So, the Celtics’ All-Star point guard is awaiting his turn.
“They better bring out the Brinks truck,” quipped Thomas during the Celtics’ summer league game on Saturday against Chicago. “They’re paying everybody else. I gotta get something.”
Thomas is one of the best values in the league, because he signed before the new national TV contracts kicked in, raised NBA revenue and pushed the salary cap dramatically upward. Because players like Thomas are locked into relatively low-paying old-money contracts, that leaves even more new money for 2016 free agents.
By the time Thomas becomes a free agent in 2018, there won’t be as much left, because 2016 and 2017 free agents will already be on the books at new-money rates. Thomas will also be 29, and teams aren’t rushing to pay 5-foot-9 point guards exiting their primes.
This is a consequence of the union rejecting cap smoothing. Players who signed before this year, and to a degree before last year, aren’t as well-positioned to cash in. Thomas’ deal, inked in 2014, just came at the wrong time.
Thomas is still in line for a big raise, though. The higher cap will increase salaries for free agents in 2017 and beyond. But it won’t be quite the spending bonanza for good, not great, players like Thomas. Teams will have to be more judicious about which players get big contracts.
Maybe Thomas can convince the Celtics to renegotiate and extend his contract, getting a raise in exchange for forgoing free agency. But that’s a tough sell. They’d probably rather keep his salary low now and their options open if his quickness deteriorates later.
The influx of money into the system is good for players (and owners) overall, but less so for Thomas than most.