When the Knicks gave RJ Barretta four-year, $120 million contract extension, some fans questioned a $30 million a year bet on an unproven player who has never been an All-Star. However, in NBA front office circles, that $30 million was seen as a good bet — not because Barrett had earned the status (or even might down the line), but because with the salary cap expected to rise fast in the coming years that $120 million number would not be an anchor on the Knicks’ books.
In a sign of what’s to come, teams were informed the NBA salary cap is expected to jump $10 million next season, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
While a $134 million cap and a $164 million tax line would be records (an 8.4% jump from this season), revenue could exceed early projections and push that a little higher. However, the cap can’t rise above $136 million because of restrictions following the COVID shutdown (an effort to help owners recoup money from the times when buildings were empty), Bobby Marks of ESPN adds.
That $10 million jump is just the first year of a steady but rapid rise in the cap that could go on for the rest of the decade.
A new national television and streaming rights deal should be in place by the 2025-26 season and is expected by many to at least double the $2.6 billion annually the NBA currently gets from Turner (TNT/NBATV) and Disney (ABC/ESPN). That salary cap mump is expected to be “smoothed” in over a few years, meaning the fast-rising cap could be here to stay a while.
This will make the Barrett contract — and others signed this summer — not quite so painful, should they not pan out as hoped.
All that money flowing into the system — remember players get roughly half of the basketball related revenue — is why nobody expects a work stoppage with the new CBA negotiations. While there are some thorny issues to work out (luxury tax issues, trade demands from players on new contracts) nobody wants to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.