This isn’t a thing that you can often say about an NBA contract extension, given that they do not usually contain labyrinthian incentive structures or non-guaranteed money, but it’s hard to make any kind of value judgment on the five-year, $148 million extension the Sixers just gave Joel Embiid.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the deal, and then his colleague Zach Lowe followed up with this:
Woj has a few of those details, but not many:
Embiid, one of the NBA’s most talented and popular young players, has the ability to earn an additional $30 million — bringing the value of the contract to as much as $178 million — if he earns an All-NBA first-, second- or third-team selection, or is named MVP this season, league sources said. The designated rookie scale extension — termed “the super-max” — reflects 30 percent of the 2018-19 salary cap if Embiid reaches the performance-based criteria.
Based on the details of what sources are describing as a complex contract structure, the 76ers would have to waive Embiid for him not to reach the full value of his $148 million extension.
Given Embiid’s more than troubling injury history, it makes sense that the Sixers put an escape hatch in this contract, but it remains to be seen just how readily available it is. If Embiid’s body continues to fall apart and they waive him, are they still on the hook for 75 percent of the contract? Fifty percent? None of it?
Either way, the Sixers are taking a gamble here, as having even half of $148 million tied up in a guy who may very well never play more than 50 games in a season is a tough way to build a championship team. But it’s a gamble worth taking. Joel Embiid has yet to prove that he can play more than 25 minutes a night or more than 30 games in a season, but when he has been on the court he’s looked like a truly generational talent. What do you think is more likely, that Embiid never becomes a fully functional basketball player, or that he becomes a player good enough to lead a team to the finals? Even if the chances of the latter happening are relatively slim, isn’t that still worth placing a bet on?
We’ll have to wait and see just how big the Sixers’ bet is, but they’ve made it and there is no turning back now.