Contract incentives are common in professional sports. Most are small relative to the size of the overall salary: Catch 45 passes in an NFL season, earn an extra couple hundred grand, for instance.
By making the 2021-22 All-NBA third team, however, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young secured an extra $35 million over the next five seasons. The extension he signed last summer was worth a minimum of 25% of the salary cap ($172.5 million) with the potential to increase to 30% ($207 million) based on his performance this year.
Young 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, like Young’s. On the other hand, Young’s fellow 2018 draftee, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić, already secured the maximum value of his extension upon entering his fourth season, because he had met the criteria by making consecutive all-NBA teams in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
Things worked out for Young and Dončić, but All-NBA team selections often cause players to miss out on tens of millions of dollars. The fact that those teams, and consequently salaries for players, are determined by a voting body of 100 journalists has come under scrutiny recently.
On a recent podcast, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green called it "absolutely disgusting"that the media voting affects contract values. “These are human beings that could have personal issues against guys,” Green said. “And they ultimately end up deciding on like 40 to 50 million dollars.”
In the offseason prior to the 2020-21 season, for example, Jayson Tatum signed a five-year, $163 million extension that would have jumped to $196 million had he been picked for an All-NBA team last year. Tatum actually secured more total ballot points than the Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving, who made the third team as a guard, but he was classified as a forward and missed the cut at that position.
This season, nobody with loads of money on the line was denied one of the 15 spots despite a strong case. Thanks to third team and first team selections, respectively, Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker will each be eligible to sign the Designated Veteran Extension (also known as a “supermax” contract) this summer, which would kick in for the 2024-25 season. Typically, players cannot sign deals worth more than 30% of the cap until the start of their 10th season, but an all-NBA nod allows players to secure a salary worth 35% of the cap before their eighth or ninth season.
Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine would have been eligible for the same contract had he been selected, but his co-star DeMar DeRozan averaged slightly more points, assists and rebounds this season and got the honor instead. At least for LaVine, he didn’t barely miss out on the money due to the decisions of just one or two media members. Rather, he wasn’t included on a single ballot.
In fact, most of the selections were clear cut. Typically, anywhere between five and a dozen players will receive a handful of votes but end up not making all-NBA. Following a trend of awards voters becoming generally more like-minded over the past decade, third team forward was the only closely contested position this year, as there were essentially 16 candidates considered for 15 spots.