As you may be aware, contracts in the NBA are exploding. Mike Conley just signed a deal that will net him more money than Michael Jordan made in his career (speaking in terms of just salary). As the salary cap continues to rise, let’s dive into max contracts in the NBA, and how they are changing the game.
A max contract in the NBA varies based on both years of service and the length of the contract (more service and longer contract length equates to a larger potential maximum). Essentially, the maximum a player can make is around 25% of the salary cap. With the salary cap increasing to nearly $100 million, that explains why we saw Hassan Whiteside get a four year $98 million deal from the Heat.
Keeping max contracts front of mind, if you’re Kevin Durant, why wouldn’t you go to Warriors? Every team in the league with cap space was willing to give Kevin Durant a max contract. Therefore, for Durant, it seems the primary factor in his decision calculus was winning… and the league has set up a system that pushes (or at least enables) superstars to join each other and create these “Super Teams”. We have now seen the Warriors and Cavaliers in the finals 2 years in a row, and if I was a betting man (which I am), my money’s on seeing them in the finals again in 2017.
As super teams continue to form and evolve, the level of competitive balance in the NBA will continue to recede. I vote we blow up the max contract policy and let teams pay players what they think their market value really is. Exhibit A: Steph Curry. FiveThirtyEight recently published an article claiming Curry will be worth $404 million over the next five years; yet, he will see significantly less than half of that when he signs a deal in 2017. What if a team was permitted to pay him his true worth? Where would we see him suit up then?
Along those lines, I am sure that the 76ers would’ve loved to use $60 million of their maximum cap space to sign Kevin Durant. Instead they are left doing the only thing they can do – hoping they can get the next superstar through the draft.