Yes Morant’s reign as having the biggest contract in Memphis Grizzlies franchise history may only last one year.
Desmond Bane, the sharpshooting guard, is eligible for a new contract extension after three years in Memphis and is cashing in as he enters his fourth season in the NBA.
Keith Smith, an NBA salary cap analyst for Spotrac, believes Bane can get a five-year deal worth more than $207 million. That would surpass Morant’s five-year total at an estimated $197 million.
“Bane is the best shooter in his class,” Smith wrote in an article about possible contract extensions for the 2020 NBA Draft class. “He’s also improved a lot as a playmaker and he’s a solid defender. The Grizzlies are very proactive in locking up their own players. Bane will be the next one to get paid, and he’ll likely get a max deal as well.”
Bane has yet to make All-NBA or an all-star game. The idea of a max contract hasn’t been floated much, but his improvement as a playmaker and defender to go along with his scoring has shown his value in Memphis. Bane averaged 21.5 points, five rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.
Of the 13 other players who statistically qualified and averaged at least 21 points, five rebounds and four assists, 11 had previously signed max contracts. The only exceptions are Anthony Edwards, who is eligible for a max extension this summer like Bane, and Julius Randle.
The Grizzlies have caught a bit of luck that has saved them money over the last two years. Jaren Jackson Jr. signed a maximum four-year extension worth $104.7 million in the fall of 2021. Jackson continued to lead the NBA in blocks per game. game, made first-team all-defense and played in a career-high 78 games. Those accolades would have increased his contract value and likely resulted in a max extension.
Morant earned a max contract extension worth 25% of the salary cap, but had he made All-NBA this past season, his contract would have been worth more than $39 million more in total. Morant missed the All-NBA in part because of off-court incidents and an 8-game suspension from the NBA for conduct prejudicial to the league.
Between Morant and Jackson, the Grizzlies may have saved more than $100 million over the length of their contracts. Now it might be time to pay.
Case for Desmond Bane’s max contract
Smith believes that Bane is not universally seen as a player who should earn the maximum because of things he cannot control. The Grizzlies have made the playoffs in each of Bane’s three seasons, so the winning brand of basketball doesn’t allow him to chug shots and make his numbers look as flashy as possible.
Smith listed Devin Booker as a comparison for how Bane has grown year-over-year. Like Bane, Booker entered the NBA known as a shooter before showcasing his playmaking and rebounding ability. Booker quickly signed a maximum rookie scale extension for the Phoenix Suns when he was eligible.
“Devin Booker was not the 30th pick in the draft,” Smith told The Commercial Appeal. “Devin Booker wasn’t on a team with Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. There was never a question that Devin Booker was a top-level guy.”
Latest player comparisons
Last offseason, when Tyler Herro and Jordan Poole signed four-year deals, their contracts were viewed as barometers. Of these three players, Bane was arguably the best player this season. He finished with a Value Over Replacement Player rating of 2.5 this season compared to Herro’s 1.6 and Poole’s 0.1. Poole had a 1.7 VORP the year he signed the extension, and Herro won the NBA’s sixth Man of the Year award that year with a 1.5 VORP.
One player from Bane’s draft class to monitor is Tyrese Maxey, who Smith believes the Philadelphia 76ers will give to a max extension.
Smith said it might be wise for Bane to wait and see how Maxey’s contract plays out before signing.
“You can’t offer Maxey the max and not Bane,” Smith said. “In my mind, he’s just as good, if not better.”
Impact of CBA Amendment
The NBA is introducing a new collective bargaining agreement, and a change could affect contract negotiations with Bane. According to Smith, rookies who don’t sign max extensions are now eligible to sign five-year deals. In the last CBA, only players who signed max-rookie-scale extensions could sign five-year deals. Therefore, Jackson’s contract was for four years and Morant’s was a five-year deal.
The Grizzlies could use the new CBA to their advantage and offer Bane a five-year deal with similar annual numbers to Herro and Poole, but Smith says that would be risky.
“They want to risk losing him,” Smith said. “They risk him saying ‘no, let’s let this play out. Let’s go to free agency.'”
“I look at it as, hey, let’s get it right now, full five years 25% max no options. Nothing else begins to make sense.”
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Long-term impact on the Grizzlies’ salary cap
Bane’s deal will likely put the Grizzlies near or above the luxury tax for the 2024-25 season. The new CBA has restrictions on teams operating above the luxury tax.
In the past, the Grizzlies were able to acquire players like Steven Adams and Tyus Jones that helped improve their depth. Going forward, it will be important to build through the draft and sign players to cheap deals.
“It definitely makes it a little tighter on the margins,” Smith said of a potential Bane expansion. “That issue becomes a thing when Steven Adams’ contract comes up, we probably move on or he has to come back with a much lower number.”