Dec
25
2020

The Giannis Supermax: An Early Christmas Gift To Small Market Teams

For months, the chatter circulating in NBA circles and social media surrounded whether or not Giannis would sign the supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. The first day that he could sign came and went, his birthday came and went, the first day of training camp came and went, any significant day that could have included his signing did not include it. Then the Bucks lost their first preseason game. Hopes in Milwaukee were low, and then he signed; he signed!

The Bucks’ secured one of the best players in the NBA for years to come. Now, as joyous of an event as this was for the Bucks and their fans, it is also a substantial moment for all small-market teams. For years, star players have budded in small markets, just to leave for larger markets; now, there is a bonified star, one of the brightest in the league, who decided to make a small market his home. This has major implications for other small markets, too:

The reason for the Supermax

The supermax contract was included in the 2017 CBA agreement following Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City. Before the supermax, every team could offer every superstar the same amount of money. Under the supermax, the team that drafted the star can offer more than any other team. The thought was that it would be an incentive for star players to stay with their small-market teams, thus making the league more competitive.

Who has signed a Supermax?

However, since the conception of the supermax, only six players have signed one: Steph Curry (Warriors); James Harden (Rockets); Russell Westbrook (Thunder); Damian Lillard (Trailblazers); John Wall (Wizards); and Giannis (Bucks). Out of these six players, two are now on different teams, and James Harden may be on his way out of Houston soon. Russell Westbrook is on his third team in as many years. While big bucks are being handed out, it seems as if players are moving just as often as before the supermax became a thing.

So why is Giannis signing good for small markets?

Look at the players that are still on the teams with which they signed (excluding Harden, who is likely on his way out): Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, and Giannis. Curry plays in a large market and has had a lot of success there. Likely, he would have signed on with Golden State again anyway; however, Lillard and Giannis play for small markets. Lillard has made no demands for trades, and Giannis likely will not, given his history and demeanor.

What Giannis’ (and Lillard’s) contract means to small markets is that they can be competitive. Large markets can try to persuade them away, but stars on small markets will stay. Granted, for Giannis, he needed to see that the Bucks would do enough to build a winner. Obviously, he believes they have; however, that is part of what is so great about the situation.

The fact that the Bucks had a chance to sign Giannis motivated them to improve their roster. Previously, small markets knew that their stars would leave for bigger contracts and larger markets. Now, there is at least a chance for them to retain their stars.

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