Sources Predict NBA Rookie Extension Paydays for Poole, Barrett, Herro and Others

Jake FischerContributor IJuly 19, 2022

Sources Predict NBA Rookie Extension Paydays for Poole, Barrett, Herro and Others

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    Jordan Poole. (Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)

    The number of NBA players signing extensions off their rookie deals has been on the rise since the 2017 offseason when just five of 30 first-rounders from the 2014 NBA draft found new, pricey agreements. The 2015 draft class only saw five first-rounders get extended in the summer of 2018, but that number doubled in 2019 when 10 of the eligible players signed extensions off their rookie deals. Nine players followed from the 2017 draft class in 2020, before 11 total players from the 2018 draft found extension agreements prior to the 2021-22 season.

    Keldon Johnson, the No. 29 pick in the 2019 draft, agreed to a four-year $80 million extension with San Antonio on Friday night. That marked the fourth first-round selection from the 2019 class to have already inked a second deal with the club that drafted them.

    Who will be next to follow Johnson? And how do the Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell trade possibilities impact several extension-eligible players? The following breakdowns highlight the most intriguing rookie extension dynamics still at play.

Jordan Poole

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    Jordan Poole (Michael Urakami/Getty Images)

    Such an uptick in league-wide extension signees has been credited by NBA personnel to various reasons. The most common: With more and more money pouring into the NBA's basketball-related income, teams' rising salary caps have prompted many agents to urge their players to sign now, guaranteeing life-changing money rather than risking the unknown.

    On the flip side of that risk equation, there have been fewer and fewer instances where front offices wager their player doesn't become more expensive by the time he reaches the open market the following summer. No team, for example, wants to find itself where the Dallas Mavericks stood this offseason with Jalen Brunson, though the Knicks' new starting point guard was a second-round pick.

    The extension case for Warriors' guard Jordan Poole may be the trickiest of all 2019 first-rounders. Poole took a massive leap during his third season in Golden State, transforming into a lethal rotation scorer on a championship team after seeing significant time in the G League as a sophomore.

    Strategically, Golden State has every financial incentive to let Poole play his fourth year without a new deal framework. Unlike Brunson, Poole would enter next summer as a restricted free agent.

    And if he repeats, or even improves upon, his sizzling production in 2022-23, the Warriors likely won't blink an eye at rewarding Poole with a maximum deal, solidifying the franchise's bridge into a post-Steph Curry era.

    If Poole regresses—or simply entrenches himself as a strong starter-level player rather than a budding All-Star—then Golden State might be able to find an agreement closer to Anfernee Simons' four-year, $100 million deal with Portland this summer.

    '"What's the upside in locking him in now?'" one team cap strategist told B/R. '"He's not Luka Doncic or Donovan Mitchell, who've proven they can carry a team. He's close. If he does it again, you pay him. But prior to this year, he was a borderline rotation player.'"

    And while Poole has been rumored as a potential piece in a theoretical Warriors trade package to land Durant, there has been little traction between Golden State and Brooklyn on such a blockbuster transaction, sources said. Despite the apparent openness—both from Warriors veterans and Durant himself—regarding a superstar reunion in the Bay, Golden State has not been categorized as a team that's made serious overtures to pry Durant from Barclays Center.

    Poole's extension talks will likely take some time to finalize. Outside of surefire designated-rookie deals, the majority of contract extensions for former first-round picks entering the fourth year of their career typically finalize the last week before the next season. With the 2019 class, former No. 1 pick Zion Williamson, former No. 2 pick Ja Morant, and fellow All-Star point guard Darius Garland each signed their maximum deals at the start of free agency.

RJ Barrett, Tyler Herro

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    RJ Barrett and Tyler Herro (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

    RJ Barrett and Tyler Herro are the two extension-eligible 2019 first-rounders whose futures seem tied to the outcomes of the Durant and Mitchell trade sweepstakes.

    The Miami Heat remain focused on acquiring one of those aforementioned All-Stars, and multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told B/R that Miami has prioritized pursuing Durant over Mitchell.

    Either megadeal would almost certainly have to include Herro, the Heat's best young player, which naturally brings the third-year Kentucky product's extension conversations into question. The same goes for Barrett's potential inclusion in a New York package for Mitchell.

    But any player that signs a rookie extension would then fall under the league's poison pill provision, further complicating the wonky math that underscores superstar trades. If Barrett or Herro were to sign a new extension, each player's 2022-23 cap hit would represent his outgoing salary for deal matching purposes.

    Meanwhile, the team that receives him—Utah, for this instance—would have to acquire Barrett or Herro at the average annual value of his expiring rookie deal plus the new extension terms.

    Knicks personnel have projected confidence, sources said, that they will ultimately be able to land Mitchell without sacrificing Barrett. Likewise, league sources have indicated that Utah isn't enamored by becoming the franchise that coughs up a sizable extension to Barrett.

    Both Barrett and Herro are expected to command maximum paydays. By all accounts, it seems unlikely Barrett will find a new deal in the interim. And regardless of the trade outcomes, there's a greater sense of optimism among NBA executives that Miami will come to terms with Herro prior to the 2022-23 campaign. '"They always seem to pay their guys,'" one assistant general manager said.

De'Andre Hunter

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    DeAndre Hunter (Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

    The Hawks failed to come to extension terms with John Collins ahead of the 2020-21 season, and Atlanta has faced similar hurdles with reaching an agreement with De'Andre Hunter. Early indications are that Atlanta and Hunter have not found much progress in extension talks, where both sides stand roughly $20 million apart on salary terms over a four-year deal, sources said.

    Keldon Johnson's $80 million extension now serves as the obvious comparison for Hunter's representatives to use for their side of negotiations. Johnson has shown promising upside but among a rebuilding roster. When healthy, Hunter was arguably the Hawks' second-best player behind Trae Young—only over 23 games in 2020-21, however. And then Hunter saw the floor in just 53 contests last season after missing time with a wrist injury.

    "The injury concerns are very real," said the team cap strategist.

    With the Hawks already mortgaging three first-round picks to acquire Dejounte Murray and his own lucrative free agency in 2024, it will be curious to see if Hunter and Atlanta can come to terms prior to this season.

Grant Williams

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    Grant Williams (Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Johnson's deal with San Antonio may also set the table for extension conversations with Grant Williams in Boston, although it's difficult to foresee the Celtics rewarding their third-year defensive stalwart with such a splashy amount.

    Boston found a value deal with Robert Williams III just last August, extending the Celtics' starting center for four years, $48 million plus incentives. Cap experts contacted by B/R projected that that salary range can set a benchmark for Grant Williams' negotiations, but rival executives are skeptical that Boston will be willing to spend much greater a dollar amount on Grant than for Robert.

Cameron Johnson

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    Cameron Johnson (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via) Getty Images

    The completed extension in San Antonio could impact Cameron Johnson's conversations with the Phoenix Suns as well. Deals for Davis Bertans, Duncan Robinson and Joe Harris would also represent friendly contract comparisons for Johnson's next deal. Furthermore, there's an argument to be made that Phoenix's standout wing is more than just a shooter and can bring off-the-dribble playmaking and additional defensive chops at a legitimate 6'8".

    With that, the next deal Johnson commands could surpass $15 million in average annual value, presenting a further crunch on the Suns' salary cap after Phoenix matched Deandre Ayton's four-year, $133 million offer sheet from Indiana. The Suns' accounting has gotten quite expensive, and league personnel still categorize Jae Crowder and Dario Saric as trade candidates entering this season to clear necessary wiggle room on Phoenix's books.

Matisse Thybulle

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    Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    The Sixers actively explored the trade market for Matisse Thybulle this summer—quite the important context for the third-year forward's extension discussions. While Thybulle guards at an All-Defense caliber, his lack of consistent shooting has provided problems for Philadelphia's lineups around Joel Embiid. Plus, the Sixers added P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. to further their two-way depth on the wing and in the frontcourt.

    There hasn't been traction on extension conversations with Thybulle, sources said. Most extension dialogues don't begin in earnest until summer approaches fall. But Thybulle may be the perfect case to buck the league's recent trend of growing extension numbers. If the current trade market is an early indication of next summer's free agency, Thybulle's value could struggle to recover from a poor postseason showing, with his vaccination status further complicating matters. Perhaps there's room for Thybulle to bet on himself in hopes of landing a richer deal next offseason.

Nassir Little

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    Nassir Little (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

    Similar to Hunter in Atlanta, Portland has an intriguing extension case with Nassir Little, who took a significant leap in January before sustaining a season-ending shoulder labral tear that required surgery. Little posted 13.8 points on 40.3 percent shooting from three, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists over a dozen games in that first month of 2022.

    Little would seem to be a strong candidate to join the Trail Blazers starting lineup on the wing, bridging Portland's Damian Lillard-Anfernee Simons backcourt and Jerami Grant-Jusuf Nurkic frontcourt. Would Little, then, be able to find an extension that pays a starter-level salary? He has already been spotted in the gym alongside Lillard during offseason workouts.

    The UNC product has an obvious incentive to find a long-term agreement with his injury history. And Portland coming to terms with Little now might actually provide greater flexibility via the poison pill provision if the Blazers ultimately find themselves searching for further trade improvements around Lillard. All of these factors point towards an extension benefiting both sides.

Coby White

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    Coby White (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

    The No. 7 pick from the 2019 draft, Coby White has experienced a checkered career mired by his own injuries and turnover in Chicago. The Bulls have dangled White in trade conversations dating back to the February trade deadline. Chicago also explored deals with White alongside the No. 18 pick in this June's draft.

    White has shown spurts of microwave scoring but hasn't done so consistently, and league talent evaluators have questioned his natural position dating back to his days at North Carolina. Chicago adding Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso also limited White's minutes last season, before the injury bug came for them, too.

    It appears unlikely White will find an extension prior to the fall. Perhaps if White can continue to flash the shooting stroke that cemented his spot in Chicago's rotation, elevated defense and greater playmaking, a rival team will look to acquire White at the deadline, eager for the chance to pay him next offseason.

    Jake Fischer covers the NBA for Bleacher Report and is the author of Built to Lose: How the NBA's Tanking Era Changed the League Forever.

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