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The simple solution to the NBA's free agency moratorium problem

Auditing a multi-billion dollar business takes time, which is why there are eight days between the start of free agency and when players sign. Why not give the accountants an earlier window to get their work done?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

DeAndre Jordan just ruined the Mavericks because of the NBA free agency moratorium period. Player contracts for free agents expire on June 30 by default. (Some team options and non-guaranteed deals set other dates under which players are technically out of their contract, but the standard is that the majority of players are under contract until June 30.) That means other teams cannot negotiate with those players until 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1, when they are officially free. Doing so beforehand is considered tampering, which is in itself almost impossible for the NBA to enforce.

The moratorium period is in place so the NBA can audit its finances, project next season's revenue and set salary cap levels. Those salary cap levels then determine official numbers for items like the luxury tax threshold, various maximum player salaries, the minimum team salary, the mid-level exceptions and so on. These are very important numbers! Since complex financial accounting takes time, the moratorium lasts until July 9. Beginning at midnight on July 9, contracts for the 2015-16 season can officially be signed.

But since players are officially free as of midnight on July 1, deals are negotiated during the moratorium period without fear of tampering. Team officials are actually barred from openly discussing said deals -- Mark Cuban was fined for congratulating himself on landing Jordan and Wesley Matthews -- but there are no limits on private negotiations or leaks. That's why almost all of the top 75 free agents already had verbal deals in place before the moratorium period ended. In the mad rush for teams to land players and players to grab money, just about everything wrapped up before anyone could officially sign.

But because Jordan waffled on his verbal decision, the NBA is under pressure to change the moratorium rules. Some have suggested disallowing free agent negotiations until July 9. This would be impossible, basically, without changing the uniform player contract, which can't happen until there's a new collective bargaining agreement. It'd also create a massive new mess of tampering enforcement, especially considering that early July is prime NBA player vacation time. Are you going to keep Chris Paul and LeBron from riding banana boats and clinking wine glasses just to prevent another DeAndre? Players aren't going to like that, and the NBA really doesn't need to get more mall cop about tampering.

The smart Ken Berger and Zach Lowe each suggested shrinking the moratorium to four or five days, which could dampen the effect of DeAndrean flip-flops. That sounds like a nice, sane solution on paper ... for everyone except the accountants, who must already be under incredible pressure to close the books in nine flipping days. Auditing a $5 billion enterprise is not a particularly simple task. Trying to condense that into four or five days is going to lead to immense heartburn and potentially bad projections.

There is a pretty straightforward fix, though: Move up the end of the fiscal year to earlier in June!

There is no law that requires the fiscal year to end on June 30. Different companies have different fiscal year-end dates. Pick a date sure to fall at least two days after the end of the NBA Finals. Like, say, June 21.

The only revenue-generating event that happens between the Finals and June 30 is the draft, and if we want to be technical, the draft is an event more closely tied to the subsequent season, not the preceding one. Leave the contract expiration date as June 30 on the uniform player contract, allow players and teams to sign contracts and make trades at the stroke of midnight on July 1 and get out of the way.

This might also require changes to the collective bargaining agreement, but it would allow the accountants and auditors their full nine-day period to get the projections right and it would substantially reduce the window for tampering. It would allow NBA players to talk to each other openly in early July and it would prevent future DeAndre situations.

Accounting, auditing and the business end of a corporation like the NBA is complicated, but on paper, this seems like the most reasonable and simplest solution.