Money, it’s a gas — and the NBA hopes it will keep superstars home, dissuading them from bouncing in free agency and forming superteams. The designated player extension was created to enable certain players to sign five-year contracts worth 35 percent of the cap. This summer, the supermax figure is worth roughly $207 million over five years. One of the prerequisites for that special designation is being named to one of the three All-NBA teams in the season preceding the extension, meaning Thursday afternoon’s All-NBA reveal has significant implications for the league.
Here are the three teams:
All eyes were on Gordon Hayward and Paul George, both of whom will hit free agency over the next two summers. You’ll notice they’ve been omitted. So what does that mean? Here are five takeaways from the All-NBA rosters:
The news is a major blow to Utah’s hopes of re-signing Hayward. The $207 million godfather offer is off the table. The Jazz can still woo Hayward with more money and more years (around $177 million over five years) than anyone else (about $131 million over four years), but the difference isn’t nearly as significant as it could’ve been had he been eligible for the supermax — $30 million over the first four years of the contract, and $77 million total.
Now, with that All-NBA bonus null and void, the first two columns of the chart above are all that’s relevant. There’s only a $5.4 million difference between what Utah and another team can offer over the first four years of the contract. The fifth year of extra security that’s available if he re-signs in Utah is nice, but the salary cap figure could ascend to about $120 million in 2020; Hayward would be eligible to sign the supermax as early as 2020 if he signs a contract with the option to opt out that year (since it’d be his 10th season).
If Hayward is still a max-contract-caliber player by that point, he’d be set to earn more by re-upping his contract earlier rather than later. The fourth and fifth years of his five-year max with Utah this summer would be rendered meaningless.
Here’s how Hayward’s contract could look over the next eight years by re-signing in Utah this summer and then signing a five-year max in 2020, versus signing elsewhere and then signing a five-year max in 2020.
Gulp. These numbers should terrify Utah. There is no measurable advantage to the five-year deal it can offer this summer. The Jazz’s best hope is that Hayward opts in using his player option for 2017–18 and makes another run at All-NBA next season. But he finished eighth in voting among forwards this year. As talented as Hayward is, and as steadily as he’s improved every year as a pro, making an All-NBA team with the wealth of forwards the league currently has might be a pipe dream for the 27-year-old.
The Celtics will come charging for Hayward. Other teams might join the party too. Utah will need to hope its team, its history with the star, and the city is enough. Otherwise Hayward could be walking out the door.
Is Paul George As Good As Gone?
George’s situation is different from Hayward’s. He’s still signed for $19.5 million next season, and could conceivably be named to an All-NBA team next year if Indiana provides him opportunities to amass the same usage rate he logged over the last month of the season and the playoffs. The Pacers might not want to risk that, though, since George could still be “hell-bent” on going to the Lakers. Indiana general manager Kevin Pritchard should be aggressive in finding the best offer available for George this summer, if not by the 2018 deadline.
“For me, part of [the job] is designing a collective bargaining agreement that encourages the distribution of great players throughout the league,” Adam Silver said in July after Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State. Money might be the deciding factor for some players, but not all. It wasn’t for Durant. It might not be for George, either — even with the potential of the supermax. Some of the league executives and agents I’ve spoken with over the past six months consider the designated veteran player extension as nothing more than a mirage.
Even if Indiana keeps George through the trade deadline, and even if he’s named to an All-NBA team, he still might leave for Los Angeles. The Pacers have lost negotiating leverage this summer, and now they face a likely possibility that their star forward will sign elsewhere if the team holds firm.
There was one particularly questionable decision made in voting.
LeBron James received 99 of 100 first-team All-NBA votes. That’s one too few. (Russell Westbrook not receiving every first-team vote shouldn’t come as much of a shock when one voter didn’t have Westbrook as an All-Star starter.) Would you rather find out if aliens are real or who voted LeBron as second-team All-NBA?
I feel bad, to be honest. You know what’s coming. Whoever cast the vote will get publicly shamed on Twitter once it’s revealed on June 26 — and it’s never cool when anyone is publicly shamed. I’d just love for it to open up a discourse. I’m open to hearing their opinion. Maybe they felt Draymond Green’s defensive contributions were so significant that he deserved the nod. Maybe they thought Kevin Durant’s ludicrously efficient scoring season was. I don’t know, I disagree! LeBron was second on my MVP ballot, and I nearly gave him the nod over James Harden. But when the votes are released, please: Let’s be civil and embrace debate.
James Harden Is … Unanimous?
It was curious to see that Harden was the only unanimous first-team selection. In terms of contract implications, it doesn’t mean anything. Both Westbrook and Harden are eligible to sign the designated player veteran extension this summer because they made the All-NBA team (as are John Wall and Stephen Curry). But for those interested in MVP results, Harden’s unanimous selection should be of interest, especially since the latest numbers suggest Westbrook would win in a virtual landslide. Since the All-NBA vote is the same pool of 100 voters for all other awards, is this a sign that Harden will be named MVP?
On the Outside Looking In
I spotted only two differences between my ballot and the final tally. I had Chris Paul in over DeMar DeRozan as a guard and Karl-Anthony Towns over DeAndre Jordan for the third team. Paul recognizes the vote:
And Towns thinks the media is sleeping:
Towns is right, and here’s why: He just completed one of the greatest seasons ever by a 21-year-old. Towns and Shaquille O’Neal are the only two players ever to average at least 25 points and 12 rebounds in a season before age 22, per Basketball-Reference. Towns is a multidimensional scorer who hits 3s, drives, pick-and-roll dives, and posts up — whereas Jordan is a one-dimensional lob threat. The only edge Jordan has over Towns is defense. But for a voter pool that’ll likely have Westbrook and Harden at the top of most of their ballots, it’s a bit surprising that defense suddenly became such a big part of the equation for the All-NBA team. I can’t help but think that the argument that worked against Towns was the anti-hype after the Wolves entered the season with enormous expectations and they failed to make the playoffs. Positional norms don’t help, either — Towns is thought of as a “power forward,” while Jordan is considered a pure center.
DeRozan over Paul touches on the ol’ volume-versus-efficiency debate: DeRozan averaged 27.3 points on a 47.7 effective field goal percentage with 3.9 assists and average defense. Paul averaged 18.1 points on a 55.5 effective field goal percentage with 9.2 assists and elite defense. DeRozan played 13 more games. DeRozan won the day, but come July, when the Clippers offer CP3 the most lucrative contract in NBA history — five years, $207 million — Paul will be winning at life.