The NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement has teams looking for cheaper, alternative ways to construct a roster. In both Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge’s cases, it helped them become professionals.
One of the biggest changes in the new CBA is that in addition to the luxury tax cap, where teams are financially penalized for spending a certain amount over the NBA’s salary cap, there will now be another threshold where teams that spend more than $17.5 million more than the luxury tax limit, will lose some of their roster maneuvers, such as the ability to use certain exceptions to sign players in free agency, the ability to sign players who are bought out of their contracts mid-season and the ability to trade future draft picks.
The Los Angeles Clippers had the league’s highest payroll last season, spending $191,189,304 on its players, more than $65 million over the salary cap, and have historically been content to pay high luxury taxes under the old CBA. But to avoid hitting the second tax bracket when the new CBA takes effect on July 1, the team will have to trade away some of its more expensive players. And with a pair of all-star wings in it Kawhi Leonard and Paul Georgedo the Clippers still need perimeter talent that can help them contend for a championship.
LA’s selection of Brown with the 30th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft was somewhat puzzling at first glance. There were younger players available who might have had more long-term upside than Brown. But in the context, Brown appears to be a good fit for the Clippers.
“I didn’t see it coming. I was actually shocked by it,” said Raphael Barlowescouting director for NBA Big Board. “I thought it was a good move by the Clippers. I thought his age would work against him because he’s 23 now and he’ll be 24 during the season, I think on Jan. 1. But I thought it was a good move. I mean, he was one of the more efficient players in the country, shooting over 53% from the floor, 45% from 3, and the Clippers are in win-now mode. So I think it gives sense to take a guy like Brown over someone who might need some time to develop.”
Brown will make a little more than $2 million in each of the first two seasons of his contract, both of which are guaranteed — extremely cheap compared to the other salaries the Clippers are currently paying. And given the injury history of Leonard and George, the two combining to play in just 350 of a possible 656 regular-season games during their four years in LA, Brown can provide depth at the offensive tackle spot without sacrificing financially flexibility.
“I would probably say I was the only mainstream mock draft that had Kobe Brown projected in the first round,” said Bryan Kalbroskya national NBA staff writer for USA Today/ForTheWin. “I think people are looking for rookie deals now for guys who can play, guys who can step in and play for the next four years on cost-controlled deals … And then I thought Kobe was actually a really smart pickup by them because in a vacuum he’s the 30th most talented player in this draft? sure not. but really he’s someone who can fit a need for the Clippers and come on next season and play well without the ball in his hands and still make an impact as early as next year.”
Another small but significant change to the CBA is that teams will be allowed to carry an extra player on a two-way deal — a contract that allows them to split their time between the NBA and the G League — expanding to three slots instead for just two. The Los Angeles Lakers have had a lot of success lately using two-way deals, finding productive players who have gone undrafted. Austin Reaves, for example, signed a two-way post-2021 draft and was promoted to a standard NBA contract a month later. This year, the 6-foot-5 guard started all 16 of the Lakers’ postseason games, averaging 16.6 points, and was selected to Team USA’s roster for the FIBA World Cup.
Hodge will hope to become the Lakers’ next underrated signee, agreeing to a two-way deal minutes after the 2023 draft ended. After making 40% of his 3-pointers at Mizzou last season, the Lakers will look to him to help make room for their pair of all-star forwards, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
“I just expect when his number is called that he’s going to have to knock down shots,” Barlowe said. “If he can knock down shots, he’s going to earn LeBron’s trust. And you know, if you earn LeBron’s trust, you’re going to see some minutes on the floor. I think he’s got a pretty projectable and easy role to fill. So I think The Lakers got really good value with him.”
“I expect two-way guys to get legitimate playing time next season. I expect them to make an impact on the floor. I expect them to be, you know, playing minutes that matter, especially for a team like the Lakers that will probably hope to contend next year,” Kalbrosky said. “I think guys like D’Moi who can shoot the ball and things like that can really have an impact on the two-way deal because, you know, you’re talking about cost-controlled contracts, the two-way contract is the most valuable contract in the NBA from a cost-per-dollar perspective. And then I think the Lakers got three of the top 20 or 25 undrafted free agents, and D’Moi is probably a top-10, top-15 guy there.
Brown and Hodge will get their first taste of NBA competition when they participate in the Summer League in Las Vegas, Nev., which tips off July 7.