Grading How NBA GMs Handled Extension Candidates Before Deadline

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2012

Grading How NBA GMs Handled Extension Candidates Before Deadline

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    The early contract extension deadline has come and gone, and some of the biggest names in the free-agent market are no longer going to be restricted free agents next year.

    We've graded all the GMs on how they handled the contract negotiations and, where applicable, how well the deal worked out for each side.

    There is one disclaimer here: While it's generally discussed as being between a player and a team, it's as much between a player's agent and the team. Many fans don't realize how much input agents have in the players' negotiations. 

    Also, players wanting to get paid more for dong their jobs doesn't make them evil. 

    Therefore, bitterness should be curtailed towards players who are "just after the money."

John Hammond and Brandon Jennings: D

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    According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Bucks are not likely to offer Brandon Jennings an extension. 

    Discussions with multiple sources indicate the Bucks point guard will not have his rookie-scale contract extended. He would become a restricted free agent next July, and the Bucks would have the right to match any contract offers by another team.

    That's reasonable enough. The problem is that they also have Monta Ellis, who has a player option on his contract next summer as well. 

    Since the Bucks traded former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut to get Ellis and pair him with Jennings in the backcourt, it would behoove them to have at least one of them locked up before the summer starts. 

    Instead, it looks like they are going to be negotiating with both of them at the same time, which increases the chances of losing one or the other—or worse, both.

    The strategy for the Bucks seems discombobulated, which is why they get a "D." 

Geoff Petrie and Tyreke Evans: C

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    In early October, Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie said (h/t USA Today, "In Tyreke's case, you can make X (amount of money) now, but if you want to make X-plus, then certain things have to happen." 

    And that's pretty much how the negotiations have transpired. Since winning Rookie of the Year, Evans' production has steadily declined, and the .264 field-goal percentage on Evans' jump shot was the worst in the NBA.

    So it's absolutely fair for Petrie to have the position that if Evans wants to make X amount of money, he has to have certain things happen—like, say, getting his field-goal percentage up to what would at least pass for a batting average.

    But to do so publicly probably annuls two things. First, it keeps Evans from settling for less. Second, it keeps other teams from offering fair trade value in return. 

    The decision is right, but the handling of it lowers the grade. 

Bryan Colangelo and DeMar DeRozan: C-

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    If keeping DeMar DeRozan at any cost is the goal, the Raptors accomplished their goal, as they managed to ink him to a four-year, $40 million extension. 

    The Toronto Raptors are finalizing a four year, $40 million contract extension with DeMar DeRozan, league sources tell Y! Sports.

    — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) October 31, 2012

    Here's the problem with this: Only three players in the NBA attempted as many shots a DeRozan with a worse true shooting percentage last season. Two of them, DeMarcus Cousins and Josh Smith, offer a lot more than scoring, and the other, Antawn Jamison, is now a backup for the Lakers. 

    Colangelo got his man, but he overpaid to get him, and this could be a contract that Raptors fans are griping about two years from now.

Rod Thorn and Jrue Holiday: C+

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    The last deal to get done before the deadline was with the Philadelphia 76ers and Jrue Holiday. Here are the details of the contract, per Marc Stein of ESPN.

    RT @kbergcbs: Source confirms Sixers & Jrue Holiday beat deadline with four-year, $41M extension w/incentives that could push value to $46M

    — Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 1, 2012

    If you take note of the date of the tweet, it will give you a good idea of just how close that one came. 

    Holiday in the same class as Ty Lawson and Stephen Curry, or close to it. He's certainly not better, though, and it's interesting that he could be getting the most money particularly since the contract was the last one announced. 

    While the $46 million is based on certain incentives, neither Curry nor Lawson were able to get those negotiated into their contracts.

    Thorn is essentially the neighbor who went out and paid more for the same care with fewer options. It's just as good a car in the important ways, but it doesn't make sense to pay more for a car that doesn't have the same options. It seems Thorn could have been bullied by the salesman. 

Sam Presti and James Harden: B

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    Sam Presti has drawn more criticism than he deserves for the James Harden situation, as has Harden. Sometimes things just don't work out; there isn't anyone to blame. 

    The bottom line is that there is only so much money in Oklahoma City. One way or another, Harden was going to be offered more than the Thunder could pay him.

    Presti is now realizing the downside of hitting one home run after another in the draft: Sooner or later, all those home runs deserve to get paid.

    After they traded for Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder gave him what, at the time, seemed a pretty reasonable contract.

    Then Kevin Durant got his max deal. 

    Then there was a little lockout and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That agreement meant that Durant's negotiated contract got even bigger because of what is known as the Derrick Rose clause, which, barring certain standards, allows players on their second contracts to be paid as though they were seven-year vets.

    Then Russell Westbrook signed for a max deal. 

    Neither player is at fault for getting their max deal; they earned it. 

    Then Serge Ibaka signed his four-year, $12 million extension.

    As a result of all that, the Thunder were locked into $54 million for four players with a fifth player that wanted and deserved a max contract.

    When you start looking at the long-term ramifications, that contract could cost the Thunder tens of millions in taxes alone. 

    People complain that it's "all about the money," but they shouldn't. Every business is about the money, and Presti made the right long-term financial decision. 

    The only reason he gets a "B" is that with a little more foresight, he might have been able to keep the whole crew together if he had sat them all together and said, "Look, if everyone is willing to $1 million a year less, I think we can stay together." They might have gone for that. 

    But hindsight is 20/20; it's hard to find fault with Presti here.

Bob Myers and Stephen Curry: B+

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    According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Stephen Curry is signing a four-year, $44 million extension with the Golden State Warriors. According to the report, they upped their offer due to Ty Lawson's signing. 

    A league source told Yahoo! Sports the Warriors initially had contract discussions on a smaller contract extension that would pay Curry $8.5 million in the first year and $10 million in the fourth because of concerns over Curry's lingering ankle issues. But a day after Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson agreed to a four-year, $48 million contract extension, Golden State upped the ante to re-sign Curry prior to Wednesday's midnight ET deadline. Curry would have been a restricted free agent after the season if a deal wasn't reached.

    All things considered, it's hard to imagine how the Warriors could have done better. They had their hand forced a bit by the Nuggets contract with Lawson. 

    Only time will tell how good this contract is. A healthy Curry could end up being a top-five point guard. His numbers through his first two years are comparable with those of Chris Paul

    The problem is that last year, due to his bad ankle, Curry played just 26 games. He doesn't seem to have been healthy since. 

    If he can get healthy and stay healthy, it will make for a great, underpaid contract. If not, then he'll be a money drain. It's all about the health with Curry, and time will tell. It's worth the risk though. 

Masai Ujiri and Ty Lawson: A-

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    According to the Nuggets' official website, the Nuggets signed Ty Lawson to a four-year, $48 million extension. Executive VP of Basketball Operations, Masai Ujiri, announced:

    We felt Ty was ready to take on a lot of responsibility last season and he proved he could handle it. He is maturing as a leader on the court and in the locker room, so it was an easy decision for us to sign him to an extension.

    The website detailed his qualifications:

    Lawson, 24, excelled in his first full season as a starter in 2011-12, averaging career-highs in nearly every statistical category, including points (16.4), assists (6.6), rebounds (3.7) and steals (1.34).

    Lawson is certainly deserving of his contract. He could have easily been an All-Star last year. The money may seem steep to some, especially in light of the Stephen Curry contract, which was for only $44 million, but Lawson doesn't carry Curry's injury risk. 

    Ujiri deserves a ton of credit for carving out the basketball version of a Moneyball strategy. After being tortured and held hostage by a superstar in Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets have gone the wise way of building a team with depth and relying on getting players who others have given up on—like Corey Brewer—and developing them. 

    Adding that to All-Star talent like Lawson and the newly acquired Andre Iguodala has been a prudent strategy.

Gar Forman and Taj Gibson: A

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    It went down to the wire, but the Chicago Bulls were able to extend Taj Gibson to a four-year, $38 million contract less than an hour before the deadline came. 

    According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, it was merely a matter of Gibson changing his mind.

    Taj changed his mind. Agreed to extension.

    — K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 1, 2012

    After losing Omer Asik to a "poison-pill" contract, in which the team making the offer can back-load the offer and average out the contract for salary-cap purposes but the home team cannot, there were a number of Chicago fans who were concerned with seeing the same thing happen to Gibson. 

    While that was a needless concern as Gibson is not eligible for a poison-pill contract, it still came as a huge relief to Bulls nation to see Gibson change his mind. 

    Mat Moore of CBS Sports had this to say,

    So the Bulls managed to push things with Tom Thibodeau for a long time and get him back and do the same with Gibson. The model is the same. Squeeze every penny you can out but make sure you get your guy. You have to consider the Bulls to be the best negotiating team in the league at this point, even after signing a reserve to four-years, $38 million.

    While owner Jerry Reinsdorf and the Bulls front office have been the targets of a lot of criticism from fans, at least the job got done and without spending a ton of money. How do you give, "best negotiating team in the league" anything but an "A"?