This season’s three All-NBA teams, announced Tuesday, saw some notable omissions, namely Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. While the snub might hurt a player’s pride, those two players might feel it even more in their wallets.
All-NBA team selections can often trigger bonuses in contracts, directly causing players to either make or miss out on tens of millions of dollars each year. And given that teams are determined by a voting body of 100 journalists, the likelihood of earning that extra payday is largely out of a player’s control.
For instance, last off-season, Tatum and Mitchell each signed five-year, $163 million extensions that would have jumped to $195.6 million had they been picked for an All-NBA team this year, since it would have made them eligible to make 30% of the cap this season.
Mitchell, who was the leading scorer on the team with the league’s best record, finished with the ninth-most votes among all guards—well behind third-team selections Bradley Beal of the Wizards and Kyrie Irving of the Nets. Tatum, on the other hand, actually secured more total ballot points than Irving but was classified as a forward and missed the cut at that position.
Not all players with money on the line on Tuesday struck out, though. The Mavericks’ Luka Dončić made the first team as a guard and set himself up to potentially sign the largest rookie-scale extension in league history this off-season, worth roughly $201.5 million over five years.
Dončić can thank the “Derrick Rose Rule” (officially named the “5th year, 30% max criteria”) in the league’s 2011 collective bargaining agreement for his upcoming payday. The clause allows a player to re-sign with his current team and earn a salary greater than the typical maximum starting in his fifth season, if at least one of a list of criteria is met. As of the 2017-18 season, that includes being named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or two of the previous three seasons.
Such a deal is not guaranteed—it is up to the team to actually offer the player that contract—and teams may also negotiate conditional salaries. For example, Devin Booker’s contract extension with the Phoenix Suns in 2018 stated that he’d make 27.5%, 28.5% or 30% of the salary cap if named to the 2018-19 All-NBA third team, second team or first team, respectively. Similarly, the ultimate values of Tatum’s and Mitchell’s current contracts were based on their performances this season.
Meanwhile, thanks to his All-NBA second team selection, Sixers center Joel Embiid will be eligible for the Designated Veteran Extension (also known as a “supermax” contract), which would kick in for the 2023-24 season. Back in 2019, Klay Thompson missed out on this opportunity when he didn’t make the third team, and the Warriors guard was noticeably frustrated upon hearing the news.
If you’re wondering whether media members should be making decisions that affect the disbursement of millions of dollars, you’re not the first. Last year, the NBA took ballots away from regional TV announcers in an effort to reduce bias in the voting body. One writer per local market still gets a vote, however; the lone vote for Booker in the year he needed a selection for a pay raise came from the Arizona Republic’s Duane Rankin. Furthermore, several national writers and announcers have affiliations with specific teams; for example, ESPN analyst Mark Jackson once coached Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with Golden State.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said he has received lengthy texts from players’ agents making highly detailed All-NBA arguments.
The voting system isn’t perfect, but it’s hard to come up with any group of voters—players, fans, coaches—that wouldn’t be significantly more biased. As long as salaries are tied to the All-NBA teams, sportswriters and broadcasters will wield a large amount of power in determining those salaries.