With the NBA set to implement a new Collective Bargaining Agreement for the 2017/18 season, a number of aspects of the CBA will be tweaked, or will change significantly. The maximum salary contract is one thing that falls into the former category — it’ll look a little different starting this summer, but the changes are minor.
For instance, under the current CBA, maximum salary tiers are divided based on a player’s years of NBA experience. Players with six or fewer years under their belts can get up to about 25% of the cap, players who have played between seven and nine years can get up to about 30% of the cap, and veterans who have played 10+ years are eligible to sign for about 35% of the cap. The new CBA will keep those divisions in place, and actually simplify them a little — the percentages are no longer approximate. A player with 10+ years of experience will be able to sign for up to exactly 35% of the cap.
In the new CBA, players with 10 or more years of experience won’t be the only players whose maximum salaries can be worth up to 35% of the cap. There will also be designated veteran extensions available for players entering their eighth or ninth NBA seasons. If that player signed a rookie-scale extension, is still with the team that signed him to that extension, and earned All-NBA honors in the previous season (or in two of the last three years), he’s eligible to get up to 35% of the cap instead of his allotted 30%.
This new rule made the DeMarcus Cousins trade last month an interesting one. If he had remained in Sacramento, Cousins would have been eligible for a designated veteran extension with the Kings, since he met the criteria listed above. However, with the Pelicans, he’s only eligible to sign a deal worth up to 30% of the cap until he has 10 NBA seasons under his belt.
Outside of those changes, there’s one more minor tweak worth noting. Previously, players who signed max deals with their own team were eligible for 7.5% annual raises, as opposed to 4.5% annual raises if they were to sign with a new team in free agency. Under the new CBA, those max raises have been bumped up a little, to 8% and 5% respectively. Players are still limited to four new years on a contract with a new team, as opposed to five years with their current team.
Keeping all that in mind, let’s dive in and take a look at what a maximum salary contract might look like this summer. At this point, we can only rely on salary cap projections provided by the NBA, since the exact cap figure for 2017/18 won’t be known until the summer.
At last check, the league was calling for a $102MM cap for the 2017/18 season. Using that tentative figure, here’s what maximum salary contracts would look like in ’17/18:
A player re-signing with his own team (8% annual raises, up to five years):
A player signing with a new team (5% annual raises, up to four years):
A year ago, Mike Conley set a new NBA record when he signed a five-year contract that exceeded $152MM. This time around, a handful of players could break that record again. Stephen Curry will qualify for a designated player extension and Chris Paul, who has played for more than a decade, may also be seeking a five-year, maximum-salary deal. As our charts above show, both players would be eligible for five-year contracts exceeding $207MM if they remain with their current teams.
Meanwhile, a player like Gordon Hayward has a number of potential contract scenarios in play. If he doesn’t earn an All-NBA spot, his decision will be clearer — he could get up to four years and $131.58MM with a new team, or up to five years and $177.48MM with the Jazz, assuming Utah is willing to go that high. If Hayward is named to an All-NBA team, he’d have the option of exercising his player option and seeking a designated veteran extension with the Jazz, which would begin in 2018/19 — with the cap expected to rise again next year, such an extension would likely be worth even more than the $207.06MM noted above.