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It would be disingenuous and wrong to start any article, conversation or discussion about Ja Morant with anything but hoping that he gets the help he needs. Morant has reportedly entered a counseling facility to seek help and treatment after a series of questionable off-court decisions. As one of the NBA’s brightest young stars, everyone should be rooting for Morant to get things to a good place in his life.

It’s that place as one of the NBA’s brightest young stars that earned Morant a huge contract extension that will kick in with the start of next season. Because the NBA calendar doesn’t pause, and cap sheets don’t really adjust, we’re going to examine Morant’s extension, despite far more important factors at play. The hope is to answer some of the many questions circulating about Morant’s deal and where things may go from here.

Last summer, Morant inked a five-year, maximum extension with the Memphis Grizzlies. That contract currently projects to look like this:

    • 2023-24: $33,500,000
    • 2024-25: $36,180,000
    • 2025-26: $38,860,000
    • 2026-27: $41,540,000
    • 2027-28: $44,220,000
    • Total: five years, $194,300,000

That’s 25% of the projected salary cap of $134 million for next season. Morant also gets the maximum 8% raises on the deal. There is also a 15% trade bonus in the contract. Notably, the extension includes no options. It’s a fully-guaranteed, five-year deal.

Now, here’s the important part: Morant’s extension includes Designated Rookie language. That means, Morant could be eligible to jump a salary tier in his deal. In order to get there, Morant would need to accomplish one of the following things:

  • Win 2023 NBA MVP
  • Win 2023 Defensive Player of the Year
  • Be named to a 2023 All-NBA team

Obviously, as great as Morant is, he’s not winning MVP or Defensive Player of the Year. Perhaps oddly enough, the latter is far more of a stretch than the former.

But an All-NBA nod is on the table. Or, it was, at least.

If Morant is named to All-NBA, his contract will look like this instead:

    • 2023-24: $40,200,000
    • 2024-25: $43,416,000
    • 2025-26: $46,632,000
    • 2026-27: $49,848,000
    • 2027-28: $53,064,000
    • Total: five years, $233,160,000

Making All-NBA would see Morant jump to the 30% of the cap tier. He’d still get the maximum 8% raises on the deal too. The 15% trade bonus stays, no matter what. And, importantly, there will still be no options in the deal.

As you can see, there is nearly a $39 million difference for Morant in the two deals. That’s a significant amount of money, especially when you consider some of Morant’s endorsement deals now seem to be in flux.

Morant made All-NBA second team a season ago. Had he kept up his production this season, and had the Grizzlies kept winning at a solid rate, Morant was probably a lock to make All-NBA again this season.

Now that’s in question.

There’s some thought out there that Morant could miss the remainder of the regular season. If so, he’ll have appeared in only 53 games this year. On a crowded guard line for All-NBA spots that is filled with tough decisions, voters will penalize Morant for appearing in just over half-of-a-season.

The competition for All-NBA guard spots is deep. You have players like Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, De’Aaron Fox, Damian Lillard, Jrue Holiday, James Harden, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Anthony Edwards in the mix. That’s 10 players for six spots, and that’s without mixing in any of the more long-shot cases. And outside of maybe Doncic and Edwards (and that’s a tenuous maybe), none are very likely to be bumped to the forward line.

Had he not missed this stretch of time, with more absences to come, Morant would have had a strong case as one of the top-six guards in the NBA for this season. As noted previously, it was probably a lock Morant would have made All-NBA. That’s no longer the case.

All of our decisions have consequences. It’s fortunate that Morant’s recent questionable decisions haven’t gotten to a point of truly dire consequences. We have far too many examples we can point to of promising young men being cut down far too early in their lives due to bad decisions.

For Ja Morant, he might be facing a $39 million consequence for his poor decision-making. While that’s obviously not somewhere anyone wants to be, it could be far worse. Morant getting the help he needs to make sure that it doesn’t go beyond a contract consequence is what really matters here. All of the rest will take care of itself, over what we all should hope will be a long and productive NBA career for one of the NBA’s brightest young stars.