Grading Every NBA Contract Extension During 2013 Offseason
Negotiating contract extensions has typically been a last-minute ordeal, but that's changed this year.
Instead of waiting right up until the October 31 deadline to hand out extensions to 2010 draft class members, a handful of teams took care business of nice and early this offseason, removing any potential distractions for their star players.
John Wall, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins all received max contract extensions from their respective teams, while defensive-minded big men Larry Sanders and Derrick Favors negotiated hefty extensions as well.
While you can certainly argue the merits of each extension—timing, market size, roster composition and plenty of other factors weigh in heavily here. Which team got the best value? Who has the most work to do to live up to their new contract? Let's dive in.
Contract info courtesy of Basketball-Reference.
John Wall, G, Washington Wizards
Extension Details: Five-Year, $80 million dollar max extension.
The Washington Wizards never really had much of a decision to make. John Wall is the franchise.
While Wall hasn't solidified his jumper or carried the Wizards to anything but the lottery, that shouldn't lead you to believe that Wall isn't improving or worth the contract he received.
Since his rookie year, Wall's points per 36 minutes, true shooting percentage, PER, assists per 36 minutes and free-throw attempts have improved incrementally with each season. It doesn't take a fancy graph to understand the trajectory here. Wall gets better every season, and he's still only 23 years old.
This isn't an investment made solely on potential, either. Wall is only one of four players in NBA history to average at least 16 points, eight assists and four rebounds on his career. The other three players? Chris Paul, Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. Pretty good company.
More importantly than that, though, is that Wall would undoubtedly receive a max offer as a restricted free agent. So, why wait? Leaving Wall's future uncharted during a season where the Wizards have a realistic shot at the playoffs would potentially be more counter productive than anything else.
Perhaps you can make the argument that the Wizards should have saved their five-year extension for Bradley Beal, who looks like the real deal at a position where there's more scarcity league-wide, but Wall was first in line and has the higher ceiling.
Bottom line, the Wizards did as well as they could here. There was no discount to be had with Wall's deal, so now the team can move forward and try to take the next step together.
DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings
Extension Details: Four-Year, $62 million dollar max extension.
When the Sacramento Kings dished out a max extension for DeMarcus Cousins, it was met with derision from many corners of the basketball world.
To be honest, the Cousins detractors made plenty of fair points. Maybe a franchise building block shouldn't be so unstable from a temperament standpoint, and sure, it's a little unnerving that Cousins has never shown consistent effort defensively or good shot selection.
It's hard to argue that Cousins' past production is anywhere near max-level, but that's not how extensions work. You're predicting future performance, and maybe it requires rose-colored glasses to see this, but Cousins certainly has the potential to be one of the league's most dominant players. There's no denying his skill level and size.
Handing Cousins a max contract is a show of good faith from the new ownership, management and coaching staff in Sacramento. It's a new beginning and a clean slate for everyone.
Was extending Cousins early instead of waiting to match in restricted free agency the most risk-averse decision? No. But even if this year plays out poorly, and Cousins continues the bad habits that make him so frustrating to watch, a team would still absolutely take a chance on his talent in restricted free agency.
The size of this deal was probably inevitable anyway, so why not start off on the right foot with Cousins? Is waiting it out for the slim chance that Cousins might get a few million less in a deal elsewhere really worth it?
If it does go poorly this year and Sacramento is ready to give up on him, Cousins' deal actually makes him a more attractive trade piece than it would if he were still slated to head to restricted free agency. Sacramento isn't going to be "stuck" with Cousins, because some team will always believe that it can turn him around and provide the right environment for him to succeed.
But instead of leaving the carrot dangling and feeding into the potential talk, the Kings are holding Cousins accountable. This extension gives Cousins something to live up to right now instead of in the future, and perhaps that's just what he needs.
Paul George, G/F, Indiana Pacers
Extension Details: Five-Year, $90 million dollar max extension.
Another no-brainer, right? Paul George would get as many max contract offers as there were teams with cap space in restricted free agency, so locking him up early is the right decision. Easy. Simple.
But let's play devil's advocate for a bit. Is it possible that we're overrating George at this point? Yes, he was excellent in the playoffs and showed that he's the prototypical wing to give LeBron James and Dwyane Wade some trouble. But what about the 82 games before that?
George's PER was 16.8 last year compared to the 16.5 number he posted in his sophomore season, and his true shooting percentage last year was actually a career low. Yes, the assist numbers and point per game increased with the extra possessions, but the turnovers did as well. With George as the primary scorer and ball-handler, Indiana still only ranked 20th in offensive efficiency last year.
Point being, it might be dangerous to assume that George can spearhead a top offense as the primary option right now. He certainly seems to have the skills to do that somewhere down the line, but he's not there yet, and he's probably not as close as some seem to think.
George's impact defensively, of course, fills in a lot of the gaps offensively. Again, this was an easy choice for the Pacers, who have built one of the league's best defenses around the incredible length of players like George.
It's important, though, to temper the expectations for George a bit. He's 23 years old. Thinking he'll be Tracy McGrady in his prime right away might lead to disappointment.
George is still a great player right now, but his ball-handling and ability to draw fouls needs a lot of improvement for him to truly maximize his potential and live up to this hefty deal going forward.
Derrick Favors, F/C, Utah Jazz
Extension Details: Four-Year, $49 million dollar extension.
The Utah Jazz extending Derrick Favors for an amount less than the max is probably the best bargain of the five extensions we've seen thus far.
The decision to do this now, before Favors has a full plate of minutes and plenty of touches to work with, was a good example of a team wisely buying in before the boom.
Like most of his extension companions, Favors was a real threat to receive a max offer in restricted free agency. Mobile rim protectors come at a premium, and Favors has flashed a surprising amount of offensive skill to supplement his defensive play.
Favors does have some big holes in his game, but at 22 years old, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him turn into a more consistent scorer that better leverages his speed and power advantages over his opponents.
A contract on par with Serge Ibaka's extension seems perfectly fair. Although Ibaka is the more established rim protector, Favors did block 2.6 shots per 36 minutes last year, so he's no slouch in that department. There's an awful lot to like here.
Young, athletic, two-way bigs who can play inside and outside don't come around often. We've seen what happens when big men hit the open market (Roy Hibbert, for example), and the Jazz did well to make the early plunge with Favors and save somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million dollars over the life of the deal. The timing on this decision was perfect.
Larry Sanders, C, Milwaukee Bucks
Extension Details: Four-Year, $44 million dollar extension.
This is the going rate for athletic, defensive-minded centers. DeAndre Jordan received a four-year, $43 million dollar offer sheet from Golden State in restricted free agency that the Los Angeles Clippers matched. Denver Nuggets big man JaVale McGee signed a four-year, $44 million dollar extension. The market was set, and the Milwaukee Bucks paid the market price for Larry Sanders.
And you know what? That's good for the Bucks. Sanders and his agent could have charged a "Milwaukee tax," essentially holding out for a few extra million simply for agreeing to stay in a small NBA market in a cold-weather city. In that regard, paying market value is minor victory for Milwaukee.
As for the timing? Signing Sanders early was also a wise decision, as the hype train has been chugging along ever since Sanders broke out last year. A study at the Sloan Analytics Conference tabbed Sanders the best interior defender in the NBA, which definitely raised his profile and stock quite a bit.
Despite being just 24 years old, however, Sanders is probably closer to his final form than the other four players to receive extensions. Sanders doesn't have much an offensive game, but he's a good garbage man who stays near the rim, runs the floor and cleans up after his guards.
That's just fine offensively when you pair it with incredible defense, but Milwaukee will have to build its offense from the outside-in going forward. Having a clear directive when rebuilding can be helpful, though.
The big improvement for Sanders will be his ability to stay out foul trouble, as he averages five fouls per 36 minutes over his career. The Bucks will need more than just 27 minutes a game from Sanders if he plans on making good on this extension.
The ceiling here might not be extremely high, but the floor isn't low, either. Maybe you'd like to see Sanders "prove it" after his breakout season, but it's hard to fault the Bucks for locking up an elite rim protector with a growing reputation at a perfectly fair price.