Which NBA Stars and Veterans Should Sign Extensions?

Eric Pincus@@EricPincusFeatured Columnist IAugust 10, 2022

Which NBA Stars and Veterans Should Sign Extensions?

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    With LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers opening "productive" discussions on their mutual future, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, we wondered which other NBA players are extension-eligible?

    B/R's Jake Fischer already attacked the draft class of 2019. Some, like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, have already extended. Others, including Jordan Poole, RJ Barrett and Tyler Herro, have until before the start of the season to get deals done.

    Several veterans have inked supermax deals (Devin Booker, Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns). Standard vet extensions are limited to a raise of 20 percent. Several players like Dejounte Murray, Domantas Sabonis, Christian Wood and Dillon Brooks may choose to explore free agency when their contracts expire rather than lock in a below-market extension. Others like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Pat Connaughton and John Konchar were happy to lock in modest deals.

    It's also worth noting that the NBA and National Basketball Players Association have already begun negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). A new broadcast deal is due ahead of the 2025-26 season. Some players and teams may wait to see if the NBA economy explodes again or if rule changes do away with the 20 percent limitation.

    Generally, a player on a three-year contract (or longer) can sign an extension after two years. Players traded over the past six months can only get up to a 5 percent raise and extend for two additional years.

    While the deadline for most isn't until June 30, 2023, some veterans may lock in deals over the coming weeks and months.

Will LeBron James Commit to the Lakers?

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    The James/Lakers negotiation, already explored in detail, will impact how the franchise moves forward with Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and any pursuit of trade targets like Kyrie Irving. James can add up to two additional seasons at about $97.1 million.

    Will he commit further with the Lakers? Will he wait for free agency in July? In either case, would he consider taking below a maximum deal to help enable the franchise to pursue a big-name free agent? What role will his son Bronny James (likely draft-eligible in 2024) play in the equation?

    Perhaps James will compromise with L.A., taking a two-year max extension with an opt out following the 2023-24 campaign that will allow the All-Star to sign wherever his son lands in the NBA (assuming he does).

    Technically, Westbrook is also extension-eligible, but suffice it to say that's not likely in Los Angeles.

Will Warriors Reward the Championship Core?

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    The Warriors will do whatever they can to repeat as champions, but it's nearly time to make serious financial decisions. There has to be a limit to how much the franchise can pay out with massive luxury taxes ($400-500 million could be a reality if Golden State keeps everyone).

    Draymond Green can opt out early and start a new extension starting at almost $31 million with the 2023-24 season. An extension for Andrew Wiggins could begin at a projected $39.9 million. Klay Thompson is less urgent, locked in at $43.2 million for 2023-24, but he can add three additional seasons starting at nearly $49 million.

    Knowing how much Green and Wiggins will cost might help budget for Jordan Poole. The Warriors should wait on Thompson and try to compromise with Green and Wiggins—though neither may be eager to rush into a smaller extension.

Should Brown Wait in Boston?

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    Because Jaylen Brown has two seasons left under contract, he needs to commit to an extension before the start of the season. If not, he'll have to wait until July 2023. An extension would start at roughly $37 million for up to three additional years (almost $120 million).

    While that's a compelling figure, Brown could start his next contract as an unrestricted free agent in 2024 on a deal starting at a projected $42 million for five years ($243 million) with the Celtics or four with another franchise ($180 million).

    Brown's next contract will be lucrative. An extension may be too much to turn down if offered, but then he may have a stronger sense of where the NBA is going financially as an NBPA Executive Committee vice president.

Grant Should Extend Now in Portland

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    The Portland Trail Blazers gave up a first-round pick (via the Milwaukee Bucks) to the Detroit Pistons to acquire Jerami Grant in trade. He's the bigger wing the Blazers should have targeted years ago to play alongside Damian Lillard.

    Grant can extend immediately for two additional seasons at $45.1 million. Or he can wait until January to add up to four years at $112.7 million.

    Grant, 28, is worth the former. He may try to hold out for the latter—or at least the flexibility for a more significant deal.

Raptors Stay Together?

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    The Toronto Raptors drafted the Rookie of the Year at No. 4 in Scottie Barnes. How does he change the team's investment in forwards Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby? Siakam is under contract through 2023-24 at $37.9 million but can extend for three additional years at approximately $136 million.

    The Raptors have no reason to rush. Barnes has three more seasons on his rookie-scale deal. Anunoby has a player option before 2024-25.

    The more pressing issue is Fred VanVleet, who can opt out of his final year ($22.8 million) and leave as an unrestricted free agent in 2023. Or he and the Raptors can work a deal to pay him up to about $111.6-$114.9 million over four years, starting with the 2023-24 season.

    In nearly every case, the player would prefer the "more money" option, but negotiations are complex and have to make sense for both parties. A team is trying to find a way to reasonably manage its resources (limited by the rules) to build a contender. A player is considering long-term security versus the potential of a free-agent payday down the road.

Pelicans Can Reward CJ

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    The New Orleans Pelicans turned their 2021-22 campaign around in a deal with the Trail Blazers for CJ McCollum. An afterthought in the West quickly emerged as a playoff team. McCollum will finish his current contract ($69.1 million owed through 2023-24) at nearly 33.

    There's probably a compromise figure at about $30 million a season for up to three additional years that should work for both sides. That McCollum is president of the NBPA may impact his willingness to find a friendly number with the Pelicans—though it's hard to tell if that would make a deal more or less likely.

Vuc and Chicago for Longer?

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    The Chicago Bulls gave up Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and two first-rounders to the Orlando Magic in 2021 to acquire Nikola Vucevic. And the team finally made the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

    Vucevic has one year left on his deal at $22 million, and he can extend for up to four additional seasons, starting at $26.4 million.

    There is a price (in the $20-26.4 million range) and a number of years (two or three) that should work to keep Vucevic in Chicago.

Wait on Middleton

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    Will the Milwaukee Bucks continue to pay out three significant salaries to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton?

    Middleton has a player option at $40.4 million for 2023-24 but can opt out and extend at a salary starting at $45.5 million. While he would get a healthy contract on the open market, he might struggle to find a team willing to pay him over $30 million.

    Since Middleton can't opt out and extend for less than his option, he and the Bucks should wait until 2023. Then, he can either opt out and sign a longer deal at a more economical (but still lucrative) price or opt in and explore free agency in 2024.

Can the Wizards Keep Kuzma?

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    With Bradley Beal out for much of last season, Kyle Kuzma took on a leadership role with the Washington Wizards. He has a player option for 2023-24 at $13 million. Should he opt out and extend, he can add on four years at almost $70 million.

    That's a solid contract, but Kuzma could want to hold out to see what unrestricted free agency offers next July.

Plenty More...

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    Some extension-eligible players have uncertain situations (fit or injury) like Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray, Kristaps Porzingis, D'Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons and Myles Turner. A team may try to trade for a player on an expiring contract like Turner on the condition he'll sign an extension.

    The rest of the list is long: Steven Adams, Malik Beasley, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Oshae Brissett, Vernon Carey Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Jae Crowder, Seth Curry, Derrick Favors, Markelle Fultz, Eric Gordon, Joe Harris, Tobias Harris, Gordon Hayward, Justin Holiday, Al Horford, Isaiah Joe, Maxi Kleber, Caris LeVert, Brook Lopez, Kevin Love, Theo Maledon, Naji Marshall, KJ Martin, Jalen McDaniels, De'Anthony Melton, Chimezie Metu, Shake Milton, Marcus Morris Sr., Monte Morris, Larry Nance Jr., Jaylen Nowell, Cedi Osman, Mason Plumlee, Jakob Poeltl, Dwight Powell, Paul Reed Jr., Naz Reid, Nick Richards, Terrance Ross, Dario Saric, Lamar Stevens, Xavier Tillman Sr. and Dean Wade.

    Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter, @EricPincus.

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