Stephen Curry stands to be one of the biggest winners from the NBA's newest collective bargaining agreement.
The Golden State Warriors superstar could earn a contract that would exceed $200 million thanks to the new designated veteran play provision, ESPN reported Thursday.
Curry, who is in the final year of a four-year, $44 million extension, will be eligible for a five-year deal worth an estimated $207 million - the most lucrative in league history - when the reigning two-time MVP becomes a free agent in July, according to the report.
The new rule in the CBA "allows certain superstars who are willing to re-sign with their current teams to receive up to 35 per cent of the team's salary cap," per ESPN.
But specific benchmarks need to be met and according to the report, Curry, a two-time MVP who's played his entire career with one team, would meet those qualifications.
If Curry, who is making $12 million this season, were to receive this deal, he would earn approximately $35.7 million in the first year (assuming next year's salary cap projection of $102 million is accurate) and then approximately $38.4 million, $41.3 million, $44.4 million and $47.7 million in subsequent years.
Those numbers are based on the NBA's rules which allow a player to receive annual raises of 7.5 per cent if he signs a deal with his current team.
The NBA and its players had one major goal ahead of Thursday's deadline for either side to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement: reach a new deal that would ensure labour peace for the foreseeable future, allowing both sides to continue reaping the benefits of a massive influx of money and fan attention.
As of Wednesday night, it's officially "mission: accomplished" on that front - yet the new NBA CBA reveals a lesser motivation from the owners. Whether explicitly or implicitly, this latest agreement takes aim at Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors and the very concept of "superteams."
When KD joined the Warriors last off-season, a number of owners were furious - to the point that Warriors CEO Joe Lacob offered a tongue-in-cheek apology to his fellow NBA executives. Commissioner Adam Silver went so far as to call the move "not ideal," which is about as critical as Silver will ever get of a personnel move. And those who felt the league was worse off for its latest superteam vowed that significant change would come.
Now, with a new CBA ready to be ratified, we know just how adamant owners were about killing superteams. In fact, they went so far as to surrender on two of the biggest issues from the previous round of labour negotiations.
Cost certainty is a major consideration for NBA owners, uber-capitalists that they are.
Franchises want to know that they can count on a player to play up to his contract - and that he will be available for the lifetime of the deal. The longer a player's contract lasts, the higher the likelihood that injury or some other catastrophic event might turn a good contract into a bad one before all is said and done.
Yet with the new CBA, owners gave into five-year extensions for certain "designated players," which effectively creates six-year contracts in the NBA for the first time in over half a decade. Furthermore, owners agreed to pay maximum contracts to ageing star players, bumping the current "36-and-over" rule to a "38-and-under" rule that will allow older veterans to sign one last max deal at the end of their careers - the riskiest contracts in all of basketball.
But why? Why would owners assume such risk?
The answer is simple: NBA franchises would rather take the chance of a player breaking down at the end of a long deal than watch star players join together to form superteams. By offering the very best players six-year deals, owners hope to reduce the amount of player movement in free agency and hold onto their stars for as long as possible.
And it's not just the nature of the extension, although the temptation to lock up a guaranteed contract with substantial raises (remember, a player's current team can offer him larger per-year salary increases than he could otherwise sign in free agency) is likely the biggest factor in free agency moving forward. The NBA made subtle changes to the salary cap that will prevent all but the very smartest teams from collecting superstars in the first place.
According to multiple reports, each team will be allowed to designate two veterans for the aforementioned six-year contracts, and each of those deals can be for any amount up to 35 per cent of the salary cap - even if a team has no cap space, like "Bird rights" on steroids.
Say a team is fortunate enough to have two players of superstar quality (which, you know, is kind of a prerequisite for building a superteam). If that franchise signs both players to designated contracts, it's already taken up 70 per cent of the salary cap. But wait, there's more.
Prior to this CBA, the NBA defined many of its deals - minimum contracts, rookie-scale contracts, biannual exceptions, and several others - with concrete dollar amounts that changed only minimally from one year to the next. In turn, such contracts took up a smaller and smaller portion of the salary cap as the cap increased with each passing year; $5 million is a much smaller percentage of a $110 million salary cap than when the cap is, say, $90 million.
That difference allowed smart teams to plan for the future, using the wiggle room to sign better players to wealthier deals.
Moving forward, however, all those deals will be tied to the salary cap, removing that little bit of extra cap space. By the time a potential superteam tallies up all of the contracts for two star players on max deals, incoming rookies, end-of-the-bench role players and the rest of the starting rotation, there simply won't be enough space to add a third star player in free agency, let alone bring four of the game's best players together as the Warriors did this off-season.
Take that same Golden State team, for instance. As pointed out by friend of the program and CBS Sports' Matt Moore, after paying Stephen Curry this summer (he's a free agent at the end of the season), the Warriors will have more than $100 million in salary committed to Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, out of a total estimated salary cap of... $102 million. While Golden State can go above and beyond that number to re-sign its own free agents and add players through deals like the mid-level exception, there's zero room to add a game-changing player in free agency. And Golden State is only able to keep its core together because they're already on the same team. For squads that don't already have four stars assembled on their roster, the math doesn't add up.
Of course, if players really want to join forces to conquer the NBA, there's nothing owners can do to stop them - assuming said players are willing to take less money to play together, anyway, as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did with the Miami Heat.
The new CBA merely forces players to take steeper pay cuts in those instances.
Otherwise, NBA players the world over can now line their pockets, thanks largely to KD and his quest for a ring. Who knew one earth-shaking off-season transaction was the most effective negotiating tactic either side had at its disposal?