What is a Disabled Player Exception in the NBA?


NBA teams occasionally receive a Disabled Player Exception. What is is, and when do teams receive it?

Sometimes, when an NBA team loses a player due to injury for an entire season or extended period of time, the league may offer them a spending allowance to find a replacement player. This allowance is referred to as a salary cap exception. To gain more flexibility in spending, the team can apply for the disabled player exception.

According to a report by Shams Charania from The Athletic, the Chicago Bulls have requested a disabled player exception due to Lonzo Ball’s anticipated absence for the entire 2023-24 season. But how does this exception benefit the Bulls and other teams dealing with injuries?

What is a disabled player exception in the NBA?

If a player is out for an extended period of time, the disabled player exception permits their team to find a replacement.

It’s important to note that this differs from the salary relief a team gets if a player is injured and has to retire. With the disabled player exception, the injured player’s salary remains on the team’s salary cap, which could lead to luxury tax or apron problems. However, if the player is medically retired, their salary is removed from the team’s records for CBA rule purposes.

Due to Ball’s expected absence in the 2023-24 season, the Bulls have a good chance of receiving an exception allowing them to add up to $10.2 million of salary on an expiring contract as long as they stay under the $172 million hard cap.

The disabled player exception has been granted to several players recently, such as Chet Holmgren of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons, who suffered injuries that caused them to miss the entire season.

The Thunder received a $4.95 million exception for Holmgren and later used it in a trade to take on Maurice Harkless’ salary. In comparison, the Pistons were granted a $5.276 million exception for Cunningham’s season-ending stress fracture in his shin.

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