Predicting Next Wave of Young NBA Stars to Receive Contract Extension
When it comes to dealing with their own young players, NBA teams are turning into hoarders. Not in the sense of having mason jars full of baby teeth in the basement (thankfully), but in the way that they're doling out hefty contract extensions to retain their homegrown talent.
Per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, John Wall and the Washington Wizards are nearing a five-year, $80 million extension agreement. Instead of allowing the former No. 1 overall pick to hit restricted free agency after the upcoming season, the Wiz are trying to take care of business now by locking up Wall to a massive deal.
And if you're curious about which other young stars might be next in line to re-up with their current teams, it's best to take a look at the players whose contract situations most resemble Wall's. That mainly includes first-rounders from the 2010 draft class like Paul George and Derrick Favors, but there are a couple of other intriguing up-and-comers that are likely to stick with their current teams as well.
Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
Current Contract Status: $6 million in 2013-14, $7.9 million qualifying offer in 2014-15
Prediction for Next Contract: Four years, $40 million
Derrick Favors came off the board just two picks after Wall in the 2010 NBA draft, and though he hasn't seen the kind of playing time many of his contemporaries have enjoyed, that's going to change this season.
After ending up with the Utah Jazz as part of the Deron Williams deal, Favors found himself beneath Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the frontcourt pecking order. With that veteran duo both playing for other teams in 2013-14, Favors will get a chance to shine.
A physical freak, Favors is long, remarkably athletic and seemingly capable of putting on about 20 pounds of muscle every summer. In workouts for the USA Select team this year, he looks enormous.
And while his offensive game remains raw (Favors shot just 48 percent from the field last year), he has the physical strength to overpower opponents, which allows him to draw more fouls than you'd expect. Because Favors worked himself to the line so effectively, he ended up ranking in the 80th percentile last year in offensive post-up situations, per Synergy (subscription required).
Defensively, the only thing preventing Favors from being a complete monster is more playing time. He'll get that this season.
So, much like the Wizards did with Wall, expect the Jazz to seriously explore an extension that will keep Favors from hitting the restricted free-agency market next summer.
Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
Current Contract Status: $3.5 million in 2013-14, $4.7 million qualifying offer in 2014-15
Prediction for Next Contract: Three years, $27 million
I promise this list won't be devoted solely to the Jazz, but one good potential contract extension deserves another.
Gordon Hayward might be one of the NBA's most underrated offensive players. According to Synergy, he's a supremely efficient scorer, ranking in the top 10 percent in points per play on cuts, hand-offs and screens. And when he spots up, you can pretty much count it; Hayward was even better with his feet set.
While his team defense isn't spectacular, Hayward is also a surprisingly adept one-on-one stopper.
Add all that up and you've got a player who would certainly command some big offers next summer as a restricted free agent. He's definitely not a max-salary player, but if Utah merely signs him to a qualifying offer after this season, Hayward will see some pretty nice offer sheets from around the league.
In an effort to avoid the fiasco of matching whatever offer Hayward gets, the Jazz would be wise to lock him up in advance.
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks
Current Contract Status: $3 million in 2013-14, $4.3 million qualifying offer in 2014-15
Prediction for Next Contract: Four years, $48 million
Defense is half of the NBA game, and because it's pretty much impossible to score against Larry Sanders, the Milwaukee Bucks are going to want to lock up their interior eraser as soon as possible.
The blocked shots make the highlight reels, but Sanders' real value is in his ability to deter attempts at the rim. And as teams around the league progressively build their offenses around shots from the restricted area and from beyond the arc, it's going to pay to have a guy like Sanders who so drastically cuts down on opponents' shots from close range.
Per 36 minutes, Sanders averaged 12.9 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks last year (per NBA.com). If he can continue to rein in some of his emotional outbursts and avoid foul trouble, he could eventually log enough minutes to actually reach those numbers on a per-game basis.
Elite rim-protectors are few and far between, so before Sanders becomes a restricted free agent in 2014, the Bucks will do everything they can to lock him into a long-term deal.
Sanders gives the Bucks a sense of defensive security, so the least they can do is provide him with a financial one.
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
Current Contract Status: $2.6 million in 2013-14, $3.7 million qualifying offer in 2014-15
Prediction for Next Contract: Three years, $24 million
When the Phoenix Suns traded for Eric Bledsoe, they did it with an eye toward featuring the ultra-athletic point guard as a long-term cornerstone. In order to ensure that he'll fill that role, the Suns are going to have to extend Bledsoe sooner than later.
He, like the rest of the players we've discussed so far, will be due a qualifying offer at the end of the 2013-14 season, which will merely preserve the Suns' ability to match any offers he receives on the open market. Most players prefer to at least sample the feeling of being a free agent, but if the Suns offered Bledsoe some multiyear security now, there's a chance he'd be willing to commit to staying in Phoenix.
Plus, it would be wise to try to secure Bledsoe before he has a full season as a starter to pump up his numbers and attract more notice around the league.
Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
Current Contract Status: $5.8 million qualifying offer in 2013-14
Prediction for Next Contract: Four years, $50 million
This one could happen any second.
Nikola Pekovic is a restricted free agent right now, which means the Minnesota Timberwolves have the ability to sign him to an exentsion or match whatever deal he inks elsewhere. So far, the offers haven't exactly been pouring in.
In fact, Pek hasn't received any formal offers from other teams at all.
According to Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Wolves have offered Pekovic a four-year deal worth $48 million. But the big man just isn't ready to sign on the dotted line yet.
Pekovic is already 27, so there's probably not much room for improvement in his game. But after posting two straight seasons with a PER above 20, he doesn't really need to get any better to justify a huge extension.
He'll sign with the Wolves eventually, but right now, he's still technically on the market.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Current Contract Status: $3.3 million in 2013-14, $4.5 million qualifying offer in 2014-15
Prediction for Next Contract: Five years, $80 million
George is the crown jewel of next summer's restricted free-agency class. Just 23 years old and coming off of one of the more impressive postseason breakouts in memory, PG24 is almost guaranteed to command a max-salary offer on the open market.
And that's why the Indiana Pacers have every incentive to squash distractions this year by maxing him out (John Wall style) as soon as possible.
Look, there's no way the Pacers fail to match whatever offer George gets on the restricted market, so either way, he's sure to eventually sign an extension with the team that drafted him. But why wait?
Anything could happen between now and next summer. George could get hurt, suffer an unexpected dip in performance or be abducted by aliens. His present value is as high as it could possibly be, so from his perspective, it makes a lot of sense for George to ask the Pacers for an extension now.
Plus, Indy can offer more money in an extension right now than George could get from another team in 2014. So if George wants to test the market, he might wind up costing himself an extra year and a few million bucks by letting the Pacers simply match whatever offer he gets elsewhere.
And neon-green pants are expensive, so he's going to want to secure as much money as possible.
George will return to the Pacers, it's just a question of when he makes it official.