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4 winners and 4 losers from the actually high stakes All-NBA voting

The video of Klay Thompson’s reaction says it all. There was a lot at stake for marquee free agents this year.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA announced their All-NBA teams, which have major implications beyond the flattering honor alone. The designation changes how much money a team can offer its own free agents, gives smaller-market franchises better odds at warding off big-city teams from poaching their talent, and offers the opportunity of a lifetime for players to make an even more life-changing amount of money.

Here’s how those teams panned out:

First-Team All-NBA

C- Nikola Jokic
F- Giannis Antetokounmpo
F- Paul George
G- James Harden
G- Stephen Curry

Second-Team All-NBA

C- Joel Embiid
F- Kevin Durant
F- Kawhi Leonard
G- Kyrie Irving
G- Damian Lillard

Third-Team All-NBA

C- Rudy Gobert
F- Blake Griffin
F- LeBron James
G- Russell Westbrook
G- Kemba Walker

Why is the All-NBA team so important?

Because it directly influences how much money a team can offer to re-sign their own marquee free agent.

The super max — or in collective bargaining agreement jargon: The Designated Player Max Extension — allows teams to retain free agents who have been on their team for seven to nine years by offering a contract of five years worth 35 percent of the salary cap. This summer, the super max will be worth $221.2 million.

Call it a quarter-billy if you like.

But teams can only offer that contract if the player meets certain criteria:

  • he was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or both of the two seasons that preceded the most recent season.
  • he was named the NBA Most Valuable Player in any of the three most recent seasons.
  • he was named to the All-NBA First-, Second- or Third-Team in the most recent season, or both of the two seasons that preceded the most recent season.

This is why making an All-NBA team is vital, for both player and franchise.

For the player, it gives an extra year of stability and unrivaled financial security. For the franchise, particularly those in smaller markets, it gives a leg up against big-city competition. It’s tough to turn down a fifth year on a contract when it’s worth x-amount more than any other team can offer. Anthony Davis will be the first to turn the super max down if he forces a trade from New Orleans or chooses to leave in free agency next summer.

Winners: Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

Walker had a sensational season in Charlotte, posting career-highs across the board. He becomes a free agent this summer, and Walker told SB Nation while he loves the franchise that drafted him dearly, his top priority this summer is winning — in Charlotte or elsewhere.

He also said money isn’t the deciding factor in his free agency, but we spoke before he made the All-NBA Team, which made him eligible for a five-year, $221 million deal. We’ll find out if that’s true if the Hornets come with the super max.

Charlotte’s payroll, though, is absolutely disgusting. They weren’t even able to pull off a deal for Marc Gasol at the trade deadline, a move that could have been the difference between them sneaking into the playoffs and missing it altogether.

An argument can be made Charlotte would be better off allowing Walker to leave, thus ushering in a full rebuild rather than wallowing in mediocrity with one star Hornets management doesn’t have assets to build around. But this is a love affair between city, franchise, and franchise player. If the Hornets offer Walker the super max, it would be tough for him to turn it down.

Loser: Klay Thompson

Here’s Thompson’s almost visceral reaction when he found out he’d missed out on the All-NBA teams.

Thompson becomes a free agent this summer, and he is not eligible for a super max contract because voters deemed Harden, Curry, Lillard, Irving, Westbrook, and Walker as more deserving of All-NBA nods. Maybe there shouldn’t be positions on All-NBA ballots? Or maybe All-NBA ballots and super max contract money shouldn’t be forever tethered to media voting. You can bet the NBPA will raise this issue at the bargaining table in the future.

The best the Warriors can offer Thompson to build a future around the Splash Brothers in the post Kevin Durant era is a five-year deal worth $189 million. Opposing teams can offer four years worth $140.6. This provides a small plot twist for the Warriors, who will have to ward off other suitors for Thompson in free agency. Odds are he stays anyway. $189 million is nothing to laugh at. Neither are four NBA championships, which is on the table for the Warriors this season.

Winner: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers are already in negotiations with Lillard on inking a four-year, $191 million extension that doesn’t kick in until 2021. This is a win for both teams. The Trail Blazers need Lillard, and Lillard deserves that ridiculous chunk of change

Loser: Washington Wizards

With John Wall projected to be out all of next season, the Wizards were banking on the potential to offer Bradley Beal life-changing money. Beal still has two years left on his contract but making All-NBA this season would have made him eligible for a super max extension that would have kicked in in 2021.

The Wizards still have time. They can hope Beal makes an All-NBA Team, wins MVP or Defensive Player of the Year in one of the next two seasons. But the clock is ticking to put something promising around their new franchise player. Otherwise, they’ll be met with the harsh reality of choosing between trading Beal, or losing him for nothing.

Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

To be fair, if Antetokounmpo doesn’t win league MVP this season, he’s probably going to win it next season or the year after. But this is his third All-NBA Team nod in the past three years, so if the Bucks want to give him a super max extension now, they can offer it, and it would make him the owner of the largest contract in NBA history.

Loser: Draymond Green

Green has made two All-NBA teams (2016 Second-Team, 2017 Third-Team) in his career, but the super max criteria calls for an All-NBA nod in either “the most recent season, or both of the two seasons that preceded the most recent season.”

Green becomes a free agent not this summer, but next. That means if the Warriors wait to offer Green a contract extension next offseason, he won’t be eligible unless he makes an All-NBA team or wins Defensive Player of the Year.

Neither are farfetched possibilities. Green is one of the most versatile players in the league, and he’s a candidate for All-NBA and DPOY every season. Making an All-NBA team this season, though, would have cemented a super max offer as a possibility when his free agency arrives. Instead, his play next season will be the deciding factor.

Winner: Rudy Gobert

Let’s it simple — Gobert in position to get P-A-I-D. This definition of paid is a five-year, $247 million contract extension beginning in 2020.

Loser: Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns did not make an All-NBA Team this season's he missed out on a $32-million incentive in his contract. THIRTY-TWO MILLION DOLLARS? Because some voters didn’t pick him?

I’d be pissed.

Doesn’t matter

  • Jimmy Butler made All-NBA Teams both in 2017 and 2018, but he is not eligible for the super max after forcing two trades from Chicago to Minnesota, then Minnesota to Philly.
  • Kawhi Leonard lost his opportunity at a super max contract when he requested a trade from San Antonio. Designated Player Extensions are only available to players who remain on the same team.
  • Kyrie Irving also lost his opportunity at a super max contract when he forced his trade from Cleveland two summers ago. He is expected to forfeit an additional $49 million if he chooses to leave the Celtics in free agency this summer.