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Extension-eligible players pushing to sign contracts before NBA restarts season

This would give the players some financial security heading into Orlando.

Utah Jazz v Sacramento Kings Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Last week, members of the 2017 draft class, including De’Aaron Fox, spoke with NBPA leadership to discuss a potential insurance policy regarding their future contracts. Players entering their fourth season are eligible for rookie extensions, and young stars who are projected to receive a max contract are understandably a little squeamish about suffering an injury in Orlando and thus losing out on millions of dollars. The players are currently negotiating with the NBA to reach an appropriate solution.

The Associated Press cited an estimate that an insurance policy for one these players could be upwards of $400,000:

The cost of such a policy for three months — which would cover the period in which those players get to the Disney-ESPN complex through the end of the NBA Finals — is expected to be at least $400,000, a person with direct knowledge of the talks told AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because those details have not been revealed publicly.

One way to avoid insurance altogether, as Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports reports, would be by signing the extensions ahead of time, before the season even restarts in Orlando. This way, players wouldn’t be compelled to sit out of the rest of the NBA season to protect against injury.

However, this report introduces new elements of uncertainty. Mainly, the league has no idea what the salary cap will look like next season.

Extensions are based on projected revenue numbers, but the NBA can only guess how much money it will bring in next year, and thus how much will be available to pay the players. The league doesn’t know what the shortfall will be in the 2019-20 season yet because it hasn’t recouped any revenue from the Orlando restart; there also remains the prospect that there will be no fans in the 2020-21 season, which would further diminish the salary cap.

The players are assuming a huge risk by ramping up to meaningful games with only a three-week long training camp after months of no basketball activity. The teams would also be taking a risk by agreeing to contracts without knowledge of what the cap sheet will look like, and that could hamstring a franchise’s flexibility for years to come.

It’s clear that Fox and the other players here deserve to get paid, and paid handsomely. It’s also clear that the pandemic will likely deny them of their full earning potential, but that’s the reality we live in. Negotiating extensions before the Kings and the rest of the league determines the cap numbers for the next few seasons seems like a short-sighted idea. There has to be another way to fairly compensate the NBA’s young talent.