It’s an interesting question that I don’t think many have given a lot of thought about, except for maybe Joakim, Gar Forman, John Paxson, and his agency team over at BDA Sports.
Joakim has turned himself into one hell of a player since getting his current contract of 5 years, $60 million in 2011. He has become one of the best centers in the NBA if not the best, has won a Defensive Player of the Year award, has been named an All-Star twice, and was voted to the All-NBA First Team this past season. When you throw that kind of accolades on your resume, you deserve a raise.
There is no doubt Joakim is getting a raise, and there probably isn’t a single person in the NBA that disagrees with that statement, but exactly how big of a raise will it be?
Joakim has two options when he goes into free agency in 2016. He can go for a max contract (which he deserves) or he can go the LeBron James route, and keep signing two or three year contracts with player-options to allow maximum flexibility.
If Noah goes for the max deal, you better believe his agent will be looking at the other top centers in the league and what they will be making. The three highest paid centers in the league are below with what they are making next season as well as what they will make in 2016-17 when Noah will be entering the first year of his new deal.
Dwight Howard – $21,436,271
Chris Bosh – $20,644,400
Marc Gasol – $15,829,688
Dwight Howard – $23,282,457
Chris Bosh – $23,741,060
Marc Gasol – Unrestricted Free Agent
If Noah wants to be paid as the top center in the league he will want more than Howard, and if that’s the case he will be asking for somewhere around $21.5 million a year which turns out to be $107.5 million over 5 years.
Now, Joakim has never been a selfish guy so he might not want to break the Bulls’ bank, and there is always the chance that he takes a hometown discount, but it is very hard to say no to a substantial raise, even if you are already making millions.
Joakim’s second option, and the option that Bulls fans should be hoping for, is the LeBron James-like contract. LeBron signed a contract this summer for 2-years, $42.2 million, and he had two reasons for doing so. First, to take advantage of the new TV deal money the NBA will be getting for the 2015-16 season, which will be close to $2 billion dollars a year from Disney and Turner Sports combined. This is important because players and the NBA share all basketball-related income at almost a 50/50 split. More money for players means more money for contracts.
The second reason is so LeBron can have full flexibility on his contract. When you sign a 4 or 5-year max deal, you are stuck in that deal, now if you have sign a 2-year deal with a player option you have flexibility. Some people may see this as selfish on LeBron’s part but it is actually really smart.
Of course having flexibility is a way to make more money (if you don’t get injured) but it also gives the team flexibility. What if Noah gets a Derrick Rose-like injury and misses almost two years of basketball after signing a 2-year deal? Now the Bulls can offer a much shorter contract rather than being stuck for 5 years paying Noah a ton of money to sit on the bench. (Knock on wood)
Another scenario, what if after that second year of Noah’s contract there is a big name Carmelo Anthony-like player deciding to take his talents elsewhere? Say, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins live up to the hype and are two of the best players in the league at the end of their rookie contracts. Wouldn’t the Bulls like to take a crack at bringing in one of these guys? Their rookie deals end after the 2018-19 season, which would also be when Joakim would be finishing his third year of whatever contact he signs next, this kind of flexibility would give Joakim a chance to end his career with a superstar in his prime. Joakim would be able to negotiate a new contract so there is money left to go after other pieces.
Which Route Does Joakim Go?
Joakim is a smart guy, he would be wise to take the LeBron route and give himself maximum flexibility for the rest of his career. He doesn’t want to get stuck in another situation like the Rose situation, and be stuck carrying a team on his own.
Joakim hates LeBron but bet your ass he sees what LeBron is doing. By taking a series of smaller deals, Joakim would be giving himself and the Bulls flexibility while making a boatload of money in the process, all while making sure he doesn’t get stuck on a crappy team for an extended period of time. It would be a win/win situation for Joakim and the Bulls.
**All Salary Cap Info From Spotrac**
Photo Source: Chicago Tribune