last Season; Over Salary Cap Now Can Use BAE Without Restrictions; $3.7M
3. Did Not Use BAE Last Season; Over Salary Cap Now Can Use BAE Without Restrictions; $3.7M
4. Used BAE Last Season; Over Salary Cap Now Cannot Use BAE

From this table, we see that while helpful in certain situations, teams must carefully plan when using bi-annual exceptions as it can lead them to hit hard caps, limiting their ability to sign new players.

In conclusion, the bi-annual exception can be a valuable tool for NBA teams looking to strengthen their rosters while staying cap compliant. However, as with any financial decision in sports management, careful planning and consideration of salary cap implications are essential when utilizing this exemption.

The next section will delve into the impact of bi-annual exceptions on team salary caps and how it affects future roster decisions.

Impact of Bi-Annual exception on team salary cap

In the previous section, we discussed various scenarios where NBA teams can use the Bi-Annual Exception. Let us now delve deeper into how the usage of this exception impacts a team’s salary cap.

One example of utilizing the Bi-Annual Exception is when the Miami Heat used it during the 2020 offseason to sign veteran forward Maurice Harkless to a one-year deal worth $3.6 million. This allowed them to add depth to their roster without exceeding their hard cap limit.

However, it is important to note that there are limitations to using this exception. Here are some key points to consider:

  • The exception can only be used once every two years.
  • Teams cannot use this exception if they have already used any part of their Mid-Level Exception or Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception in that same season.
  • The maximum length of a contract signed with the Bi-Annual Exception is two years.
  • The total amount of money offered through this exception cannot exceed $3.9 million for the first year of the contract.

To better understand how teams utilize this exception, let us take a look at an illustrative table showcasing its usage by all 30 NBA teams over the past five seasons.

Team Year Player Signed Contract Value
LAL 2017 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope $18M/1yr
BOS 2018 Brad Wanamaker $2.4M/1yr
MIA 2019 Dion Waiters $12M/2yrs
GSW 2020 Brad Wanamaker $2.25M/1yr
CHI 2021 Javonte Green $3.5M/2yrs

As seen from the table, teams use this exception sparingly and often for smaller contracts. The largest contract signed using this exception was by Dion Waiters in 2019, worth $12 million over two years.

To summarize, the Bi-Annual Exception is a tool that NBA teams can use to add depth to their roster without exceeding their hard cap limit. However, there are restrictions on its usage which must be considered beforehand. It is generally used for smaller contracts and only once every two years.

Incorporating into our analysis provides us with valuable insights on how teams make financial decisions when utilizing exceptions like these.