C.J. McCollum doesn’t get ‘maximum’ contract extension’

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C.J. McCollum reportedly signed a four-year, $106 million max contract extension.

Only part of that is true.

McCollum’s extension is worth about $106 million over four years, but it’s not a “maximum” deal.

According to Basketball Insiders, McCollum’s extension will pay him:

  • 2017-18: $23,962,573
  • 2018-19: $25,759,766
  • 2019-20: $27,556,959
  • 2020-21: $29,354,152
  • Total: $106,633,450

Because the 2017-18 max salaries aren’t yet known, true “maximum” rookie-scale extensions have language to account for the uncertainty. Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement:

A player and a Team may provide in a Rookie Scale Extension that the player’s Salary (in the first Season of the extended term) will equal “the Maximum Annual Salary applicable to such player in the first Season of the extended term”

the Team may instead provide in the Extension that the player’s Salary (in the first Season of the extended term) will equal “25% of the Salary Cap in effect during the first Season of the extended term, or, if the player meets at least one of the 5th Year 30% Max Criteria during the fourth Season of his Rookie Scale Contract, [ ]% of the Salary Cap in effect during the first Season of the extended term.” The percentage to be included where brackets are indicated in the foregoing language shall equal the percentage that is agreed upon by the Team and player, which percentage shall in no event be less than twenty-five percent (25%) or greater than thirty percent (30%).

Apparently, McCollum’s contract doesn’t contain either set of terms. It has just actual numbers.

His $23,962,573 salary in 2017-18 is a decent guess at the max that season based on the latest $102 million cap projection. However:

1. The league’s cap projections tend to be conservative. Even if the system remains the same, the cap – and max salaries, which are also determined by revenue – could land much higher.

2. The system might not remain the same. Either the players or owners can opt out of the CBA before next summer.

Given Michele Roberts’ saber rattling on max contracts and the union’s executive board being stacked with superstars, the max formula could lead to a much bigger number. Players could also push for a higher percentage of revenue, lifting all salaries higher.

McCollum probably wouldn’t benefit. He’s locked into his scheduled salary barring a new rule that raises his.

However, it could go the other way. Against the odds, max salaries could land lower than expected.

McCollum probably wouldn’t be protected. In the current system, if a slated salary in the first year of an extension is above the max, the salary is amended down to the max. That setup probably won’t change.

Essentially, the Trail Blazers are protecting themselves as we enter an uncertain new era. In all likelihood, McCollum’s salary will be no more than $23,962,573. If the max is higher, it’ll be $23,962,573. If the max is lower, it’ll be the max.

Expect other teams negotiating extensions to take a similar course. The Warriors did something similar with Klay Thompson, and this tack is even more important now.