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Untested Super Max contracts could have big effect on the 2017 free agency

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New NBA “Super Max” deals may lead to more second-tier players changing teams this summer.

NBA: Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George could find 70 million reasons to remain loyal to the Pacers, since they could pay him $70 million more to stay put, under the new Designated Player Veteran (DPV) Exception, aka Super Max, in the new CBA agreement. He might leave that amount on the table if changes teams as a free agent. Other eligible NBA veterans who could command north of $200 billion contracts include Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Gordon Hayward.

The Golden State Warriors could have a difficult time keeping their core intact this off-season if the players choose to be paid at their fair market value. Enter the Miami Heat to snatch unhappy campers cast aside due to salary constraints, e.g. as they did with Dion Waiters last season. The Warriors won’t be the only team forced to release players due to the new CBA. Most teams will have to make difficult choices on whom to base their future dreams on.

An excellent summary of the DPV clause says,

To qualify, a player must achieve certain criteria. Among them:

He must be entering his eighth or ninth season in the NBA (in the case of extensions) or have just completed his eighth or ninth season in the NBA (in the case of free agent signings).

He must be a free agent (in the case of a free agent signing) or have one or two years left on your contract (in the case of extensions). And if it is an extension, three years have to have passed since you signed your original contract.

He must meet one of the performance criteria. Included on the list: Making one of the three All NBA teams in either the previous season or the prior two, winning Defensive Player of the Year in either the previous season or the prior two, or winning MVP in one of the previous three seasons.

He must never have changed teams as a free agent, and he could only have been traded during his first four years in the league.

The last criterion is particularly daunting. It will put the Heat at a major financial disadvantage in competing for any free agents who qualify.

The last bullet point acts an incentive for the Heat, IF they trade their rookies such as Justise Winslow, or get others, before the four-year cutoff date expires, since rookies with Super Max eligibility are more valuable. This may also apply to the new two-way contracts, which in essence allows the Heat to develop two high-upside, high-risk players outside their 15-man roster for four years and pay them accordingly should one reach his potential.

DeMarcus Cousins was traded due to the risk of paying him over $200 million, and lost his Super Max eligibility, because it was outside his 4-year window. That’s why Hayward would think twice before changing teams in free agency. The Clippers might balk at committing to Griffin, but he would lose his Super Max privileges if moved to another team.

This leaves the Heat with the risk of gambling when signing a potential franchise player, who comes with considerable risk of injury. After the experiences of Josh McRoberts and Chris Bosh, Miami might think twice about investing 9 figures in any deals that could cripple the franchise for years to come, no matter how alluring a potential championship would be.

The new CBA constrains teams with established highly paid stars, who may demand excessive contracts at the expense of quality role players to support them. Interestingly last season Mike Conley signed the third-highest contract in the NBA, despite never being named to the All-Star team. Udonis Haslem remains the only Heat Lifer, which gives the team a lot of flexibility this summer on signing current or new talent, without the risk of losing a franchise player.

This year marks the first one under the new CBA, which was designed with league parity in mind, according to Adam Silver.

“For me, part of it is designing a collective bargaining agreement that encourages the distribution of great players throughout the league.”

The consequences may have many unintended effects that benefit the Heat, since many teams may be stuck with overpaid, aging stars on their roster due to their popularity from previous successes. This year Miami’s roster is a nimble one, flexible enough to adjust on the fly.

Erik Spoelstra had great success in the second half with the drive-and-dish backcourt combo of Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic feeding 3-point marksman. Perhaps he will seek a draft pick he can groom in the D-League for a season, who can replicate what Dragic does as he winds down his career over the next four to six years.

Pat Riley has many choices available this summer in navigating the waters of the untested CBA agreement. The recently created Super Max designation, along with expanded 17-player roster, a possible shrinkage in cap space when ESPN deal expires, all factor in the choices he makes. One thing is clear, he will have many players to chose from who fit his favorite profile of disgruntled and unhappy people wanting out of their present circumstances.