What Should Kawhi Sign For?

by Matt Coleman | Thursday, June 20, 2019

Kawhi's options for this offseason, aside from where he will be playing...

Regardless of Kawhi’s offseason decision pertaining to where he should be play, Kawhi and his personal team should be just as focused on the structure of the contract, as well as his long-term earning potential. Because Kawhi was traded from the San Antonio Spurs to the Toronto Raptors last offseason, he is not eligible for, what is colloquially called, the “super max,” an accelerator that enables a player to receive a contract worth 35% of a team’s salary cap, with 8% yearly increases over five years. This type of deal is usually reserved for players with ten or more years of service in the NBA. With next year’s cap projected to be $109 millionThis final dollar amoount won't be determined until June 30, when the NBA's fiscal year concludes, and the league project what next year's revenues will be., players signing these max deals can receive up to $221.27 million over five years, amounting to an average annual salary of $44.25 million.

If Kawhi were to resign with Toronto for the five-year max for 30% of the salary, he would receive a deal valued at $189.66 millionFor those keeping track, this is the same type of deal that Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris can receive from the Philadelphia 76ers and Klay Thompson will most likely get from the Golden State Warriors., with an average annual salary of $37.93 million. The max contract another team, such as the Los Angeles Clippers, could offer is a four-year deal worth $146.50 million. Essentially, Toronto’s advantage is the ability to add that last year at $43.16 million.

Going forward, if I were advising Kawhi, I would search for opportunities to sign a short-term deal, say three years with the third being a player option. Doing so, Kawhi would hit free agency again after ten years of NBA service, therefore, giving him the opportunity to sign a contract at 35% of the cap. Based on projections, the NBA’s cap is estimated to be around $128 million, so Kawhi, for the 2021-22 season, could receive $44.80 million, about $8 million more than what he would make under a max contract signed this offseason.

If all the cards were to fall right, Kawhi’s total compensation over the next seven seasons could be around $328 million, which equates to about $47 million a year. In two years, Kawhi will be age 30, Kevin Durant’s current age, and could probably get one more contract at the age 35. Again, all of this depends on if Kawhi remains relatively healthy, keeps up this production, and finds a franchise he wants to be with for the next seven seasons. You can see the potential dollar amounts below for the next seven seasons.

  • 2019-20 — $32.70 million
  • 2020-21 — $35.32 million
  • 2021-22 — $44.80 million
  • 2022-23 — $48.38 million
  • 2023-24 — $51.97 million
  • 2024-25 — $55.55 million
  • 2025-26 — $59.14 millionKawhi is only eligible for this last year if he stays with the same team during this entire period.

Knowing that Kawhi probably prefers playing and living in southern California, I would recommend that he leaves Toronto, signs the previously mentioned short-term deal with the Clippers, and works on getting the 35%, five-year max deal in the summer of 2021. Even if Kawhi were to get injured in the next two seasons, he would have that third-year option to get healthy and sign in the summer of the 2022. Lastly, the Clippers front office will be very interested in keeping Kawhi for the long-term, since they are allocating so much capital to him.