The league announced its all-NBA teams Thursday afternoon, the annual listing of the league’s top players by position. This is the first year the league is using the all-NBA teams to determine eligibility for the Designated Player Exception, a new wrinkle in the collective bargaining agreement ratified earlier this season and set to go into effect in July.
As a result, the all-NBA selections impact how much players can earn and could potentially determine how players make decisions about their careers.
That’s why the biggest news Thursday wasn’t who made the all-NBA teams, as the selections largely went as expected. Instead, it was who didn’t – specifically, Indiana Pacers forward Paul George and Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward – and how the media could be influencing the futures of multiple NBA franchises by how it votes.
Both players, had they been selected, would’ve been eligible to sign five-year maximum contract extensions with their teams this summer, which would kick in after the 2017-18 season. It would have allowed the Pacers and Jazz, respectively, to give George and Hayward contracts worth well over $200 million for five seasons – offers that would’ve made it incredibly difficult for either player to consider signing as a free agent elsewhere, as they would be sacrificing more than $60 million to do so.
Now, though, the options for both become much more robust, and the prospect of them leaving their current team increased dramatically. George has already been the subject of rumors regarding his future with the Pacers as he can opt out of his contract next summer. Many suspect he will sign with the Los Angeles Lakers – an option that became more appealing when the Lakers managed to keep their draft pick for a third consecutive season in Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery, setting them up to possibly select Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick in next month’s draft.
The Pacers go into next season with George on their roster and hope he makes an all-NBA team. But if he doesn’t – and given the intense competition at the forward spots, it’s no sure thing he will – Indiana then will face the strong likelihood of losing George for nothing in free agency. This is why George’s name will be bandied about in trade rumors for the next several months.
Hayward, meanwhile, can opt out of his contract this summer and become an unrestricted free agent. And while Utah still can offer him a five-year contract for more money than anyone else, he’s going to have plenty of suitors – most notably the Boston Celtics – who are coached by Brad Stevens, the man who recruited Hayward to Butler.
The Celtics are also in the Eastern Conference finals and received the top overall pick in the draft next month. Signing with them will be an enticing proposition for Hayward, even as the up-and-coming Jazz made it to the second round of the West playoffs despite suffering through several injuries.
It’s an unfortunate situation, but a new reality of life in the NBA. The rule was put in place to try to influence players not to do what Kevin Durant did last year in turning down more money to play for another team in free agency. While players of Durant’s caliber will never have to worry about scraping on to the all-NBA third team, stars outside the top-10 players in the league, such as George and Hayward, and their employers will find themselves in the position they are in now. Players will hope they make an all-NBA team to ensure a massive payday and their teams hope for the best chance to keep them on their rosters long-term.
That’s a lot of power to place in the hands of the media. And, if either George or Hayward – or both – aren’t on their teams next season, you can be sure there will be plenty written about how the media, either directly or indirectly, pushed them out of town.
Some other thoughts on the all-NBA teams:
● While George and Hayward won’t be eligible for the DPE, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and John Wall have earned the ability to sign it. Curry can sign a five-year contract as a free agent this summer to remain with the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook can agree to a five-year extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Harden and Wall can sign four-year extensions with the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards, respectively. Harden and Wall are only eligible to sign four-year deals because they have two years left on their contracts as opposed to one.
Leonard will be eligible to sign a five-year max extension with the San Antonio Spurs next July.
● Anthony Davis made first-team all-NBA as a center, but will likely revert to a forward next season because of the arrival of DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline. Davis played more than half his minutes at center this season, many before Cousins arrived.
● Speaking of centers, the closest race on the ballot was between DeAndre Jordan, who finished with 54 points, and Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 50.
Towns shared his feelings on Twitter after the snub:
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) May 18, 2017
● The most surprising pick might have been DeMar DeRozan making it as a third-team guard. DeRozan had a terrific year, but certainly benefited from both Chris Paul and teammate Kyle Lowry missing significant time with injuries. If one or both of them had been healthy all season, it seems likely DeRozan would’ve missed out.