Star Player Free Agency in the NBA

 
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 13, 2021 12:55 pm    Post subject: Star Player Free Agency in the NBA

These days, Star Player movement in the NBA generally happens as a function of "pre-agency", meaning when the player is approaching their final year under contract, they work with their current team on getting moved to another destination if they don't want to stay long term. The Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook this summer as the most recent example of star movement in pre-agency. Several factors may lead to constraints in this practice, including the increasing propensity for star players on their second max contracts taking extensions, and the upcoming expiration of the CBA.

I would be surprised if the next CBA didn't have a provision that tried to improve the circumstance teams find themselves in where a star player wants to force their way to a new destination. It seems unlikely that they will be able to curtail the practice given the relative leverage of a player who is being paid to perform at an elite level as well as represent a team and their brand. But expect the Owners to do something. Along those lines, one should expect star players to want to lock in their salaries and terms under the current CBA as long as possible.

Note: The CBA runs through the 2023-24 season, although either side may opt out after the 2022-23 season. To do so, notice must be given by December 15, 2022.

Present day here is the landscape of upcoming "Star" player free agency. The definition of "star" was generally a salary of $25m+ in 2021-22, excluding some bloated contracts (e.g. Wiggins) and late career vets (e.g. Lowry).

2021 Pre-Agents (2022 free)
Russell Westbrook (P-Opt)
James Harden (P-Opt)
Kyrie Irving (P-Opt)
Bradley Beal (P-Opt)
Zach LaVine (only making $19m, but was included anyway)

Three of the five have already been moved. Beal and LaVine are TBD.

2022 Pre-Agents (2023 free)
LeBron James
Nikola Jokic
Joel Embiid 8/17/21 UPDATE: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers sign 4-year, $196 million supermax extension through 2026-27
Kris Middleton (P-Opt)

Middleton has a $40m option. The other three guys are franchise centerpieces who are unlikely to leave. There's still plenty of time for extensions to shrink this list.

NOTE: the CBA expires after the 2023-24 season, but either side can opt-out after the 2022-23 season by giving notice by Dec 15, 2022. Assuming the sides don't opt out, this will be the last group eligible to resign under the current CBA.

2023 Pre-Agents (2024 free)
Anthony Davis (P-Opt)
Kawhi Leonard (P-Opt)
Paul George (P-Opt)
Damien Lillard (P-Opt)
Jaylen Brown
CJ McCollum
Karl-Anthony Towns
Devin Booker
Pascal Siakam
Klay Thompson

There's still plenty of time for extensions to shrink this list. Making that even more likely, this would be the first group to sign free agent deals under a new CBA (assuming no earlier opt-out). Usually, star players lock in first.

The exception to that may be the young players coming off their first extensions. Generally, unless their team has significant cap room to renegotiate their current deal (as the Bulls could have done with LaVine this year but did not), young players coming off their first extension wait until free agency to maximize earning potential.

2024 Pre-Agents (2025 free)
Jamal Murray
Brandon Ingram
Ben Simmons
Giannis Antetokounmpo (P-Opt)
Jimmy Butler (P-Opt)
Jayson Tatum (P-Opt)
Donovan Mitchell (P-Opt)

Likewise, there's still plenty of time for extensions to shrink this list, though unless the new CBA changes significantly, the players coming off their first extensions may forgo extensions. Beyond that, the likes of Luka, Trae and SGA just signed new extensions. The 2019 class (Zion and Ja) is next up and the star gene seems to have skipped the 2020 class.
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Last edited by Laker's Fan on Tue Aug 17, 2021 9:57 am; edited 3 times in total
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vasashi17+
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 13, 2021 2:19 pm    Post subject:

Thx for taking out the time and aggregating this list.

I agree, some rules within the CBA will get addressed via the threat of the opt out clause. However, I sincerely believe player empowerment is here to stay. They actually might make more provocative arrangements in salary distribution within the new bylaws. For example, Dinwiddie looking to get paid via cryptocurrency.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/syndication.bleacherreport.com/amp/2800398-has-spencer-dinwiddie-got-a-deal-for-you.amp.html

If home teams gain an advantage to pay their player more than the competing market, I’m sure that will be discussed extensively by the owners...cause the supermax/designated player has so far been a mixed bag.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 13, 2021 4:11 pm    Post subject:

Very nice point Vas!

I too think start player empowerment isn't going anywhere. The league would be wise to embrace the underlying reality and just look to create a better market for the incumbent team.

As for the crypto option strategy, tons of risk for a league looking to start generating significant revenue from gambling. I actually think those proceeds may be the golden goose in the upcoming negotiations.

Separately, it's not going to be easy, but McCollum is going to have to find a way to protect the NBA middle class. To a degree rookie scale deals do that because they artificially deflate the contracts of incoming players. But the increases at the max level outpacing the cap by so much structurally are shrinking the pool of $ for players between min/RS and Max.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2021 6:48 am    Post subject:

I agree...it’s that middle tier that’s really going to experience the squeeze. The mid level helps in a way, but any given season that’s only 30 or so offerings in a 450+ player pool.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2021 8:45 am    Post subject:

vasashi17+ wrote:
I agree...it’s that middle tier that’s really going to experience the squeeze. The mid level helps in a way, but any given season that’s only 30 or so offerings in a 450+ player pool.


I think that's a bit exaggerated. In the super-team era, you end up with more have-nots with cap space. Middle tier players are less squeezed if they are willing to go to non-contenders or less desirable markets which is frankly the way it should be.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 14, 2021 8:51 am    Post subject:

The players would never agree to it but what if there was a clause that players who forced trades could have their salaries reduced? I'm not sure how you'd implement it to avoid having teams abuse it but just food for thought.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 15, 2021 11:17 am    Post subject:

gng930 wrote:
The players would never agree to it but what if there was a clause that players who forced trades could have their salaries reduced? I'm not sure how you'd implement it to avoid having teams abuse it but just food for thought.


You are right about mid tier players going to cap having teams/less desirable markets to take up that salary. I think the salary floor also makes it where mid tier players can eat off that rule too. Although exaggerated, still its tgat tier that experiences the squeeze due to stars and team-up culture.

I do like the idea of a “buy-out provision” where a player can give beck money to seek another deal/team. That empowers players as well as gives more of an out to teams looking to get off a disgruntled employee.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 15, 2021 8:25 pm    Post subject:

This upcoming season, 40% of the players will make $3 million or less; 60% will make $6 million or less. Unless the league does something to stem the trend, the % of players making the mMLE or less is going to grow while at the same time, players at the top end will see their share of the cap increase. It’s those same players at the top who also force their way to their preferred destination, leaving their incumbent team to tank or tread water. Harden’s departure from Houston didn’t help his Rocket teammates. The same can be said of Davis and P George....and so on.

The owners and rank and file players may find some common ground in upcoming negotiations, despite what is sure to be a push from agents looking to keep things fluid at the top.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2021 9:58 am    Post subject:

Another star off the list.

Joel Embiid Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers sign 4-year, $196 million supermax extension through 2026-27
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2021 9:10 am    Post subject:

Great foresight in making this thread LF.

Per Bobby Marks:

Quote:
Out of the 191 projected free agents (in 2022), 33 are deemed starter level or above.

13 are restricted free agents and 4 players (Irving, Harden, Westbrook and Wall) will likely not see free agency.


Plus from the looks of it, only Detroit is projected to have significant cap space and does not have an extension eligible player on their roster to take it up.

So early projections are that 2022 is going to be MLE deals for the largely mid-tier players and a lot more extensions and if not, RFA matching will occur from now till next offseason’s FA moratorium.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2021 9:34 am    Post subject:

And right on cue...

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/32056178/boston-celtics-robert-williams-agree-four-year-54m-extension

A lot more extensions will be trickling in.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2021 11:20 pm    Post subject:

Extension eligible players prior to the 2021-22 season
https://hoopshype.com/lists/all-the-extension-eligible-players-in-2021-22/

Already off the list (extended before hitting free agency):
Durant
Curry
Luka
Embiid
Butler
SGA
Randle
Smart
Rozier
R Williams

......and it’s still very early
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 01, 2021 8:04 am    Post subject:

And another one....

Woj: Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela has agreed on a two-year, $46M extension, sources tell ESPN. He had two years left on his current deal and now is under contract through 2024-2025.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 05, 2021 5:38 pm    Post subject:

vasashi17+ wrote:
..... Plus from the looks of it, only Detroit is projected to have significant cap space and does not have an extension eligible player on their roster to take it up. So early projections are that 2022 is going to be MLE deals for the largely mid-tier players and a lot more extensions and if not, RFA matching will occur from now till next offseason’s FA moratorium.


Detroit has now used a chunk of their cap room next year to take in D Jordan for picks. He retained $16m in the buyout of his two year deal.

Agents see the writing on the cap room wall for next season. Should make extensions that much more popular. Also understand why LaVine signed on with Klutch. He's in a rough spot, Chicago having brought in both Zo and DeRozan (and AC of course and limited/no max cap slots out there.

Would not be surprised at all if he was on the move this season.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2021 11:23 am    Post subject:

https://youtu.be/JeXN050QbFA
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