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Rookies “Earning” The Extra 20% Over Slot

The Memphis Grizzlies finally ended up coming to terms with its first-round selections, Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez.  It is still too early in the season to call their rookie campaigns a success or bust, but we can already call Memphis’ hard-line stance on tying the first round picks’ rookie contract to performance bonuses.  The Grizzlies wanted Henry and Vasquez to “earn” the additional 20% of their rookie contract (rookie contracts can be between 80% and 120% of the slot at which the player is selected in the draft) through performance bonuses.  Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group was having none of that idea.  Eventually the Grizzlies caved in.

When I originally wrote about the Grizzlies caving into pressure, I mentioned that the San Antonio Spurs might suffer the most based on the Grizzlies folding its hand.  The Spurs are known to make its players perform on their rookie contracts if they want to earn the max on their contracts.  And they have had quite a bit of success under that model.

This year, James Anderson was selected by the Spurs at #20 overall.  He also accepted a rookie deal that includes performance bonuses.  The thing that may end up saving the Spurs is that Anderson will likely meet the performance goals that were set.  As long as the Spurs did not and continue to not set those goals at a level that is unconscionable, and their rookies have a track record of meeting the goals, I do not see why the Spurs will be held back from continuing the practice of making their rookies earn top dollars.

Will any teams attempt what the Grizzlies aimed to do this past offseason and demand that their first-round selection(s) sign a rookie contract that includes performance bonuses for the extra 20% over slot?  If so, I have to imagine they will use the Spurs as Exhibit A.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

One reply on “Rookies “Earning” The Extra 20% Over Slot”

This isn’t a coincidence:
Spurs have won 4 championships in the past 11 seasons.
Grizzlies (Vancouver & Memphis) franchise has been to the playoffs just 3 times in 15 seasons, and has not won a playoff game.

This is a clear cut example of how success is built from the top, and the Spurs management has the right idea. Why give players an extra 20% in salary, when they have yet to play a single NBA game? Providing performance incentives for a salary increase is probably one of the best ways to inspire a player to work harder and improve their game.

Kudos to the San Antonio Spurs front office staff.

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