The biggest deal of the NBA’s offseason was completed Tuesday morning. Jaylen Brown just signed the richest deal in NBA history, inking a reported five-year, $304 million deal to stick with the Boston Celtics.
The supermax is indeed a supermax. And Boston, despite the changes the team made this offseason, is still all-in on trying to win a championship. And that means the team cannot afford to let its star players leave in free agency or not feel taken care of.
Even if that means paying $69 million in the last year of the deal.
The Boston Celtics are obviously at a different stage of development than the Orlando Magic. They are ready to commit that kind of money. They are competing for a championship.
But as Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said before the draft when asked about the upcoming changes to the CBA: The collective bargaining agreement comes for everyone. Even if it might handicap the Celtics in the future, that is the cost of trying to win a championship and retaining your own young players.
The Magic have largely operated from a position of pure flexibility. Money has not been important — Jonathan Isaac remains the highest-paid player on the roster although the Magic are probably not leaning on him to start and he has played 11 games in three seasons.
The Orlando Magic have been playing with cap space and flexibility for several years. But that time will end and the numbers due for the Orlando Magic’s stars is a big one.
That is inevitably going to change. It may start with the decisions on whether to extend Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony before this season or next summer. It will continue when Wendell Carter’s contract and the bargain it represents expires in 2026.
But the biggest rise in cost for the Magic will come when Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero come off their rookie contracts — Wagner in 2025 and Banchero in 2026.
Both players have taken huge steps and both players form the foundation for this team. It is safe to assume both will be in line for max contract extensions by the time the Magic get to decide whether to extend them.
That is simply the cost of doing business.
What is that cost going to be? It is hard to tell at this point because the salary cap is not set.
The NBA’s salary cap came in at $136.0 million for the 2023-24 season. The league’s new collective bargaining agreement restricts the cap from jumping by more than 10 percent. With the league getting set to sign a new TV rights deal following the 2025 season, the league is going to see that number spike repeatedly and probably by that max amount for several years to come.
The league is expected to double and perhaps triple its TV deal, bringing a lot of cash into the NBA once again.
That new deal may affect both Wagner and Banchero’s max contracts (and might prevent Wagner from signing an extension in the offseason rather than waiting for free agency to see what those final numbers will be).
That is because the max contract is tied to the salary cap.
The maximum salary for a player with seven years of service or fewer is the greater of 25 percent of the cap or 105 percent of the salary for the final year of the previous salary. Just based on last year’s numbers, the max salary if Wagner or Banchero entered free agency this summer would be starting at $34 million per year.
A player becomes eligible for the super-max designation — which would give them 30 percent of the salary cap — if they make either All-NBA team, the All-Defensive team in the preceding season or in two of the previous three seasons or won MVP in the previous three seasons.
Essentially, the Magic are likely preparing themselves to commit nearly half of their cap space to Wagner and Banchero in the very near future.
And that does not even get into raises, which can remain at 25 percent of the cap unless the player qualifies for the supermax before signing the new contract or be limited to eight percent of the previous year’s salary.
That is where the real negotiation begins.
The numbers are going to get fuzzy though as we look into the future now. So assuming the league’s salary increases the max of 10 percent for the foreseeable future, the salary cap in the summer of 2025 is going to come to approximately $164.6 million.
That would put Wagner’s potential max extension at $41.2 million in the first year and a five-year total of somewhere between $241.8-$250.5 million depending on whether he signs a deal tied to eight percent raises or tied to 25 percent of the cap. Wagner will get paid more than $50 million in the fourth year of that contract.
That would put Banchero’s potential max extension at $45.3 million in the first year and a five-year total of somewhere between $265.6-276.4 million depending on whether he signs a deal tied to eight percent raises or tied to 25 percent of the cap.
By the end of that Banchero extension in 2029, the salary cap would be near $265.1 million if there are 10 percent raises each season.
Even if we go on a more conservative track with the projections from ShamsSports’ Capulator, Wagner would be due a five-year, $217.4 million deal and Banchero would be due a five-year, $228.3 million deal.
That calculation does not take into account the potential for the cap to rise 10 percent every year. That will be the big factor in what the Magic are going to pay.
Maybe neither player gets the full max. That feels like a miss by the agent and a steal for the Magic. But this is the upper bound of what the Magic may have to pay.
The point to make then is that everyone’s salaries are about to jump. And what is going to determine whether a max contract becomes onerous or not is how much some of those mid-level salaries ultimately jump up.
These numbers are going to look very funny today. But that Jaylen Brown contract is not going to be abnormal. The sooner you pay these salaries, the quicker they are may end up looking like a bargain.
But those are the contracts that are sitting ahead of the Magic. There are some big salaries ahead and the Magic’s golden hour to spend money is going to run out.
At some point very soon, Orlando is going to have to spend some money and fill up the team’s books. It is going to have to commit to its future.
What the Celtics signed Brown to — and what Tatum has already signed — is the future for a lot of teams and players in this league.
The CBA comes for everybody.