One of the more interesting features of the NBA labor deal struck in 2011 allowed the very best young players to make more money in their second contracts. The so-called Rose Rule, which I'm going to go ahead and take credit for naming, allows the second contracts of first-round picks to be worth up to 30 percent of the salary cap in lieu of the normal 25 percent, but only if certain conditions are met.
Those conditions? Before the contract begins, the player needs to have won an MVP award, been named an All-Star starter twice or been named to two All-NBA teams. Derrick Rose had won the 2011 MVP award, making him eligible. (Kevin Durant was actually the first player affected by it as his second contract didn't go into effect until the labor deal was reached. There was quite a bit of wrangling over this between the Thunder, Durant's reps and the league.)
Kyrie Irving signed a max early extension with the Cavaliers in the summer. He was voted as an All-Star starter last season. If Kyrie is voted as an All-Star this season or named NBA MVP, he'd be eligible for the fatter Rose Rule salary. According to Mark Deeks' ShamSports, the Cavaliers and Irving addressed this in his contract: he agreed to no more than 27.5 percent of the cap if he meets the Rose Rule criteria. If he doesn't, he'll make the 25 percent max.
If Irving doesn't get voted an All-Star starter, he'll make about $14.7 million next year, depending where the salary cap ends up. If he does get voted in, he'll make about $16.2 million. That's a $1.5 million difference. But the Rose Rule wouldn't just affect next season's salary: it'd apply to the life of the deal, which is five years. So there's $7.5 million on the line for Irving (and for the Cavaliers).
As of the most recent All-Star ballot release on Thursday, Irving trails Dwyane Wade by 88,030 votes for the second East guard spot. Last year both Wade and Irving were starters, but John Wall is leading them both this season. As Nate Jones noted Thursday, there's a lot of incentive for Irving's reps to drop some coin on an All-Star ballot campaign, especially considering there are basically no rules on how fans vote. (One assumes the NBA would frown upon technological workarounds like using bots to rack up votes.)
Spending $50,000 independently to get Irving more votes could produce a huge return on investment. Hell, spending $100,000 on it would still be an insane rate of return ... if it works.
Irving actually lost ground to Wade in the latest balloting, so it seems as if his management isn't doing anything yet. Balloting ends on Jan. 19. There is $7.5 million on the line.
Time is of the essence. Someone break out Uncle Drew.