An inside look at the NBA's bonus game

Bobby Marks
·The Vertical
Karl-Anthony Towns' bonus business is already done. (AP)
Karl-Anthony Towns' bonus business is already done. (AP)

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, examines the player-bonus landscape and which bonuses might be attainable.

There were 93 NBA players with bonus incentives, but that figure has now dwindled to 33.

For those 60 players with incentives in their rookie-scale contracts, they were achieved in July and August when they participated in summer league or took part in skills and conditioning camps.

Though their salaries are based on draft slots, players signed to rookie-scale contracts can negotiate an extra 20 percent in offseason bonuses.

Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns, for instance, earned an extra $50,000 for attending a team-designated skills-and-conditioning camp this summer.

Of the 33 remaining veterans with bonuses, including 11 players who signed new contracts in July, their incentives can be earned during the season for benchmarks such as team wins, playoff achievements, individual statistics and offseason honors.

The bonuses are either deemed unlikely or likely with the NBA, using the previous season’s statistics as a baseline.

A look at the different types of bonuses players have in their contracts:

New contracts
This offseason the Nets signed free agents Jeremy Lin, Luis Scola and Greivis Vasquez, and each have bonuses in their contracts.

The bonuses for Scola and Vasquez are for 65 games, and Scola also needs to achieve benchmarks in rebounding.

Lin has bonuses for All-NBA honors and 61 games, along with statistical achievements.

Other free agents signed this summer who have bonuses:
1. Bismack Biyombo, Magic: All-Defensive team
2. Evan Fournier, Magic: All-Star, games and playoffs
3. Deron Williams, Mavs: Games and playoffs
4. Rajon Rondo, Bulls: Wins and minutes
5. Maurice Harkless, Trail Blazers: Three-point percentage
6. Miles Plumlee, Bucks: Games started and minutes
7. Solomon Hill, Pelicans: Minutes
8. Jon Leuer, Pistons: Playoffs, East finals

Of the 11 players, Scola’s bonuses are deemed likely because the former Raptor reached the criteria last season with Toronto.

Jeremy Lin can boost his salary a number of ways this season. (Getty Images)
Jeremy Lin can boost his salary a number of ways this season. (Getty Images)

Games and minutes played
Plumlee and John Henson, Milwaukee teammates, each have bonuses for games played.

Plumlee, the Bucks’ starter the first week of the season, will reach his bonus if he starts 41 games or plays at least 2,000 minutes.

Henson needs to play 60 or 75 games for his bonuses to kick in.

However, Henson missed 25 games last season due to injury and has never appeared in more than 70 games in a season.

Statistics-based bonuses
A calculator will be needed to figure out Lin’s incentives.

The point guard has bonuses for All-NBA honors, but also has three sets of incentives for games played, assists, turnovers, three-point percentage, three-pointers attempted and free throws attempted per 36 minutes.

Though each bonus was deemed unlikely by the NBA based on Lin’s statistics in Charlotte last season, the Nets starter could be in line for an additional $750,000 based on his solid start this year but he is battling a hamstring injury now.

Postseason awards
Twenty players have incentives for postseason honors.

The Pacers’ Thaddeus Young is an unlikely candidate to win league MVP ($500,000 bonus), but the Nuggets’ Will Barton could make a run for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.

Though Barton has started the first two games because of Gary Harris’ groin injury, Barton will assume his sixth-man role when Harris returns.

Barton finished fourth in the voting last season – behind winner Jamal Crawford of the Clippers – and he’d earn $250,000 if he were to win this year.

Playoffs or bust
The Jazz’s Joe Ingles just needs his team to reach the first round to earn his bonus, but several players will need a combination of games, minutes and postseason eligibility.

The Bulls’ Rajon Rondo must average at least 30 minutes a night, play a minimum 55 games and have the Bulls reach at least the conference finals for his bonus.

Taj Gibson, Rondo’s teammate, has a similar bonus structure.

Gibson must appear in a minimum of 60 games, appear in 75 percent of the Bulls playoff games and average at least 25 minutes in the regular season to reach his incentives.

Put the Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic on the Golden State Warriors, and his bonus would likely be achieved.

Though the Bulls likely will be in playoff contention, their final win total probably won’t exceed 65, which is what Mirotic needs for his $800,000 bonus.

For the Pelicans’ Omer Asik, one of his bonuses is tied to something he’s never done before: play in an All-Star Game.

He also would be awarded bonuses if the Pelicans reached the conference and NBA Finals and won the NBA championship.

The former All-Star
All-NBA honors, the All-Star Game and playing 72 games while leading his team to the playoffs are likely distant memories for the Mavericks’ Deron Williams, a three-time All-Star.

Williams, 32, has a one-year, incentive-laden contract in which can earn an additional $1 million.

Likely eliminated
One player who has already lost his bonus opportunity is the Timberwolves’ Nikola Pekovic.

Sidelined for the season with a right foot injury, Pekovic had bonuses for postseason awards, games and an All-Star selection that were worth $1.6 million.

New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday hasn’t played this season because of a family health issue. While it may be the furthest thing from his mind, he could miss out on his seven bonus incentives – worth $1.2 million – which kick in at 65 games.

The future
Fresh off signing a four-year, $62 million rookie extension with Atlanta, point guard Dennis Schroder has bonuses in his new contract, which starts in 2017-18.

To reach the $2 million annual bonuses, Schroder must earn an All-Star berth or reach a combination of games played plus the Hawks reaching or winning the NBA championship.

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