The term “poison pill” doesn’t actually show up in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it’s used colloquially to refer to a provision in the CBA that affects players who recently signed rookie scale contract extensions.
As we explain in our glossary entry, the poison pill provision applies when a player who signed a rookie scale extension is traded before the extension takes effect. In that scenario, the player’s incoming value for the receiving team for matching purposes is determined by averaging his current-year salary and the salaries in each year of his new extension. His current team, on the other hand, simply treats his current-year salary as the outgoing figure for matching purposes.
For instance, Suns forward Mikal Bridges is earning a $5,557,725 salary in 2021/22, but has signed a four-year, $90MM extension that will begin in ’22/23. Given his importance to a team with championship aspirations, the Suns won’t be trading Bridges before that extension takes effect. If they did though, his outgoing value for salary-matching purposes would be $5,557,725 (this year’s salary), while his incoming value for the team acquiring him would be $19,111,545 (this year’s salary, plus the $90MM extension, divided by five years).
[RELATED: 2021 NBA Rookie Scale Extension Recap]
Like Bridges, most of the other players who signed rookie scale extensions aren’t candidates to be traded anytime soon. But even in the event that a team wants to look into trading one of these recently-extended players, the gap between the player’s incoming trade value and outgoing trade value will make it a real challenge to find a deal that works for both sides.
As Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) noted in his look at the trade market today, the “poison pill” provision applies to 11 players who signed rookie scale extensions in 2021. Here are those players, along with their outgoing salaries and incoming salaries for trade purposes:
|Player||Team||Outgoing trade value||Incoming trade value
|Michael Porter Jr.||DEN||$5,258,735||$29,626,456|
|Jaren Jackson Jr.||MEM||$9,180,560||$22,780,112|
|Wendell Carter Jr.||ORL||$6,920,027||$11,384,005|
Once the 2022/23 league year begins, the poison pill provision will no longer apply to these players. At that time, the player’s ’22/23 salary would represent both his outgoing and incoming value.
Until then though, the gap between those outgoing and incoming figures will make it tricky for these players to be moved, with one or two possible exceptions. In other words, if you’re considering what a big in-season consolidation trade for the Hawks might look like, it’s probably safest to leave Huerter out of your hypothetical package.