The NBA generated more basketball-related income than ever this past season, the total number coming up just short of US$9-billion.
Business is good. The first night of free agency underscored how good.
Nikola Jokic agreed to the biggest contract in NBA history, Bradley Beal agreed to a deal worth a quarter-billion dollars, and the money just kept flowing. Shortly after midnight Friday in the Eastern time zone, three more players – Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Ja Morant – also agreed to huge-money extensions.
Towns and Booker agreed to four-year deals that will commence in 2024 and are worth at least US$224-million, their agent, Jessica Holtz of CAA, said. Morant will sign his first rookie extension, one that’ll be worth at least US$193-million and could reach the US$230-million range, according to Tandem Sports, which represents him.
Those five players – Jokic, Beal, Towns, Booker and Morant – had more than US$1.1-billion in money committed to them in their new deals, highlighting the moves made Thursday when the NBA’s annual free-agent negotiating window opened.
Jokic agreed to a supermax extension to remain with the Denver Nuggets, the two-time reigning MVP guaranteeing himself at least US$264-million over five seasons starting with the 2023-24 campaign. The final number may go up slightly depending on what the league’s salary cap is going into the `23-24 season and if it exceeds current projections.
Beal will make US$251-million over the next five seasons after re-signing with Washington, one day after turning down US$37-million for this coming season from the team with whom he’s spent the entirety of his 10-year career.
Towns and Booker got their deals not long afterward, as did Morant. More big-money extensions are coming at some point, particularly rookie extensions – Miami’s Tyler Herro and New Orleans’ Zion Williamson among the names on that list.
All those moves, even the biggest-money ones, were overshadowed by a piece of non-free-agent news that came earlier Thursday when Kevin Durant, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation, told the Brooklyn Nets that he wanted a trade. That undoubtedly had some sort of an impact on the decisions some teams were making, or were considering, with the surprise development that one of the world’s elite players is looking for a new place to play.
Jokic and Beal have signed lucrative contracts before. For some, the ones they get this summer will be their first.
Jalen Brunson, as had been widely speculated given his deep ties to the Knicks – his father played there, for starters – agreed to sign with New York, on a deal that ESPN reported would be worth US$104-million over four years. He had earned about US$6-million, total, in his four seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and saw his value soar by averaging 21.6 points in 18 playoff games this past season.
Anfernee Simons, who had a breakout season for the injury-plagued Portland Trail Blazers last year – taking advantage of his opportunity, and then some – agreed to a four-year, US$100-million contract to remain with that club. And Lu Dort, undrafted three years ago and someone who made about US$4-million combined in his three seasons with Oklahoma City, will stay with the Thunder for the next five years on a deal worth nearly $88 million.
The NBA set the new salary cap, luxury tax and other numbers that will be used this coming season and go into effect Friday.
The cap is US$123.655-million, the tax level is US$150.267-million. The minimum team salary level is US$111.29-million and the exceptions were set as wel. The non-taxpayer mid-level is US$10.49-million, taxpayer mid-level is US$6.479-million, and the mid-level for a team with room under the cap is US$5.401-million.
Tucker to Philadelphia
P.J. Tucker is reuniting with Philadelphia general manager Daryl Morey and – assuming he re-signs, as planned – James Harden as well. Tucker agreed Thursday to a three-year deal with the 76ers for US$33-million. Morey, Tucker and Harden were together with the Houston Rockets; Harden declared free agency Wednesday with the intention of coming back to Philadelphia. Tucker won a title with Milwaukee in 2021 and helped Miami to the Eastern Conference finals in 2022.
McGee chooses Mavericks
Dallas and JaVale McGee – a three-time NBA champion and an Olympic gold medalist as well – agreed on a contract for two seasons and a third at McGee’s option worth about US$20-million. McGee has played for eight NBA teams and is heading to Dallas for a second time; he played 34 games there in 2015-16.
Portis, Ingles to Bucks
Bobby Portis (four years, US$49-million) is returning to Milwaukee, and the Bucks are adding veteran guard Joe Ingles as well. Ingles is signing a one-year deal, according to his wife, Renae Ingles, who tweeted that “CEO of the house, Renae Ingles, is thrilled for Joe and their family.”
Miami will retain Victor Oladipo on a one-year, US$11-million deal and Dewayne Dedmon on a two-year deal for about US$9-million, though the second year has conditional protections.
Magic keeping Harris
Gary Harris signed with the Orlando Magic, the team said, with the sides agreeing on two years for US$26-million for the guard. The Magic are also keeping centre Mo Bamba on a two-year deal.
Toronto is keeping forwards Chris Boucher (three years, US$36-million) and Thaddeus Young (two years, US$16-million).
Detroit moved quickly to lock up restricted free agent Marvin Bagley III, agreeing to keep him with a three-year, US$37-million deal.
Wright to Wizards
In addition to keeping Beal, the Wizards also agreed to a two-year, US$16-million deal with guard Delon Wright.