What kind of contract will free agent-to-be Jeremy Lin receive in off-season?


jeremy lin knicks

Even though the Knicks lost to the Nets last night and he was abused on the defensive end by Deron Williams, “Linsanity” is still sweeping the sports world.  Jeremy Lin‘s rise from the NBA D-League to sparking a turnaround of the New York Knicks has certainly been beyond impressive.

Here is something to think about though; Lin is a restricted free agent after this season.  While his epic run only covers a ten-game span, you can bet that the Harvard alum will be cashing in on his new-found fame and success.

The way Lin has captured the basketball world, especially in the Big Apple, would lead me to believe that the Knicks will do everything in their power to sign him to a long-term extension.  Take into account his numbers (24.6 ppg, 9.2 apg) during this run, that New York has won eight of their last ten games, that he is only 23 years old, and how marketable he has become; Lin is going to cash in this summer from the approximate $615,000 he is currently making, if not sooner.

Per the new NBA CBA, the maximum contract length a player can receive from his current team is five years.  It’s asinine to even think this let alone write it down, but if Lin keeps up his torrid pace and can jell with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire; would Lin be a candidate to receive a max contract?  (Yup, I just wrote that.)

Consider how much of a polarizing figure he has become, how he has proven he can single-handedly carry a winning team, the publicity he has brought to the league and the Knicks, how much a team will benefit from his jersey and ticket sales, and it is not a completely crazy thought.  If New York is not willing to cough up that sort of cash to keep Lin, you figure some other team might.

However, the new CBA limits how much a player with less than three years of NBA experience can receive.  Therefore, a max contract for Lin would not equal the 5-year, $78 million deal Kevin Love recently signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves since Lin is only in his second year as a pro.  This stipulation, called the “Gilbert Arenas Provision,” was agreed upon in the new CBA to ensure that second round picks are not receiving max contracts before first round picks in their draft class.

It is a complicated process that you can read more about here under question #38 if you are true NBA off-season nerd like me and obsessed with cap figures, contracts, etc.  Trying to dumb it down; the maximum amount Lin can make next season is whatever the league average salary would be.  He would then be able to receive an 8% raise in the second year of his new deal.  From there, his yearly salary could drastically increase.  So technically, Lin could sign a 5-year, $55 million deal but it would be heavily back-loaded.

If the Knicks don’t lock up Lin prior to the end of the season, several NBA teams would be chomping at the bit to steal him away from NYC.  Say, the New Jersey Nets for example?  If Deron Williams leaves via free agency after this season, wouldn’t the Nets love to steal Lin and tab him as the new face of their franchise?  They would have the available cap space, plus he would bring instant exposure to their franchise and certainly help them transition in their move to Brooklyn.

Wouldn’t giving Lin a monster contract seem like the type of move Mark Cuban would make to help the Mavs move on from free agent-to-be Jason Kidd?  I bet the Lakers would be drooling over the opportunity to bring Lin out West and pair him up with Kobe Bryant.  Since he is a restricted free agent, the Knicks will have the right to match any offer he signs though and they would almost certainly do just that.

The easiest way to avoid losing Lin would be for James Dolan and the Knicks to open up their wallets sooner rather than later.  Yes, it would be a major investment in a guy who has player just part of an NBA season, but if the franchise is as big of a believer in Lin as all those hopping on his bandwagon, then why wait and even risk the possibility of him leaving New York?  It won’t cost you an arm and leg for the next two years and then you can figure out your salary cap situation after that.

Check out The Sports Bank’s 2012 NBA Mock Draft.

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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