Curious how much money the NBA’s top free agents can earn this summer? Find out here.
Not all max contracts are made alike in the NBA.
Based on their years of NBA experience, free agents can receive a varying portion of a team’s total salary-cap allotment. The breakdown is as follows:
- 0-6 years of experience: 25 percent
- 7-9 years of experience: 30 percent
- 10 or more years of experience: 35 percent
The salary cap for the 2019-20 season is expected to come in at $109 million, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Based on that figure, players with no more than six years of NBA experience will have a max starting salary of $27.25 million; players with 7-9 years of experience can max out at $32.7 million, and players with 10-plus years of experience can earn up to $38.15 million.
With a nearly $11 million difference between the lowest- and highest-tier max, some teams will be limited in terms of which free agents they pursue.
Depending on the timing of the Anthony Davis trade, for instance, the Los Angeles Lakers are projected to have anywhere between $23.7 million and $32.5 million in cap space. If the Lakers convince the New Orleans Pelicans to hold off on finalizing the deal until July 30, they’ll have enough room to offer a max contract to a player with 7-9 years of experience such as Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker or Jimmy Butler. However, they have no way to carve out enough room for Kevin Durant’s $38.15 million max either before or after the Davis trade.
Once the Brooklyn Nets officially salary-dump Allen Crabbe on the Atlanta Hawks, they’ll be able to carve out up to nearly $67.6 million in cap room. They could hypothetically offer a pair of max contracts to players with no more than nine years of NBA experience — Irving appears likely to be one of them — but they wouldn’t have enough room to sign Durant as well without making additional moves.
Armed with more than $70 million in cap space if they renounce all of their free agents, the New York Knicks are the only team that could sign both Durant and Irving at the moment. Durant’s massive $38.15 million max salary makes it difficult for any other team to squeeze him in with another star free agent, although that likely won’t stop some from trying.
When surveying how much cap space teams can create this summer and which free agents they should pursue, keep the difference between max contracts in mind.