Jayson Tatum: Too much money on the line for media voting to determine super-max eligibility

Celtics star Jayson Tatum
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum missed out on $25,180,736 over four years because he didn’t make an All-NBA team last season ($32,600,060 if he opts into the fifth year of his contract extension).

That’s a consequence of the league’s super-max rules. Though contract terms are still subject to negotiation between teams and players, players are eligible for a higher max-salary tier only by making All-NBA or winning MVP or Defensive Player of the Year. So, significant power lies with award voters.

Tatum on “The Old Man & The Three“:

I specifically remember one person saying, “I’m not a fan of his shot selection, so I just couldn’t put him on my All-NBA ballot.” And I was baffled.

The fact that somebody could have that thought and basically cost someone 30 million dollars – forget about me. Say the next rookie-extension guys that come in. I think that has to change. Because there’s no criteria set for the media, for the voters on who they should vote for. It’s like all opinion-based. There’s no “He should have to play this many games” or “They should be in the playoffs” or average this many points. It’s all like like, “Well, I like this guy a little more” or certain things like that. I think there’s just a little too much on the line for that.

There’s so much that bothered me with that whole situation. I think the narrative was, “Jayson didn’t make All-NBA. He loses 30 million.” And from that headline, nobody is going to feel bad for me. I still got 175 million. Nobody is going to feel bad. I don’t want anybody to feel bad about the money part. My lifestyle hasn’t changed. It’s not about that. I think, just as the results came out and I looked at how people voted, what went into the media members’, their process of voting, that was the frustrating part. The opinion of somebody or not holding one person accountable to the other.

Maybe teams should be free to pay one or two or three stars a higher max without players needing to qualify. Regular-season honors like All-NBA are not the best way to determine who deserves a higher salary.

But the super-max criteria exists precisely because so much money is on the line. The award standards protect teams from themselves, preventing “unworthy” players from getting too large of contracts. Teams sometimes feel they can’t tell a player no. So, a rule takes the choice away from teams.

The players approved this mechanism in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, because it also helps rank-and-file union members. Players get roughly half of league-wide revenue. The less stars like Tatum make, the more money left for other players.

Know who largely doesn’t like this setup? The media, who never asked for this responsibility. Owners and players decided themselves to use All-NBA voting for this purpose. Some media members were uncomfortable voting on awards tied to smaller bonuses (say, $1 million). The large sums on the line with the super max makes some voters downright queasy.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t think Tatum deserved to make All-NBA last season. I rated all six forwards who made it – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Julius Randle, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler and Paul Georgeand Zion Williamson ahead of him.

Tatum talks about being judged by unfairly high expectations. That’s a fair point. Voter fatigue exists and rewards surprise players at the expense of established stars like Tatum. But I thought All-NBA voters overrated Tatum last season.

In that interview, Tatum also incorrectly said only his votes at forward – not at guard – counted toward his total. His votes at every position all counted toward a single total score. However, Tatum could make an All-NBA team only at the position he got the most votes – forward, appropriately. That’s why Tatum fell short despite getting more total voting points than All-NBA third-team guard Kyrie Irving.

Maybe All-NBA should be positionless. But there’s no guarantee voters would’ve put Tatum in their top 15 if freed from positional limitations.

In many ways, it sounds like Tatum wanted whatever system would’ve put him on an All-NBA team and gotten him the super max. If voters chose him, we probably wouldn’t be hearing this griping.

But if Tatum isn’t just bitter about his own perceived snub and truly wants a better system for the next generation of players, he should take it up with the union. The setup could change in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.

Draymond Green wants to play 4-5 more years, ideally with Warriors, not stressed about contract


Jordan Poole got a contract extension from the Warriors this summer. So did Andrew Wiggins.

Draymond Green did not — and he punched Poole and was away from the team for a time.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Green in Golden State. He has a $27.6 million player option for next season, but he could become a free agent this summer. With the Warriors’ payroll through the roof — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on max extensions, Poole and Wiggins just got paid, and contract extensions for Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the young players are coming — there are questions about how long Green will be in the Bay Area.

In an open and honest interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Green talked about everything from his relationship with Poole after the punch to his future. Here are a few highlights:

“I want to play another four or five more years. That would be enough for me.”

“You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them [along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson]. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away. So, absolutely I’d be interested in that.”

On rumors he wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers: “I never said that. People can say what they want. I’m also not really one to react much to what one may say. I react to things when I want to react to it. I don’t react to things just because somebody said it.”

Is he worried about his next contract: “No, not at all. I have a great agent [Rich Paul]. The best agent in the business. That’s why you align yourself with an incredible agent, because they handle the business. I play basketball. That’s what I want.”

I don’t doubt there is mutual interest in Green staying with the Warriors, the question is at what price. It’s not a max. As for the threat of him bolting, Green is still an elite defender and secondary playmaker, but it’s fair to wonder what the free agent market would look like for him. Green is not the scoring threat he once was, and his unique skill set is not a plug-and-play fit with every roster and system (does he really fit on the Lakers, for example).

The conventional wisdom around the league right now is that Green will opt into the final year of his contract with the Warriors — especially if they make another deep playoff run — because that level of money is not out there for him. That said, it only takes one owner to fall in love with the idea and send his GM out to get the deal done. The market may be there for him after all, or he may be open to the security of three or four years with another team but at a lower per-year dollar amount.

Green also talks about his relationship with Poole in the Q&A and makes it sound professional and business-like. Which is all it has to be, but it’s not the “playing with joy” model the Warriors are built upon.


Lakers reportedly leaning toward packaging Beverley, Nunn in trade


While the Lakers have looked better of late winning 6-of-8 with a top-10 offense and defense in the league in that stretch, plus Anthony Davis continues to play at an All-NBA level at center.

That run — which still has Los Angeles sitting 13th in the West — came against a soft part of the schedule (three wins against the Spurs, for example), and is about to get tested with a few weeks of tougher games, starting with the suddenly healthy Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. While the Lakers have been better, nobody is watching them and thinking “contender.” Are they even a playoff team?

Which is why the Lakers are still in the market for trades. But Jovan Buha reports at The Athletic the Lakers realize moving Russell Westbrook and his $47 million may not happen, so they are focused more on a smaller deal moving Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn (with maybe a pick) to bring back quality role players to round out the roster).

The Lakers are leaning toward [a Nunn/Beverley trade] at this point, the team sources said. That would entail making a smaller move to marginally upgrade the roster while retaining the possibility of following up with a larger Westbrook deal later in the season…

Beverley ($13 million) and Nunn ($5.3 million) are both underperforming relative to their contracts. With the Lakers’ needs for additional size on the wing and a better complimentary big next to Anthony Davis, along with the roster’s glut of small guards, Beverley and/or Nunn are expendable. Packaged together, the Lakers could acquire a player or players in the $20 million range.

Trading Nunn and Beverley lines up with a couple of good options from the Lakers’ perspective. For example, the salaries work to get Bojan Bogdanovic out of Detroit, or it matches up with a deal for Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson out of San Antonio. However, neither the Pistons nor Spurs care much about adding veteran guards on expiring contracts in Nunn and Beverley, so it’s going to require the Lakers throwing in one of their first-round picks unprotected (2027 or 2029) and maybe a second-rounder to get it done. (With how well the Pacers are playing, it’s not a sure thing that a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade is still available.) The Spurs trade may be more appealing to the Lakers because Richardson and Poeltl are expiring contracts, so it doesn’t change the Lakers’ plans to use cap space to chase bigger names this offseason (Bogdanovic was recently given a two-year, $39.1 million extension).

These may not be the “move us into contender range” blockbuster Rob Pelinka and the front office hoped was out there, but either of those trades would make the Lakers better. It could move them into playoff-team status, and considering LeBron James turns 38 at the end of the month they can’t waste a year and retool next offseason.

The Lakers have made a number of miscalculations over the years, but they are all-in with this group now and have to find a way to maximize it, even if the cost is a little painful.

Khris Middleton reportedly set to return to Bucks Friday vs. Lakers


The Milwaukee Bucks are about to get better. Likely a lot better.

Which should worry the rest of the league because the Bucks have looked like one of the two best teams in the Association this season: A 15-5 record with the best defense in the NBA and an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Now they are about to get Khris Middleton back.

Middleton — the Bucks Olympian and All-Star forward — is set to make his season debut Friday night against the Lakers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. Middleton had been recovering from wrist surgery.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and assists per game last season. More importantly in Milwaukee, Middleton is the hub of the Bucks’ halfcourt offense — he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll at the end of games, asked to create for himself and others in the clutch (with Antetokounmpo working off the ball and sometimes setting picks). Without him so far this season, the Bucks’ halfcourt offense has struggled, ranked 21st in the NBA this season in points per possession (via Cleaning the Glass). Overall the Bucks have a middle-of-the-pack offense because of it.

That is about to change.

While Mike Budenholzer will ease him back into the rotation as he gets his wind back, having Middleton back makes the Bucks much more dangerous. Which is bad news for the rest of the NBA.