Jayson Tatum: Too much money on the line for media voting to determine super-max eligibility
That’s a consequence of the league’s super-max rules. Though contract terms are still subject to negotiation between teams and players, players are eligible for a higher max-salary tier only by making All-NBA or winning MVP or Defensive Player of the Year. So, significant power lies with award voters.
Tatum on “The Old Man & The Three":
Maybe teams should be free to pay one or two or three stars a higher max without players needing to qualify. Regular-season honors like All-NBA are not the best way to determine who deserves a higher salary.
But the super-max criteria exists precisely because so much money is on the line. The award standards protect teams from themselves, preventing “unworthy” players from getting too large of contracts. Teams sometimes feel they can’t tell a player no. So, a rule takes the choice away from teams.
The players approved this mechanism in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, because it also helps rank-and-file union members. Players get roughly half of league-wide revenue. The less stars like Tatum make, the more money left for other players.
Know who largely doesn’t like this setup? The media, who never asked for this responsibility. Owners and players decided themselves to use All-NBA voting for this purpose. Some media members were uncomfortable voting on awards tied to smaller bonuses (say, $1 million). The large sums on the line with the super max makes some voters downright queasy.
For what it’s worth, I didn’t think Tatum deserved to make All-NBA last season. I rated all six forwards who made it – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Julius Randle, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler and Paul George – and Zion Williamson ahead of him.
Tatum talks about being judged by unfairly high expectations. That’s a fair point. Voter fatigue exists and rewards surprise players at the expense of established stars like Tatum. But I thought All-NBA voters overrated Tatum last season.
In that interview, Tatum also incorrectly said only his votes at forward – not at guard – counted toward his total. His votes at every position all counted toward a single total score. However, Tatum could make an All-NBA team only at the position he got the most votes – forward, appropriately. That’s why Tatum fell short despite getting more total voting points than All-NBA third-team guard Kyrie Irving.
Maybe All-NBA should be positionless. But there’s no guarantee voters would’ve put Tatum in their top 15 if freed from positional limitations.
In many ways, it sounds like Tatum wanted whatever system would’ve put him on an All-NBA team and gotten him the super max. If voters chose him, we probably wouldn’t be hearing this griping.
But if Tatum isn’t just bitter about his own perceived snub and truly wants a better system for the next generation of players, he should take it up with the union. The setup could change in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.