NBA players are raising the financial bar as contracts are going above and beyond the unimaginable. Even in the new market with a $94 million salary cap, $70 million for some players might seem steep and the Lakers throwing $64 million on a player in his first hour of free agency is puzzling at best (primarily because Mozgov was the first port of call, not because of the salary).
Here are a few of the top contracts for NBA players:
Evan Turner: four years, $70 million to the Portland Trail Blazers. Timofey Mozgov: four years, $64 million to the Los Angeles Lakers. Solomon Hill: four years, $52 million to the New Orleans Pelicans. Mike Conley: five years, $153 million (the biggest contract in NBA history). The deals in 2016 NBA free agency are bigger than ever and the spending seems absurd at times. It’s caused plenty of questioning and complacency online as people wonder how players could get so much money. Even NFL players are voicing their frustration.
In fairness, sometimes that complacency seems a little more appropriate.
However, there are simple reasons for the massive contracts and it’s perfectly understandable that everyone is getting so much money.
Firstly, this all comes down to the new TV deals, which caused a major influx of money into the NBA.
As ESPN’s Rachel Nichols neatly summed up and put into perspective, $24 billion from ESPN/TNT provides the league with a ton of extra money.
Rather than the owners keeping it from the players when the latter ultimately make the NBA’s product and earn them their money, it’s divided between the two. With that extra money heading to the players, free agency is obviously going to deliver plenty of startling contracts.
Ken Berger of CBS Sports has discussed some more of the numbers, and the new TV deal and such a dramatic increase in TV revenue have created all this money that is now split between owners and players 50-50:
It’s essentially a 50-50 split among players and owners. This coming season marks the first year of the league’s nine-year, $24 billion TV deal with ABC/ESPN and Turner. Silver, his predecessor David Stern and the former executive director of the players’ association, Billy Hunter, did not anticipate such a massive increase — from an average of $930 million a year in TV revenue to $2.67 billion.
That, coupled with the union’s new director, Michelle Roberts, rejecting the league’s proposal to smooth the money into the system gradually, has resulted in a spike in the cap from $70 million last season to $94 million this season and a projected $110 million next season.
So, yeah, there’s a lot of money going around and players need to collect some of it. That’s why a promising, athletic, highly versatile talent like Solomon Hill, who started only three games in 2015-16, just became a $52 million man. It’s also partly why star sharpshooting sixth man Ryan Anderson just received $80 million over four years from the Houston Rockets.
Beyond the obvious matter of extra money, it’s the basic supply and demand issue that has contributed to so many big contracts as well.
There simply isn’t enough talent for everyone to win in NBA free agency. Just ask Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks. With a certain amount of players available, teams will need to do all they can to bring them onboard. That means overpaying at times to ensure players don’t sign with other teams (a typical tactic any year), and seeing as teams have more cap space than ever this year, they can offer more money and “overspend” with ease, hence the massive contracts.
The limited talent pool only encourages this further. Not everyone can land a franchise center like Al Horford or Hassan Whiteside, or a superstar like Kevin Durant, which means that when lesser players are the only options, teams get desperate with their spending to avoid missing out on the best options they can sign.
If there were countless centers available and more top-tier point guards on the market, you might not see Mozgov receiving $64 million and Conley becoming the highest paid player in history (for now). There was no way the Grizzlies would hesitate offering a star like Conley that kind of money to keep their team together when Rajon Rondo and mostly backup caliber players are all that’s left.
Yes, the money seems insane and players who are backups, non-stars, or are relatively unknown to casual fans may seem grossly overpaid.
But remember, there’s a lot of reason behind the madness.
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