Should the Bulls offer Bosh/Wade/Amare max deals in 2010?

Everyone feels it's a foregone conclusion that Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and possibly even Amare Stoudemire deserve max money in next year's free agent bonanza.    However, with a falling salary cap is it worth a six year commitment averaging over 20 million a season?

Let's split this out into two cases.   For LeBron James, yes.   For the
other three?   That's a dicey proposition, and the risk grows greater
now that they appear to be waiting a year to hopefully sign six year
extensions rather than signing five year extensions now.   That adds 1
year on of total commitment increasing the odds of a deal going south prior to it's end.

A max contract for one of these players will start at 105% of their
previous year's salary.   Assuming that they want to work out sign and
trades, it will total $125,509,471.over the six year span.    The
salary cap is declining, and it may continue to decline for some time as the league has never been able to recover the audience after losing Jordan, and a
pro-longed recession hurts everyone.  At least the NBA's television
contract is locked up through 2015/2016 or else they'd feel a world of

Still fans will drop the NBA faster than they'll drop the NFL or MLB.  
Season tickets are declining around the league at an alarming rate.  
Most franchises will lose money next season, and their value as an
investment tool may rescind as well making the yearly profits more
important.    The new CBA that must be negotiated soon is likely to be
a repeat of the 1999 scenario where the owners MUST win or else they'll
lockout the players.   Many owners will lose less money by eating their
leases than fielding a team for a season, so they will not budge until
they get an agreement in place that works for them.

For a practical example, look at how bad most players on the seven year
12% raise contracts looked by the end of their contracts relative to
the players who signed after a new CBA and had six year 10% raise
contracts.   That's the same type of difference we're likely to see
with a new CBA this time around as total contract length will almost
assuredly drop at least one more season down to four years for a new
team and five for an existing team.   The percentage of BRI going to
the players (lowering max salaries) and max raises may also decrease.

So here's the deal, the salary cap is expected to fall to between
50.4-53.4 million next season.   What if it falls to 50.4 million and
then it takes another beating the following season and drops down to
say 47 million.   With the potential of a lockout, revenues could drop
even more sharply and cause the cap to fall even more.   It's not out
of the realm of possibility to see a 40-45 million dollar salary cap if there's a
lockout.    At that point is Chris Bosh worth near half your pay
roll?    Do you trust Amare or Wade to stay healthy for six seasons at
half your payroll?  

If you put your chips down on a guy at that price then you need
superstar performance out of that player.   I trust LeBron to deliver
that for six seasons.   I trust Wade to deliver it if healthy, but I
don't' trust his health.   I don't trust Amare's health or attitude,
and Bosh is very good, but simply not superstar good.     A superstar paid a single year later is going to be on a much better deal after the new CBA.

However, regardless of whether it's prudent, I would bet on all four of
these guys getting max contracts.   Amare being the only possible
exception, however, even Amare probably gets a max deal from the Knicks
if they strike out elsewhere because they'll be desperate to make a big
splash by this point.   They've sold their fans on this plan and need
to get someone.   

I believe the Bulls can lure one of these players to them next season,
and if the salary cap continued to rise, I wouldn't question a max
contract for the big three and would at least consider one for Amare.  
However, with a falling salary cap the "should we" debate has almost as
much teeth to it as the "could we" debate. 


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  • Bosh of course.

  • I would want one of those stars no matter what it costs. Frankly, with letting BG go for nothing, I can't see how this team can mask that into a 2010 plan and then balk at paying a legit allstar max money. I think the bulls painted themselves in a corner where they have to spend money. They have to throw the max at one of these guys and once you get one, there will be pressure to add talent via trade or mle. I believe their commitment to winning will be no existent if they balk at paying a star after letting go their leading scorer for that reason.

  • Doug, I hate to keep agreeing with you, but I almost posted these exact sentiments on your previous post listing the year by year salaries.

    The problem with max contracts is not so much the first year salary, it is the annual raises, either 8% or 10.5%. Even in the rising salary cap era, the cap never increased anywhere near as fast as the max salary did. So you were paying an ever increasing percentage of your total cap space to your max contract player. In a declining cap environment it makes is virtually impossible to field a competitive team around your superstar.

    Once you get past Kobe and Lebron, it becomes hard to justify paying anyone $24-$28 million per. Duncan, Shaq, Garnett(?) in thier primes. Wade if healthy. Unless the max player is 25 when he signs you are paying him the most money in his declining years(over 30).

    I could see Durant, Howard and Paul getting max money in the future.

    A 10% increase has always seemed ludicrous to me. If you started working after highschool for the minimum wage, say $7.50/hr and were guaranteed a 10% raise every year, you would be making nearly $180/hr by the time you retired.

    If you could guarantee his health, I would give Wade the money, but he will be in decline even if healthy by the last 2-3 years of his contract.

    To me Bosh is not worth the year 1 starting salary, never mind the raises. However, with so many teams gutting thier teams for 2010, the top tier free agents will probably get max contracts that they won't earn. They will end up being like Pau Gasol or Rashard Lewis, guys making in excess of $20 million who can't lead or carry a team themselves. At best a bunch of Scottie Pippens being paid like Michael Jordans.

    I think that the owners will go after the annual raises with a vegence, perhaps changing the max contract to a constant percentage of the cap, which would cause a players annual salary to fall or rise in correlation to the cap. This would give them cost certainty, which is what they have been seeking. I also see the contract length declining, and believe that it should in a guaranteed contract world. They will probably leave in the grandfather clause, allowing guys with existing contracts exceeding the new CBA limits to base any new contract on thier previous contracts. Kobe, Garnett, Duncan have benefited on thier current contracts by such a grandfather clause.

    As usual a very reasoned and rational analysis by Doug, no raving and ranting here.

  • By the way this lost our leading scorer argument is an absolute canard, everyteam has one, no matter how bad the team, or how bad the player.

    I'd rather have a legitimate all-star, or all NBA first, second or third teamer, than any random leading scorer. Hmmm, whom could I be refering to.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Doug is right that teams need to reevaluate their spending plans in light of the declining cap--spending that once made sense now takes on a new level of risk. It's true, in general, that the standard for a max player has to be adjusted. But I tend to agree more with Bigway about how that standard is applied for the Bulls in 2010. Ultimately, I think it's the overpaid 8/10/12 million rotation players that really cripple your cap, not mere all-stars (like Bosh), as opposed to MVP-level players (like Lebron). Sure, maybe now Joe Johnson or Carlos Boozer can't be paid max or maybe even near max, and maybe you stay away from Amare because of injury risk, but Bosh still far exceeds the standard for me.

  • I think its not a reasonable assumption. JO hadn't played more than 60 games in a season before he got a bigger deal. On the flip side Bosh has never played in less than 67 games in a year and is usaully in the seventies. I don't really understand the injury concerns. If you said wade, your argument would make more sense.

    Any contract has the potential to kill you, did anyone think Grant Hill would be less than an HOF player when he signed his deal with ORlando? He played in 70 or more games in all but one year of his six years in his detroit years. But you really have no reason to assume Bosh will miss significant time with an injury, Hill is just a freak example.

  • So far in the history of the league there have been only a handfull of players who have crossed the $20 million per year threshold and been worth the money.

    Michael, Kobe, Shaq (the first time), Duncan for sure, Garnett, I suppose. Shaq was not worth the money by the second time around, which is why the Lakers parted ways with him.

    Gasol, Rashard Lewis, Chris Webber, good players, not Michael, Kobe or Lebron.

    Steve Francis, and Marbury being paid over $20 million just to stay home, teams looking to dump Iverson and McGrady, Jermaine Oneal and even Shaq on any team that will pay them.

    Those are just the bums I could think of off the top of my head. There are entire junk yards full of guys who made $15-$20 while they were basically stealing from their teams and the fans.

    Personally, I think that Bosh should make Deng money, especially in the coming ecomony. He just seems like another soft/paasive 20/10 guy, much like Elton Brand, or heaven forbid, Zack Randolph. However, I have no doubt that he will get a full max deal from somebody. Like you said, the Knicks will pay anyone if they don't get Lebron or Wade.

    Actually, if I had any confidence in his health, I would prefer paying Amare, but 6 years/$125 million is scary as hell. If Amare could be had at a fixed annual rate, considerably less than a full max for Bosh, then I would definately prefer Amare, he just seems to be a more aggressive player.

    Wade is in the same boat as Amare, if healthy, worth the money, but will he give it to you for 6 years. Short of getting Lebron, a Wade/Amare combo would be my homerun scenario for the Bulls. Obviously, One would have to come in a sign and trade involving Deng and or Thomas.

    History seems to indicate that you might get your money's worth maybe 10% of the time when you break the $20million per barrier. Still the fans just seem to want to throw money at everybody, and to get or keep somebody you almost are forced to overpay, except for those once in a generation players, who are worth more than the cap would ever allow anyone to be paid.

    The Bulls are in a position where they absolutely have to do something big, the acquisition of Rose (and the resultant fan expectations) demand it. We can only hope and pray that they are among the lucky ones who hit the jackpot.

  • Small nagging injuries aren't really an indication of bigger things to come. I wouldn't really be concerned about players that miss time for little things like that. Bosh normally plays against bigger players and is bound to get minor injuries, its not nearly the same with Deng. Deng missed significant time with wrists and back issues even before this past stress fracture. It went as far as having to get a separate policy to play for GB.

    I'm not really sure how much higher JO's peak was. They are both very average rebounders and JO put up 24ppg once in his career while averaging around 20ppg every other year, meanwhile bosh has put up a consistent 22ppg for the last four years. The only real advantage JO had was he was better with his help defense. I think you are overrating him a bit because his teams did better than Bosh's but he also had a another allstar caliber player in Rose or Artest in their prime and a aging HOF player in Miller. Bosh has never had more than a TJ Ford/Broken down JO/Marion/Calerdon sidekick. I'd hands down take a prime Artest or Rose over any of those guys and would take an old Miller instead of most of them.

  • David Lee

    I must have been out in the sun too long during lunch but as I read your fine article I keep thinking: David Lee at power forward, now.

    David Lee has been an ironman for 3 seasons and had 55 double-doubles last year.

    The Bulls won't get LeBron next year and getting Wade devalues Rose's contributions (Wade needs the ball, most of the time). Amare is injury prone.

    OK, I'd take Bosh over David Lee.

    But a real David Lee in 2009 may be much more realistic than mythically getting Chris Bosh in 2010.

    Like I said, I was too long in the sun during lunch...

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