The Supermax in the NBA: Has it Worked?


Damian Lillard, star Point Guard for the Portland Trail Blazers, signed his supermax last offseason (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)


The Supermax contract officially known as the “Designated Veteran Player Extension” was introduced in 2017 by the NBA. This past offseason the 5th player ever signed the contract in Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard. It is important to understand what supermax is and its requirements. 

To meet the requirements a player must have played 8 years in the league on the same team. The player has to be named to an All-Nba team in the most recent year, or two years in a row prior to this year. For example, if you were all in 2018 and 2019 you meet the requirements even if you didn’t make it in 2020. It is the same term for defensive player of the year. It also applies if a player MVP in any one of the last three seasons. A player can sign the extension for 5 years if you have one year left on your contract or 4 years if you have 2 years left on your contract. 

The supermax takes up 35% of the team’s salary cap and raises 8% each year. The advantage of this contract is that it encourages players to stay with their current team, and teams can offer more money than their competition. 

The downside is the supermax tends to cripple teams and it becomes very difficult to build a supporting cast around these players. Out of the five players who have signed it only one player has one a championship ring and that is Steph Curry. The two other players have always been stars, but can’t seem to lead their team to a ring: those players are James Harden and Russell Westbrook. There just simply isn’t enough money to provide a competent supporting cast that can win a championship without going over the salary cap.

The last player on that list, John Wall, hasn’t played a game since 2018, when he tore his achilles. Ever since, the Wizards have been horrible in a Eastern Conference that has been much weaker than the west. This contract has effectively ruined that team, and possibly more valuable Bradley Beal’s prime. Bradley Beal is wasting his thirty point average seasons on a team that won’t be competitive until he is way past his prime. It is important to note the players that are eligible for this upcoming offseason, however the two most likely candidates to sign it are Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert.

Overall, the supermax contract has many pros and cons. Teams can offer more money than the open market for a superstar, and can hope that they can find a bargain contract somewhere to find that extra star. On the other hand, it can be difficult to find that player as the supermax doesn’t leave you a lot of room to work with unless you are willing to go over the luxury cap.