When Ivica Zubac fell to the Lakers in the 2nd round, many fans were quick to wonder exactly who the team just grabbed. The 19 year old Croatian has already proven to be a good quote and offers some good humor and exuberance about being taken by the team he grew up rooting for.
The big man also has some game and the Lakers are, reportedly, ready to lock him into a 3 year contract:
Ivica Zubac's contract with the Lakers will be a three-year deal, with two years guaranteed.
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 5, 2016
It is actually important to note that the Lakers are signing Zubac to a 3-year contract rather than the more often used 2-year contract most 2nd round picks receive. I’ll let salary cap guru Larry Coon explain why the length of the deal matters. From Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ:
Unlike first round picks, who have a scale salary, second round picks do not have any specific salary restrictions. They may sign for any amount from the minimum to the maximum, but players who last to the second round of the draft seldom command more than the minimum salary.
Also unlike first round picks, teams do not receive a salary cap exception specifically for their second round picks. These players must be signed using cap room or an available exception, such as the Minimum Salary exception or the Mid-Level exception. It is most common for a second round pick to receive the minimum salary and be signed using the Minimum Salary exception. However, since the Minimum Salary exception limits contracts to two seasons, it is not uncommon for teams to use a portion of their Mid-Level exception in order to sign the player for three seasons. This gives the team full Bird rights at the end of the contract, and avoids the Gilbert Arenas provision.
The Lakers are very aware of the Gilbert Arenas provision and how that can impact salary structure. The team just avoided dealing with this scenario when inking Jordan Clarkson to his contract outright rather than potentially dealing with Clarkson signing an offer-sheet which could contain back loaded salary which would make matching more difficult.
Also key here is that the Lakers must use cap space to sign Zubac rather than simply using the minimum-exception and being able to go over the cap to sign him. The Lakers still have plenty of cap space so it is not the biggest concern, but it’s a detail worth noting still.
Lastly, I would not outright assume Zubac will just make the rookie minimum on this deal. Zubac undoubtedly has a buyout from his European club and the Lakers are, per Larry Coon’s FAQ, only allowed to contribute $650K that figure. Anything above that amount must be paid by the player himself.
I don’t know what Zubac’s buyout amount is, but, for example’s sake, let’s say it is $1 million. In this example, Zubac would need to contribute $350K from his Lakers’ paycheck. The rookie minimum for this season is $543K. You can see how this type of math does not favor the player.
Remember too that last season Anthony Brown also signed a 3 year contract. His deal was for $2.89 million over those three years, outpacing what his minimum salary would have been by about $175K in his first season. Zubac may yet get this type of deal from the team, especially since they still have ample cap space and because they are getting a team friendly deal from the player where he is signing a 3-year deal with a 3rd year team option where.
In any event, it’s good to get Zubac signed. The Lakers are, reportedly, hoping to get all his overseas paperwork finalized shortly so he can start to practice and play in the team’s summer league games this weekend.