Philadelphia 76ers‘ star point guard Tyrese Maxey is in the midst of a season worth of All-NBA consideration. If Maxey were to earn a Designated Player deal by making an All-NBA team, how would it affect the Sixers’ offseason plans?
The NBA’s Most Improved Player race is always the hardest to predict out of all the major season awards. Maybe a few dedicated fans might have believed that Lauri Markkanen would break out last year after being dealt to his third team in three years, but not many likely expected him to become a 25-point-per-game scorer out of the blue.
In the same way, even the most astute NBA bettors probably hadn’t given Tyrese Maxey much consideration for the award. After all, the young guard put up 20.3 points and 3.5 assists per game last season while slashing 48/43/85. Even with James Harden’s departure, would marginal bumps in usage and production be enough to give Maxey the MIP nod?
Fast forward 11 games into the season, and Maxey is currently the favorite for the award, listed at +100 on DraftKings. The same sportsbook has Scottie Barnes at a distant second place at +750. It’s clear that Vegas believes this isn’t just some early-season outlier for the former Kentucky Wildcat. Rather, it seems that Maxey’s star turn was inevitable and that his current situation with this Philadelphia 76ers team has only accelerated a future that was predestined for him.
Maxey’s emergence has quickly washed away the ick that James Harden worked so tirelessly to leave behind upon his departure. Despite the Beard doing his best to shroud this Sixers season in unshakeable drama, the team had moved on before the former MVP could even suit up for his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers, for the first time. For a city that’s endured as much sports-related heartbreak as any metropolis could in an eight-month span, Philadelphia and all of its residents deserved this unexpected superhero origin story.
For Team Governor Josh Harris and the Sixers’ front office, they aren’t able to sit back and simply enjoy Maxey’s tour de force. That’s because every 30-point masterclass from the fourth-year pro this season brings him closer to costing Harris tens of millions of dollars.
Earlier this year, Philadelphia sat idly by as the deadline for rookie-scale contract extensions came and went without tying Maxey down for five more years. Other promising young stars in his draft class, like Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, and LaMelo Ball, had all extended their deals in the summer, but the Sixers passed October 23 without a new contract for Maxey.
This wasn’t because they didn’t believe in him, though. President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey made that clear when he detailed Philadelphia’s plan to open up a max contract for next summer. As Maxey wasn’t signed to an extension, he’ll enter free agency after the 2023-2024 NBA season. The Sixers will then give him the standard qualifying offer, which will lock him down as a restricted free agent for the offseason.
This will allow Philly to clear their books, create cap space for a max contract, sign another star — or several smaller contracts — and then re-sign Maxey using their Bird rights. This would have been the plan regardless of his breakout.
As of right now, Maxey is eligible to sign a five-year max contract worth 25 percent of the salary cap. The cap for the 2024-2025 season is projected to be around $142 million, according to Spotrac, which would start his new deal at $35.5 million. From there, his contract could include up to an eight percent raise each year, which would have him finishing his agreement in 2028-2029 at $46.86 million for the year.
With the way that Maxey’s been playing, however, he could earn more than just the Most Improved Player award. If his production holds and the Sixers continue winning at the same rate, there’s a very real chance that he’ll find himself on one of the three All-NBA teams. If this is the case, he’ll be eligible for Designated Player status, making him qualified to sign a 30 percent max contract instead of a 25 percent one.
How big of a difference is that? If Maxey were to make an All-NBA team and sign a 30 percent max, he’d make $42.6 million in 2024-2025 instead of the $35.5 million that a 25 percent max deal would have paid him. By 2028-2029, that figure will shoot up to over $56 million for the year.
If Maxey were to earn a Designated Player deal by making an All-NBA team, his and Joel’s contracts alone would put the Sixers at over $94 million for 2024-2025, just under $48 million away from hitting the projected salary cap for the next season. Keep in mind that signing a veteran star free agent like Paul George would cost Philadelphia around $49 million for the year.
The Sixers were likely to be above the salary cap anyway, even if Maxey signed a 25 percent max. How that five percent difference will really affect Philadelphia is in how much room they’ll have to navigate below the second luxury tax apron.
Should they go $17.5 million or more over the salary cap, they’ll incur the second apron and all of its daunting consequences, including the loss of their taxpayer midlevel exception, the ability to sign players on the buyout market and a number of trade restrictions that will make it exponentially more difficult for Daryl Morey and the rest of the Sixers brass to make positive changes to the roster. If Maxey gets Designated Player status, Philly will immediately be over $7 million closer to the second apron.
Tyrese Maxey has earned every single dollar coming his way this summer, but playing his way into an All-NBA team will make the Philadelphia 76ers regret not giving him a rookie-scale extension when they could.