NBA’s New Max Salary: For Fan Favorites and Media Darlings Only

Mosi Platt from the Miami Heat Index analyzes how the new max salary provision in the tentative agreement to end the NBA lockout would affect past, present and future classes of restricted free agents.

According to a memo NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter sent to his Board of Directors, the tentative agreement between the NBPA and NBA to end the lockout included the following change for max salaries:

“Max Salary: A player finishing his rookie scale contract will be eligible to receive a maximum salary equal to 30% of the Cap (up from 25%) if he signs with his prior team and is either: 1st, 2nd or 3rd team All-NBA 2 times; an All-Star starter 2 times; or 1-time MVP.”

The latest article at the Miami Heat Index, NBA Max Salary: Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems, discusses how odd it seems that the NBA would allow fans and members of the media to dictate which players get the highest salaries in the league, since previous analysis at this blog showed the All-Star and All-NBA voting tends to favor older stars like Amare Stoudemire and Kobe Bryant. See Kobe and Amare are the Most Overrated NBA Players by Fans and the Media.

Since the article at the Miami Heat Index identifies which players from past, present and future restricted free agent classes would qualify as max players under the new agreement, this article will identify the star players that missed qualifying as max players and the stars that produced enough wins to command 30 percent of the salary cap. On average, the cost of 10 wins equaled 30 percent of the salary cap since the NBA introduced rookie scale contracts in 1995. In the 50-game season of 1999, six wins equaled 30 percent of a pro-rated salary cap.

Players are listed by restricted free agent class and ordered by draft pick.

2012: Kevin Love has produced more than 10 wins twice on his rookie contract and still has one season remaining on it, but he has never received enough votes to be a member of the All-NBA team or starter for the All-Star Game so he likely won’t be offered a max salary by the Timberwolves next summer.

2011: Al Horford only made one All-NBA team on his rookie scale contract. He made two All-Star teams but not as a starter. Horford produced more than 10 wins twice on his rookie contract.

2010: Brandon Roy made two All-Star teams on his rookie scale contract but was not voted as a starter. Rajon Rondo made one All-Star team on his rookie scale contract but was not voted as a starter. Both players produced more than 10 wins twice on their rookie contracts.

2009: Danny Granger made one All-Star team on his rookie scale contract but was not voted as a starter and didn’t produce more than 10 wins in any season. Deron Williams made zero All-Star or All-NBA teams on his rookie scale contract but he did produce 10+ wins twice. Monta Ellis and Paul Millsap each produced more than 10 wins one season on their rookie contracts.

2008: The 2004 draft class had more productive players than any other group but only Dwight Howard was a fan favorite and media darling. The following players produced more than 10 wins multiple times on their rookie contract but didn’t make any All-Star or All-NBA teams: Emeka Okafor (2X), Josh Childress (3X), Luol Deng (2X), Andre Iguodala (4X), Andris Biedrins (2X) and Al Jefferson (2X).

2007: Chris Bosh only made one All-NBA team on his rookie scale contract. He also made two All-Star teams but was only voted as a starter once. Josh Howard only produced more than 10 wins one season on his rookie contract.

2006: Amare Stoudemire only made the All-NBA team and produced more than 10 wins one season on his rookie contract. He probably would have accomplished either feat more than once, but he only played 55 games in his second season and just three games in the last season on his rookie deal. Drew Gooden, Dan Gadzuric and Reggie Evans each produced more than 10 wins just one season on their rookie contract.

2005: The following players produced more than 10 wins multiple times on their rookie contracts: Richard Jefferson (2X) and Andrei Kirilenko (3X). Neither received enough votes for the All-NBA or All-Star teams in their first four seasons. Tyson Chandler and Udonis Haslem each produced more than 10 wins one season on their rookie contracts.

2004: Carlos Boozer and Manu Ginobili each produced more than 10 wins one season on their rookie contracts.

2003: The following players produced more than 10 wins multiple times on their rookie contracts but didn’t receive enough votes for the All-NBA or All-Star teams: Shawn Marion (3X), Elton Brand (2X) and Andre Miller (2X). Baron Davis and Lamar Odom each produced more than 10 wins one season on their rookie deals.

2002: Paul Pierce only made one All-NBA team on his rookie contract, but he produced more than 10 wins all four seasons of the deal. Brad Miller only produced more than 10 wins once on his rookie contract.

2001: 1999 CBA added one year to the length of rookie-scale contracts, so no players were eligible this season. From 1995-1997, rookie scale contracts expired after three years.

2000: Brevin Knight, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Tracy McGrady and Danny Fortson each produced more than 10 wins for one season on their rookie contract. McGrady was the only one of them that did it twice in his first four seasons.

1999: Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant only made one All-NBA team on their rookie contracts, but they only had three seasons to qualify as max players. Both of them made two All-NBA teams in their first four seasons. Bryant was only voted an All-Star game starter once on his rookie contract, but twice in his first four seasons. Iverson was only voted a starter once in his first four seasons, but there was no All-Star game for one of those seasons due to the 1998 lockout. Ben Wallace, Jerome Williams, Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen each produced more than 10 wins one season on their rookie contracts and twice in their first four seasons.

1998: Kevin Garnett was only voted a starter for one All-Star game on his rookie contract but twice in his first five seasons. The All-Star game was cancelled by the NBA lockout his fourth season in the league. KG only produced more wins than 30 percent of the salary cap once on his rookie contract but twice in his first four seasons (30% of the cap was worth six wins for the 50-game season played in 1999). Arvydas Sabonis produced more than 10 wins every season of his rookie contract, but he never received enough votes to be a member of the All-NBA team or starter for the All-Star game.

Since current max players like Bosh and Stoudemire wouldn’t qualify for max salaries under the tentative agreement, will there be unintended consequences of this provision for future stars like them in the same position?

For example, the Chicago Bulls launched a promotional campaign last season that urged fans to cast all-star votes for Derrick Rose. Will teams do that in the future if it costs them an extra $17 million? Would the notoriously cheap Suns have done that for Stoudemire in 2006? Would the Raptors have done that for Bosh in 2007?

What about unintended consequences for the players? Bosh made a name for himself with a viral video that asked fans to vote him into the 2008 all-star game. Won’t more stars launch campaigns for all-star votes with tens of millions of dollars on the line?

What about role players in big markets? If A.C. Green received enough votes from Lakers fans to start in the 1990 All-Star Game, then wouldn’t it be easier today with social media networks like Twitter and Facebook?

Should NBA fans prepare for an epidemic of viral videos and social media contests from Blake Griffin, John Wall, Landry Fields and others over the next six years? The owners unhappiness this lockout seems to have stemmed from how they pay their players. Will their new gambit of letting the fans tell them how to spend money pay off? We’ll have to find out come the next CBA.

-Mosi

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