NBA: What is a Supermax Contract, and who Might Sign 1 in 2019?

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Giannis Antetokounmpo could sign a supermax contract during the 2019 offseason.

This free agency class is one of the most important in recent memory in regards to the future of the league. There hasn’t been this much star power since 2010, and you can argue this class is better than that one.

One of the biggest pieces of this class is the supermax contract. It’s a term you’re going to hear as NBA free agency heats up, so let’s go over the history of the supermax deal, and see who is eligible for one in 2019.

What’s a supermax contract?

By definition, the supermax contract is an extension of the max contract, which is the maximum amount of money a player can receive annually based on their years of service. The terms are defined as follows:

  • A player with 0-6 years of service can receive up to 25% of a team’s salary cap
  • Players with 7-9 years of service can receive up to 30% of a team’s salary cap
  • A player with 10+ years of service can receive up to 35% of a team’s salary cap

A supermax contract is similar as far as years of service, but there are a few stipulations that trigger the bigger deal:

  • The player can be eligible for the 35% bump if they sign with the team who offered them their initial rookie contract
  • A player must be named to an All-NBA team, win the MVP award, or win the Defensive Player of the Year award
  • The length of the contract depends on the years of service the player has completed

There is also an 8% increase per year on top of the 35% after the first year of the contract.

Who’s signed a supermax deal already?

Russell Westbrook is one of the few players who have signed supermax contracts in the NBA.
Russell Westbrook is one of the few players who have signed supermax contracts in the NBA. | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

There have only been four players to sign the supermax contract: James Harden, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall. Three of those players have MVP awards: Harden, Westbrook, and Curry. Those deals don’t seem so bad in hindsight, but the big issue is the Wizards contract they offered John Wall.

Bad deal for the Wizards

At the time, Wall’s contract didn’t look like a bad deal after he came off an All-NBA season, but he has been plagued by injuries since signing the contract. The Wizards may not have him for the entire 2019-20 season as he recovers from an Achilles injury he suffered while rehabbing from surgery.

The other issue for Wall is his 15% trade kicker, that will increase the rest of the value of his contract if the Wizards find a team foolish enough to trade for him.

Who’s eligible this year?

Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the three players eligible for the contract after they each made the All-NBA team. It is more than likely that Lillard will sign his extension after leading Portland to the Western Conference Finals, and the Greek Freak should also sign his deal.

The big question is Kemba Walker, who will be eligible for a five-year, $221 million deal if he resigns with the Hornets. If he decides to go to another team, he will lose $80 million and can only be offered a four-year deal.
We personally think he should walk away from the Hornets, but we wouldn’t blame him for wanting to keep that money in his pocket. If he does leave Charlotte, expect both Los Angeles teams and the Knicks to make big offers for the talented scorer.