NBA contract corner
With much of the league still congregated in the desert at summer league, there is business to dissect and analyze despite the relative transactional quiet of recent days
LAS VEGAS — Nearly 80 NBA free agents had secured new contracts entering Tuesday's business.
The flip side: An additional 90 (or so) free agents who were on NBA rosters when last season ended are still looking for their next deal.
It's one of the byproducts of the marketplace slowdown witnessed shortly after the NBA's annual summer league bonanza in Vegas began July 7. Several front office executives and player agents assembled here, when they have managed to duck the Twitter paparazzi hovering in the stands and hoping to document in-progress trade talks, attribute the gridlock in large part to the Brooklyn Nets' slow-moving search to find a potential trade destination for Kevin Durant.
The annual fierce competition for limited roster spots after the first wave of free agents lands, with the league's influx of 50-plus rookies every summer tightening things further, is another factor. Most notably ensnared in the wait for some renewed movement are restricted free agents Deandre Ayton and Collin Sexton, who were greeted by a limited number of teams with salary-cap space when free agency began June 30 and now see cap-space teams like San Antonio and Indiana weighing the prospect of holding onto their spending money in case they can jump into a broader Durant deal.
Whispers have increasingly circulated in recent days that Brooklyn, in response to an underwhelming array of Durant offers to date, is prepared to hang on to the superstar forward in hopes that Durant's desire to leave could soften between now and the start of training camp in late September. How much stomach Nets officials have to uphold that position — or if it proves to be a mere negotiating ploy — is a matter of debate.
Don't forget that the Nets are also trying to trade Kyrie Irving and still appear to have a market of exactly one purple-and-gold-clad team in Los Angeles interested in taking Irving on.
As we await some headline-grabbing action, there is an opening on this Newsletter Tuesday to drill down on some of the deals that have gone through during the first five-plus days since the leaguewide moratorium on signings and trades was lifted July 6 … and some of the interesting details they contain:
🏀 Twelve veterans have secured contract extensions in this fledgling offseason and four of them can be classified as historic, since the four deals include single-season salaries that will cross the $60 million threshold for the first time. Golden State's Stephen Curry is poised to earn the league's first $50 million salary next season.
The two-year extension Damian Lillard just signed in Portland worth in excess of $120 million includes a salary of $63 million-plus in 2026-27.
Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns, Phoenix's Devin Booker and Denver's Nikola Jokić are the other members of the NBA's exclusive new $60 Million Club.
🏀 Bradley Beal became just the 10th player in league history, according to research by ESPN's Bobby Marks, to secure a full no-trade clause as part of his five-year deal worth in excess of $250 million to re-sign with Washington.
Allow me to refer you to this piece I wrote in December for more background on why it's so difficult for NBA players to obtain them ... as well as the difference between a full no-trade clause and rights owned by a select few players every season to block trades as so-called One-Year Birds.
Beal had the required service time — eight seasons in the league and at least four with the same team — but that's only one hurdle (as the story explains).
🏀 The fully detailed picture on the various protections against injury that New Orleans has secured in Zion Williamson's five-year max deal estimated at just under $193 million has not yet emerged. But we do know that Williamson has to hit unspecified games-played benchmarks in Years 2 through 5 of the deal to receive his full salary.
The value of the contract rises to the $230 million range if Williamson earns All-NBA honors next season — or if he is named MVP or Defensive Player of the Year in 2022-23.
🏀 What was reported for Oklahoma City's Lu Dort as a five-year, $87.5 million deal is actually an $82.5 million contract with $1 million in unlikely bonuses in each of the five seasons, along with a team option in Year 5.
It's a life-changing windfall for Dort after his very modest maiden NBA contract with the Thunder, which was scheduled to pay him $5.4 million over four seasons. The Thunder recently declined Dort's Year 4 team option to set up his new deal.
🏀 Orlando signed three players to two-year deals in which Year 2 is not guaranteed: Mo Bamba (two years, $20.6 million), Gary Harris (two years, $26 million) and Bol Bol (two years, $4.4 million).
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NBA commissioner Adam Silver is scheduled to hold his annual summer league news conference later Tuesday in Las Vegas following the league's latest Board of Governors meetings.
Beyond the expected announcement from the league that it is indeed implementing new legislation for next season to reduce the frequency of annoying take fouls, some of the topics Silver is expected to receive questions on include:
🏀 The state of the Robert Sarver investigation in Phoenix that has now consumed more than a full season.
🏀 An update on collective bargaining negotiations with the players' union as the ability for either side to opt out of the current labor agreement in December draws near.
🏀 How Golden State's payroll last season approached $350 million in salary and luxury tax payments ... which was an estimated $80 million higher than any other team's outlay.
🏀 Whether the league has received any formal tampering complaints this offseason after another flurry of roughly 30 deals that were reported during the first 30 minutes of free agency … and where the league stands on tampering in general after Silver's insistence in September 2019 that the league would be cracking down.
🏀 And in a pertinent sidebar to the state of labor negotiations: How the league reacts to players — Kevin Durant is the latest following Ben Simmons' demand before the 2021-22 season and James Harden's in Houston before that — requesting trades early in a long-term contract.
In a recent podcast with The Athletic's Tim Kawakami, Warriors owner Joe Lacob acknowledged that he is "already in trouble with the rest of the league" after Golden State spent so much more in salary and luxury tax last season en route to its fourth championship in eight seasons — $346 million — than its nearest competitor (Brooklyn at $267 million). "We kind of blew a hole in the system," Lacob said, "and it's not a good look from the league's perspective."
Nominations were announced Tuesday for the 74th Emmy Awards in September and HBO's Winning Time series on the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s received only one nomination. None of the show's actors or the drama itself featured among the nominees, but Winning Time is a contender for Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series (One Hour).
When my pal Justin Kubatko tweeted out a reminder Saturday to mark 54 years to the day since the Lakers acquired Wilt Chamberlain, then nearly 32, from Philadelphia, I naturally clicked on the picture he enclosed of The Los Angeles Times’ coverage of the trade. And what immediately stood out is how that deal included no draft compensation for the 76ers — zero draft picks for the game’s all-time leading scorer to that point. It was a different time and different league back then, with nowhere near the scrutiny that the NBA generates today. When the Lakers acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from Milwaukee seven years later, no future draft compensation was included but the Bucks did receive two players that L.A. selected on their behalf in the 1975 NBA Draft: No. 2 overall pick Dave Meyers and No. 8 Junior Bridgeman.
Denver’s Nikola Jokić, who last week officially signed a new five-year contract extension estimated at a league-record $270 million, remains the lowest-drafted player in league history (No. 41 overall in 2014) to win MVP honors apart from three-time recipient Moses Malone, who was not selected in the NBA Draft. Malone bypassed college to begin his pro career in the ABA as a third-round draftee of the Utah Stars in 1974.
Fifty-one of the 60 players selected during the 2013 NBA Draft played in the league … and now only Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is still with the team that selected him after Utah traded Rudy Gobert to Minnesota.
At least eight players poised to feature on the Lakers’ roster next season are represented by Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker, Lonnie Walker IV, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Troy Brown Jr. and Scotty Pippen Jr. (who will fill one of two spots for players holding two-way contracts).
The Wizards haven't posted a 50-win season since 1978-79, when they lost an NBA Finals rematch to the Seattle SuperSonics after beating Seattle in the title round in the previous season. Washington just re-signed Bradley Beal to a five-year, $251 million contract despite the fact Beal has been part of just three playoff series wins in his 10 NBA seasons.
Last weekend's WNBA All-Star Game in Chicago marked the 18th midseason showcase for the league, which did not stage an All-Star Game during its first two seasons of existence and did not schedule a midseason event in 2008, 2012, 2016 or 2020 to avoid a conflict with the Summer Olympics. I was eager to applaud my fellow Substacker and former ESPN colleague Arash Markazi here for the wise proposal he made in the tweet below to permanently move the WNBA All-Star Game to Las Vegas as part of summer league festivities to give the women's game more of the prominence it deserves — especially after such dim reviews of Chicago proceedings — but LeBron beat me to it with his own tweet last night.
Arash Markazi @ArashMarkaziWould love to see the WNBA All-Star Game regularly played in Las Vegas during the first weekend of the NBA Summer League. The WNBA All-Star Game would take centerstage the first Saturday or Sunday with NBA All-Stars, rookies and execs courtside, supporting their favorite players.