BusinessNew NBA Awards Rules Could Create A Supermax Problem...

New NBA Awards Rules Could Create A Supermax Problem For Some Teams


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Beginning in the 2023-24 season, the NBA’s awards landscape could look vastly different than it has in the past. That could have major financial ramifications for certain teams over the coming years.

The NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement introduced eligibility criteria for the league’s major end-of-season accolades. To be eligible for Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player or the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams, players must either play 20-plus minutes in at least 65 regular-season games or play at least 62 games, suffer a season-ending injury and play a majority of his team’s games prior to that injury.

That’s bound to result in some questionable All-NBA selections. This past year, five members of the All-NBA teams—Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler and Damian Lillard—didn’t meet the 65-game threshold and thus would have been ineligible had the new rules been in effect.

The next five highest vote-getters who played at least 65 games were Lauri Markkanen, Ja Morant, Jrue Holiday, Jalen Brunson and Pascal Siakam. Brunson was the only one of that quintet not to make the All-Star team this year, but those five aren’t in the same stratosphere of star power as Giannis, Curry, LeBron, Butler and Lillard.

These changes to award eligibility will affect some teams financially, too. Winning MVP or Defensive Player of the Year and/or being named to an All-NBA team dictates which players with 7-9 years of NBA experience can get supermax contract extensions, which begin at 35% percent of the salary cap instead of 30%. Players typically have to wait until they’ve played at least 10 seasons in the league before they become eligible to sign such a deal.

Supermax eligibility isn’t just determined by end-of-season accolades, though. Beyond winning MVP, DPOY or getting an All-NBA nod, players also have to be with the same teams that drafted them unless they were traded within the first four years of their careers. Siakam is the only one of the five players above who would have become eligible for a supermax had he made an All-NBA team this past season.

That could have helped determine the direction of the Toronto Raptors’ offseason, which can otherwise only be described as aimless. They lost Fred VanVleet to the Houston Rockets in free agency and signed Dennis Schroder to replace him, but they otherwise haven’t made any impact moves of note.

With Siakam and O.G. Anunoby both able to become free agents next summer, the Raptors need to pick a lane before they risk losing both for nothing. Had Siakam been eligible for a supermax extension this offseason, the Raptors would have had to decide whether to offer it, which likely would have dictated his future in Toronto one way or the other.

There may not be many instances when a clearly undeserving player makes an All-NBA team and becomes eligible for a supermax extension that his team has no interest in offering. Brown could have been a fringe case this offseason, but the Celtics wound up giving him a full five-year supermax (albeit without a fifth-year player option).

The bigger problem may be players who aren’t supermax eligible because they fall short of the 65-game threshold.

This past year, Antetokounmpo was on the All-NBA first team, Curry and Butler were on the second team and Lillard and James were on the third team. Antetokounmpo is already on a supermax extension after winning MVP in 2019-20, and all four of Curry, Butler, Lillard and James have played 10-plus years in the league, which means they’re already eligible for contracts beginning at 35% of the salary cap. In other words, none of them would have been affected contractually had they missed the All-NBA team.

The same goes for 2021-22, when 11 members of the All-NBA teams played at least 65 games, but Curry, Morant, James and Kevin Durant did not. Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Jaylen Brown and Desmond Bane were the next-highest vote-getters who hit the 65-game threshold that year. Gobert was already on a near-supermax contract after having won Defensive Player of the Year in 2018-19, while Mitchell, Brown and Bane hadn’t played enough years in the league to be eligible for a supermax.

That might not be the case in future years, though. Luka Dončić could be the biggest swing case in that regard.

Even if Jayson Tatum misses out on an All-NBA nod next year, he’ll be eligible to sign a supermax extension next summer since he’s made the past two All-NBA teams. But if Dončić doesn’t play enough games to qualify for MVP or the All-NBA teams in each of the next two seasons, he won’t be eligible to sign a supermax extension in the summer of 2025.

With rumors already swirling about Dončić’s long-term future with the Dallas Mavericks, the supermax might be their best chance of keeping him beyond 2025-26. He can otherwise become a free agent in the summer of 2026 by declining his $49.0 million player option for the 2026-27 season, which would set off a feeding frenzy the likes of which we haven’t seen in recent years.

The new awards rules could create supermax issues as soon as next summer. Siakam, Jamal Murray and Brandon Ingram would all become eligible for supermax deals if they make an All-NBA team this coming year, as would Anunoby, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo.

The Denver Nuggets might have no qualms about offering Murray a supermax after their championship run this past season, but would the same be true for Ingram and the New Orleans Pelicans? Could the Miami Heat afford to give Adebayo a supermax if they eventually land Lillard via trade? Would signing Fox to a supermax put a cap on the Sacramento Kings’ ceiling?

Teams will have to balance these supermax decisions with the new financial restrictions for the teams that go far above the luxury-tax threshold. Committing 35% of your cap space to a fringe All-NBA player could be catastrophic under the new CBA, but you may damage your relationship to one of your star players by refusing to offer such a deal to someone who qualified for one.

The new CBA was seemingly designed to force teams into making difficult decisions in an attempt to increase leaguewide parity. The new awards criteria and the supermax eligibility rules could conspire against certain teams to put them in lose-lose situations, though.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Spotrac or RealGM. All odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.



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