When the new CBA is ratified by both sides next week, NBA owners will officially run out of excuses. From the moment the lockout started, it was clear they were going to get a system which favored them much more than the previous agreement. The new deal has evened the playing field, to a degree, but it doesn't represent an absolute slam dunk for the owners, what it represents is an opportunity.
There are pieces of the new CBA which will help teams retain their star players. There are pieces which will lessen the damage of signing a player to bad contract, or running into bad luck after committing to a player. There are stiff penalties for spending into the luxury tax, but there's nothing stopping teams from doing it. The MLE is smaller and won't last as long, but there's still nothing stopping teams from handing the Kwame Browns of the world a full MLE deal.
Some owners went into the negotiations looking for full protection from themselves and their questionable general managers. They didn't come out with that. What they came out with a system that will allow them to be profitable unless they're foolish, and will allow them to be competitive if they're smart (and lucky). What they do with that opportunity is entirely up to them from this point forward.
As Sixers fans, the only thing that really matters at this point is how Joshua Harris and the team he's assembled and inherited will use the new tools at their disposal. We won't have to wait long to find out. The amnesty clause is a tool. If the Sixers are interested in maximizing the advantage of it, they won't use it this season at all. Instead, they'll wait to see if using it next summer will allow them to become players in free agency and/or trades.
Restricted free agency and the weakening of the MLE combine to provide another glimpse into whether the Sixers are going to begin operating like a smart franchise. In years past, any team in the league could've signed Thad to an offer sheet worth almost $35M for five years. This season, the full MLE offer will only be 4 years, $21M. A handful of teams can offer Thad significantly more money, but the pool of teams who could overpay for Thad has significantly shrunk, and no other team can offer him more than 4 years. If the Sixers are patient, and let the market set the price for Thad, they could wind up with an absolute bargain. If they decide to ignore the advantages the new CBA has created for them, they'll probably offer Thad a five-year deal worth more than most of the league could have offered him in free agency.
If the Sixers play their cards right, they could wind up with roughly $25M in cap space next summer, the young core of their team in tact with only Andre Iguodala making north of $7M/year on their roster. From that position, the possibilities are endless. If nothing has changed, they'll use the amnesty clause on Nocioni, sign Kwame Brown for 4 years/$21M and extend Thad Young for about 5 years/$45M. They'll be left without the amnesty clause next summer, a bloated payroll and a couple of bad contracts on their books for the foreseeable future.
The new owners have a clean slate, a bevy of new tools at their disposal and one last time, an opportunity to get this franchise firmly on the right path, any path. From the moment the new CBA is in place, every move they make, or don't make, will be an indication of whether things have truly changed. Cross your fingers, Sixers fans.