The Rose Rule: Controlling the NBA’s Landscape Eight Years Later

Almost a decade after being implemented into the CBA, the “Rose Rule” is Drastically Affecting Where one of the NBA’s Biggest Stars will Play in the Future

The Collective Bargaining Agreements of many professional sports leagues include quirky rules that often leave fans wondering why they were included in the first place. For the National Basketball Association, the “Rose Rule” is one of these such regulations. Implemented in 2011, the Rose Rule allows any player that is still on his rookie contract to make up to 30 percent of a team’s salary cap (up from the original 25 percent), if that player: has twice been voted an All-Star starter, has twice been voted to one of the three All-NBA teams, or has won an MVP award. This rule was aptly named after Derrick Rose, who, at just 22 years old became the youngest MVP in the history of the NBA. This rule was intended to reward young players of Derrick Rose’s stature and help to convince superstars to stay “at home” with the team that drafted them when it came time for them to enter free agency. For young players that had outperformed the 25 percent Tier 1 max-salary slot of their rookie contracts, this provided an incentive to perform at a high level right away like Rose.

However, the rule hasn’t been without criticism. Many pundits have an issue with the fact that being an All-Star starter factors into whether a player is eligible for the salary kicker. All-Star starters are voted in part by fan voting, and many experts have a problem with fans playing such a major role in determining salary increases. The All-Star Game has turned into somewhat of a popularity contest over the years, and often does not see the best, but rather the most popular players named as All-Star starters. The notion that the most popular instead of the most deserving players may receive the salary increase is somewhat of a stain on the whole process and has turned critics off to the Rose Rule. Another concern about the rule has been the large disparity in accolades that allow the salary increase to take effect. The awards range from MVP, all the way down to Third-Team All-NBA. Not to say that Third-Team All-NBA isn’t a very respectable award in itself, because it is; but it hardly makes sense to make the same salary increase available to a player that earns an MVP award, as you do to a player who is essentially the 15th best player in the league for those two required seasons. Many have argued that the Association should do a much better job of separating the possible incentives for players of different statures, and that is a very hard criticism to dispute.

Despite all of the disparagement, the Rose Rule is still in place in the current CBA and is now playing a major role in the future of one current NBA superstar. On January 28, All-NBA forward Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans informed the organization that he had no intentions on resigning with the team in the offseason, and formally requested a trade. This news did not exactly shock the NBA world, but officially hearing it for the first time from Davis himself has sent franchises scrambling to try and put together a trade offer for the versatile big man ahead of the February 7 trade deadline. There are several teams that are rumored to be gearing up to make a run at Davis, including the: Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, and 76ers, among others. As of right now, the heavy betting favorites to land Davis are the Lakers at -125, and the Celtics at +150.

The past few seasons, both the Lakers and Celtics have amassed an impressive number of young players, full of potential and also coveted by other franchises around the league. For the Lakers, this includes players like: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. For the Celtics, they have added pieces like: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and last season’s addition of the veteran Kyrie Irving. Based on this, the Lakers and Celtics are often at the center of any trade rumors, because they have a stable of young guys that they could trade away. However, in the Anthony Davis Sweepstakes, the Celtics are at a decided advantage, based on their inability to make the deal happen without giving up one particular player.

This is where the Rose Rule presents itself. The obvious goal for the Boston Celtics would be to package together some of these young pieces and trade them in exchange for Anthony Davis, in hopes to pair him with their superstar point guard Kyrie Irving. However, the problem preventing this plan is another stipulation of the Rose Rule, which is that the current CBA forbids teams from having multiple players on the roster that have benefitted from the Rose Rule and are still currently on that contract (a more complex comment to this rule explains that teams can actually have two “Rose Rule” players, but only one can be acquired through trade; and Irving was sent to Boston in a trade in 2017). That makes it very tough for the Celtics to trade for Davis, because it effectively forces them to include Kyrie Irving in any trade package that they would put forth for Davis now, which defeats the original goal of pairing the two of them together. Kyrie Irving’s contract does not end until this coming summer, but the point guard verbally committed to his long-term desire to remain with the Celtics at the start of this season. Obviously, circumstances change and there is still a chance that Irving could change his mind and not want to re-sign this summer, but as long as Irving wants to be a Celtic, the team will not be able to trade for him until this summer without including Irving himself in the deal.

This little-known rule in the CBA is blocking one of the NBA’s biggest markets from trading for one of the game’s brightest stars, and it is heavily affecting the landscape of the NBA. Anthony Davis’s eventual landing spot will send ripple effects throughout the league, and undoubtedly play a role in where other free agents decide to sign this upcoming summer. With the Celtics seemingly out of the way until the summer of 2019, it seems that the time for other opportunistic franchises to strike is right now.

-William Hython

Photo Credit: K.C. Johnson; Chicago Tribune

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