The Memphis Grizzlies kick-off their 2010-11 campaign against the Indiana Pacers on October 6. The date is only a little more than a month away, and the Grizzlies have still yet to lock up their most recent #1 overall pick, Xavier Henry. They also have failed to sign their second 1st round pick, Greivis Vasquez. All other teams have signed their domestic 1st round picks.
This whole topic of conversation is a new one for the basketball media to cover. Traditionally, a 1st round pick signs a deal at the mandatory slot, and the team throws in easily attainable bonus clauses (like promotional appearances on behalf of the team, perform in a conditioning program, and sometimes minutes played), which allows the player to end up with a payment at 120% of the slot (the ceiling as proscribed by the NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement). Some rookie contracts do not contain these bonuses, and the team guarantees all 120% of the slot, but this type of treatment is not the norm. Occasionally, but very rarely, a team will not give a first rounder a chance to earn 120% of the slot (almost strictly players drafted by the San Antonio Spurs). Just because giving 1st rounders a chance to earn up to 120% of the slot is standard practice, though, does not mean that the Grizzlies have to follow suit. And they are trying to break tradition…getting some flack in the media in the process.
The word is that the Grizzlies are willing to sign Xavier Henry to a contract that could be worth up to 120% of the slot that he was selected, but that the bonus clauses are much more difficult for a player to attain than the types of incentives that are more common in 1st round players’ contracts. Instead of including easy promotional incentives or performance incentives, the Grizz might be trying to push unlikely performance incentives (think along the lines of large minutes played) on Henry and his agent, Arn Tellem. If the Grizzlies are not in contention for the playoffs, Henry could receive the Nate Robinson treatment, where a team sits a player as a cost prevention strategy. Such a move could cost Henry $1.7 million over the course of his rookie deal.
I almost want to side with the Grizzlies on being bold to challenge an unwritten rule that has allowed 1st rounders to basically earn 120% of the slot without doing much, but then I remember that the team just paid Rudy Gay over $80 million.