What is a max contract in the NBA?

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

What is a max contract in the NBA for the 2023-24 season? How do they work? How are they affected by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

To a degree, the definition of a max contract in the NBA is in the term itself. It’s the most money a player can be paid.

There are important details though, and perhaps a better way to define it is as the most annual salary a player can make based on their cumulative years of experience in the NBA. These figures are also dependent on what the salary cap is set at since max contract determinations are primarily measured as a percentage of a team’s cap.

A max contract also comes with annual raises, and these figures are higher for players who re-sign with their own team. Players signing maximum contracts with new teams receive annual raises of five percent. Players re-signing with their current team can receive annual raises of eight percent.

Re-signing with your current team also makes you eligible for an extra season — five years — compared to if you’re signing with a new team — four-year maximum.

How much is an NBA max contract worth?

Let’s use specific players to discuss figures here. The pay scale of these contracts is broken into three sections: six years or less in the league, seven to nine seasons in the league, and 10 or more seasons in the league.

As we said earlier, the more experience the more money.

Let’s start with Ja Morant who is entering his fifth season in the league. Morant has already signed a five-year max contract extension with the Grizzlies that starts this season.

Morant will make $34,005,250 this season (putting aside suspension penalties) and will make eight percent more each season, tapping out at $44,886,930 for the 2027-28 season.

Had Morant signed this max contract with another team in an alternate world he would start at $34,005,250 for this season and end at $39,106,038 for the 2026-27 season.

A player like Fred VanVleet who is entering his eighth season in the league would’ve started a max contract with his former team the Toronto Raptors at $40,806,300 and ended at $53,864,316 if he had secured the full bag.

Instead, VanVleet signed with the Rockets on a three-year max deal. He will make $40,806,300 and if the Rockets pick up his team option for the 2025-26 season he would make $44,886,930.

Do bad players get max contracts?

Bad players? Not really. Anyone who gets a max contract was certainly a good NBA player at one point.

Players do get overpaid via max contracts though, some have argued the Rockets overpaid for VanVleet. Many have opined on whether or not Boston Celtics All-NBA wing Jaylen Brown is worth the five-year super-max contract he just signed.

These players may be overpaid, but they are certainly not bad players.

Extracting maximum value from your max contract players though is arguably of the utmost importance when it comes to building a true title contender in the NBA.

The Philadelphia 76ers gave a five-year maximum contract to Tobias Harris in the summer of 2019 and he has never performed at a level worthy of max money, and many have argued it’s been the main obstacle in the Sixers inability to build a contender around Joel Embiid.

Max contracts are everything in the NBA, and making a mistake with one can damn a franchise for years on end.

THE WHITEBOARD. Subscribe to our NBA daily email newsletter. light