Ten free agents signed maximum-salary contracts this summer. How many check all the boxes that a team would want from a player making the absolute most it can pay him?
Based on an informal survey of a half-dozen NBA front-office executives: not one.
There were a few who had the requisite talent, while others had the requisite leadership skills. But none had both along with the skills and desire to be the team face and spokesman.
A former player who is now a front-office executive says a "max guy" is, ideally, "a leader in the locker room and on the floor. [Someone] I'm confident and comfortable giving the ball in late-game situations. He's leading my organization on and off the court where we need to go. Guys that I played with, guys that I continue to watch, I want them to get as many dollars as possible. But when we talk about that term—'max guy'—how many of those guys, realistically, are there?"
"Kawhi is great getting his, but he doesn't elevate anyone," the GM says. "He doesn't rally his team."
An Eastern Conference vice president of player personnel somewhat agrees. "He does have leadership qualities," he says, "but it depends on how you define 'leader.' He's obviously not vocal, and he's not a galvanizer. He does it with his work ethic and by example."
At least Leonard comes closer to fitting the profile of what a max guy should offer, unlike a handful of players—Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris and D'Angelo Russell being the most obvious examples—who, the surveyed executives felt, received max offers because of circumstance more than capacity.