Examining What Super-Max For Giannis Would Be Worth

With the Bucks‘ season over, all eyes are on Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last season’s Most Valuable Player has said he has no intention of asking to be traded out of Milwaukee, and has given indications that he intends to stay with the team long-term. But until he officially signs a contract extension, there will be those who question his commitment to the Bucks.

Unsurprisingly, as Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed earlier today, the Bucks intend to put a five-year, super-max extension offer on the table for Giannis as soon as they’re eligible to do so. That extension window will open once the 2020/21 free agent period begins, but it remains to be seen exactly how much the offer will be worth. Some reports have suggested it’ll be valued at upwards of $250MM, while others have said $220MM.

When it comes to maximum-salary extensions, imprecise projections are nothing new. By definition, extensions go into effect in future league years, and max deals are based on a percentage of the cap (35%, in the case of the super-max). Until the salary cap figures are finalized for the first year of the extension, we can’t know the exact value of a maximum-salary deal.

In Giannis’ case, there are a pair of factors increasing the uncertainty and resulting in the wide range in projections:

  1. An extension for Antetokounmpo would go into effect in 2021/22, rather than in 2020/21. That’s still two league years away, creating an extra layer of uncertainty about where the cap will eventually land.
  2. The coronavirus pandemic – and everything else that has gone on during this NBA season, including the league’s standoff with Chinese partners – has impacted the league’s revenues and upended its usual cap projections. Until the NBA audits the ’19/20 season and has a better sense of what revenues for the ’20/21 campaign will look like, projecting a ’21/22 cap figure will be extremely difficult.

As a result of all this uncertainty, it will be some time before we know how much Antetokounmpo would earn if he accepts a five-year, super-max contract. Still, we can project some hypothetical scenarios based on potential cap figures.

Previously, this season’s cap ($109,141,000) was projected to increase to $115MM in 2020/21 and then $125MM in ’21/22. Now, it appears more likely that next season’s cap will be about the same as this year’s. That could be true again in 2021/22 — or perhaps the jump to $115MM will be delayed by a year. A small dip – maybe to $105MM or so – isn’t even out of the question. So let’s break down all of those scenarios and examine what a super-max deal for Giannis would look like in each case…

(Note: If you’re a mobile/app user, you can view the full chart by turning your phone sideways.)

Year/Cap $105MM
2021/22 $36,750,000 $38,199,350 $40,250,000 $43,750,000
2022/23 $39,690,000 $41,255,298 $43,470,000 $47,250,000
2023/24 $42,630,000 $44,311,246 $46,690,000 $50,750,000
2024/25 $45,570,000 $47,367,194 $49,910,000 $54,250,000
2025/26 $48,510,000 $50,423,142 $53,130,000 $57,750,000
Total $213,150,000 $221,556,230 $233,450,000 $253,750,000

As our chart shows, if the cap really does stand pat for the next couple years, a super-max for Antetokounmpo would be worth more than $30MM less than what was originally projected.

That shouldn’t provide Giannis with any incentive to leave Milwaukee. The super-max option would still be way more lucrative than an outside offer from any other team, which would be limited to four years starting at 30% of the cap. Based on the four hypothetical cap scenarios listed above, a rival team’s best four-year offer would range from $135.5MM to $161.3MM.

Still, the lingering cap uncertainty could incentivize the star forward to take a wait-and-see approach to extension talks. After all, he’ll still be super-max eligible when his contract ends in 2021 — by waiting until that point, he’d have a much clearer idea of what the deal would actually be worth when he signs it.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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