Once the details of the NBA’s lucrative new broadcast rights deal became available, players seemed eager to begin to figure out ways to get some of that newfound wealth flowing in their direction.
Part of it is guaranteed to a certain extent, thanks to the built-in salary cap increases that are a direct function of league revenues. But players’ earnings are still restricted by max contracts, which is something Kevin Durant floated as being an issue worth addressing the next time a new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated.
(That will happen in 2017, because either side may opt out of the current deal at that time, and it may very well be the players choosing to go that route to attempt to get a bigger piece of the pie.)
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban immediately fired back at Durant’s assertion, suggesting that if players want to eliminate max contracts, they’d have to give up something in return — like fully guaranteed deals, which the players’ side will never cave on under any circumstances. Durant said as much when asked about Cuban’s response.
“I don’t think that makes sense,” Durant said Friday. “Give up guarantees? Nah, I don’t think so. Why? Why would we do that? Just because we asked for … I’m not going to talk about this, man.”
Durant said he had a lot to say on the subject, but said it wasn’t the appropriate time for him to express those thoughts publicly.
It doesn’t make sense, but Cuban is engaging in Negotiating 101 — never give up anything without asking for a concession in return from the other side.
Eliminating max contracts may seem like a wise thing for the players to pursue on the surface, but the reality is that it would be a terrible idea for the vast majority of NBA players. There are a maximum of 450 guys on rosters league-wide in a given season, and we’re talking about the top three or four percent that may be able to command in excess of what the current max deals are worth.
Assuming the salary cap remained in place, that would leave less money available for every other player on the team if they happen to be on the same squad as a Durant or a LeBron James. There would be no middle class in this situation, which would mean it would be irresponsible for a union representing all players to try and negotiate something that would only benefit an extremely small portion.
The salary cap shouldn’t go anywhere, because it really does create as much parity as is possible in a league where stars can still choose where to play when all is said and done. Fully guaranteed contracts should similarly be here to stay, to protect players from injury going through what is becoming an increasingly grueling regular season schedule.
(Also of note, as pointed out by Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders, guaranteed contracts except for rookie deals aren’t mandated by the collective bargaining agreement. Teams could offer non-guaranteed deals, it’s just that fully-guaranteed contracts have become so customary that no player would agree to sign without a guarantee being firmly in place.)
These are major topics which aren’t likely to be focal points of the next round of negotiations, in part because of just how passionate those invested are about not wanting to see changes in these areas. But anytime a player of Durant’s stature begins to speculate on the future of how the league shares its dollars with the players, you can expect a savvy owner like Cuban to retaliate with a surgical strike.