Deron Williams famously signed the first contract in Brooklyn Nets history on an iPad,
inking touchpadding a five-year deal worth roughly $98 million shortly after the midnight deadline on July 11, 2012. One little-mentioned clause built into Williams’s contract is a 15 percent trade kicker, which could conceivably bump his salary up 15 percent over the course of the contract.
But there’s a reason it’s been underreported: because it won’t mean a thing. Even in the unlikely event Williams does get traded, there’s an important clause in the CBA that prevents him from actually having a 15% trade kicker, or any kicker at all.
From Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ, bullet 98:
A player’s salary added to his trade bonus cannot exceed the maximum for that season (based on years of service).
Mark Deeks, NBA salary cap expert and founder of NBA data analysis & salary website ShamSports, agrees. “The cap’s going up, but it’s not going up enough to the point whereby the nine year veteran max will be larger than Williams’s $19,754,465 salary for next season,” Deeks told The Brooklyn Game.
The short of it: Williams’s contract is already above his maximum salary, which means the trade kicker has no impact whatsoever. “Unless the cap takes an absolutely bloody enormous spike, Deron will still be earning more than the max in any new contract, and thus gets no trade bonus,” Deeks added.
Wait, what? It’s above the maximum? What does maximum mean, then?
Here’s how it works: only the first year of any contract is restricted to that maximum salary rule, and players can receive annual raises that put their contract above the maximum in future seasons. So Williams, who signed a five-year contract in the summer of 2012 with 7.5 percent raises each year, is actually making above the maximum for a nine-year veteran already.
It’s not clear exactly what either the 2014-15 or 2015-16 salary cap will be, and the NBA won’t set it for sure until the July moratorium. Early projections by the NBA forecast the 2014-15 cap at $63.2 million, putting that the 2014-15 maximum salary at about $17.9 million. That’s well under what Williams makes. The salary cap would have to increase dramatically above expectations for the trade kicker to matter.
It’s possible that the trade kicker could come into play for the 2015-16 season, when the projected maximum salary for a ten-year veteran (which Williams will be at that point) is $21.9 million. That’s about a 4 percent kicker in one season, or about $900,000 more than his 2015-16 salary, which is less than a veteran’s minimum contract.
“It would have to go up big, twice, for Deron to get a pay spike via the trade bonus,” Deeks confirmed. It’s possible in theory though, yes.”
But the bonus wouldn’t impede any potential deals for Williams in the interim. Williams has not requested a trade, and though the Lakers may reportedly be interested in his services, that’s a long shot at best. Williams’s trade value is low right now, after a frustrating season and with two ankle surgeries slated for Tuesday.
The same trade bonus situation also applies for Nets center Brook Lopez, who also has a trade kicker and an above-maximum salary. Like Williams, Lopez’s trade kicker could come into play in the last season of his contract if projections hold.