Before we get into why Joe is incorrect, let's define what we're talking about. In the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, there is a provision that prevents teams from paying players above a certain amount per year in a contract. This ceiling - or a "max contract" - is determined by two factors: the floating salary cap (determined in part by a forecast of league-wide revenue for the upcoming season) and the number of years a player has been in the league. Because Marc has been in the league for more than seven years, he's eligible for a max contract equal to 30% of the salary cap in year one of the deal. A true max salary would rise 7.5% every year, as well. According to Chris Herrington's always-excellent analysis, a 2015-2016 season max salary for Marc Gasol would start out at around $18.8 million and bump up to $24.4 million by the 2019-2020 season. Importantly, this assumes a salary cap around $63 million (more on that in a minute).
One of the biggest arguments against "maxing out" Marc is that he's not a superstar on the level of current max players like LeBron James or Kevin Durant, or even my personal nemesis, Dwight Howard. I'll save the Marc vs. Dwight debate for another column, but I readily concede that Gasol is not on the same level as James or Durant. Nor should he be paid like them. But that's not a judgment on Marc Gasol; that's an indictment of a system which invariably ensures that transformational talents like James and Durant will be underpaid. And don't let their eye-popping salaries fool you: James and Durant are criminally underpaid. There's unlimited demand for upper echelon talent like theirs, but with limited supply and restrictions on the bidding process, the market gets distorted. As Zach Lowe stated in a column on the topic of max salaries:
The league's dozen best players are effectively subsidizing the much larger middle class. The salary ceiling keeps the majority of the players' union members happy, and it might help general managers build deeper rosters. But it also places an artificial restraint on a player's earning capacity and leads general managers to inevitably overpay mid-tier veterans.
Has your guy made an All-NBA team, or would it have been entirely reasonable for him to do so? Then offer him the max extension. If not, then don't.