After throwing 50 touchdown passes and winning the NFL’s MVP award in his first season as a starter, and leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl title last February, Patrick Mahomes was recently rewarded with a contract that would make Scrooge McDuck jealous: 10 years, $503 million. Some of that is incentive-based and it’s not all guaranteed, but let’s not squabble over a few million details. The man just got paid.
In the NBA, that contract could never happen. Per the current CBA, the maximum number of years a player can sign for is five, with the maximum amount of money varying depending on experience and résumé and calculated as a percentage of the salary cap. But it makes for an interesting conversation: If 10-year contracts were an NBA reality, which players would be worthy of such a deal? All things considered, here’s my list.
I’d give Luka a 15-year, half-billion-dollar contract this second without blinking. Honestly, I might give him a 20-year deal. But a 10-year deal is a no-brainer. He’s 21 years old and already a top-10 player in the world. The Mavericks have literally been the greatest offense in NBA history so far this season, and that is almost entirely due to Luka. With 10 years added to his rookie deal, the Mavs would have Doncic locked up through 2033, when he’d still be just 32 years old.
The oldest player on this list at 25, Antetokounmpo figures to be a perennial MVP candidate for a least the next five to seven years. This is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete that still has room to grow as a playmaker and obviously as a shooter. Even if he were to fall off late in a 10-year contract, the first seven years of the deal would be so high level it would easily justify the back end.
It’s interesting to ponder whether Celtics GM Danny Ainge would pull the trigger on a deal like this if the option were available to him. He’s notoriously conservative and prefers flexible rosters that provide him low-cost talent and maximum leverage. But Tatum is too good to let go. He’s only 22 years old and appears on track for a decade of All-NBA level production. If prime Tatum becomes the best player on your team, you probably project as a title contender depending on supporting pieces. But even if he maxes out as a No. 2 on a great team, he’s still worth a 10-year commitment for his age, size and versatile skillset.
Yes, I would accept the injury risk to ensure I had Zion, who just turned 20, on my team for the next 13 years. His 10-year extension would commence in the summer of 2023, meaning by the end of the deal Zion would be 33 years old. Even if Williamson’s physical decline happens a few years before that, what he projects to be through at least his twenties would justify a diminished back end. And that’s assuming a premature decline even happens.
A lot of assumptions have been made about Zion’s fragile health, but he’s in great shape for Orlando and all indications are his work ethic and commitment to the game are top notch. Assuming health, Zion is going to dominate for the next decade at least. He is a wrecking ball. A monster on the offensive glass. Unstoppable in the low post. An instinctive athlete who explodes downhill and is always setting himself up to get to his left, even when defenders know it’s coming. I believe he’ll even develop a 3-point shot. Yes, Zion is the real deal, and I believe any team would jump at the chance to lock him up for a decade plus.
This is a tougher case. His offensive excellence notwithstanding, it’s no guarantee a contender can be built around Young, who ranks dead last in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus. But you make the bet because he’s so special with the ball in his hands. One of two players in history (along with Oscar Robertson) to average at least 29 points and nine assists in his second season, Young stretches defenses with his shooting range like few players on earth and qualifies as a legitimately brilliant passer. He’s also an adept finisher with both-hand coordination and a variety of floaters, runners and high-arcing push shots in his arsenal.
Assuming Young continues to develop off the ball, he projects as a top-five offensive player moving forward with the ability to manipulate defenses and games in Steph Curry fashion. The bet you’re making is that he commits to the defensive end as Curry has, becoming a competent team defender with the strength to at least hold his own in one-on-one matchups. Also, Young is just 21 years old. The upside is huge, but the potentially destructive defensive downside is a reality. Personally, I’d take the risk.
Pat Riley has said Adebayo has all the makings of the next face of the Miami Heat, in the mold of Dwyane Wade or Alonzo Mourning. That’s quite a compliment, and it’s not just about his basketball ability. It’s his capacity as a teammate, as a leader. Bam is already one of the most versatile defenders in the league, which will only become a more valuable asset as the game continues to move toward a positionless battle to thwart shooting and perimeter-based actions.
Bam is also a stud on the offensive end — a high-level passer who is capable of being an offensive hub and continues to develop as a shooter. Erik Spoelstra has said Adebayo eventually extending his range to the 3-point line is easy for him to imagine, and if that happens, you’ve got an All-NBA-level player on your hands who just turned 22 years old. I don’t think Bam can be the best player on a championship team, and I’m not sure I would offer him a max at 10 years. But I would definitely commit to him for 10 years, and give him that security at the organization’s risk, at a very handsome rate if he were interested.
This depends on the situation. If it’s the Sixers as currently constructed, I’m not sure. I do not think Simmons can reach his ceiling, nor do I think the Sixers can win a championship, trying to force Simmons and Embiid together on a team that lacks shooting and lacks the flexibility to pursue it in a meaningful way.
Now, if the Sixers were to trade Embiid and surround Simmons with four shooters like the Bucks have done for Giannis, yes, I would sign Simmons up for 10 years of leading that attack without hesitation — or if another team could trade for Simmons with the flexibility and resources to give him the specific support he needs.
To me, the Sixers would be smart to build around Simmons. He projects better moving forward than Embiid, if only for the health factor, and his versatility will only become more valuable with the way the game’s going. Problem is, he probably has more value on the open market than Embiid for those same reasons, too. Ultimately, Simmons’ age (24) and talent are worth a 10-year contract. But I’d need to see the situation before fully committing.
I’ve seen enough. If Ja Morant is my point guard for the next 13 years after a 10-year extension beginning in 2023, I’m feeling very good. A huge athlete, and super-efficient, he’s one of six rookies in history who’ve managed to post at .567 true-shooting percentage with a usage rate of at least 26.0, and here are the other five: David Robinson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Walter Davis.
Morant is so elusive with his handle and has a beautiful in-between game with floaters and creative finishes. He’s constantly ready to explode to the rim. He’ll become an even bigger nightmare as his off-the-dribble shooting improves, especially from range, and there’s no reason to think that won’t happen. The stroke is there. So is the confidence and feel. This guy is going to be a star, and he’s only 20 years old.
Towns is just 24 years old and he’s shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc this season, on almost seven attempts a game, as a seven-footer. He’s an offensive unicorn. Per 75 possessions, this guy has basically the same true-shooting percentage for his career as Stephen Curry. When the season was suspended, he was averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
I know the defense is a real issue. He doesn’t give multiple efforts anywhere near consistently enough. He’s rarely fully engaged. His instincts are not great, which still shocks me for the defensive monster I thought he was going to be coming out of college.
But Towns is also playing on a losing team, which is no excuse, but the talent is once in a generation when you consider the size and shooting and the defensive ceiling is still there. At 24 years old, I’m willing to bet I can’t replicate Towns’ talent but can put the right pieces around him to offset his tangible and intangible gaps. And if I can’t, he’d be a highly tradable asset being locked up long term for a team that does have the right pieces to support him.
Forget your empty-stats hogwash: Booker is one of the 10-15 best offensive players in the world and he’s still just 23 years old. When the season was suspended, he was on pace to be just the seventh player in history to post at least 26 points and six assists per game on a true shooting percentage of at least 60, and to say the other six are an elite group is an understatement: Michael Jordan LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Larry Bird and Damian Lillard.
Booker has been unfairly criticized for the mess the Phoenix Suns have been during his tenure. They never put anything close to NBA-level playmaking around him. By simply adding Ricky Rubio this season they have unlocked Booker as a truly elite wing, but all the struggle wasn’t for naught as Booker has developed considerably as a playmaker and pick-and-roll general. He is so great in the short mid-range — pull-ups, floaters, post-ups — and he gets to the line with ease, where he shoots over 91 percent.
Booker is an offensive machine that has the ability to lead the league in scoring in the near future, particularly as he becomes more and more consistent from 3-point range. We put way too much stock in this idea that a truly great player should be able to single-handedly lift a terrible team. By that logic, the Warriors would’ve been dumb to give Stephen Curry a 10-year contract when he was 23 and the Warriors stunk. Every player in the league not named LeBron James has needed pieces around him to succeed, and Booker is finally starting to get that with DeAndre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and company. You can’t let a player like this, at this age, get away.
Players who received 10-year consideration
- Donovan Mitchell: Just not quite confident enough in his shot selection — too many long 2-pointers, he’s not a good off-the-dribble 3-point shooter and he doesn’t get to the free-throw line at a particularly impressive rate for a player of his explosiveness. When he’s on the court without Rudy Gobert, the Jazz are a dismal minus-8.7, per Cleaning the Glass. He’s gotten the keys to the team and his numbers are worthy of such a role, but unlike Booker, we’ve got a good look at what Mitchell can be with legit talent around him, and it’s not quite great enough for a 10-year deal.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: I would not argue with anyone who thinks SGA deserves a 10-year deal. He’s terrific. He’s going to be an All-Star-level scorer and he’s a menace of defensive versatility. The 3-point game is already good and still developing. His creativity in the mid-range is superb and his long-armed finishes are works of art. I love this guy’s game. I’m just not sure I can think of him as a “best player on a great team” kind of guy, although I can’t say I see that for Bam Adebayo either. Now that I think about it, yeah, I would probably offer Gilgeous-Alexander a 10-year deal, perhaps not at max money, but he’s a beautiful player. This is a supremely tough call. Ten years is a long time. I don’t want to diminish that commitment for every young player who has looked good.
- Pascal Siakam: He’s 26 years old. Just not enough prime years left.
- Anthony Davis: He’s 27 years old. Not enough prime years left and injury concerns.
- De’Aaron Fox: Shooting is the most important skill a point guard can bring to today’s game, and it’s Fox’s worst attribute. He’s a big-time scorer and creator and I do think the shot shows promising signs of development, but it’s just too big a gamble without that skill to depend on.
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