Joel Embiid on being in Defensive Player of the Year and MVP discussions, and his mentality this year.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) March 4, 2021
He says he just wants to destroy everything in his path this season. pic.twitter.com/ZojvMvcfGc
Following the team’s win over the league-leading Utah Jazz, our Tom West quoted Sixers’ superstar Joel Embiid as saying he wants “to destroy everything in my path.” According to our Dan Volpone, Joel is the MVP and we love him. And indeed, Embiid has pulled even with LeBron James as a front-runner to snag the regular season’s best player award. We had our first clue that Embiid might be all-in before the season started. Joel discussed, for the first time in his career, some significant changes he’s made to his diet and nutritional habits. Per Kyle Neubeck of The PhillyVoice:
“This summer is the one that I really tried to really focus on it. By just having my own chef, nutritionist, my own [physical therapist] and massage therapist. Just doing whatever I can to take care of my body and so I’m able to play 20 years here in Philly.”
Jo adjusted his process and the results have been breathtaking. Not even (especially?) the presumptive Defensive Player of the Year has had a prayer slowing him down:
Joel Embiid scored 14 points (5/8 FG, 2/3 3PT) in the 4th quarter against Utah.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) March 4, 2021
Finished with 40 points and 19 rebounds, and dominated against Rudy Gobert. pic.twitter.com/Fw0m737XTG
So what are the implications of the Sixers winning big (currently in first place in the East) while Embiid machetes his way through the league’s biggest and best defenders while protecting the paint for a top 6 rated defense?
It’s put Embiid on a collision course with SuperMax eligibility.
Designated Veteran Player Extension
Currently, six players have signed Designated Veteran Player Extensions or “SuperMax” contracts: Steph Curry, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russel Westbrook, John Wall, and Damian Lillard. Will Joel be joining them following this season?
[One other candidate to keep an eye on for eligibility is All-Star Nikola Jokic should he make an All-NBA squad at year’s end, which feels like a mortal lock; the case of Zach LaVine is also interesting as he could become eligible for a healthy (sub-supermax) extension himself should he make one of the three All-NBA squads. That possibility would appear to give both LaVine and Chicago some incentive to stay together through the pending trade deadline; he could earn more money, and they could sign him to a long-term deal, ensuring an All-Star is on their roster while perhaps boosting his trade value; or he could “bet on himself” and try his hand as an unrestricted free agent].
Recall, prior to the season, Bobby Marks:
All-NBA honors would have made Joel Embiid super max extension eligible during the offseason of 2021. Embiid will need to make All-NBA in 2020-21 to reach the criteria.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) September 16, 2020
Amidst his 7th NBA season (Embiid was drafted in 2014 and despite missing his first two seasons, he was still contracted by the team that drafted him) Embiid will have two years remaining on his current contract while entering his 8th season, meeting vital requirements for a Designated Veteran Player Extension.
“A qualified player who has completed seven or eight years of service and has two years left on his contract is eligible for a four-year supermax (keeping the player with the same team for a total of six seasons)”
Embiid has that one covered. Look at his contract, per Basketball-Reference.com:
As you can see above, Embiid will have the essential two or fewer remaining seasons on the deal he signed back in 2017.
He would then need to make one of the three All-NBA teams this season. (He could also become eligible by winning Defensive Player of the Year or League MVP but either of those would surely earn him a spot on an All-NBA team on top). Barring absolute disaster scenarios, (you’re a Sixers fan, I don’t need to write any examples) he’ll be on one of those All NBA teams.
A four-year supermax extension here could be worked out in the coming off-season, would kick in starting with the 2023-2024 season, and could begin at 35 percent of the salary cap, with annual 8% raises. It’s challenging to forecast where the cap would be by then, especially amidst the current pandemic, but we can go with Adrian Wojnarowski’s reported projections:
Sources: Projected future salary cap and tax. 2021-2022: $112.M and $136.6M; 2022-2023: $115.7M and $140M and 2023-2024: $119.2M and $144.9M— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 15, 2020
That would put Embiid on track to make just shy of $190M over a four-year extension, slating him for annual salaries between ~$42M in 2024 (his age 29 season) and ~$52.5M (his age 32 season) in 2027. It’s a lot of money, and knowing Embiid, at least a chunk of it would go towards local charities and great causes. No other team could offer him anything within the ballpark of that sum. And he could achieve his long-stated goal of finishing his career in Philadelphia.
Undoubtedly, Daryl Morey and Elton Brand, are happy Embiid is having such a ridonkulous season. And I don't imagine they’d trade that in for any reason. One simply need ask Morey if he regrets paying James Harden as much as he did in Houston for being a perennial MVP candidate.
For anyone incapable of joy, for anyone who needs to “worry” about the long-term “consequences” of Embiid becoming one of the 3 best players in the NBA, the looming specter of Embiid’s annual salary over the course of a potential extension may be daunting.
Those people do exist and deserve our compassion:
Are we allowed to be concerned about the prospects of that contract yet or does that have to wait until next season?— Rocco Chappelle (@Rocco_Chappelle) March 10, 2021
Somewhere down the road, Embiid’s salary could present unique challenges in the form of seismic luxury tax bills, Tax Aprons, and a bunch of other terms we’re likely to hear plenty about down the line.
Imagine if Ben Simmons continues to make a habit of making All-NBA teams and vying for DPOY? At this rate, he’ll soon be flirting with SuperMax eligibility himself, and no team has ever had two. Ferda Boys!
It seems unfathomable to me that the Sixers would decline to offer the SuperMax if Embiid were to become eligible. The risk of disgruntling him (does anyone ever use that term other than to describe NBA stars looking for new homes?) heading into free agency by 2024 would be too great. But we’re getting wayyy ahead of ourselves.
In the meantime, let’s enjoy Joel Embiid destroying everything in his path. He appears headed for a very select group of superstars and it’s a major luxury for a fan to even speculate about this stuff. It means your team is led by one of the very few best players in the world.