Most '08 draftees still trying to convince owners to pay up
Updated 16 Jan, 2012
In a week where Kobe oiled up his shootin' arm and D-Wade screwed up his ankle and the Bulls' Zombies kept winning despite playing nine games in six days (I may have that backward), owners kept their powder -- and their checkbooks -- dry. And it looks like, for the most part, they will keep on keeping 'em dry, continuing the trend of the last few years.
With less than 10 days before the Jan. 25 deadline for contract extensions for the Class of 2008, only one of the 30 first-round picks from that Draft -- Derrick Rose, natch -- has received a new deal. And not too many of Rose's fellow first-rounders are going to join him.
At the moment, only a handful of players -- Minnesota's Kevin Love, Denver's Danilo Gallinari and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook -- are even in the hunt to get deals, though several players' agents are engaged, or will soon engage, in conversations with their respective teams. But so far, no one's betting on the come for an Eric Gordon, or a Roy Hibbert, or a JaVale McGee. There's always someone that gets a deal below the radar, as when Phoenix's Jared Dudley got a five-year, $22.5 million extension last year. So is it possible that the Wolves give Michael Beasley, taken second overall by Miami in '08, an extension? One supposes. But not likely.
That would continue the trend of recent years of fewer and fewer extensions for drafted players.
Last year, only five of the 30 first-round picks in the 2007 class got extensions: Kevin Durant (five years, $85 million), Atlanta center Al Horford (five years, $60 million), Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (five years, $40 million) Bulls center Joakim Noah (five years, $60 million) and Dudley. That was one fewer extension than the 2006 class -- Toronto's Andrea Bargnani, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, Oklahoma City's Thabo Sefolosha, Boston's Rajon Rondo and the Nuggets' Renaldo Balkman. That was one fewer than the seven players from the Class of '05 that got extensions. And it's a far cry from the 16 contract extensions received by the Class of 2002.
Coming out of the lockout, it's not that surprising that teams are reluctant to be the first to make a high eight-figure commitment, even to young talent. Owners that were adamant that salaries had to be reined in as a cause of the lockout may well be reluctant to be big spenders.
"No one wants to set the market," a team executive texted Sunday night. "They would rather wait and try and let the guy get a deal and match. Also make sure the guy doesn't get hurt."
Another factor is the increasing number of "one-and-done" players who enter the Draft after one season in college, another executive e-mailed Sunday.
"Younger players need more time to develop, so by the time they become eligible for extension, teams still don't know for sure if they're ready or not, so therefore you have fewer and fewer tems offering extensions to guys," the exec said. "Plus you simply have to manage your payroll more tightly these days ... because it's critical to have flexibility to be in a position to get better, so you better be sure that guy you're giving an extension to is the right guy."
Some Draft classes, of course, don't warrant many extensions. But this is a pretty talented bunch, with as many skilled players taken toward the bottom of the first -- like the Blazers' Nicolas Batum (taken 25th overall in '08) and Indiana's George Hill (26th) -- as were taken among the Lottery picks.
There is, of course, Love, the All-Star double-double machine and the linchpin of any hopes the Timberwolves have of returning the relevancy. Gallinari was among the haul Denver received from New York last season in the Carmelo Anthony trade; ESPN.com reported that the Nuggets and Gallinari's agent, Arn Tellem, were talking last week. New Orleans' Gordon was the key player in the Chris Paul trade last month, with the Hornets insisting they had to have the 23-year-old guard, who's already been on the U.S. World Championship team and is one of the game's up-and-coming scorers.
In case you didn't remember, the order from '08, with the original team drafting the player listed:
Highlighting some of the decisions that have to be made by a week from Wednesday:
O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies (taken 3rd overall)
It's a near-certainty that Mayo doesn't get a deal -- not in Memphis, anyway. The Grizzlies have had him in trade talks for months, most notably last February, when they almost sent him to Indiana for Josh McRoberts. That deal fell apart at the last minute, with each side blaming the other. Last week, Yahoo! Sports reported the Grizz had talked with New Jersey about a deal sending Mayo to the Nets for Anthony Morrow, though those talks weren't going anywhere. Having committed $82 million to Rudy Gay, $68 million to Zach Randolph, $56 million to Marc Gasol and $40 million to Mike Conley, Memphis is pretty close to maxed out on big contracts. Mayo's best shot at a new contract will come when and if he's traded, not before.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder (4th overall)
On the other hand, it'll be a stunner if Oklahoma City doesn't give Westbrook an extension. The fourth-year guard is as vital to OKC's title chances as Kevin Durant. Make no mistake; with only two other guys who can consistently but the ball in the basket (Durant and James Harden), the Thunder need Westbrook's ability to score and create. They just don't have anyone else with his game. And keeping its young core together has been the whole raison d'etre for Oklahoma City the last few years. The team didn't go after big-monied free agents in past offseasons, in part, to save that money for the day when its home-grown stars had earned their keep. Even though he's struggled on occasion this season, and even though he has his ups and downs with everyone in the locker room, now is that time for Westbrook. The question, of course, is whether the Thunder are willing to get Westbrook anywhere near Durant's $85 million deal, or would be more interested in a Rajon Rondo ($55 million) kind of extension.
OKC's general manager, Sam Presti, declined to comment on the state of the negotations last week, other than to say, "As we have said the last several years, Russ is someone that we hold in high regard both as a player and person."
Kevin Love, Timberwolves (5th)
Most people around the league believe this is as close to a sure thing as possible. Love has been informed, shall we say, at every step of the Timberwolves' rebuilding process the last couple of years. It doesn't mean he had veto power, but he was not surprised by anything management has done. And just as it was important to surround Ricky Rubio with enough talent to make his arrival easier, the Wolves needed to improve both the talent and the coaching dynamism to keep West coaster Love from seeking greener pastures. Exit Kurt Rambis; enter Rick Adelman. Exit Jonny Flynn; enter Rubio. With rookie Derrick Williams and vet guard J.J. Barea in the mix, Minnesota's core group is much deeper than even a season ago, and Love has noticed. And if the Wolves are going to continue the newfound era of positive pub they're getting, giving Love every dollar agent Jeff Schwartz wants is imperative.
"Minnesota will pay Love," an executive with another team said Sunday; the max the Wolves can give him is a five-year deal in excess of $80 million. (Rose got more because, under the new collective bargaining rules, he was eligible for additional "rookie pool" money after winning the NBA's Most Valuable Player award last season.)
Danilo Gallinari, Nuggets (6th)
Talks between Gallinari and the Nuggets are "going well," a source said Sunday night, and the Nuggets are hopeful they'll be able to keep Gallinari around just as they've inked Nene and guard Arron Afflalo to long-term deals in the last few weeks. Denver wasn't able to surround Anthony with enough star talent to keep him happy, so the team has pivoted to a new approach -- call it Knicks West -- with Gallinari seemingly replacing Wilson Chandler, who's playing in China this season and will be difficult to re-sign once the Nuggets get Gallinari extended.
Eric Gordon, Hornets (7th)
Gordon is in a tough position; with the Hornets currently owned by the NBA, the likelihood of the league okaying a major financial commitment to anyone before the team is sold (Commissioner David Stern maintained last month that that could happen by the spring) is iffy -- especially considering how the league insisted on young, inexpensive players as part of the Chris Paul deal. (Not to mention the fact that the team's other "owners" -- the 28 other teams -- weren't all that happy when New Orleans acquired Carl Landry and his salary last year at the trade deadline.) And Gordon might be reluctant to re-up with New Orleans until the team is sold, if at all. But the two sides are "working on it," a source texted Sunday night.
Brook Lopez, Nets (10th)
The Nets were not likely to give Lopez, who's the major piece in their potential trade package for Dwight Howard, a new deal to begin with. The fact that Lopez is out for a couple of months with a stress fracture in his right foot seals the (non) deal.
Jason Thompson, Kings (12th)
The Kings, according to a source, will not be offering Thompson -- no longer starting in Sacramento and posting career lows in points and rebounds -- an extension.
Marreese Speights, Grizzlies (15th); J.J. Hickson, Kings (19th)
The agent for both players, Andy Miller, said last week that he'd had "boilerplate" conversations with the Kings about an extension for Hickson, but had not made much headway. Hickson is hoping that Sacramento wants to keep him around after giving up a first-round pick and forward Omri Casspi for him last summer. The two sides will "revisit" a deal in the next few days, Miller said. Speights, who was just traded from Philly as part of a three-team deal after underachieving in an injury-plagued year last season and falling out of favor with the club's braintrust, isn't going to get anything done in Memphis and will be restricted next summer. (Miller also represents Serge Ibaka, who would have major interest from any number of teams next summer, except he isn't eligible for a new contract until the end of July. Ibaka doesn't qualify for restricted free agency because he played a season in Spain before coming to Oklahoma City in 2009.)
Roy Hibbert, Pacers (17th)
In this case, it appears the player is the one who's reluctant to do a deal.
Hibbert has established himself as a promising young center, and big men are always in short supply. With the likes of Dwight Howard and Deron Williams unlikely to be on the open market next summer, no matter what they wind up doing, Hibbert and agent David Falk may gamble that the 25-year-old Hibbert can generate signficant interest on the free-agent market, even if he's restricted.
"I'm not saying 100 percent we wouldn't do (an extension), but I'd say it's likely," Falk said Friday. "He likes Indiana, it's a great place, it's worked out well. But it's my opinon that generally, these things are hard to do. If I was an owner I wouldn't do one unless I got a discount ... I think more than anything else, the reason guys do extensions, in my opinion, is when you have a client who is insecure that he's going to get paid. I went through this with Jeff Green a year ago. I tell the guys, don't expect to get one. You're doing the deal a year in advance, and all you're getting is security. Centers don't grow on trees. If the guy has the confidence to wait, he's probably better off waiting."
JaVale McGee, Wizards (18th)
The Wizards would like to lock up McGee, who is second in the league in blocks at 3.2 per game, 10th in rebounds (10.1 per game) and has shown improvement at the offensive end. But at 1-11, Washington is not anxious to put big money into any of its players. The Wizards have learned from extending underachieving Andray Blatche a couple of years ago that paying for potential is not the way to go for a team that has so much rebuilding yet to do.
That means while McGee and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, are surely looking at the four-year, $43 million that the Clippers gave DeAndre Jordan by matching the Warriors' offer sheet in December as a reference point, the Wizards aren't inclined to go anywhere near that kind of yearly outlay; witness their unwillingness to offer restricted free agent Nick Young anything more than a one-year, $3.7 million qualifying offer, which he wound up signing. Barring an 11th-hour compromise from one side or the other, the Wizards will let McGee and Armstrong find a market this summer and then decide whether to match any offers he receives.
Ryan Anderson, Magic (21st)
Anderson has made this a very tough call for the Magic, posting a career year playing at power forward alongside Dwight Howard. Anderson, dwarfing his previous career averages (he's currently averaging 17.2 points and 7.3 rebounds) is currently tied with Chris Paul for 10th in the league in John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating (24.88), ahead of other power forwards like Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Dirk Nowitzki. Anderson's agent, Jeff Austin, points out that Anderson led the Pac 10 in scoring as a senior at the University of California, outperforming other Pac-10ers like Love, Westbrook and Mayo in 2007-08. But there have not yet been any substantive talks with the Magic. Austin says he understands that, especially this season, teams are likely taking their time looking at how their pieces fit -- or don't fit -- before commiting one way or the other.
"I think everyone's just waiting," Austin said. "I like it better, because everything is (normally) so deadline driven. If you start two weeks before, you're not going to get anything done until the last week anyway, so you might as well wait until that last week."
Nicolas Batum, Blazers (25th)
Batum's agent, Bouna Ndaiye, met with the Blazers in San Antonio this weekend. Both sides have expressed interest in getting a deal done, but the Blazers have a problem: Gerald Wallace indicated last week that he would probably play out his option and become a free agent this summer. That means Portland will have two small forwards to sign. How much can Portland put into one position?
"I have an idea of what I want, but I want to see what they come up with," Ndaiye said before the meeting. "There's another factor -- Gerald. I don't know if you can pay both."
But with the season so short, Batum is already less than six months from becoming a restricted free agent himself. And while the Blazers would still have the right to match any offers, Batum would at least be able to shop around.
"We are not anxious to get something done now," Ndiaye said. "If it becomes July 1st, July 2nd, we'll have offers. If something good happens (before), we'll look at it. If it doesn't, we'll wait."
George Hill, Pacers (26th)
Hill's agent, Michael Whitaker, met with the Pacers in Indiana on Saturday, and said there was a "good possibility" that a deal could be worked out before the 25th. But if not, he's confident Hill, picked up from San Antonio on Draft night last June for the rights to Kawhi Leonard, will have a lot of suitors.
"They did express they would like to get a deal done before the deadine," Whitaker said Sunday night. "We did talk more about the possibility of doing four years instead of three years. That's about as far as we've gotten so far. If it makes sense, it's something we'll consider doing. If not we'll see what happens this summer. We both appreciate that they've expressed they want to get something done before the summer, especially since he's just played 11 games with them. I think that's a good thing."
Darrell Arthur, Grizzlies (27th)
Arthur could have been in line for an extension, but his preseason Achilles injury, which will keep him out all season, makes that a moot point. The Grizzlies want him back next season, though, at the right price. The team's window to compete with this core group is wide open, and Arthur, who had an outstanding playoff series against the Spurs, is part of that core. Memphis thinks there's a reasonable contract there in his future.
D.J. White, Bobcats (29th)
The Bobcats, according to a source, have some interest in extending White, one of the few bright spots (9.9 points, 5.8 rebounds) in an otherwise terrible season so far in Charlotte. A final decision is expected this week.
Meanwhile, Celtics forward Jeff Green's successful aortic aneurysm surgery Monday means he should be able to return next season. But where will that be?
Out of all the players above, Ryan Anderson is going to be the most likely over paid, the guy looks like an All-Star next to Dwight Howard, just ask Hedo Turkoglu, he has Dwight Howard to thank for getting him a huge contract.
I believe George Hill is the most undervalued guy above for a huge contract.
i dont like the arguement that players are only good because of who they play with. If orlando slightly overpaid anderson i wouldnt be that mad. If Howard remains with the team that is, Ryans doing what hes suppose to do know down open shots strecth the floor and grab some boards. The only time you can say it would be a bad idea to over pay a guy is if he was like trevor ariza who looked good with LA but once he left and tried to be the man he looked overrated and a huge cap clog. If i was a gm i would gladly lock up lesser players and a higher market value if they continue to produce in the enviroment you have created for them.
Did you watch Turkoglu when he was w/ Toronto and Phoenix?
Didnt you read what i said i said if his own team signed him to that deal and he stayed he still would have been good. If another team gave him that and expected better then they were the unfortanate ones
Ryan Anderson is the perfect complement to Dwight at the 4. Plays hard, plays mart, passes the ball well, can hit the boards. He's really not a bad defender and of course allows dwight to have the paint all to himself.
Westbrook struck for his so who is next ?
Love is next.
Love should have been the first to strike his deal, now he can demand more then the $80mil Westbrook got.