This page covers some of the CBA’s miscellaneous, but important, topics. Waivers, the G league, roster sizes, the anti-drug program, and discipline are each discussed below.
Before any team can terminate a player’s contract, it must first follow the league’s waiver procedures. The waiver procedures are covered by the player’s uniform player contract (and include excerpts from the league’s Constitution and By-Laws). If no team claims a player off of waivers, then that player’s contract is terminated. The only obligation that survives that termination would be to pay any compensation protection (if any) included in the player’s contract.
Once a team notifies the league that it wants to waive a player, the rest of the league’s teams have 48 hours to “claim” that player. If more than one team submits a claim for the player, the team with the lowest team standing at the time of the waiver takes priority over any competing team. The team with the priority claim (or, if only one team submits a claim, that team) will then acquire the player’s contract.
A team cannot trade (or sell) a player that it claimed off of waivers for 30 days. If the team claimed the player during the off-season, that 30-day period starts on the first day of the next regular season.
Any player (including a two-way player) that is waived after March 1 of a season is generally not eligible to participate in the playoffs.
The G league is the NBA’s official minor league development program. Established for the 2001-02 season, it used to be called the NBA Developmental League or the D-League; now Gatorade is the presenting sponsor, hence the title change. For the 2018-19 season, there were 27 teams participating in the G league, each one affiliated with an individual NBA team. G league team rosters are largely filled by players under contract in this league. But two types of NBA players can also participate:
First, two-way players, the new player type created by the current CBA where the player spends the majority of the season in the G league, and can only join his NBA team for up to 45 days, and
Second, any NBA player with 3 years of service or less can be assigned to the G league at any time, and any NBA player with 4 years of service or more can be assigned to his team’s G league affiliate with his consent. While there are no limits on the number of times an NBA player can be assigned, the player will still receive his NBA salary and be included on his team’s inactive list while serving in the G league.
G league experience is impacting the makeup of NBA rosters. For the 2018-19 season:
272 of the 526 players (52%) on end-of-regular-season rosters had G league experience (up from 40% at the beginning of the season).
All 30 NBA teams finished the season with at least 5 G league veterans on their roster, with a record 10 teams featuring 10 or more.
105 NBA players were assigned to the G league for rehab or development 482 times.
37 players selected in the 2018 NBA draft played in the G league, including 12 first-round picks.
PLAYER LISTS AND ROSTERS
There are effectively 450 regular roster spots across the NBA’s 30 teams, and 60 two-way roster spots. A team’s roster spots can only be filled by players under contract to that team (the NBA’s Constitution and By-Laws specifically prohibits the use of loaned players). With limited exceptions, teams are required to have 14 players on their rosters (not including two-way players). Teams cannot have more than 2 two-way players under contract.
No team can participate in any exhibition or regular season game if it has less than 8 players dressed and eligible.
That number is increased to 9 players for a playoff game.
Once under contract and on a team’s roster, players can be listed on (1) the Active List, (2) the Inactive List, (3) the Two-Way List, (4) the Suspended List, (5) the NBA Draft List, (6) the Voluntarily Retired List, and (7) the Armed Services List.
Active List — The active list is the list of players under contract to a team that are eligible to play in a game. Only players named on the active list can play. Normally, each team’s active list consists of 12 or 13 players, but in the off-season it can have up to 20 players.
Inactive List — The inactive list is the list of players under contract to a team that are ineligible to play in a game. A team with 12 players on its active list must normally carry 2 players on its inactive list. A team with 13 players on its active list must generally carry at least 1 player on its inactive list. Any player on a team’s inactive list at the end of a season is rolled over to the team’s active list.
Two-Way List — The two-way list is the list of players that have signed two-way contracts and are eligible to play for a G league team. While serving in the NBA, a two-way player must be listed on his team’s active or inactive list. While serving in the G league (or just not otherwise serving in the NBA), a two-way player must be listed on his team’s two-way list. The two-way list only exists between the first day of the regular season and the team’s last game; after the end of the season, the player will be transferred to his NBA team’s active list. For teams that make the playoffs, a two-way player is generally not able to play (but can travel and practice with the team on its inactive list). However, if a team signs or converts that two-way player to a standard NBA contract, then the player is eligible to play in the playoffs.
Suspended List —- Any player on a team’s active or inactive list that is suspended may ultimately be placed on the suspended list. If the player is suspended by the commissioner, he must remain on the team’s active list for at least 5 games. After 5 games, the team can transfer the player to the suspended list and substitute a player in. If the player is suspended by the team, the player must remain on either the active or inactive list for at least 3 games. After 3 games, the team can transfer the player to the suspended list and substitute a player in.
NBA Draft List — These are the players that have been selected in the NBA’s draft and are eligible to be placed on one of the other player lists once signed by the team that drafted them.
Voluntarily Retired List — This list is made up of players that have not completed their current contract but wish to retire. Absent the league’s approval, no player on the voluntarily retired list can play in any game for at least 1 year after being moved to this list. If the player wants to become active again and his current team does not want his services, the right to acquire that player is governed by the waiver procedure (described above).
Armed Services List — This list is limited to players that have entered the military and are serving on active duty. Teams retain their rights to a player that is serving in the military by placing them on the armed services list.
The league maintains an anti-drug program. The program prohibits players from using (1) drugs of abuse (i.e., cocaine), (2) marijuana, (3) steroids, other performance-enhancing drugs, and masking agents (a “SPED”), and (4) diuretics.
Testing — Players must submit to 6 random urine tests during each year (4 during the season and 2 during the off-season). Players must also submit to 3 random blood tests for HGH each year (2 during the season and 1 during the off-season). Players are also subject to testing for reasonable cause. Notably, all off-season tests are limited to SPEDs and diuretics.
Discipline for Positive Tests —
Drug of Abuse — A player that tests positive for a drug of abuse will be dismissed* from the NBA.
Marijuana — A player that tests positive for marijuana will be disciplined as follows: obtain treatment through the anti-drug program for the first violation, a $25,000 fine for the second violation, and a 5-game suspension for the third violation. Additional violations result in a suspension that is 5 games longer than the prior suspension.
SPED — A player that tests positive for a SPED will be disciplined as follows: a 25-game suspension for the first violation, a 55-game suspension for his second violation, and dismissal* from the NBA for the third violation.
Discipline for Convictions or Guilty Pleas —
Drug of Abuse or SPED — A player that is convicted of or pleads guilty to the use, possession, or distribution of (1) a drug of abuse, or (2) a SPED will also be dismissed* from the NBA.
If a player is convicted of or pleads guilty to the use or possession of marijuana, they are subject to the same discipline as they would be for a positive marijuana test (described above).
If a player is convicted of or pleads guilty to the distribution of marijuana, they will also be dismissed* from the NBA.
*“Dismissal and Disqualification from the NBA” — The harshest discipline a player can be subject to under the anti-drug program is dismissal and disqualification from the NBA. When the CBA uses this term, it generally means that the player is unable to play in the league for 2 years (rather than a permanent ban). They can seek reinstatement after this period expires.
The CBA and the NBA’s Constitution and By-Laws cover the league’s disciplinary procedures and the corresponding penalties. For players, some of these issues are addressed in a non-public NBA-issued memo. For non-players (i.e., teams, owners, and their employees), these issues are all covered in the NBA’s Constitution and By-Laws.
Player Discipline —
General Failures and Suspensions — If a player fails to abide by his contract or is properly suspended for less than 20 games, he can be fined up to 1/145th of his base compensation for each game he misses. If a player is properly suspended for 20 or more games, then that fine increases to 1/110th of his base compensation.
Missed Commitments — The CBA imposes a higher fine for missing a promotional appearance or media training appearance ($20,000 fine apiece) than a practice (first offense, $2,500; second offense, $5,000, and third missed practice in a season, $7,500). In the NBA’s defense, missing an anti-gambling training session also costs a player $20,000.
Violent Crimes -- If a player is guilty of a violent felony, he must be suspended for at least 10 games (and also must attend counseling sessions).
Game-Related Conduct — The specific rules governing player “conduct on the playing court” (which really means conduct within the arena as a whole before, during, and after a game) are in an NBA-issued memo that is not publicly available. However, the players did agree in the CBA to be subject to the NBA’s Constitution and By-Laws’ specific article about player discipline. That article allows for this discipline:
Game Fixing & Gambling — Any player that is found, after a hearing led by the commissioner, to have agreed or tried to cause a game to “result otherwise than on its merits” (i.e., fixing a game) will be permanently banned from the NBA. If a player is found to have gambled on a game, the commissioner can fine, suspend, permanently ban him, or a combination of these penalties.
Prejudicial Acts — Any player that, in the commissioner’s opinion, has committed an act “prejudicial to or against the best interests” of basketball or the NBA can be fined $50,000, temporarily suspended, or both. If that conduct rises to the level of (i) being “prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests” of basketball or the NBA, (ii) immoral or violating fair play, or (iii) breaking the law, then the player can be fined $50,000, suspended indefinitely or temporarily, or both.
Tampering — Any player that, in the commissioner’s opinion, has tried to persuade another player, coach, or other employee of a team to leave that team can be fined $50,000, suspended indefinitely or temporarily, or both.
One Penalty — While a player can be disciplined by his team or the NBA, he can only be disciplined once. Any discipline set by the NBA supersedes the actions the team already took or could take. If the NBA lets a team’s discipline stand, then the NBA can no longer discipline the player for the same incident.
Discipline for Teams, Owners, and their Employees —
Game Fixing & Gambling — The consequences for game fixing and gambling on games is the same for non-players as it is for players, but the action a non-player is prohibited from taking is much broader (for example, non-players can be more easily punished if they share confidential information about the league with a third party where they should know that third party is going to use it to bet on a game).
Prejudicial Acts — Any non-player that has committed an act that has an effect “prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball” or the NBA can be fined $1 million. For conduct that is “prejudicial or detrimental” specifically to the NBA, then the non-player can be fined, suspended indefinitely or temporarily, or both.
Tampering — Any non-player that is found, after a hearing conducted by the commissioner, to have tried to persuade a player, coach, or other employee of a team to leave that team can be subject to the following penalties: (i) the non-player can be suspended indefinitely or temporarily, (ii) the non-player’s team can be prohibited from hiring the person who was tampered with for a permanent or temporary period of time; (iii) the non-player’s team can forfeit draft picks or have those picks transferred to the aggrieved team; (iv) the non-player’s team can be fined $5 million, or (v) a combination of these penalties.
Drug-Related Offenses — If a non-player is guilty of a crime involving the use, possession, or distribution of heroin, cocaine, or any other drug that a player could be “dismissed and disqualified” from the NBA under the then-current anti-drug program, then that non-player is subject to the same two-year dismissal and potential reinstatement rules that a player is subject to.
Other Discipline — Where the NBA’s Constitution and By-Laws has a rule that does not have a specific corresponding penalty, the commissioner may impose a fine, suspension, forfeiture of draft rights, or a combination of these penalties. However, no fine can exceed $2.5 million. (And it is this rule that limited Adam Silver’s fine of the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, to just $2.5 million; the league’s discipline of Sterling is what lead to the Constitution and By-Laws becoming public.)