NBA Free Agency: What is the “moratorium” period?

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Although NBA free agency doesn’t officially start until Friday, August 6th, we will begin to see deals start to leak out on Monday, August 2nd.

“But Bradshaw, how can there be deals made when free agency hasn’t officially started?”

That’s the beauty of the NBA’s moratorium period, reader!

Initially established in 1999, it was intended to give teams an equal chance to go after free agents and come to agreements on contracts.

That’s the key word: agreements.

While most deals can’t be an official until whatever the official start date in free agency is (in this case, August 6th), you will see Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania drop their respective bombs about teams and players agreeing to contracts.

These agreements, naturally, don’t count towards a team’s salary cap or official roster count.

Thus, it also means either side can back out of an agreement.

One of the most famous examples was the DeAndre Jordan fiasco when he backed out of his agreement with the Dallas Mavericks in 2015 and re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers.

It is, in essence, a legal tampering period.

However, you will still see agreements reached right after the 6:00PM ET moratorium start time. So unless there was some very fast phone calls and agreements made, there is still “illegal” tampering. The league just chooses to ignore that!

So if your favourite free agent target gets scooped up before the official August 6th start date, that’s why.

But hey, they could always pull a DeAndre Jordan and back out, so don’t lose hope!

There are some signings or transactions that can still be official during this period, however.

From the NBA’s website:

  • Teams signing their first-round draft picks to standard rookie-scale contracts.
  • Second-round draft picks accepting a required tender, which is a one-year contract offer teams must submit to keep the rights to that player.
  • Restricted free agents can accept qualifying offers from their existing team.
  • A restricted free agent finishing the fourth year of his rookie-scale contract can accept a maximum qualifying offer.
  • A restricted free agent can sign an offer sheet with a new team, which triggers the 2-day period for his original team to match it.
  • Players can be signed to minimum-salary contracts for one or two seasons (but the deals have no bonuses of any kind).
  • Teams can sign players to Two-Way contracts, turn a Two-Way contract into a standard NBA contract or convert certain standard NBA contracts into a Two-Way contract.
  • Teams can waive players or claim players waived by other teams.

Bet you didn’t think the moratorium could be so much fun, huh?

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