The many intricacies of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement seem to be slanted in ownership’s favor, especially where player contracts are concerned.
Not only are there limits on how much a player can make each season (and on any single contract in total), but through things like the draft and restricted free agency, depending on the way those first couple of contracts are structured, a team can hold onto a player’s rights for his first six or seven NBA seasons.
There are situations, however, where a player can out-perform his current deal, and force his team into an unpleasant set of circumstances. And Hassan Whiteside, who is having a breakout season with the Miami Heat, is in position to do exactly that.
Under NBA rules, contracts shorter than four years in length, such as Whiteside’s, cannot be extended.
The only way for the Heat to offer Whiteside a new contract after this season would be to waive the final year on his contract. However, because Whiteside is only signed for the league minimum next season, any and every other team could (and assuredly would) put in a claim.
In addition, because of the two seasons Whiteside previously spent with the Sacramento Kings, he would become an unrestricted free agent in 2016, as opposed to if these next two seasons with the Heat were his lone NBA tenure, in which case the Heat would have the right to match outside offers.
Because Whiteside will enter 2016 free agency with only two seasons with the Heat, he would not be eligible for full Larry Bird Rights, where the Heat could go over the salary cap up to the NBA maximum to retain him. Instead, if the Heat do not have the necessary cap space in the 2016 offseason (which they are expected to have), they only could offer Whiteside a contract starting at the NBA’s average salary for 2016-17.
Whiteside has had a long and difficult journey on the way to his current level of NBA success, and is signed to a non-guaranteed deal for under $1 million to play in Miami next season. He undoubtedly won’t be doing the Heat any favors when it’s time to finally cash in on all of his hard work, once it’s time for his next contract to be signed.