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The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a former 20-year executive with the Nets, looks at the player bonuses and off-season honors that could impact team salary and luxury-tax situations.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, more than 30 players with incentive bonuses in their contracts will be eyeing box scores, overall team statistics and postseason honors, but the reality is that only a handful of bonuses will be earned.
The Vertical examines the players who will earn incentive bonuses, the impact on each team now and in the future, and which players will likely fall short of potentially big paydays.
Portland Trail Blazers
Two transactions will keep the Trail Blazers below the luxury tax this season.
The set-off Portland received ($70,660) from Anderson Varejao signing with Golden State and the Trail Blazers acquiring less salary when they traded for Jusuf Nurkic will protect Portland from becoming a tax team even if Maurice Harkless meets the bonus criteria set forth in his contract.
The transactions have Portland $504,462 below the luxury tax.
Having shot better than 30 percent from 3-point range only once in his career, Harkless has a $500,000 bonus for shooting above 35 percent from 3.
Harkless is shooting 35 percent this season and would leave Portland $4,462 below the tax line if the final stats reflect his current percentage.
Staying below the tax has both short- and long-term ramifications.
Portland is still eligible to receive the $552,000 league-wide distribution for non-tax teams, will not have to pay the NBA $100,000 for the amount over the tax and won’t have the luxury-tax clock start until the 2017-18 season at the earliest.
With guaranteed salaries of $130 million (2017-18), $117 million (2018-19) and $114 million (2019-20) in future years, Portland will now likely avoid becoming a repeater tax team in 2019-20.
Health and an improved jump shot have Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio in line to reach two out of the three bonus components in his contract.
Signed to a rookie extension in October 2014, Rubio has a total of $250,000 in bonuses broken up into three categories: free-throw percentage, free-throw attempts per game and total field goal percentage.
With the criteria set at Rubio appearing in at least 62 games, the former first-round pick is in line to reach two out of three bonuses.
Rubio earned $150,000 in bonuses last season for free-throw attempts and percentage; this season he will likely earn $75,000 for free-throw percentage but miss out on the bonus for free-throw attempts per game.
Falling below 4.1 free-throw attempts per game will cost him $75,000, but Rubio’s shooting will earn him $100,000.
Rubio, who has not shot better than 40 percent in his first five NBA seasons, will achieve the bonus if his current shooting percentage remains at 41 percent or better.
Signed to a four-year contract by Brooklyn in 2015, Thaddeus Young will once again reach bonus incentives of $200,000 based on a calculated formula that factors minutes during the regular season in conjunction with total rebounds.
Because Young met the criteria last season and was deemed likely to reach the goal in 2016-17, the $14.9 million cap hit for next season will not change.
Reduced to a role player last season with the Pacers, Solomon Hill has a minutes-played bonus built into the $48 million contract he signed last summer with the Pelicans.
Having eclipsed 2,000 minutes, Hill will earn $468,385 in addition to his $11.2 million salary.
Because the bonus is deemed likely in 2017-18, Hill will see his cap hit increase from $11.75 million to $12.25 million.
THE ROOKIE EXTENSION CLASS
Three players – Rudy Gobert, Victor Oladipo and Dennis Schroder – have bonus incentives in the rookie extensions they signed last October.
Reaching the criteria would not trigger a financial gain this season or an additional cap hit in 2016-17 because each player is currently operating under their current rookie-scale deal signed in 2013.
However, each team would receive an additional cap hit next season, along with a change in the players’ 2017-18 salaries, if the incentives are reached this season.
Because of Gobert’s development as an elite defender, Utah could have an additional $1 million in salary charged in 2017-18.
Gobert has an All-Defensive first-team bonus ($500,000) along with two bonuses ($250,000 each) that factor in defensive rating and rebounds per game.
Each of the three bonuses – unlikely when the extension was signed – would now be deemed likely next year if reached this season.
The $1 million could have an impact on a Jazz team that could rank in the top 10 in salary and close to the luxury tax based on the pending free agencies of Gordon Hayward and George Hill.
Oladipo and Schroder have future incentives based on the Thunder and Hawks advancing to the NBA Finals, and Schroder can earn a bonus for making the NBA All-Defensive first or second team.
A thumb injury has left the Bucks’ John Henson on the sidelines during a critical stretch of the season and on the cusp of a $200,000 bonus.
Henson has appeared in 56 games, but if he were to reach 60, he would earn $200,000.
The cap hit for the Bucks next season would increase from $11.4 million to $11.67 million if Henson earns the bonus.
REACHING THE PLAYOFFS
In his third season, Joe Ingles should play in his first playoff game in mid-April, earning the Jazz small forward $50,000 for reaching the first round.
Ingles is the only player who has a first-round incentive not tied to a statistical achievement.
Denver’s Will Barton, who finished fourth for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award last season, has missed 13 games because of injury, which could harm his case for earning the award – and $250,000 contract bonus – this season.
Barton also has started 19 games, which the voting media will consider when filling out their ballots.
THE INJURY FACTOR
Missing 44 games with various injuries has not only cost Brooklyn its starting point guard, but it has also cost Jeremy Lin $750,000.
Although Lin has achieved the statistical criteria for the three bonus incentives in his contract, failing to appear in 61 games means Lin will have to wait until next season to try to hit those benchmarks.
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