We’re a few weeks away from a fascinating showdown all around the NBA: Free agents like Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin, Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday and Chris Paul will be faced with a difficult decision – take as much money as I can get, or take a little less and join a team that could compete with the Warriors and Cavs for NBA supremacy.
Of course, not all “take the money” situations are created equal. Hayward, 27, has “only” made $56 million so far in his career. This is the summer he could sign a massive long-term extension … or perhaps a shorter deal so that he could then sign another one after he reaches the 10-year mark and becomes eligible for the Super Max.
Is it worth staying in Utah, where the Jazz got to the 2nd round and could be building something nice? Or did the Jazz only beat the Clippers to advance to the 2nd round because Blake Griffin got hurt? In the West, the Jazz are at best are a distant 3rd to the Warriors and Spurs; if Hayward bolted for the East, he’d instantly vault the Celtics close to the same level as the Cavs.
The Hayward money situation is complicated, but this is an excellent breakdown. He’s got more options than anyone, the widest gap in money (staying with Jazz vs leaving) and unlike some of the others on this list, he may not have reached his full potential as a player yet.
Blake Griffin’s career earnings are around $96 million so far, and he’s 28 years old. He’s going to get max offers, and he’s a max player, but if he wants to stay in LA with Chris Paul and Doc Rivers, the team won’t be in any position to add much of anything, and they may actually get worse with JJ Redick commanding big money elsewhere (maybe with the Lakers). I can’t see a scenario where Griffin takes less money, but I’m most curious to see if anyone even asks him to.
Kyle Lowry has made a little more than $64 million in his career, and having just turned 31, he’s in line for one final huge payday. But will it be with Toronto, which is capped out? Theoretically they could ask him to take a little less so they can keep the roster together and make one run at LeBron … except they were just swept out of the 2nd round.
Don’t laugh about Jrue Holiday. His decision looms large with New Orleans for one reason: Anthony Davis. The Pelicans are capped out. They really can’t do anything else in free agency if they re-sign Holiday. They can offer him a 5-year, $177 million deal, far more than any other team can (4-years, $131 million). If they do retain him, that’s it – it’s Holiday, Davis and DeMarcus Cousins in a quest to reach the playoffs.
Holiday’s only made $48 million in his career so far. This will be a life-changing payday. Or does he tell the Pelicans he’ll take a little less in hopes that it’ll permit them to have a little wiggle room in free agency?
Chris Paul has made roughly $160 million on the court so far in his career. Obviously you chop that in half because of taxes, then take away the agent and lawyer fees, and it shrinks further. At 32, this is going to be Paul’s last big contract. As many note, he was instrumental in creating that 5th year in the new CBA. As in, the Clippers can offer him a lucrative 5th year max that nobody else can (5-years, $205 million). The most the Spurs or anyone else can offer him: 4-years, $130 million.
But as we saw with Al Horford last year, the Hawks realized it was pointless to bid against nobody and pay nearly $40 million in that 5th year for a player who was going to be 37. Atlanta hoped he’d take a hometown discount in that final year. Horford landed in Boston.
Paul’s career has been a strange one. The advanced stats love him, and you’ll probably see his name on many Top 10 point guard all-time lists. A Hall of Fame lock, Paul’s never made it out of the 2nd round of the playoffs, but he’s got a few years to change that … if he leaves the Clippers.