Chicago Bull Derrick Rose has injured his knee.  The gravity of the injury is still unknown at this time, but he’s looking at getting an MRI Monday on his right knee.  After missing a full season to recover from reconstructive surgery to his left knee, there are fears of what impact another serious injury, now to his right knee, will have to his career.


Sympathize with Rose.  He is an amazing basketball talent, and, by all accounts that I’ve read, a good person that seems relatively unaffected by his superstardom.  Once the youngest MVP in NBA history, Rose on crutches is a tragic thing to see.

Beyond that, there is the question of how this injury, if serious, would impact the league and our Cavaliers.   Rose is a transcendent talent and likely the front runner to be an All Star point guard in the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future, but recognizing that, without him, Kyrie Irving becomes the front runner and odds on favorite as the best point guard in the Eastern Conference.

It would be easy to list his credentials, but this isn’t a campaign piece.  This is about Kyrie Irving’s long term employment with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

If you read this summer’s piece “Stop Worrying About Kyrie Irving’s Contract And Enjoy Your Summer”, I laid out pretty much every scenario that the Cavaliers faced in keeping Irving with the Cavaliers, because I'm paranoid and I needed to know myself.  I mentioned the following as a possibility:

“The Cavs and Irving could reach a deal for a max contract (25% of the cap) next summer with a clause that says he’ll get the D Rose Exception (30% of the cap) if he starts in a second ASG or is voted in an All-NBA team for the second time.”

It is slightly tragic and somewhat ironic that this situation involves and exception named for the man who was injured, but that’s what it is.  The way max contracts under the salary cap work, a player who is at or under 6 years in the league can earn a maximum of 25% of the salary cap.  Further, each team can nominate one player on its roster to be a Designated Player and offer that player a 5 year deal, instead of the maximum 4 year deal. 

Therefore, if Irving signs a max contract starting in 2015, when he first reaches restricted free agency, the most he can earn is 25% of the salary cap.  The Cavaliers can designate him, and offer him 5 years where other teams can only offer him 4 years.

Under the Rose Exception, however, Irving could earn up to 30% of the cap if he meets one of three criteria.  First and second, and most immediately relevant, by being voted into 2 All Star Games or by being named to any All-NBA level team at the end of 2 seasons.  At this point, he has not been voted into any All Star games nor has been named to any All-NBA teams, but with his success, development and popularity, coupled with a possible long term injury to Rose which would theoretically preclude him from playing in the game, it’s fair to say that Irving is now the front runner to be voted as a starter in the Eastern Conference.  Also, although possibly more difficult because he is competing against the Western Conference point guards as well, making an All NBA team will be easier without having to fight Rose for a spot on the end of season list.

The third criteria, winning an MVP, is a less realistic possibility, but, just for informational purposes, is the reason the exception is named for Rose, who won the 2011 MVP award.


Only four players in the league have the 5/30% contact:  Rose, Blake Griffin, James Harden and Paul George.  It’s a huge deal.  One can imagine the kind of impact that it would have on an organization in the case of Rose, where the Bulls and their fans are staring down 30% of their cap until 2017 when they see him on crutches and await his MRI results.  From a human perspective, losing a player and a person from the Bulls lineup is devastating.  But taking that cap hit for the next four years also could potentially seriously impact the ability of the franchise to compete in either his absence or with him in a diminished capacity.

What’s important here to the Cavaliers is that, other than whatever impact Rose being out again would have on the balance of the Central Division and on the Eastern Conference, also Kyrie Irving stands to make a huge payoff from the Cavaliers under the 5 year contract that will be offered in 2015.  This potential extension, boosted by the Rose Exception 30%, will be enormous. 

Irving could potentially earn 30% of the Cavaliers cap space from 2015-16 until 2020-21.  Without looking, assuming the cap continues to increase, that will be the largest extension off a rookie contract that anyone has ever been offered, ever.  It will be $20 million more though this D Rose Exception. 

Irving’s only a restricted free agent in 2015.  Meaning, the Cavaliers can match the best deal he gets from anywhere else. The best deal will not be as big as the one the Cavaliers can offer though, because only they can offer the 5th year, the biggest year.

As I wrote this summer, the only other option, the “nuclear option” that Irving has is to take the “Qualifying Offer” that the Cavs make in 2015 to gain the right to match the best deal he gets if he pursues restricted free agency.  The Qualifying Offer will be a one year deal that offers no security beyond the one year and is approximately $9 million.  Irving would be gambling about $90 million dollars on his ability to stay healthy while playing at the highest level of his ability through that season.

It still causes anxiety all around, and this is aggravated by watching Derrick Rose on crutches lugging around injuries to both knees after exploding in the NBA as an electrifying 23 year old MVP.  If the “nuclear option” was ever a real consideration, the oft injured (or at least reportedly off injured) Irving has to be noting it and imagining what could happen in that final year, what the risk is that’s on the table.  And Cavaliers fans and the organization may be agonizing over that picture of Rose on crutches and the the risks involved in making such a tremendous commitment to one man, in addition whether he will agree to stay.