Twenty-seven points will cost Anthony Davis more than $24 million.
The New Orleans Pelicans forward received 76 points in All-NBA media voting, released Thursday, 27 fewer than he needed to make a forward spot on one of the three All-NBA teams and trigger a clause that would have increased the value of a five-year contract extension he signed last offseason by more than $24 million.
A first-team All-NBA selection a season ago, Davis posted another strong year — he averaged 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2 blocks per game — but missed 21 games to injury as the Pelicans dropped from 45 wins in 2014-15 to 30.
Those numbers weren’t enough for Davis to trigger the “Rose Rule,” a collective bargaining agreement clause that can significantly increase the value of young players’ contracts.
“I like the fact that they reward players for performing above and beyond,” said Larry Coon, a computer scientist at UC Irvine and an NBA collective bargaining agreement expert. “So if you’re really a star performer, you have an opportunity to make more money sooner that’s commensurate with what you’re bringing to the basketball court. I’m perfectly good with that. The question is what criteria do you use to decide that?”
The NBA uses three: the MVP award, the All-Star game and the All-NBA team.
The Rose Rule allows a player who wins an MVP or is twice voted as an All-Star starter or twice named to an All-NBA team while on his rookie contract to earn a maximum salary that takes up 30 percent of his team’s total cap as opposed to 25 percent.
It’s nicknamed for the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose, the league’s MVP in 2011.
Davis was named an All-Star starter and All-NBA selection last season. This season, he was an All-Star reserve.
That system for determining the value of a player’s contract is “odd,” said Bobby Marks, who spent 20 years in the NBA, including five as the assistant general manager of the Brooklyn Nets, and who now is a front-office insider at Yahoo Sports.
The All-NBA vote, for example, is restricted by position — voters must name two guards, two forwards and a center to each of their three teams — and voters don’t always see the flexibility in it.
“I think what happens is, the (voting) rules aren’t explained in good detail,” Marks said. “In Anthony’s case, he could have been voted in as a center (instead of a forward), and I think if people would have had a better understanding of that, he would have had a chance to beat out Andre Drummond (on the third team), or even had a chance against (second-team selection DeMarcus) Cousins.”
Davis received one first-team vote, from Trail Blazers radio analyst Antonio Harvey, who voted for Davis as a center. Of the 11 voters who placed Davis on their second team, nine listed him as a center. He was on 38 third-team ballots, six as a center.
To make the team, Davis would have needed at least the 103 votes that San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge received, assuming a majority of those votes came at forward.
“I think we missed the boat a little bit as far as what the actual rules are,” Marks said. “I think had we left it up to the league or the coaches or the GMs, I think you might have seen a little bit of a different result here.”
As it stands, though, Davis missed the cut — he ranked third among players receiving votes who did not make an All-NBA team — and will miss out on close to $25 million, though the exact figure will be determined by the salary cap each season during the life of the contract.
In 2016-17, the salary cap is expected to jump to about $92 million. If that holds, Davis will make about $21.5 million next season. If his extension had qualified for the Rose Rule, he’d have earned about $25.8 million.
Marks noted that while it’s “sexy” to say the vote cost Davis $24 million, it’s likely to be about half that number after taxes.
As Davis said in March, the total even without the Rose Rule boost is “a lot of damn money.” And though the additional $24 million-plus is a significant hit to Davis’ bottom line — “They give that out for (entire) contracts,” Davis said in March — it does provide some salary cap flexibility for the Pelicans.
New Orleans’ available cap space this summer depends largely on what happens with free agents Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. If both leave, the Pelicans could have about $22 million in cap room to spend on the free-agent market.
Had Davis made an All-NBA team, that maximum total would have been about $4 million less, and though that’s “not a make-or-break” number, Marks said, every little bit matters.
“It’s really going to be a seller’s market this summer,” Coon said, because so many teams will have significant cap space. “If (the Pelicans) are going to help themselves in free agency this year, they’re going to have to really pony up for offers to players.”
As the cap increases in the coming years — it could jump to $109 million next season, Marks said, based on the NBA’s TV-rights deal — the difference in what Davis is earning versus what he could have made under the Rose Rule will matter less and less to the Pelicans’ free-agent pursuits.
And assuming a regularly increasing cap, Thursday’s news likely means this is the last time a team signs the 23-year-old Davis for a discounted price.
“He’s still young,” Marks said. “This is his first big (contract). If he stays healthy, he’s got another big one coming down the road. So whatever he didn’t earn in this contract with the Rose Rule, he will certainly make up the difference in the next one.”