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Kennedy Explores NBA Max Contract Negotiations

What happens when it’s time for the NBA’s elite players to get paid? Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype talked to agents and executives about the league’s richest deals.

Portland Trail Blazers v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Three Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

As Eric Griffith wrote about this morning, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is getting on the runway for max contract negotiations between now and the Summer of 2021, when his current deal expires. In a moment of serendipity, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype published an article today discussing contract negotiations for NBA mega-stars. Kennedy talked to executives and agents to get a feel for what the league’s high-dollar bidding wars feel like.

Kennedy quotes former agent Matt Babcock on max-level deals:

“In most cases, a player who’s able to generate a max offer from their team can most likely generate a max deal from several other teams as well,” Babcock said. “This gives the player and the agent ultimate leverage in negotiations, which is why max contracts are generally very player-friendly deals.”

Kennedy’s article emphasizes that location matters for the league’s elite.

“You want flexibility for the player and as little flexibility for the team as possible,” another agent added. “With any contract, not just max contracts, you also have to compare the cost of living and the tax impact in the various places he’s considering.”

“What really sucks is that the rules put into place don’t make it any easier for the incumbent team to keep their players,” one NBA executive said. “There’s no advantage to staying home. Also, we don’t mitigate for taxation in any deals either. Teams in Texas and Florida have an advantage because there’s no state income tax. Now Miami is an attractive destination and a guy can make more money there? That’s not a level playing field. Their money goes further than a smaller-market team’s money. That’s where perhaps the league should give smaller market teams more money to spend to counteract a Miami, since they’re money is going further than mine, just to make it a level playing field. It’s unfortunate.”

The Trail Blazers were mentioned explicitly by a former NBA GM.

“You aren’t going to see franchises in certain cities build around the premise, ‘Okay, let’s have two max-level spots available for next summer.’ They don’t get max-level players. Portland is never going to use that approach. That’s not who they are and it’s not how they’re going to win. Look at how Utah is built. It’s all about growing their own players from within and making them understand how wonderful it is there.

Kennedy’s article has far more than we can print here, including deep discussions on no-trade clauses, tanking, and the infamous effect of shoe deals. Check it out.