The Importance of the Second Contract

Everyone and their mother knows the value of drafting well in the NBA and what it does in respect to long-term success. But the next step to team building is the importance of the second contract and salary cap management of the roster. Too many times do we see teams throwing around contracts to semi-solid players because they own the Bird Rights to them and then a year or two later they are looked at as a negative because said contract. Below I will break down the best contracts in the league and how to value it through advanced stats.

Favorite contracts in the league:

  • Alex Caruso: RAPTOR of 5.7 on $9M/year
  • Kenrich Williams: RAPTOR of 2.1 on $6M/year (starting next year)
  • Pat Connaughton: RAPTOR of 1.5 on $5M/year (jumps to $9M next year)
  • Alec Burks: RAPTOR of 2.5 on $10M/year
  • Cedi Osman: RAPTOR of 2 on $7.4M/year
  • Larry Nance Jr.: RAPTOR of 2 on $10M/year
  • John Konchar: RAPTOR of 2.8 on $2.3M/year
  • Lu Dort: RAPTOR of 2.8 on $15M/year
  • Kevon Looney: RAPTOR of 3.2 on $8.5M/year

Trends with these contracts – they are guys who know their role! They also had to fight their way onto rosters and in rotations. Most of these guys were 2nd Round picks or even undrafted players, which helps with salary cap management as it allows for team-friendly deals very early on in their careers. Securing these players with contracts less than $10M/year allows organizations to structure smart rosters around their star players and establishes, at the very least, a competitive team.

Problem contracts:

  • Anfernee Simons: RAPTOR of 0.4 on $24M/year
  • Zach LaVine: RAPTOR of 1.1 on $40M/year
  • John Collins: RAPTOR of -2.8 on $24M/year
  • Michael Porter Jr.: RAPTOR of -0.4 on $31M/year

The one thing all these contracts have in common are big names and scoring. They are also on teams that want to win/contend. It is my belief that teams throw the bag at guys more so through fear rather than logic and calculated thinking. These contracts handcuff teams from any sort of flexibility when they should have traded the players for a variety of assets before paying them. I’d be happy to be proven wrong but I don’t see a world where teams paying Simons, LaVine, Collins, or Porter Jr. (luckily has Jokic) like top 2 players have long-term success. There are a number of contracts out there where teams feel like they HAVE TO retain their guys at any cost, but in reality it just caps the teams ceiling.

The perfect example of strong salary cap management is the Oklahoma City Thunder. They have acquired young players on 2nd round and undrafted contracts and allowed them to develop and have rewarded them with team-friendly contracts (see Kenrich Williams, Lu Dort, Isaiah Joe). They have not made any moves that have tied them down to a questionable player for years, as the only big long-term contract they have is SGA. Sam Presti and the Thunder have been calculated and smart through their rebuild and they have positioned themselves for long-term success.

Players to monitor this summer:

Grant Williams: It has been rumored that Williams is wanting to be paid around $17M/year. This type of contract would lock a team into a contract with a player with a RAPTOR of -1.2. Buyer beware on Williams.

Hamidou Diallo: An under-the-radar type of player, Diallo has a RAPTOR of 1.3. If a team can snag him for around $10M/year then they have great value here.

Harrison Barnes: Barnes is getting paid $18M/year right now, which isn’t great considering his RAPTOR is 1.3. But if a team can secure Barnes on a 3 year deal around $12M/year then you have a solid vet on great value.

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