Klay Thompson is among the NBA’s most mild-mannered stars so any display of irritation by him, particularly off the court, is noteworthy. The Golden State Warriors guard had good reason to be irked on Thursday, though, and not just because he lost out on all-NBA honors to the Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker.
Thompson also lost out on a shot at an extra $31 million, which Walker may well get the opportunity to pocket. Both players will still get paid handsomely this summer no matter how things shake out (feel free to substitute “humongously” for “handsomely), but even for NBA royalty, $31 million is nothing to sneeze at.
To judge from Thompson’s words Thursday — as opposed to a pronounced eye-roll which spoke volumes — he was more annoyed about getting snubbed in terms of his on-court value. He made it clear that he considers himself a superior player to Walker, and that, in his view, helping the Warriors achieve the loftiest of team goals should have counted to all-NBA voters far more than it apparently did.
“When you go to five straight Finals — I respect those [other] guys, but holy [inaudible] — when you go to five straight, it takes more than just a couple all-NBA guys,” Thompson told reporters at Golden State’s practice facility after being informed that Walker beat him out for what amounted to the final guard spot. “It’s an all-time team. But whatever.
“I’d rather win a championship than be third-team all-NBA.”
The announcement of the all-NBA teams didn’t just affect players’ egos. For several, it also potentially affected their wallets, as the honor counts toward eligibility for what the league calls Designated Veteran contracts.
Those pacts, which can be offered as contract extensions to players who gain eligibility while still having a year or two left on their existing contracts, are better known as “supermax” deals. Other potential benchmarks include winning NBA MVP honors this season or in either of the previous two, being named defensive player of the year (DPOY) this season or in both of the previous two and making one of the three all-NBA teams in both of the past two seasons (if a player did not do so this season).
Eligible players must also have been in the NBA for seven, eight or nine seasons and continuously so with one team, unless that player was traded within his first four years in the league. Making an all-NBA team Thursday thus did not pave the way to supermax status for several players coming to the end of their respective contracts, including the Toronto Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard, the Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving and the Warriors’ Kevin Durant.
As you might have guessed by now, Walker did get that eligibility on Thursday — while Thompson did not.
As such, the Hornets can offer Walker, who is set to hit free agency this summer, a supermax contract worth $221 million over five years. Thompson, also a pending free agent, could be offered a five-year deal worth approximately $190 million by the Warriors.
So it’s not like Thompson will have any reason to start clipping coupons (or, in his youthful case, downloading coupon apps to his smartphone). Even though the Warriors, per the NBA’s labyrinthine contract rules, can offer him more money than any other team, he could still expect a four-year contract worth approximately $141 million if he were to hit the open market.
That latter figure would also apply to Walker were he to leave Charlotte for another NBA team’s maximum offer, meaning that the difference between what the Hornets could pay him and what he might make somewhere else could be as much as $80 million. That distinctly non-sneeze-worthy amount might just keep him from going anywhere, which in turn could upset fans of some other teams with money to spend in free agency this summer.
There is still the question of whether the Hornets will want to actually make the supermax offer. For all his many positive attributes, Walker is a relatively undersized player who will turn 30 next year and has thus far been unable to lead Charlotte to much success.
On the flip side of that equation Thursday were the Washington Wizards, who saw Bradley Beal come even closer than Thompson to nipping Walker for the final guard spot in all-NBA voting and gaining supermax eligibility. Instead, they won’t have to face the tricky decision of whether to make the same sort of commitment to Beal that has blown up in their faces so spectacularly with John Wall.
Another player who could be described as a “loser” from the all-NBA voting Thursday was the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns. He signed a contract extension in September that would have been worth $190 million had he made one of the three all-NBA teams, but came up short (and most certainly won’t be named MVP or DPOY), meaning he will have to settle for $158 million.
That’s a difference of $32 million, but again, the Minnesota big man will probably survive. Thus it’s hard to call anyone a “loser” Thursday, but in addition to Walker, some players whose all-NBA placements made them clear winners included:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: By getting an all-NBA nod both this year and last (unanimous first-teamer this time), he is set up in 2020 to receive an offer worth $247.3 million over five years (H/T ESPN), which would be the largest contract in league history.
- Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: All-NBA third team this year plus DPOY in 2018 reportedly have him eligible for a supermax contract in 2020, although his performance next season may go a long way toward the Jazz’s inclination to offer it.
- Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: Qualified for the supermax with a second-team showing. The Blazers will presumably be happy to make the four-year, $191 million offer to a player revered in Rip City.
As for Thompson, who made the all-NBA third team in 2015 and 2016, well, he can still make at least $140 million or so this summer. By that point, as he noted, he might have earned his fourth championship ring.
“It is what it is. I can’t control it,” he said of not being voted all-NBA this year. “Do I think there’s that many guards better than me in the league? No. But that’s the reason why we’re still playing. I don’t even want to get into it, honestly.”
The all-NBA teams are voted on by media members, raising questions of whether decisions made by journalists should have such an impact on some players’ contracts. In any event, that’s the current system, which also can be questioned for its mandate that voters select two guards, two forwards and a center for each of the three teams.
Here are the results of this year’s all-NBA voting:
F Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (500 total points in the voting)
G James Harden, Houston Rockets (500)
G Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (482)
F Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder (433)
C Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (411)
C Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (375)
F Kevin Durant, Golden State Wariors (358)
G Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (306)
F Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors (242)
G Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics (195)
G Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (178)
F Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons (115)
F LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (111)
C Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (89)
G Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets (51)