At first it appeared that the new CBA’s “Kevin Durant Rule,” which allows NBA teams to offer fatter contracts to keep their superstars from flirting with other options in free agency, would leave the Thunder and Rockets feeling like idiots. Last summer both teams just signed their cornerstones—Russell Westbrook and James Harden, respectively—to contract extensions, unaware that they’d have a more powerful option available if they’d waited just one year longer. Ordinarily, a player would not be able to sign contract extensions in consecutive years, but Yahoo Sports reports that the CBA has carved out specific exceptions for both of these players, because their teams’ behavior fit the spirit of the rule: keeping superstars in place.
This means the Thunder and Rockets will be able to offer big money as early as this summer; it means that, should these stars want to stick around, they won’t have to leave money on the table to do so. Per Yahoo, here are the terms available to both players this summer:
This summer, Westbrook could sign a five-year, $219 million contract extension that would begin in the 2018-19 season. He’ll make $28.5 million in 2017-18.
Harden could sign for an additional four years and $171 million starting in 2019 – on top of the $58.7 million owed to him in the next two years of his current contract.
As of now, it seems that Westbrook is more likely to sign that extension this summer. Sources told Yahoo that Harden will probably pass on that option for now, and wait until he’s a little closer to his free agency in 2019, as he assesses the Rockets’ viability. He has that luxury since the discrepancy in contracts he’d be offered looks negligible next to his mammoth $200 million shoe deal.
That makes you wonder what type or tier of superstar will actually be enticed by the bigger Durant Rule contracts. Most players who meet the stringent criteria—All-NBA, MVP, DPOY caliber players—already have other major sources of off-court income that can offset whatever gradations of ultra-wealthiness the rule offers them.