NBA Max Contracts That Will Be Signed This Summer

You’ve heard the thought process by now:  The NBA’s salary cap will rise by about 25-30% this off-season, but the players already under contract will not get a raise, so the front offices will spend unprecendented money on the 2016 free agent class.  It might be conventional wisdom, but it’s 100% true, and there appear to be six unrestricted who will receive max contracts (under traditional parameters) this July.

NBA Max Contracts That Will Be Signed This Summer

Not all of these contracts will work out.  A great trivia question to ask someone is, “Who made the the most money during the ‘Summer of LeBron James,’ aka the 2010 free agent class?”  The answer, of course, is Joe Johnson. He made $124 million over six years with the Hawks, and Amar’e Stoudamire also beat James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh by signing for $100 million over five years.  Johnson and Stoudamire were productive players during those deals, but it’s fair to say that they weren’t worth all the Benjamins they got paid.  Some of the seven players to sign max deals this summer will suffer the same fate, especially with the inflated dollars that general managers will shell out with the rise of the salary cap.

Let’s rank which contracts are most likely to be worth the max contracts that they’re expected to get this summer. You’ll notice that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are not on the list. LeBron’s situation is different from all the other max contracts in that he owns his current franchise and would instantly own any other franchise he plays for. Wade isn’t on the list because it’s impossible to tell whether he’ll sign another one year deal, sign a true max contract, take a paycut so the Heat can get someone else, or move elsewhere.

Here, in order of which max contract players will most likely be worth the money over the course of their deals to least likely, are the six free agents who will earn max money this summer.

Kevin Durant

Controversial pick here.  Not sure if the internet will forgive me for having such a ridiculous top choice.

Hassan Whiteside

Whiteside occupies the number two spot over Demar DeRozan and Al Horford for one simple reason:  his maximum number is way lower than the other two.  Because he has only six years of NBA experience, Whiteside is only eligible to earn a max contract that starts at $21.3 million next season.  If Whiteside had only one more year of experience, he could earn a max deal starting at $25 million, which may not seem like a huge difference with the money that will be thrown around this summer, but it will definitely make a significant difference in a few years if the cap numbers get changed when the new CBA comes into play, most likely in 2017.  Whiteside might not click with a coach other than Erik Spoelstra, but at just 27 years old this summer and still with room to improve, he clocks in at the second spot on this list.  Of course, it’s a huge dropoff after Durant, which speaks to the nature of this summer’s free agency.

Al Horford

You’re expecting DeRozan in this case, but DeRozan will turn 27 this summer as well and has actually been in the league for seven years since being drafted, which means that he won’t improve much more.  It’s hard not to be skeptical of the not-totally-efficient scorer who had a much better contract year than any of his previous seasons. Horford, on the other hand, has been way more consistent over the course of his career, and his game will age well. He doesn’t rely on a rare level of athleticism that will quickly decline in his early thirties, and he’s just as likely as DeRozan to be worth the money in the fifth year of the contract while being slightly more likely than DeRozan to be worth the money next season.

DeMar DeRozan

Is there any chance that the Los Angeles Lakers don’t make a max offer to DeRozan, a Compton native?  It will be interesting to see if Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri will open up the vault to re-sign him, or let him walk for that price.

Mike Conley

Teams should try to avoid giving Conley a max deal at all costs, but some team will bite.  Conley has exactly nine years in the NBA, meaning that his max will start at $25 million, just like Durant, Horford, and DeRozan.  He’s faced injuries in his career, most notably this past season, and although he’ll only be 29 at the start of next season, it’s hard to believe that Conley will be worth max money in year 4 or 5 of a max deal.

Chandler Parsons

Parsons will get max money for no other reason than he’s the best recruiter in the NBA, and a team with ample cap space over the next few seasons would love to spend a little bit of their space this year on Parsons in order to have him hopefully lure someone else in over the next few years.  He almost stole DeAndre Jordan from the Los Angeles Clippers, and many general managers would love to have him do the same for their team.  Parsons’ max will only start at $21.3 million, but he has failed to play more than 66 games in three of his five NBA seasons, and he’s older than you might think, as he will turn 28 around the start of the season.