This summer, 22-year-old Andre Drummond will become a very, very rich man.
The All-Star center is up for a new contract, and the Detroit Pistons have every intention of giving him a big one. Drummond averaged 16.2 points and 14.8 rebounds per game, good enough to earn All-NBA Third Team honors. (I guess free throws don’t factor in to that decision.)
Is Drummond actually worth north of $20 million per year? Maybe, maybe not. But the Pistons have to give it to him.
Drummond was a restricted free agent last summer, meaning the Pistons had first dibs at re-signing him and had the option to match any offer another team gave him. Instead of cashing in, Drummond accepted a qualifying offer, a one-year offer every team makes to their impending restricted free agents worth 125 percent of last season’s salary.
The move seemed like a selfless act by Drummond; it allowed the Pistons to sign point guard Reggie Jackson to a four-year, $64 million deal. But it was also a savvy move on Drummond’s part.
New television deal
The league signed a new television deal with ESPN, ABC and TNT in 2014 and it goes into effect this upcoming season, worth $24 billion over nine years. Compare this to the previous deal signed in 2007 worth $7.4 billion. The payments to the league increase every year, rising from $930 million to $2.66 billion, according to the New York Times.
Rising salary cap
So what does the NBA’s television deal have to do with Drummond cashing in this offseason? The money from the deal is factored into “basketball related income,” which is a component in determining the salary cap for the league. The more basketball related income, the higher the salary cap.
The projected salary cap for 2016-17 is $94 million. This is an increase from $70 million in 2015-16, which was an all-time high for the NBA. The figure is projected because the league doesn’t officially set the new salary cap until the beginning of July.
Players currently under contract for next season will see their salaries rise in proportion with the salary cap, which is nice for them, but even better for free agents. Salaries will balloon and non-superstars will be getting superstar money. Andre Drummond likes that scenario.
In the NBA, teams cannot sign players for as much money as they want. There is a limit to how much money a player can earn per year, based on number of years in the league and a percentage of the salary cap. For a player with six or fewer years’ experience in the NBA, like Drummond, the maximum salary per year is 25 percent of the salary cap. Do the math, and that works out to be $23.5 million for the first year. Not too shabby.
If you think these numbers are outrageous, just wait for the 2017-18 season. The salary cap will likely jump even higher to $107 million, making the outrageous deals this offseason seem conservative.
New apparel deal with Nike
The NBA reached a deal with Nike to be the official apparel provider of the league. The eight-year agreement is worth about $1 billion and will go into effect for the 2017-18 season. This is a 245 percent increase annually from the previous deal, according to ESPN. That’s a lot of basketball-related income to inflate the salary cap.
Adidas AG previously had an 11-year deal with the league and decided not to negotiate a new deal.
For the first time in the history of the four major U.S. sports, the NBA will allow advertisements on jerseys starting in the 2017-18 season.
No, you won’t be rooting for the General Motors Pistons any time soon.
The advertisements will be a 2½ by 2½ inch patch in the top corner of the jersey. ThePhiladelphia 76ers became the first team to sell the patch, agreeing to a three-year, $15 million deal with StubHub.
This isn’t quite on the level of European soccer jersey advertisements. Chevrolet andManchester United signed a deal in 2014 worth $80 million per year, according to Forbes. The Sixers will be making mere chump change compared to those soccer teams, but the NBA sees this as a revenue stream that will only get bigger.
The money from the jersey advertising will be split in half. The first half will be split again in half, with one portion going to the team that sold the ad and one portion going into a revenue-sharing pool. The second half will be split with the players.
Is Drummond worth it?
So why do the Pistons have to re-sign Drummond? Well, because they can’t do much better than him right now. The other centers on the Pistons’ roster are Aron Baynes and Joel Anthony. Baynes was a serviceable backup last season, but the drop-off in talent was evident when Drummond was off the court. The Pistons are likely to release Anthony.
Drummond is also the best available center on the free agent market. Following are centers who will become free agents this offseason:
- Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons): Age 22, 16.2 PPG, 14.8 RPG
- Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat): Age 27, 14.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 3.7 BPG
- Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets): Age 30, 13.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG
- Al Jefferson (Charlotte Hornets): Age 31, 12 PPG, 6.4 RPG
- Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls): Age 31, 4.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG
- Bismack Biyombo (Toronto Raptors): Age 23, 5.5 PPG, 8 RPG
Drummond is the youngest and had the best stats out of the top five free agent centers.
However, one stat left off that list is free throw percentage. Drummond set the NBA record for worst free throw shooting last season at 35.5 percent. This makes him a liability in late-game situations, when teams foul him intentionally so he has to shoot free throws. Coach Stan Van Gundy usually has to take him out of the game at this point because of his inability to make anything from the “charity stripe.”
Paying someone $23.5 million to sit on the bench during the most crucial part of the game might seem preposterous, but in the economic boom era of the NBA, the preposterous will become the norm.