Austin Rivers shouldn’t be limited by rule to lower salary with Clippers

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Austin Rivers’ stock has never been higher.

He had some nice moments in the playoffs, and his dad is the boss.

In these conditions, Rivers and the the Clippers are negotiating a new contract.

Shams Charania of RealGM:

Rivers is an unrestricted free agent, because the Pelicans declined the fourth-year option on his rookie-scale contract.

New Orleans traded him to the Celtics, who flipped him to the Clippers. Rivers getting dealt is key to his earning potential – at least in terms of Collective Bargaining Agreement rules.

It has commonly been reported the Clippers can pay Rivers next season only up to what he would have made in the fourth season of his rookie-scale contract – $3,110,796.

I think that’s incorrect, at least based on a literal reading of the CBA. The relevant passage:

Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Agreement, if a player is a Veteran Free Agent whose last Contract was a Rookie Scale Contract and whose Prior Team did not exercise the first Option Year to extend such Contract for a third Season or whose Prior Team did not exercise its second Option Year to extend such Contract for a fourth Season, then any new Player Contract that the player and Team with whom the player was under his Rookie Scale Contract enter into may provide for Regular Salary, Likely Bonuses and Unlikely Bonuses in the first Salary Cap Year of up to the Regular Salary, Likely Bonuses and Unlikely Bonuses, respectively, that the player would have received for such Salary Cap Year had his Prior Team exercised its first or second Option Year (as applicable).

The CBA also defines Prior Team:

“Prior Team” means the Team for which a player was last under Contract prior to becoming a Qualifying Veteran Free Agent, Early Qualifying Veteran Free Agent or a Non-Qualifying Veteran Free Agent.

The Clippers are Rivers’ Prior Team. The Pelicans did not exercise the option.

This rule should apply only when the Prior Team (in this case, the Clippers) didn’t exercise the team option. Because the Pelicans were the team that didn’t exercise the option, I’d argue the rule doesn’t apply here.

Of course, I’ve ignored a hugely important question: Is Rivers worth more than $3,110,796 anyway?

Perhaps not. But a few points:

1. Rivers is just 22 and has improved every season he has been in the NBA.

2. The Clippers have his Bird Rights, so they can exceed the cap to sign him. It’s unlikely they could land a more valuable player on a minimum contract.

3. His dad is the freaking boss.

I don’t know what Rivers can draw, but he shouldn’t settle for $3,110,796 just because some people think the CBA mandates it.