When your favorite NBA shooting guard Devin Booker made the All-NBA team this year — first team, in fact — he became eligible for a ‘supermax’ extension worth 35% of the 2024-25 salary cap, followed by 8% raises each year after that.
The Phoenix Suns immediately offered Book that deal and Book immediately signed it.
For Devin Booker and close friend Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who both were drafted in 2015 and signed that same designated veteran max extension this summer, that extension could easily include salaries that top $60 million per year.
The All-NBA pair are currently projected to be the 7th-highest paid players in the NBA in the 2024-25 season, behind only Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Jokic and Bradley Beal.
If GM James Jones gets his way and acquires Kevin Durant, the Suns would have two of the seven highest-paid players in the game two seasons from now.
A total of 18 players are currently slotted to make at least $40 million in the 2024-25 season, and that’s still two years away. By the summer of 2024, that number of $40 million players could double.
The most any one player can make, under the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with players, is 35% of the league’s salary cap. These aren’t the old days, like the 90s, where Michael Jordan’s final contract with the Bulls of $33 million for the 1997-98 season was over 100% of that year’s cap.
After 10 years in the league, the 35% can be reached if you’ve made All-NBA, Defensive Player of the Year or league MVP in recent season(s) — see this spotrac article for more minutia on the recency rules.
For players like Booker and Towns, with 7-9 years in the league, the only way to reach that 35% is if you meet the above criteria AND another rule: you must have played for your same team through the entirety of your current contract (ie post-rookie scale contract).
Per Spotrac.com, Booker’s extension is projected to be worth $224 million. That’s using a projected salary cap number of $143 million as the starting point in 2024-25.
That 2024-25 cap number is just a projection though. Currently, it’s based on $10 million increase per year over today’s cap, but some projections have the league increasing the cap by 10% per year because their revenues have far exceeded projections in the last twelve months.
If the cap goes up 10% per year in the next two years, Booker’s salaries would be more like:
Almost 65 million dollars in four years! To one player!?!?!? Are you choking on your food yet?
But things are not as they seem
Don’t choke. Turn that bile into a smile, Sun’s fans.
Booker’s salary numbers will be locked in during the final year of this current TNT/ESPN television deal, one year before a new deal kicks into place that could triple in size.
According to Jabari Smith of CNBC, the NBA is expecting to sign a new TV rights deal worth as much as $75 billion dollars that would begin in the 2025-26 season. That dwarfs the current deal which was a ‘paltry’ $25 billion, or $2.6 billion per year. This current deal runs through the 2024-25 season.
If league revenues on TV rights triple in 2025-26, the salary cap could balloon by a great deal more than 10%. Remember, the players’ salary cap is based on about half of the league’s basketball-related income, and TV rights have been the majority of the income. Triple those TV rights and you can only presume the players’ share of those rights would at least double, if not triple, right? Why would the players suddenly agree to less of a share just because the money is ballooning?
Nobody knows what will happen with the 2025-26+ salary caps per team, but remember the last time the league signed a new huge TV deal… a huge one-year spike in the cap resulted in players like Bismack Biyombo getting $17 million per year and the league’s best team, the Warriors, suddenly having the cap room to add full-priced Kevin freaking Durant to their lineup through free agency.
What I do know is this: salaries that seem huge today will not seem so huge in 2025.
Booker’s projected $56 million 2025-26 salary — locked in before the ballooning cap — might only 20% of that year’s cap instead of 35%. For perspective, that’s like giving Mikal Bridges money to Book.
It’s possible the league will preemptively increase the 2024-25 cap to smooth in the cap jump so there’s not a 40-50% increase on the cap in one season. But if these owners are not getting any more money until 2025, why would they give more to the players?
- 30 NBA ‘governors’ get to keep 51% of the basketball-related income (sure, they need to pay expenses with that money, but let’s not pretend there isn’t a LOT of profit baked in)
- 450 NBA players get to split the other 49% among themselves
The equity is shocking.
Bottom line is that, while you might be choking on your Wheaties at Book probably getting $60+ million in each of the final two years of his extension, it’s likely that his $60 million will be a far cry from 35% of the cap in either season. More likely, $60 million will only be 15-20% of the Suns’ cap by then, which could easily exceed $200 million.
Now imagine how little Ayton’s $35 million in 2025-26 will look, or Mikal Bridges’ $24 million. A prime bridges at only 10ish% of the cap? yes please
All is not lost for Book, DA and Bridges though
None of Booker, Ayton or Bridges got player options baked into their contracts, so they are currently locked in to salaries based on this current TV deal.
The CBA does, however, currently offer a limited ability to ‘renegotiate and extend’ on the back end of a deal. Those rules around renegotiation are currently very narrow — enough that that wasn’t a reasonable avenue for the Spurs and Dejounte Murray — but might be greatly expanded in the new CBA (the current CBA expires in summer 2024 season, a year before new TV money kicks in). Because of the expected massive cap increase, we could see a new ‘renegotiate and extend’ that’s based on the player’s worth rather than simply a % increase on their current deal.
That’s the only way a lot of these players already under contract will be able to taste some of that new money before their deals expire.
Imagine 30-year old, prime Book renegotiating the last year of his contract to something in the $80-90 million range?