New CBA death to 'Big 3' model?

Keeping a trio of stars under one roof could be tough under the new system

Updated: July 12, 2012, 8:51 AM ET
By Larry Coon | ESPN Insider

Editor's note: This is the third installment of a weeklong series examining how the "Big 3" model is used in the NBA and its short-term and long-term impact on the league.

The NBA emerged from its 161-day lockout with the promise of a new system in which all 30 teams, if managed well, could turn profits and compete for championships. The league's new collective bargaining agreement and accompanying revenue-sharing system signaled a fundamental shift in the league's economy.

Under the new rules, revenue sharing pulls money from big-market teams and gives it to small-market ones, and teams with big payrolls will get onerous luxury tax bills, the money from which is redistributed to teams that keep their payrolls in check. Taxpaying teams also will have less freedom to operate, with restricted access to many salary-cap mechanisms.

With these changes comes a fundamental re-thinking of the best way to build a franchise. The three-star system, long considered a template for building a winning team, has come under new scrutiny. As teams evaluate the way they do business, their decisions will determine how the balance of power is distributed in the NBA during the next decade.

This shift in thinking is already apparent with the Dallas Mavericks. Fresh off winning the 2010-11 title, the team faced a difficult decision with the impending free agency of Tyson Chandler. The Mavs ultimately decided to let Chandler sign with the New York Knicks for four years and $55.4 million, rather than tie up a similar amount of their own cap dollars. Mavs owner Mark Cuban explained the difficulty of the decision to a packed room at this year's Sloan Sports Analytics conference in Boston.

"Tyson was critical," he said. "I'd say his value was just as strong in the locker room as it was on the court. There was no question his importance to us last year, and that was a key component."

And while Chandler's absence was not the only reason for it, the team went from NBA champion in 2011 to being swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs in 2012.

Larry Coon is the author of the NBA Salary Cap FAQ.