After seeing reports/tweets almost daily from outlets like The Ringer, and even some subtle pokes from those at Indy Cornrows, I wanted to dive into the current contract miasma for NBA talent and see where Oladipo finds himself.
Why do writers flaunt Oladipo’s $84 million price tag or use “20% of the cap” for next season like it’s a bad thing rather than place his contract in context? Did OKC really give him that terrible of a contract extension? Is it really that bad?
No, it’s not. Really. And when Oladipo is at the crest of his prime, it might even look good instead of just fine. Oladipo will make $21 million next season. And the season after that, he will make $21 million. After that, another $21 million. Finally, he will play in one more $21 million year, collecting his last paycheck with this current contract near his 29th birthday.
There are three main reasons this contract is fine (not good, not bad), and two relate to simple math.
- Paying the person you believe will be the number one or number two option most plays places Oladipo in the same pay range as guys like Lamarcus Aldridge ($21.5 mil), Harrison Barnes ($23.1 mil), Dwight Howard ($23.5), Brook Lopez ($22.6), and Nicolas Batum ($22.4 mil). An obvious superior player in Paul George would have made only $19.3 million for the Pacers next season, so the $21 million to Oladipo stings a little, until you remember that George will earn the max in 2018-19 (30% of the cap, or roughly $30 million, for a player with his experience).
- The salary cap historically goes up. This means the Oladipo contract over time continues to look better. In 2017-18, the salary cap will be at $99 million, an increase of about five million dollars from the previous season. This raise was smaller than expected, with earlier projections closer to $103 million, but it did rise, and it’s projected to continue to rise in the next few seasons. Though there will not be a dramatic $24 million raise coming like we saw entering last season, a conservative raise from 99 million to 102 million is projected for the 2018-2019 season. For 2019-2020, we can expect a similarly small bump–the cap is not expected to stall completely, like it did from 2010 to 2012. So that 20% of the cap that Oladipo takes up will get smaller as time goes on.
- Victor Oladipo is entering his prime. He should improve with his increased opportunity in Indiana, and he is already a good player. Is he great? No, but he also isn’t paid like a great player. Can he get better? All signs, historical and commonsensical, point to yes, he can. And the more he improves, the better the deal becomes.
Victor Oladipo is not a superstar. He is also not getting paid like a superstar in the long-term with a max contract and his deal will continue to look better comparatively after the now-budget deals for players like George, Kawhi Leonard (18.8), Jimmy Butler (18.7) and John Wall (16.7) dry up in the next couple of seasons.
Look at some of the middling, average wings that hit free agency in the last two years: Tim Hardaway, Jr. just got a deal worth over $17.5 million per year; Kent Bazemore makes an average of $17.5 million per year at the end of his deal; Allen Crabbe will make $19.3 million this season. Wings get paid in today’s NBA, and Oladipo will have plenty of opportunities to show he’s worth his $21 million as a featured player for the Pacers this season.
Attempting to inflate the OKC-IND trade in OKC’s favor by using next season’s contract number against Oladipo is unfair and a little lazy. Context matters. When players like Detroit’s KCP (18) or J. J. Redick (23) sign one year contracts at that value, it becomes a little easier to see the upside in locking down your starting shooting guard for the long-term, when the Pacers might be good again, at a flat rate, especially when only his deal and Myles Turner’s future extension will be taking up any real space on the Pacers books in just a couple seasons.