Restricted free agents Nikola Pekovic and Brandon Jennings are still waiting to land a big deal, but John Wall is on the brink of signing of a max contract extension with Washington Wizards. Here's a rundown of the latest NBA free agency rumors.
John Wall close to signing max extension with Wizards
Former No. 1 overall pick John Wall and the Washington Wizards are nearing an agreement on a five-year maximum contract extension worth approximately $80 million, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. The deal is expected to be finalized by the end of the month, and at this point the two sides are still hammering out a few details. The 22-year-old point guard has time and potential on his side, but there's still plenty of work to do on the floor.
Wizards blog Bullets Forever has more on the potential deal, including a look at the big questions facing both parties:
The first year of Wall's maximum contract will be worth 25 percent of the salary cap, with 7.5 million raises each season to follow. (That figure will be somewhere around $14 million for reasons described in Footnote 2 here). Wall will also be the Wizards' designated player, meaning they cannot give anyone else a five-year extension until the next CBA takes effect after 2017 and can only trade for one other player on a five-year contract until then.
Those are the specifics. Obviously, there is lots to discuss about whether Wall is actually worth the five-year max. Some would say the Wizards should play hardball and make him prove it for another year, and if he balks, at least he's a restricted free agent. It's hard to place Wall much higher than several of the point guards (Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, etc) that got less-than-maximum extensions last season, for example.
Others would say that a slight overpay is worth it to ensure that Wall is a part of this team's future and not grumbling about the team disrespecting him in negotiations.
Whatever happens, it's on Wall to play like he did in the second half of last year and make this conversation moot.
Negotiations with Nikola Pekovic are "not at a critical stage"
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has repeatedly said he's very confident that restricted free agent center Nikola Pekovic will return to the team next season, so it's a bit surprising that the two sides haven't closed in on a deal yet. Minnesota is believed to have offered Pekovic a four-year contract worth close to $50 million, but his camp has reportedly been pushing for a total value closer to $55 million. The Timberwolves still have the right to match any offer sheet extended by a rival team, and that has probably kept other bidders away from the talented 27-year-old center.
There hasn't been much pressure to get a long-term deal done so far this summer, but now Eurobasket practice starts in several weeks, and Montenegro's first game is only five weeks away. Even so, Taylor isn't worried about the status of the negotiations (via the Pioneer Press):
"I think everybody knows we're going to work it out," Taylor said.
If necessary, though, Taylor said he would get on the phone to Pekovic.
"I think Pek and I have that type of relationship," Taylor said. "Before he left (after the season), he and I actually had a conversation that if we saw that the negotiations were getting off target, we would call each other and talk."
When asked if it's time to pick up the phone and make that call, Taylor said talks are "not at a critical stage or anything like that." He added that Flip Saunders will be meeting with Pekovic's camp very soon.
Bucks still in standoff with Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings is the other big-name restricted free agent waiting on a lucrative contract offer, and it appears the Milwaukee Bucks are still interesting in re-signing the 23-year-old point guard. But only if he is willing to sign for the right price. Steve Kyler of Hoopsworld reports that the two sides are still talking, and that the Bucks would be willing to do a deal in the $8 million-per-year range.
Bucks blog Brew Hoop has more on the situation, including a nice breakdown of the best possibilities that still exist for each party:
I get that many Bucks fans at this point are taking an "anyone-but-Brandon" philosophy, but even a skeptic like myself still considers Jennings an asset that shouldn't simply be given away. So what happens if there isn't a sign-and-trade market for Jennings that nets the Bucks a quality starter (say a Kyle Lowry-ish guy)? While that might be the best-case scenario for everyone, it will require a third party to show enough interest in Jennings that they pay him AND give up something of value for the privilege of doing so. Right now there aren't any takers, though as the summer drags on I'd guess Jennings' camp would lower their asking price for other teams (if they haven't done so already).
So what about Jennings returning? I still view the QO as a worst-case for both sides: it leaves the Bucks with a guy who a) is likely bolting without compensation as soon as he can next summer b) will be dogged all seasons by obvious questions about how much he doesn't want to be in Milwaukee c) can't be traded easily because he'll have a no-trade clause and d) will have little trade value because he's expiring and won't carry Bird rights over to his new team. Sure, he should be motivated to play well, but the same should have been true last year, right? And if he does play well, then how exciting will it be to see him walk for nothing next summer? Bottom line: let's stop acting like the QO is a good solution for anyone.
Thunder bring Derek Fisher back
So, where does Derek Fisher land on the Thunder's roster this season? The answer is more obvious than you might think. He'll likely be the backup shooting guard, getting around 10-15 minutes a game. Jeremy Lamb will soak up Kevin Martin's minutes, and Reggie Jackson will be given the same role. Fisher will also likely rest whenever anything resembles an injury some up. He played all 82 games two seasons ago, but the Thunder are notoriously precautionary when it comes to injuries, so I could see him missing a good chunk of games. When he's sitting out, the Thunder will probably fill his role with spot minutes from DeAndre Liggins or give more minutes to a combination of Lamb, Jackson, and Sefolosha.
"Can the Thunder still contend? With a 39 year old getting minutes? The short answer is yes. The key to the Thunder's success doesn't lie in Derek Fisher. On his own, he won't cost the Thunder very many critical games, and his weaknesses can certainly be covered up. Rather, the key lies in how well Jeremy Lamb can develop. If he can morph into a ball-dominating scoring guard that creates for other players and takes the pressure off of Reggie Jackson, then the Thunder are good as gold. If not, then it's really anybody's guess.