NBA Should Allow Teams to Sign Players to Contract Extensions Before Playoffs Begin

Liam McKeone
Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell
Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell / Omar Rawlings/Getty Images
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One of the many ripple effects of the NBA deciding to restart its season down in Orlando starting July 30 is that whatever happens will have a much bigger impact on the following season. The league's proposed schedule to begin the 2020-21 season would give very little recovery time in comparison to a regular offseason, and not just for the champions. Every player on the 22 teams set to participate in the bubble playoffs would have a maximum of three and a half months to rest, which is the minimum in regular seasons.

This is why Jayson Tatum and other stars still on their rookie deals are working towards some kind of insurance in case they suffer a catastrophic injury that would significantly impact their next contract. For Tatum, Pascal Siakam, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, and De'Aaron Fox, a torn ACL could cost them more than $100 million this summer and going forward.

The details of such an insurance plan would be difficult to iron out, even if NBAPA executive director Michelle Roberts is optimistic that an agreement could be reached with the league. Here, I present to you an alternative that would make everybody happy: the NBA should let teams sign players to contract extension before the playoffs start on August 15, and allow for negotiations to begin immediately.

It wouldn't be easy. How much money each of these guys can make on their next deal is largely dependent on the All-NBA announcements. Those will presumably come before the start of the playoffs on August 15, but it doesn't sound like the NBA is planning on announcing them any sooner. There are still technically eight regular season games to be played, although I cannot imagine those will have a big impact on the larger body of work the players are judged on.

But once that's all said and done, it would be smooth sailing. There are many moving parts that go into a professional contract, and teams wouldn't be able to come to an agreement immediately with their young stars. But the ability to agree to a general outline would be huge. The Boston Celtics, for example, are going to pay Tatum as much as they possibly can. Same with the Jazz and Mitchell, and the Raptors and Siakam. Their respective agents will battle with teams over the i's and t's that must be dotted and crossed, but it would give great peace of mind to those players knowing they have their money locked up, just in case. This is especially true in the current circumstances; if Adebayo goes down with an ACL injury, it is likely he wouldn't be able to play the final season of his rookie deal, leaving him with no negotiating power in the summer of 2021. It would force him, and any of his compatriots from the 2017 draft up for extensions this summer, to sign a prove-it deal in some capacity next year.

The biggest issue is that there isn't really a big advantage here for the teams. The Sacramento Kings obviously do not want Fox to go down with a serious injury, but keeping their cap sheet flexible in case he did is important. But it would be a significant gesture to concede this to the players, and something both the union and the public will not forget when the time comes to negotiate labor agreements.

Owners would not be pleased with Adam Silver if he did make this happen and someone goes down, leaving their team stuck with a max contract over the next four years with a player who may never be the same. But the benefits outweigh the negatives.

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