The Fantasy of an NBA Buyout Clause

In the foreign market of Soccer or better known as futbol, an expensive transaction is about to go down with one of the world’s best players. Barcelona’s Neymar Jr. is expected to have his buyout clause paid by Paris-Saint Germain. The €222 million buyout clause is expected to be paid in full. Neymar Jr. is now expected to move on and make €30m a year after taxes as a member of PSG. The trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar Jr. is broken up as they were a dominating super team of their own.

In 2014-2015, their first season together the trio won the  La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles respectively. Messi, Suárez, and Neymar scored 122 goals in all competitions, the most in a season for an attacking trio in Spanish football history. In the midst of their run Barcelona won 39 games in a row until April 2nd, 2016 with a 2–1 defeat to Real Madrid at Camp Nou. One-third of the trio is expected to disband as Neymar Jr. seeks a higher paying gig over the dominance of Barcelona in the La Liga. Although as of late, La Liga refuses to accept the buyout money, this idea of buying-out superstars is a curious invention in another league.

In the time and day of an NBA super team flexing their almighty strength, the Golden State Warriors currently have four All-Star players under contract. Stephen Curry signed the NBA’s first “supermax” deal this offseason in which he will be making $201 million over 5-years. The landscape of the NBA has shifted greatly in one summer after the Warriors showed how dominant they can be against a Lebron James lead Cavaliers and a 4-1 NBA Finals victory this past June.

Let’s think about this summer so far in the NBA. All of the superstar exchanges were a result of trades that occurred in a span of three weeks.  A domino effect of Kevin Durant choosing to join the 73-win Warriors last summer trickles into the summer of 2017 and 2018 the speculation gets even greater if Lebron will jump ship again from Cleveland. Signs of the times carry on as Kyrie Irving has requested a trade from the Cavaliers and would rather run game by himself instead of in Lebron’s shadow.

I’m never really a fan of “what if” but let’s play a game this summer shall we?

Money talks and bullshit walks. The possibility of an NBA franchise showing up to a player and saying we can buy you freedom if you come play with us is intriguing, right? The potential suitors Stephen Curry or Draymond Green could have makes you wonder. Anyone willing to spend some serious cash to break-up a super team?

The Carmelo Anthony drama continues in New York and with a no-trade clause in place the All-Star forward has his way in determining his future team. The Knicks may not be keen to buy out his contract as it does not allow them to have pieces in return for Anthony. Since the current NBA provisions only allow for their respective teams and a player to agree to the buyout no outside negotiations with other teams can be done with said player. Imagine if a team could just swoop in and save Anthony the trouble? Sure the Knicks could be relieved of a contract and they wouldn’t get any thing more in return but Anthony ultimately would have his full rights to go where he pleases with who ever he negotiates with.

Irving would certainly have more leverage in determining where he can play. He would be allowed to meet with suitors and settle on a new contract while negotiating his buyout amount with the Cavaliers. A trade request to the front office isn’t necessary and potential suitors would line-up to “buy” the All-Star guard. Of course, likewise in the soccer world, only the rich can succeed in buying an All-Star guard from an NBA team.

Could player buyout clauses help keep a check and balance system going in the NBA? The salary cap already provides a restriction on NBA franchises from overspending and buying whoever they’d like. Luxury tax penalties aren’t the greatest on an individual owner’s pockets as well. Yet, the Golden State Warriors are still intact and plan to be for the next 4-5 years in the NBA.

Paul George is now playing next to the NBA’s reigning MVP in Oklahoma City. The Houston Rockets were able to snatch away Chris Paul from the Houston Rockets to play next to MVP Candidate James Harden. Jimmy Butler is now in Minnesota next to Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Gordon Hayward joins his former college coach Brad Stevens in Boston as the first place team in last’s year Eastern Conference also grabbed Jayson Tatum at no. 3 in the 2017 NBA Draft. The rich just keep getting richer.

There are two realistic ways super teams currently break-up like a boy band. First, a player becomes unhappy like a Kyrie Irving who then would like to jump ship regardless of how dominant the Cavaliers are in the Eastern Conference. So, a trade request is put in while the team shuffles around for the best deal. Second, a free agency summer opens up for said superstar and they decide to take their talent elsewhere.

Again, what if teams can woo players by dangling millions more on their doorstep including a buyout clause sponsored by the buyer? Oh, I do realize that Kevin Durant did take about $9-$10 million less this summer to give the Golden State front office salary cap flexibility. However, Durant only signed a two-year deal in which he can still opt-out next season and potentially could demand a long-term deal. Stephen Curry is set to make near $40 million with his new contract. Durant’s deal is around $50 million for the two years. At $25 million a year, Durant is coming off an NBA Finals where he averaged 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.6 blocks in five games. Also, KD is the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, something Stephen Curry did not even achieve in the 2015 NBA Finals.

Sure enough, endorsements may favor KD over Curry. However, he’s already taking $10 million less and a gap of $15 million less than Curry’s super max deal. How long and how many millions will Kevin Durant wait to hold out on before seeking more money?

Now, of course, all the dynamics of a salary cap in place and the big market teams having the most money would only make the richer even richer. Perhaps the league can sponsor some of the revenue to the smaller markets? Alright, the sun is out any my eyes are awake.

As the summer high winds down and my adult beverage wears off I’m back to reality. Regardless of buying players the NBA still can mount super teams but the options to break them up is slim to none. Of course, unless you’re Kyrie Irving and demand your way out from a championship caliber team.

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Contributor