Rajon Rondo still has one more year remaining on his current deal with the Boston Celtics, but many folks are understandably turning their focus to what the point guard could earn in his next NBA contract.
Rondo has been handling plenty of questions already on the topic in recent months, noting last January that he was “intrigued” by the prospect of being a free agent.
On Monday at Celtics Media Day, the four-time All-Star gave us a potential sneak peek at how offseason contract negotiations with the Celtics might go, by telling reporters he believes he is a max contract guy.
That statement leads to another question that most NBA fans are uncertain about: What exactly is a maximum contract in the NBA?
“Max contract” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in basketball circles, but it doesn’t mean the same thing for every player. Max contracts have different values, depending on the length of the deal, what team is offering the deal, as well as how much experience a player has accumulated in the league.
So with that in mind, I thought it was important to answer the question directly: Just how expensive would it be for the Celtics to sign Rondo to a max contract?
With some help from Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ and the NBA’s projected salary cap for the 2015-16 ($66.5 million), I broke down what the the value of a max deal for Rondo will probably look like. I’ll walk through each component of the deal.
Length of deal: The Celtics, since they have Bird Rights on Rondo, can offer him a five-year contract next summer. All other teams can only offer Rondo a four-year contract (barring a sign-and-trade with the Celtics.)
It’s also important to note that the Celtics are unable to sign Rondo to a five-year extension right now. Due to CBA rules, they are limited to offering a shorter extension for much less than “max” money. Danny Ainge spoke to this point on Monday’s media day, noting the team would not be able to sign Rondo to an extension before next summer.
“We tried to sign Rajon a couple of times, but it doesn’t make sense for Rajon to sign [now]. If you know the collective bargaining agreement it makes no financial sense for him to re-sign. It’s something we’d like to do, but under the current negotiations it’s unrealistic to be able to do that,” Ainge said.
Money: Rondo will be eligible for a big raise from his current $12.9 million salary when he hits the free agent market next summer with nine years of NBA experience. Under CBA rules, that qualifies him to earn 30 percent of the salary cap as the max starting salary in his next deal.
The actual starting salary of a max contract actually ends up being a little less than the 30 percent advertised in the league’s CBA due to a different cap formula the league uses on maximum salaries.
When you account for those variables in any Rondo max deal, the point guard would end up earning roughly 28.1 percent (rather than 30 percent) of the 2015-16 projected salary cap of $66.5 million if he signs a max deal.
28.1 percent of $66.5 million gives us a 2015-16 starting salary of $18.68 million for Rondo in the first season of his next deal (2016-17). Players are also eligible for 7.5 percent raises in each year of their contract. Factor in a raise like that for each year, and a max contract offer for Rondo would look something like this:
2015-16: $18.68 million
2016-17: $20.081 million
2017-18: $21.48 million
2018-19: $22.88 million
2019-20: $24.28 million
Total value of Celtics max offer to Rondo: 5 years, $107.4 million
Since other teams with the necessary salary cap room can only offer Rondo a four-year contract, you can subtract the 2019-20 salary from those potential deals. Update: Additionally, other teams can only offer annual raises of 4.5 percent, a minor decrease from the 7.5 percent annual increase the Celtics can offer. Based on those figures, here’s the total value of what another team could offer Rondo
Total value of other NBA team’s max offer to Rondo: 4 years, $79.66 million
It’s important to understand that these salary figures are just projections. They could shift if the NBA salary cap for 2015-16 shifts higher or lower. This is a good gauge though of how much Rondo is looking to earn next summer, when he says he thinks he’s a max salary player.
Will he get that kind of money from the Celtics though? Ainge wouldn’t show his cards on that front yet.
“I think a four-time All-Star by the time he’s  years old would qualify for max based on what we’ve seen in the marketplace,” Ainge said on Monday. “If I were Rajon and I were Rajon’s agent, I would definitely say that. But since I’m negotiating against him, I’ll withhold.”
Needless to say, Ainge is probably anxiously waiting to see a healthy Rondo on the floor this season so he can better answer that question.