The irony of Robert Covington's impending payday is that he was so drastically underpaid before that the Sixers were well-situated for another team-friendly deal.
And that's exactly what they got.
Covington is expected later this week to sign a four-year, $62 million contract to remain a Sixer. Per multiple reports, the framework of the deal is that $15 million will be added to Covington's salary this season, and then it will play out past this season as a four-year, $45 million deal.
What a steal.
Minutes after Adrian Wojnarowski reported the renegotiated terms, Paul Pierce reacted on ESPN.
"This guy's underpaid," Pierce said. "He should be getting at least $80 million."
Hard to argue. Kent Bazemore got four years, $70 million from the Hawks. Tim Hardaway Jr. got four years, $71 million from the Knicks. Tobias Harris got four years, $64 million from the Pistons.
Covington is arguably (perhaps more than arguably) the best all-around player in that group.
A healthy Covington could have surely received more money on the open market next summer, but that's where his previous contract came into play. Covington was making $1.6 million this season. The idea of immediately adding $15 million to his net worth was too tempting for Covington to pass up. Plus, he wanted to be here after helping build the foundation for the Sixers' future. His contract situation was always set up to play into the Sixers' favor.
What works so well for the Sixers with Covington's renegotiated contract is that they already had the cap space to give him his big raise this season. Essentially, this $15 million is a 2017-18 signing bonus that won't impact the Sixers past this season. What a great use of cap room that would've otherwise been wasted.
Moving forward, it is expected that Covington's salary will be between $10 million and $12 million the next four seasons.
Next season's payroll
As of now, after the Covington and Embiid extensions and the denouncing of Jahlil Okafor's 2018-19 rights, the Sixers have about $30 million of cap space next summer. That assumes they bring back Richaun Holmes and T.J. McConnell at their low figures, and it excludes the cap holds of JJ Redick and Amir Johnson, who are on one-year deals.
That large figure — $30 million — would put the Sixers in a unique position next summer. As of now, only the Lakers (and maybe the Hawks) would have more money to spend.
That doesn't necessarily mean the Sixers will sign a star to a long-term deal next summer. The top of the free-agent class next summer includes LeBron James, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, Isaiah Thomas and Chris Paul.
Obviously, Cousins and Jordan are not fits with the Sixers. George's signing with the Lakers is regarded as an afterthought in NBA circles. Thomas and Paul don't make much sense either. That leaves LeBron.
I don't want to get too far off track, but at this point, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that LeBron would at least take a meeting with the Sixers next summer. He's all about putting himself in the best position to win. He'll be 33 years old and probably won't want to carry yet another team for years. And the teams that have the cap space to add LeBron don't have pieces as talented, as young or as far along as the Sixers.
Just sayin'. Let's move on.
Beyond next season
To optimize their roster as much as possible, the Sixers pretty much have to use their cap space in the summer of 2018 or 2019. After that, they won't have enough room to easily fit in a star.
Because they'll have to extend Ben Simmons and possibly Dario Saric by then. And once you do that, you don't have as much cap space. If the Sixers were to add a free agent first, however, they'd still be able to retain their own players with big deals.
Think about what the Timberwolves did this past offseason, for example. Their window to spend on a free agent was closing because of the impending mega-deals owed to Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. So the T-Wolves struck this summer, trading for Jimmy Butler and his high salary because it would have been one of the last opportunities for them to add a big difference-maker.
Looking ahead to 2019, the top projected unrestricted free agents (assuming LeBron and George find long-term homes in 2018) are Klay Thompson, Butler and Kemba Walker.
Thompson is the most ideal fit imaginable for this Sixers team. He's also the most ideal fit imaginable for practically every team in the NBA.
But if Thompson's out there in the summer of 2019, the Sixers will likely be a major player. And a major reason they'll be a major player is because they have their perpetually improving forward locked up long-term on a team-friendly deal.
Robert Covington is truly the gift that keeps on giving.