The supermax (Designated Veteran Player Extension) was designed to keep superstars in their home market. It was instituted after Kevin Durant joined the Warriors, and the Thunder, a team that was in Seattle and was moved to Oklahoma City, complained that they couldn’t compete with the appeal of a big city. So the solution was creating an advantage for the team that was trying to keep the player – pay him more than anyone else.
But as always, the “solution” has mixed reviews. The NBA didn’t address the cause of the problem but the symptom. Every time you do that, unintended consequences show up. Here’s the list of players who signed the supermax so far.
|Player||Contract signed in||Amount|
|Steph Curry||2017||$201 million|
|James Harden||2017||$170 million (4-year extension)|
|John Wall||2017||$170 million (4-year extension|
|Russell Westbrook||2017||$205 million (5-year extension)|
|Damian Lillard||2019||$196 million (4-year extension)|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||2020||$228 million (5-year extension)|
Two players are a lock to go down as good contracts, Steph and Giannis. Harden’s playoff career is a combination of disappearing in important moments or getting injured. Overall, still a good contract, but not on the Steph and Giannis no-brainer level in my mind. Lillard will become dicey in the last few years – $48.7 million in ’24/’25’ at age 34, but the cap rise with the new TV deal will make it acceptable.
Westbrook was a horrible deal the moment it was signed, but everyone booked it under “gotta keep him in Oklahoma City,” and through that prism, I get it. His production on the court is obviously nowhere near the other guys named so far, but given what Sam Presti did in the past few years, you can’t fault him.
Then there was one. When the Wizards gave John Wall the supermax, most of the analytics and former front office media guys started to scratch their heads. He clearly wasn’t a supermax guy, but do you even book it under “gotta keep him in the market?” Unfortunately, what followed was one of the worst runs of injury bad luck in recent history.
Since 2016-17, John Wall has missed more games due to injuries than he has played. Over this period, Wall’s teams have played a total of 286 games, while he has suited up for a grand total of 105 of them.
Wall has only featured in 36.7-percent of his teams’ games, which would be a great 3-point shooting percentage for him, but is absolutely devastating for a player on a supermax contract. The most concerning part of Wall’s injury history is where he has had his injuries.
He has had five left knee injuries, two right knee injuries, and one heel and Achilles injuries. These have amounted to five separate surgeries with a sixth surgery coming sometime later this year.N.B. Lindberg, Space City Scoop
All this amounted to a fact a user on Reddit pointed out. “John Wall will earn a total of $91.7 million this season and the next – the same amount Michael Jordan earned in his entire career with the Bulls.” The numbers check out. We often lose sight of how much players earned in the 90s. Here are Michael Jordan‘s career earnings with the Bulls.
Wall is currently in the third year of his four-year extension. He didn’t play a single game in Year 1, played only 40 games in Year 2; the report is he won’t play at all this year, and there’s nothing on the trade horizon. The most likely scenario is Wall gets bought out by the Rockets or a team he is traded to in Year 4 of the contract. When all is said and done, John Wall will probably get paid more for sitting at home than Michael Jordan in his entire career with the Chicago Bulls.
If Wall ends up playing only 40 games on this contract, that would mean he got paid $4,300,000 per game – more than MJ’s did in every year in his career apart from the final two years in Chicago. Let that sink in.
Tommy Sheppard deserves a statue
If you’re not a Wizards fan, you probably don’t know who Tommy Sheppard is. He is the GM of the Wizards, and given the fact he managed to turn John Wall into Montrezl Harrell (currently averaging 18/8.5/2.5), Kyle Kuzma (currently averaging 14.5/9.5/1.9), and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (currently averaging 9.7/3.8/1.5), it is very possible Sheppard is an actual wizard.
Add to the fact that the Wizards are currently no.1 in the East, and that means Bradley Beal won’t be handing in his trade request for the foreseeable future, and Sheppard currently doesn’t have to pay for a drink in the wider D.C. area.
Sheppard inherited Wall’s contract and did his wizardry with it, but we must mention a few other GMs who made the right decision about the supermax. The aforementioned, criminally underpaid GOAT, Michael Jordan has a reputation of a cheap owner – according to Charles Barkley, just a cheap guy overall. The Hornets got a lot of criticism when they didn’t offer Kemba Walker the supermax, but I’d say MJ and GM Mitch Kupchak made the right decision. The Jazz also could’ve given Rudy Gobert the supermax of $228 million but managed to hold their ground and negotiate a still massive $205 million over five years.
Still, all these contracts compared to MJ and his generation put into perspective how much the NBA has grown. The next TV deal will continue that trend, but we shouldn’t take it for granted. Check out the MJ table – see anything weird about ’94/’95 compared to ’93/’94? Yep, the cap can also go down.