Some complicated salary cap rules make it possible for certain elite players to earn above the “max” salary allowed by the NBA. Because of what’s known as the “Rose rule” (after Bulls star Derrick Rose), Portland Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard’s pay could be based on 27.5% of the salary cap rather than 25% — if he meets certain criteria. Dan Feldman at NBC sports calculates that this could mean an extra $12 million over the course of Lillard’s current contract, which ends in 2021.
The criteria are high, but Lillard is already halfway there. Two All-NBA team selections qualify a player, and Lillard was an All-NBA third team selection in 2014. Lillard has his work cut out for him in getting the All-NBA nod again. The Trail Blazers minus LaMarcus Aldridge may not be a winner — and only two players from sub-.500 teams have been named All-NBA performers in the last eight years. Kevin Love was named twice (2012, 2014) despite playing for a losing Timberwolves franchise. Feldman speculates that Love’s subsequent, less-than-stellar performance with the Cavaliers could place even more emphasis on excluding players from losing teams in the All-NBA ranks. That would make Lillard’s payday — still handsome by any measure — worth less than it could be. But Damian Lillard has risen to great heights in adversity before; he may surprise everyone again. Everyone but himself.