The NHL lost the entire 2004-2005 season due to an owner imposed lockout stemming from the inability to come to terms with a new collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners. Similar to the NBA, the negations started far apart and one of the sticking points was related to a salary cap.
In the end, the owners won out and the salary cap was immediately implemented. This meant that the teams that had payrolls over the newly established salary cap had to work on getting their payrolls under that the limit. Rules were set in place to make the transition seamless but it still resulted in players being bought out or cut from teams that had expensive payrolls.
What if immediate implementation of a hard cap is implemented in the NBA? This would mean that teams would have to renegotiate the current player contracts or outright cut players to get under the cap just like the NHL.
The Lakers currently have the highest team payroll at $91 million dollars which is well above the $58 million dollar salary cap set by the NBA for total team salaries. The Lakers would exceed the salary threshold with the salaries of Kobe, Gasol and Bynum alone.
In order for the Lakers to comply with the terms of the hard cap they will need to attempt to renegotiate the terms of the current players contracts, but with them needing to shed $33 million in salaries they will also lose important players off the roster. You can conceivably see guys like Bynum, Odom, Barnes, Shannon Brown, Fisher and Steve Blake all be cut or bought out and be replaced with less expensive options like rookies or well aged veterans.
Those players that are cut from the Laker roster will then have to find new homes on other teams; with the scarcity of teams with money available they will have to consider teams in cities they might not have initially considered under the previous terms.
Lamar Odom might find himself in Milwaukee.
Andrew Bynum might have to consider Cleveland.
Fisher might have to end his career in Oklahoma City.
In this scenario, the Lakers’ depth has been ravaged and the talent has been evenly dispersed throughout the league creating an NFL type parity league wide.
At this point the Lakers are still championship material with Kobe and Gasol on the roster but their advantages are slight and competition throughout the league has been raised significantly.
A championship or even making the playoffs are no longer a foregone conclusion for the Lakers, but rather become an arguably point of contention.
Next: Long term effects