What could Durant command on the open market? Jon Hamm is a local expert on the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. Here is what he had to say about Durant’s next contract:
“There aren't any solid projections yet, because there are no salary cap projections for 2016-17 yet. But we can get close. Max salaries are somewhat based on the salary cap. The catch is that the formula used to compute max salaries is slightly different than the formula used to calculate the salary cap.
“In 2016, Durant's maximum salary will be 30 percent of the salary cap (he'll fall into the 7-9 years experience bracket). But because of the formula difference, the max salary for that bracket will be slightly less than 30 percent of the cap, in actuality. For the sake of simplicity, it's not unreasonable to just use 30 percent of the salary cap as the max salary guesstimate. We're just guessing at future salary cap numbers at this point anyway. (This is somewhat confusing because the agreement refers to max salaries as a percentage of the salary cap, but then a different formula is spelled out in another subsection.)”
Hamm also cited collective bargaining agreement expert Larry Coon: “A free agent's maximum salary in the first year of a new contract is never less than 105 percent of his salary in the last year of his previous contract.” So, Hamm said, “if the max salary is defined as $19 million, but a player made $20 million the year before, his max salary would be $21 million. The league projects a salary cap of $66.5 million in 2015-16. That'd be a $3.3 million increase over what's expected in 2014-15. A conservative estimate would be to increase that another $3.3 million for 2016-17. Round up a touch and let's assume the salary cap will be $70 million in the summer of 2016. If that's the case, then the maximum salary bracket Durant would fall into would be somewhere around $21 million.
“Durant's salary in 2015-16 is $20,158,622. So at a minimum, his max salary in 2016 would be 105 percent of that, or $21,166,533. Could be more than that if the league keeps raking in money.
“Another variable: the national TV contracts. The big TV contracts expire in 2016. Speculation has the new contracts increasing by at least 50 percent, if not doubling. There could be a significant increase in both the salary cap and max salaries that summer. Durant's max salary could be quite a bit more.”
The Thunder can pay Durant more than can other franchises, “but it's not as impressive as you might think,” Hamm wrote. “The first-year max salary would be the same for him whether he re-signed with OKC or elsewhere. OKC will be able to offer a couple of things that other teams can't: a five-year contract (as opposed to four by another team) and 7.5 percent annual increases off the base salary (as opposed to 4.5 percent by other teams).
“Hypothetical example: let's say Durant's max salary is $25 million. OKC's offer would include annual raises of $1.875 million. Other teams could only offer $1.125 million annual raises. So OKC's offer would be five years, $143.75 million. Other teams could offer four years and $106.75 million.
“The rub is that if you look at both offers based on the first four years, the difference is not that significant (OKC's offer is better by only $4.5 million over four years). The fifth year is nice for security (some players place a lot of value on length of contract), but KD's going to eventually get that fifth year either way, so it's not a great advantage.”
By Berry Tramel