Aug 1, 2012; London, United Kingdom; USA basketball player James Harden outside the ExCeL - South Arena 2 at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
James Harden, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry are among the other players eligible for early extensions this offseason. Will any of them get one, and at what price? The Hook makes its projections.
So far two first-round picks from the rookie class of 2009-10 have signed early extensions to their rookie deals. In July, Blake Griffin signed a five-year, $95 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers under the Rose rule. This weekend, word broke that the Oklahoma City Thunder had reached a four-year, $48 million extension agreement with Serge Ibaka, who'd been a 2008 NBA Draft pick. (The other players discussed here are all 2009 picks. Griffin actually didn't debut until 2010-11, but now we're getting into the weeds.)
There are many more players deserving of big money, but will any of them lock it up before the 2012-13 season begins? The deadline for early extensions is Oct. 31, 2012. Any players eligible who don't reach deals by then go into the 2013 offseason as restricted free agents.
Last January, we marked Griffin as the only sure bet for an early extension as NBA teams have relied more and more on the market to set prices. The Thunder got the jump on Ibaka, and word is they'll do the same for the first player on our candidate list. But it remains unclear whether anyone else on the list will get a deal.
Let's dig in.
The second-best player from the 2009 draft is eligible for a four-year max -- Russell Westbrook took the Thunder's five-year allotment a year ago. Harden went No. 3 in 2009, behind Griffin and Hasheem Thabeet (whoops) and just ahead of Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. He won the Sixth Man Award this year, nearly made the All-Star team and landed on a deep Team USA squad. He's quite good, and if the Thunder don't offer the max (four years, $60 million) he might be wise to wait for restricted free agent in July 2013, where he'll get it. (Reminder: Eric Gordon and Roy Hibbert got almost immediate max offers in restricted free agency last month.)
My hunch based on the reporting out there is that a Harden deal does get done within the next couple of months.
Evans will not be receiving an early extension. The Sacramento Kings have basically announced that. They would like to see how he fits with the team in Year 2 of the Keith Smart Experience before committing. Year 1 of the Smart Experience had Evans starting at power forward much of the season. It's worth noting that the bulk of Evans' NBA success has come when paired with Beno Udrih and thus playing two-guard. That would require pushing Marcus Thornton to a bench role, however. But it remains the most sensible option for the team.
If not, Evans will again be playing out of position or will himself be asked to come off of the bench ... which could work. But that's all stuff that needs to be figured out this season, which, again, removes the opportunity for an early extension.
I'm betting on a four-year, $45 million deal next summer.
The Golden State Warriors don't seem to be talking contract with Curry, their point guard of the future. That's probably smart: his injury concerns refuse to go away, and there's no rush as Golden State will hold the cards if Curry hits restricted free agency. For a team obviously willing to spend on payroll, there's little risk here.
But the risk that does exist is easy to understand: if Curry has a strong, healthy season, he goes from a $10 million player to a max player. The other side of that coin: he might be a max player without a strong, healthy season. Again, I point to Eric Gordon.
I think Curry eventually ends up with a max.
There's little reason for the Toronto Raptors to offer DeRozan an early extension: he's still trying to prove himself, and T-Dot's most reasonable read on DeMar's production is that of a third scoring option. Those don't command terribly huge dollars. It's best to let the market decide those cases -- O.J. Mayo was in a different position due to a relative fall from grace, but note that he didn't get a whole lot as a free agent.
DeRozan might get overpaid due to age, but he's probably a four-year, $36 million player at this point. He'll give you 16 points on decent shooting (I'm counting the lockout year as an aberration) and have some big nights along the way.
Jennings wants a deal before training camp and ... he should probably get one. The problem is that the deal he should probably get is likely nowhere near what he likely thinks he's worth. This is a player who was visibly angered when he didn't win Rookie Challenge MVP in 2010 and made claims he didn't deserve the Rookie of the Year award in 2009-10. He has what we'll call an "elevated self-assessment." I'm just glad he finally got his field goal percentage over 40 percent last season. I think he's worth about what DeRozan is: $9 million a season. But Jennings might be looking for the max. He's a flashy point guard who has huge scoring nights, so he could get it ... maybe ...
I don't think the Charlotte Bobcats are in a position to lock up anyone, especially in the backcourt ... but Henderson and Kemba Walker seem like they could fit nicely into the future, particularly with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist running the wing. But unless there's a sane little deal to be had, it's probably best for Charlotte to wait.
Holiday has indicated he'd like a max offer from Philly, which -- and I like Holiday quite a bit -- is hilarious. If that's a legitimate stance, this early extension is never ever ever ever happening.
Lawson is possibly just behind Harden in terms of likeliness of a deal. The Denver Nuggets were willing to lock up Danilo Gallinari and Kosta Koufos last winter, and Lawson should receive something at or slightly above where Gallo landed (four years, $42 million). To keep the dollars down, the Nuggets could offer Lawson their five-year early extension -- $54 million over five would be respectable and give Lawson some great career security. We'll see if Team Lawson thinks they can get more on the restricted market in another year, or if he takes the money Denver's willing to offer now, while his stock is really high.
I would normally say that a sane $30-36 million extension for Gibson would be a smart play at this point, but this is the Chicago Bulls, who will wait if there's a reasonable chance they could save $2.50 in the process. Jerry Reinsdorf does not care if it makes Gibson, the front office or anyone uncomfortable. He has shown a consistent willingness to pay only what is absolutely required for his team to see success.
Collison was sent to the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, and so long as that team is focused on making a big free agent splash one of these offseasons, an extension for a non-star is unlikely. Sorry, DC.
The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.