Report: NBA maximum contracts could approach $250 million by 2020

The NBA is awash in cash these days, and that means future free agents are going to get paid.

On Tuesday, Yahoo Sports reported that the NBA salary cap is expected to rise from approximately $94 million in 2016 to an astonishing $120 million in 2020:

Of course, that salary cap is just a number. You, dear reader, want to know what that means for the game’s biggest stars. The answer, in a nutshell, is massive contracts that will pay out an average of nearly $50 million per season.

Take a player such as the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, who has a player option for the 2019-20 season. If Leonard becomes a free agent that summer, and if the Spurs labeled him as one of their “designated veterans,” Leonard would be eligible to earn 35 percent of the salary cap in the first year of his new contract, for a sum of approximately $42 million, based off of the current projection. And that’s just the first year.

The new NBA CBA reportedly allows players to earn annual raises of up to eight percent of the total of the first year of the contract, or $3.36 million annual raises over the lifetime of a true maximum deal. That would bring someone like Leonard’s (hypothetical) subsequent annual salary to:

– $42 million in 2019-20

– $45.36 million in 2020-21;

– $48.72 million in 2021-22;

– $52.08 million in 2022-23;

– and $55.44 million in 2023-24;

… for a grand total of $243.6 million over five seasons. It’s not quite on the same level as Alex Rodriguez’s epic 10-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers, but that’s still a ton of money (and way more per year, of course).

The NBA and the players association recently reached a preliminary agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement that will extend through the 2023-24 season, with either side able to opt-out of the deal after the 2022-23 season. The new CBA aims to make it easier for teams to keep their current superstars while making it more difficult for players to join forces on “superteams,” as Kevin Durant did with the Golden State Warriors this past summer.