That isn’t the full story.
Both Durant ($38,199,000) and Irving ($32,742,000) can get their full max salaries next season. They just must hit incentives.
Brooklyn cleverly structured Irving’s contract to maximize cap space. The Nets had enough cap space for his base salary plus incentives. But once signed, Irving counted toward the cap at only his base salary plus likely incentives. Unlikely incentives – by definition, ones he wouldn’t have achieved last season – stop counting once he’s signed. So, that offered wiggle room used to get Jordan.
Irving has $1 million of unlikely incentives next season divided into eight $125,000 possible bonuses, according to Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks of ESPN: Irving can trigger the bonuses by:
Playing 70 games
Playing 60 games and averaging fewer than 2.4 turnovers per game
Playing 60 games and averaging 4.6 free-throw attempts per game
Shooting 88.5% on free throws
Making 2.8 3-pointers per game
Committing fewer than 2.1 fouls per game
His team scoring 114 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor
His team allowing 106 or fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor
These are all in reach for Irving, but none are locks. I’m surprised his incentives are set as so difficult. There were ways to structure these as more likely while remaining technically “unlikely.” Irving is a superstar. He had all the leverage.
Still, I doubt he’s fretting over $1 million.
These incentives carry through the other three years on his contract and presumably increase as his salary rises. So, there’s more than $4 million at stake. Again, I doubt Irving is too concerned.
Durant also has $1 million of incentives. He can get the bonus with any of the following:
His team making the playoffs
His team winning at least 43 games
Playing 50 games
Making an All-Star team
The individual honors seem highly unlikely next season with Durant sidelined by a ruptured Achilles. The Nets will probably win enough for Durant to qualify, anyway.
I see no roster-building reason Durant, who was acquired in a sign-and-trade with the Warriors, has incentives in his contract. Durant could have seemingly signed a straight max deal and left Brooklyn the same flexibility to sign Jordan and do everything else this summer.
My best guess: Durant wanted to show a shared sacrifice with Irving. That’d be in-character for Durant.
There are a lot of good vibes coming from Brooklyn right now.