NBA players choosing trophies over large salaries: a new trend?

Since August 2017, a trend seems to be spreading among NBA players: reducing their salary to allow a franchise to keep all of its roster. Will this practice persist?

Nowadays, basketball fan or not, chances are you’ve heard of the Golden State Warriors. This franchise enjoys a worldwide reputation, no longer limited to the NBA expert’s sphere. Just like Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.

In the unique and apart world of the Warriors

The Warriors have dominated the NBA since 2015, but the team really took off in the summer of 2016, when superstar Kevin Durant signed with them.

Since Durant’s signature, the team has simply become unbeatable and, as surprising as it may seem, the “Snake” – Kevin Durant’s pejorative nickname given to him after choosing to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors – was the first to agree to sign again with the Warriors by reducing his salary by $9.5M over 2 years, in order to maintain the team without having to exchange or release a major player from it.

The Warriors, like the other teams, are indeed forced to comply with some regulations, such as the salary cap rule, for example. Not following this rule leads to significant financial penalties. In short, if the cumulative salary of all the team’s players exceeds $101,869 million, the franchise will be forced to pay a luxury tax – an evolutive tax with five steps.

During the 2018-2019 season, the Warriors had to pay this so-called luxury tax, around $51M, despite Kevin Durant’s salary review. The Warriors have a total payroll of $143.64M, exceeding by far the last level of the tax.

Such salaries and payroll are not (as) surprising in the basketball world, especially when a team has four all-star players – players who have played an all-star game at least once – and Demarcus Cousins, a former member of the New Orleans Pelicans, who preferred to join the Warriors for a $5 million contract. By renewing his contract with his former team, his contract would have reached $40 million, at least.

“I’d take legacy over money

By signing a record $145 million contract in 2015, Anthony Davis quickly rose through the ranks of the New Orleans Pelicans team to become its franchise player (player representing the franchise’s emblem).

However, the nightmare began in January 2018 in New Orleans, when one of his teammates (Demarcus Cousins) hurt his heel.

Anthony Davis had to carry his team to the final stages of the competition on his own, presenting stratospheric performances to the public.

After Demarcus Cousins’ departure and a dreadful start of the new season, Anthony Davis decided to file for divorce with the same franchise which had drafted him.

Indeed, on January 28, 2019, Davis announced that he wanted to win a ring – a reward offered to players of the NBA champion team – as quickly and regularly as possible, with another team.

In doing so, Anthony Davis swept away a historic salary increase that would have been offered to him by the New-Orleans Pelicans in the summer of 2019, for an amount of $240M.

Chris Paul, NBA’s Uncle Scrooge.

While some players are beginning to prefer lower salaries in favor of “super teams”, others are still rejecting the new trend.

Houston’s guard Chris Paul case, and its contract extension last summer, left no doubt about it.

Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ general manager, offered him a 160 million dollars contract over 4 years. It seems that CP3’s hunger – Chris Paul’s nickname – has been fulfilled, although this seems excessive for a player his age (33 years old), and for what seems to be his last franchise.

Not that Paul doesn’t deserve such a salary, but it would surely have been better to reduce his share of the pie and instead acquire a new superstar to support the Chris Paul-James Harden duo, in order to compete with the all-mighty Warriors.

According to Forbes, following Chris Paul’s contract as well as the various small staff adjustments and Clint Capela’s (another member of Houston’s roster) extension, the Houston Rockets ended up with a luxury tax of $27.42M and a salary cap reaching a total of $138.20M – which is not to accommodate the Texans’ business!

Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

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