With all the outlandish spending in sports today, it's refreshing to see a group of NBA players who are out-performing their current contracts.
Granted, most of these ballers are still on their rookie-scale deals, but they nevertheless deserve a pay raise in the form of an extension.
Due to the new collective bargaining agreement, NBA players are first eligible for substantial contract extensions when they enter their fourth season.
Several young stars are reaching the point where teams should consider long-term negotiations.
Who fits the bill, and why?
Current Contract: $6.0 million qualifying offer in 2014-15
Why He Deserves Extension: He anchors the frontcourt and posted back-to-back 20-plus PER in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
The negotiations for Nikola Pekovic's impending contract extension have dragged out for so long, we're starting to wonder if Minnesota needs a reminder of how good he is.
Timberwolves fans shouldn't worry. Management is just taking its time, and it knows what a special find Pekovic is. The big man from Montenegro is tough to handle on the offensive glass, and he has an excellent feel for his surroundings near the basket.
Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports aptly describes Pekovic's value:
If Pekovic’s past is any indication, he’ll be worth every bit of the four-year, $50 million deal he’s after. Centers that can walk and chew gum (much less contribute 18 and 10 per 36 minutes) are such a rare commodity that you don’t mind paying them more than, say, your typical All-Star level small forward.
$12.5 million per year sounds like it's a boatload of money, and it is. But that's probably what it will take to keep the rising star in Minnesota through 2017.
Current Contract: $4.1 million in 2013-14, $5.5 million qualifying offer in 2014-15
Why He Deserves Extension: He brings an effective blend of skill and court awareness.
Notching 16.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game is dandy, and Greg Monroe is bound to improve those numbers.
But the most impressive contribution he makes to the Detroit Pistons is his deft passing touch and his defensive awareness.
Although he's a 6'11" post player, he's capable of setting up teammates and delivering accurate dimes. As a low-block stopper, he makes up for his mediocre athleticism with superb timing and good hands.
According to the Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News, Monroe won't be entertaining an extension until next summer.
Until then, we can still rightly say he deserves one.
Current Contract: $3.3 million in 2013-14, $4.5 million qualifying offer in 2014-15
Why He Deserves Extension: He led Indiana to Conference Finals and is poised to do it again.
This one's sort of a no-brainer, and the Indiana Pacers will definitely be handing an offer to Paul George sometime soon.
His breakout 2012-13 campaign featured lock-down defense, consistent outside shooting and a heavy dose of playmaking and athleticism. George is a true all-purpose player, as he can guard, drive, pass, rebound and shoot.
In a recent interview on 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis, Pacers president Larry Bird indicated that the club will be making a major offer.
It's clear that George is one of the few players who can give LeBron James a fight in the Eastern Conference. Indiana should reward his two-way ability and recognize his market value with an extension offer in the neighborhood of a max deal.
Current Contract: $4.9 million in 2013-14, $6.5 million in 2014-15
Why He Deserves Extension: Best combination of youth, size and talent of any center.
A 270-pound frame and a fluid game make DeMarcus Cousins a player worth hanging onto.
The Sacramento Kings are in the midst of a transition to new ownership, management and coaching, so once the dust settles, they will surely make him a handsome offer.
Cousins has exhibited attitude issues several times in the past, but he's slowly maturing and his skills are too good to ignore. He owns great footwork, touch with either hand and a mid-range jumper. His sturdy frame and nose for the ball also make him a double-double threat on every night.
Unless he hits some sort of wall that impedes his development, he's on schedule to be a 20-point, 10-rebound type of player for quite some time. Sacramento should negotiate accordingly.
Current Contract: $3.0 million in 2013-14, $4.3 million in 2014-15
Why He Deserves Extension: Exceptional shot-blocking
He won't command anything in the neighborhood of max money or even $15 million per season, but Larry Sanders should negotiate for double-digit millions per campaign based on his rim protection.
The Milwaukee Bucks enjoyed his 2.8 swats (including 3.7 per 36 minutes) in 2012-13, but what they relish even more is how his presence affects the bottom line.
According to 82games.com, the Bucks allowed 103.0 points per 100 possessions when Sanders was on the floor. When he was on the bench, the Bucks allowed 109.2. That gap is a testament to his on-ball skills, weak-side help and ability to clean up the boards.
There are a bunch of long, athletic post players in the NBA today, but only a tiny handful can defend like Sanders.
Current Contract: $3.5 million in 2013-14, $4.7 million qualifying offer in 2014-15
Why He Deserves Extension: Extremely efficient shooting.
In his third NBA season, Utah Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward made the kind of strides indicative of a rising star.
His 14 points per game came courtesy of 44 percent field-goal shooting, 42 percent three-point shooting and 83 percent from the free-throw line. Hayward also added three assists per night for good measure.
Top-tier court awareness and shooting efficiency are seldom found in 6'8" youngsters, so the Jazz would do well to keep him in Salt Lake City for the next half-dozen years.
If they tab him as their designated long-term player, they could extend him through 2019.
Current Contract: $7.5 million in 2013-14, $9.7 million qualifying offer in 2014-15
Why He Deserves Extension: Elite end-to-end speed and body control, and potential to average 20 points or 9-10 assists per game.
A $9.7 million qualifying offer for 2014-15 sounds nice, but when you consider John Wall's current market value and rising stock, the Washington Wizards need to send a truck of money his way if they want to keep him until 2019.
And they will.
According to Michael Lee of the Washington Post, Washington is nearing a five-year, $80 million dollar deal with the acrobatic speedster:
Wall and the Wizards are near an agreement on a maximum contract extension worth roughly $80 million over the next five years, according to multiple published reports. The Wizards began negotiations with Wall’s agent, Dan Fegan, last week.
In the open floor, the 22-year-old floor general is uncontainable, and in half-court scenarios, he's almost equally liable to break down opponents and create opportunities.
Will he ever be a 20-point, 10-assist point guard? Maybe not. But he'll come darn close, and that's still phenomenal production.
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