NBA Free Agency 2019: What Are Max & Supermax Contracts?

NBA max contract supermax contract

Getty Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard

The world of NBA contracts can be a bit tough to sort through at times, especially considering there’s so much big money going out in free agency. But the topic of max contracts and supermax contracts is something certainly worth diving deeper into. This specifically stands true, because supermax contracts feature quite an increase in value, and we’re going to break down the differences between the two.

The idea behind a “max” contract is simple enough on the surface, as it’s the most money you can give to a player who does not qualify for a supermax deal in the NBA. With that said, there is a structure to how the size of max contracts are decided and it first depends on how long a player has been in the NBA.


What Is a Max Contract in the NBA?

Any player who’s given a max contract will see the size of it depend on the number of seasons they’ve played, as the value increases after a set amount of time. As Hoops Hype’s Frank Urbina explained, the increases jump from 25, 30 and 35 percent of the salary cap.

  • Players with 0-6 years of experience can earn a max contract worth 25 percent of the salary cap
  • Players with 7-9 years of experience can earn a max contract worth 30 percent of the salary cap
  • Players with 10-plus years of experience can earn a max contract worth 35 percent of the salary cap

These numbers will change as time rolls on, considering the salary cap is expected to continually increase over the years. RealGM detailed the projections, and you can get an idea for how much money each level of max contract would be worth on a yearly basis below.

Season 0-6 Years (25 Percent) 7-9 Years (30 Percent) 10-Plus Years (25 Percent)
2019-20 $27,250,000 $32,700,000 $38,150,000
2020-21 $29,000,000 $34,800,000 $40,600,000
2021-22 $30,450,000 $36,540,000 $42,630,000
2022-23 $31,972,500 $38,367,000 $44,761,500
2023-24 $33,571,250 $40,285,500 $46,999,750
2024-25 $35,249,750 $42,299,700 $49,349,650
2025-26 $37,012,250 $44,414,700 $51,817,150

As Hoops Hype goes on to point out, if a player were to earn All-NBA honors, win the MVP or Defensive Player of the Year Award and fall into the 0-6 year range, they are eligible for a 30 percent max contract extension. This only stands true if that player is outside of their rookie contract, so the max extension would begin in their fifth year, which is known as the Rose Rule.

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What Is a Supermax NBA Contract?

The same rules as above on the increase in max money generally apply for players with 7-9 years of experience, as they would then receive a 35 percent max deal. But this is where supermax contracts begin to come into play. The big difference from above is that a player can only receive that bump to 35 percent if signing with the same team they were on during their rookie contract.

As Keely Diven of NBC Sports points out, there are stipulations even beyond what’s above for a supermax contract extension. Along with making one of the All-NBA teams or winning either MVP or Defensive Player of the Year, the length of a supermax depends on the number of years a player has been in the league.

  • Player who has played seven or eight seasons with two years left on contract can earn a four-year supermax
  • Player who has played seven or eight seasons with one year left on contract can earn a five-year supermax
  • A free agent who has completed eight or nine years in the NBA can sign a five-year supermax

Beyond this, Diven explains that on top of the 35 percent of the team’s salary cap, there is an eight percent increase in pay for each year beyond the first of the deal. An interesting way to see the difference between possible max and supermax contracts comes from Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker prior to 2019 NBA free agency.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out, Walker can sign a four-year max deal with another team worth $141 million, but a supermax with the Hornets for $221 million over five years.

The huge difference is due to the fact that Walker was named to the All-NBA Third Team following the 2018-19 season. He was also drafted by the Hornets, so can now earn either a yearly average of $44.2 million with a supermax or $35.25 million with another team on a max four-year deal.

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