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Al Horford’s salary declines each year with Sixers, Tobias Harris making max-level money in 1st year of contract

Tobias Harris, Al Horford, Sixers

The Philadelphia 76ers had to get creative in free agency to net the services of two big-time players in the wake of Jimmy Butler’s departure. Both mega-signings — Tobias Harris and Al Horford — have kinks to their contracts that will allow the Sixers to have better flexibility and a more conscious approach to how they dole out their dollars over time.

Horford’s original four-year, $109 million deal was believed to have $12 million in bonus money, but that’s not how it’s set up. That $12 million is non-guaranteed money: $5 million if Horford reaches the NBA Finals and the full $12 million becomes guaranteed if his team wins the NBA Finals, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

The Sixers chose to build Horford’s contract on the rare declining structure, which will have him make approximately $28 million for the 2019-20 season and declining by $500,000 each season:

What we would consider a “typical” NBA contract (start at a base salary, increase by 5 percent over the base year) would have had Horford starting at approximately $25.35 million for the 2019-20 season, escalating to $29.15 million in 2022-23. If the final season still had $12 million in non-guaranteed money that means Horford would have a guarantee of $17.15 million in 2022-23, when he’s 36. By starting his salary at $28 million — and decreasing by half-a-million dollars each season — Horford’s 2022-23 salary is $26.5 million, with a guarantee of just $14.5 million.

What does $12 million in non-guaranteed money mean?

It means either Horford is on the team and will count $26.5 million against the Sixers’ cap, or the Sixers release Horford and he counts $14.5 million against their books. There’s no world in which Horford is on the Sixers and counts less than $26.5 million against the cap. The combination of the declining salary and non-guaranteed portion of the final year provides Philadelphia with some insurance in case Horford’s production falls off of a cliff.

Harris’ contract (five years, $180 million) will start at the max-level slot for 2019-20, making the full $32.742 million and then have smaller raises (4.938 percent) over the remainder of the contract, which is how he gets to $180 million instead of the max total of $190 million over five years.