Jun 9, 2014, 10:55 AM EDT
I actually think that might be a wise move.
Nothing against Irving, who’s one of the NBA’s top young players. Teams just probably shouldn’t extend players coming off their rookie-scale deals to max contracts, period.
Mostly, it’s about getting more information. If Irving gets hurt again next year – he’s missed 15, 23 and 11 games in his three seasons – or stagnates, his value could plummet.
If he improves, the Cavaliers can offer the exact same contract next offseason as they could in the form of an extension this offseason. Why commit to the highest-possible salary sooner than you have to? At worst, you’re just going to give him the highest-possible salary next offseason, when Irving would become a restricted free agent and Cleveland could match any offers.
The Cavaliers would have no risk of losing him before 2016, and for him to leave that quickly would require him taking a one-year contract. If a five-year max contract is on the table, would Irving really turn that down to accept a one-year deal?
And if Irving accepts a five-year contract as a free agent in 2015 rather than a five-year extension in 2014, he wouldn’t count as a designated player. So if Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker – the Cavaliers’ top options with the No. 1 pick – is the rare player who’s worth extending to a max deal prior to his rookie contract ending, Cleveland could still do it.
Undoubtedly, there are benefits to give Irving a max extension. It keeps him happy – which could also serve as a negative if it makes him feel too entitled, but is probably a positive – and secures his standing on the team. John Wall became a much better team leader because of his max extension.
I just don’t think the benefits outweigh the cost – especially for a player with Irving’s injury history. The worst realistic-case scenario is him taking a four-year deal with a player option in 2015, and then you have three years to get him to come around and believe in the team (or trade him).
Anyway, the conventional choice is to give a max contract extension to anyone who would deserve a max contract after his third season – and Irving definitely qualifies on that front. So, though the Cavaliers should consider not offering Irving a max extension, that would be bucking precedent. Based on how every other team has handled this situation, Irving deserves a max extension.
And one report says he’ll get one.
Reports about the Cavs even considering backing away from a maximum contract are simply wrong.
My sources tell me that the Cavs have had no doubts about offering Irving the 5-year deal, and will do so. Once July 1 arrives — the first date that an extension can be offered — the Cavs will set up a meeting with Irving. They will present their All-Star guard with a contract extension, a 5-year deal in the $90 million range (or whatever is the maximum number).
The term “max contract” has become a misnomer. Often, it’s doesn’t describe the absolute largest contract a player could sign.
A team signing a player to the highest possible salary over fewer years than the most allowed? “Max.”
A team signing a player to the top starting salary but less than the highest-possible raises? “Max.”
A team re-signing a player to the biggest contract another team could offer, but less than the re-signing team could offer? “Max.”
There are many other examples. Simply, you can’t read a report about a player’s max contract contract and have a full understanding of the picture without more context.
Using a crude estimate of the salary cap in 2015-16,* when Irving’s contract extension would begin, his absolute maximum salary for a five-year extension would be $109,106,328. He’d get that if he’s voted a starter in the 2015 All-Star Game – that vote should be fun! – or wins MVP next season.
Otherwise, his full max would be $90,921,940.
*$67,721,000 – which is based on the cap rising the same amount its projected to rise this year.
That’s why I’m not totally sold on Pluto’s report. It’s quite possible something got lost in translation between his source, him and readers.
Even if the Cavaliers are willing to give Irving a five-year extension, they might not want to give him the full amount he could earn if he meets the Derrick Rose rule criteria (for him, being elected an All-Star starter or winning MVP next year).
That $90.9 million figure is based on 25 percent of the salary cap. The $109.1 million is based on 30 percent of the salary cap.
The extension would be signed with a clause indicating he’d exceed 25 percent only if he qualified under the Rose rule. But if he qualifies, he doesn’t have to get the full 30 percent. He and the Cavaliers could negotiate any amount between 25 and 30 percent. The Pacers did that with Paul George, who got just 27 percent but a player option on the final year of his deal.
So, maybe the Cavaliers would offer Irving 25 percent ($90.9 million) and no escalator if he becomes Rose rule eligible. Or maybe they’ll offer less than the full 30 percent if he qualifies ($109.1 million).
Are those max contract? In the truest sense of the word, no. But they’d get described as max contracts.
Which is why I’m still in the dark about exactly what the Cavaliers are willing to offer Irving this summer.
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