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Certified NBA superstar and international Larry Bird impersonator Luka Doncic will reportedly sign the max extension after the Olympics come to a close. While the news is unsurprising (no player of Luka’s caliber has ever foregone the first max extension after his rookie deal), it was never guaranteed. Doncic could have technically played out his final season of the rookie deal and then entered free agency eligible for the supermax extension and with full negotiating leverage.
The debate over this type of strategic maneuvering becomes a mix of investment advice (time value of money), personality fit, injury chances, and marketing potential.
Do you strategically forego millions of dollars one year, in order to theoretically put yourself in position to make a few million more in each of the next few years? So far, history has said no, take the money and safety now; but if there were ever a player who could rewrite the rules, it would be Luka.
A player like Doncic, who is only 22 years old, could potentially make up a big piece of the difference between rookie and max salaries in marketing money. Plus, being as young as he is, there is little risk of injury or decline resetting his market value. If he waited for the supermax and goes on to have a Hall of Fame career, he could have ended up signing three supermax extensions (23-years-old, 28, and 33). At that point, the money put on layaway in 2021 would seem like small potatoes compared to the millions and millions he will have made and likely multiplied with a team of investors and marketing professionals.
It really is an interesting debate, and the fact that Doncic seems ready to sign the smaller max extension speaks volumes to his interest in staying with Dallas. He clearly likes the organization and views it as a viable major market to maximize his star power over the next five years at least.
NBA champion Giannis Antetokounmpo recently faced the same decision and also decided to sign the extension early. Can you imagine if Giannis had waited and became an unrestricted free agent after his historic title/finals MVP run? The frenzy would be incredible.
Luka has the same potential to hold the league hostage, but only if he bets on himself and waits to sign his extension. It sounds, though, that the former Rookie of the Year and All-NBA point guard will take the road more traveled and play nice with the Mavericks, perhaps setting up a long and fruitful career in Dallas, instead of the bouncing from team to team we’ve come to expect from NBA superstars.