The NBA's opening slate of games is mere days away, which means we're also in rookie extension season for 2016 first-round draft picks. Monday, October 21, is the deadline for deals to get done.
It's a group that includes Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray and Pascal Siakam. Others may generate some buzz, but those are likely the biggest names. And with Simmons and Murray already inked to max extensions, the prospects of Ingram, Brown, Hield and Siakam open themselves to discussion.
Will any of those four receive the max now (a five-year max for any of the above is worth a total of $169.7 million, while a four-year max comes in at just over $131 million)? How about this summer? Will a relatively weak free-agent class in 2020 boost their individual stocks?
These questions and more are the considerations behind the potential megadeals these players have a shot at over the next 10 months or so.
As is the case with probably everyone here (with the exception of Siakam), 2019-20 will be a show-me season for Ingram.
Among the 54 players from this draft class who've logged any time in the NBA, Ingram is 49th in career wins over replacement player. His career true shooting percentage is well below average. And despite his length, he's yet to prove himself a major disruptor on defense.
That doesn't mean he hasn't shown flashes of the potential that got him drafted second overall, though.
Hyper-specific stat incoming, so stay with me here, but when Ingram was on the floor without a point guard over the last two seasons (so, Ingram without Lonzo Ball, Rajon Rondo, Tyler Ennis or Isaiah Thomas), he averaged 19.2 points (on above-average true shooting) and 4.3 assists per 75 possessions, according to PBP Stats. And that's with a decent-sized sample of 1,200 minutes.
The point is that there's definitely something there when Ingram plays de facto point guard. At 6'9", he can survey the floor better than most smaller guards. And when he's on the ball, defenders can't sag off in disrespect of his three-point range.
Now, the obvious concern is that those minutes as the primary creator may be hard to come by with his new team, the New Orleans Pelicans. Ball was moved there with him, and they both join Jrue Holiday. To maximize his value, Ingram will have to improve his range and general off-ball skills.
When he does have the opportunity to create, though, we're more likely to see his ceiling. If he can effectively attack closeouts, rise up for open twos or hit cutters like Zion Williamson and Derrick Favors, Ingram might tempt some team in 2020 to present a max offer sheet in restricted free agency.
There's little reason for the Pelicans to try to preempt that, though. If Ingram looks too good to let go, New Orleans can match whatever deal he signs this summer. If not, the Pelicans won't be tied to him long-term.
"They have talked about the extension," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Countdown. "This might be a player whose value will increase this year by really having a breakout year in New Orleans, and maybe be worth more in the spring or summer than he's been able to show yet in the NBA."
It makes sense for both sides to let the deadline pass and revisit things this summer.
Prediction: Ingram signs a four-year, $90 million deal in restricted free agency. New Orleans matches.
Over the course of his three NBA seasons, the Boston Celtics' net rating is slightly better when Jaylen Brown is off the floor; plus-3.9 to plus-3.2.
Standard on/off caveats apply here. These numbers are influenced by whom the player shares the floor with (both teammates and opponents). But generally speaking, the league's great players have a positive net rating swing, especially over three years.
And with Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart all already under contract at the wing/forward spots, retaining Brown may not feel critical for Boston.
Still, Brown has some potential as a perimeter three-and-D option.
Defense isn't the reason that net rating swing is negative. In fact, the team allows 1.6 fewer points per 100 possessions when Brown is in the game. His size and ability to guard just about any non-center make him a great fit for a switch-heavy defensive scheme.
And for the "three" in "three-and-D," Brown is at 36.5 percent from deep for his career. Now, that number is buoyed by the 39.5 percent he shot in his second year. If he's closer to a 34 percent three-point shooter, his value looks a little different.
More consistency from the outside would boost his stock. And this may be unfair, since the roster doesn't demand it of him, but better playmaking numbers would help, too.
Consider this a forecast that he checks both those boxes, but only in pencil. He'll look better than he did in 2018-19, but only slightly.
And that may lead to some regret for Brown in the offseason. According to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, the Celtics have already offered Jaylen Brown a four-year, $80 million deal. If he doesn't show much more in 2019-20, offers might not even reach that level in July.
That could give Boston some leverage, and general manager Danny Ainge generally isn't one to turn leverage down.
Prediction: Brown signs a four-year, $70 million deal in restricted free agency. Boston matches.
Per Haynes, the Sacramento Kings offered Hield a four-year, $90 million extension, which is about $20 million shy of what the sharpshooter is after.
The Sacramento Bee's Jason Anderson shared Hield's thoughts on the negotiations:
“As a player, you want to have that trust that the franchise has your back and we’re just waiting for them to make a move and come to an agreement. They’re talking, but nothing is moving yet. Nothing has moved. I’m ready to make things happen, man. I want to make Sacramento my home. I’m ready to get this s--t done. I want to be here and if it doesn’t happen, then things can go the other way.”
The "other way" is a direction Sacramento should avoid. During his two full seasons with the Kings, the team's net points per 100 possessions is 5.8 points better when Hield is on the floor. His shooting opens things up for De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III and whoever else he plays with.
Among players with at least as many career three-point attempts (1,438), Hield's career three-point percentage (41.9) is tied with Klay Thompson's for sixth.
This is all-time-great-level shooting.
If Sacramento loses it, things will instantly get more crowded in the half court.
If $110 million is what Hield is after, the Kings should pay it. That's still short of the max. And though there was some hubbub over his age during the past season, 26 is far from over the hill. There's still plenty of time for Hield to improve as a defender and playmaker. And if he just makes moderate gains in those two areas, he'll be well on his way to legitimate stardom.
Prediction: Hield signs a four-year, $110 million extension with the Kings before the deadline.
Haynes reported that "a maximum contract offer will be required" for the Toronto Raptors to secure Siakam ahead of October 21, but an extension happening is a "virtual lock."
After winning Most Improved Player in 2019, the role of No. 1 scorer is firmly in the grasp of Siakam following the departure of Kawhi Leonard. And he appears ready to hold it for the foreseeable future.
Last season, Siakam averaged 20.3 points per 75 possessions with a 61.4 true shooting percentage when he was on the floor without Kawhi.
If Toronto can get necessary floor spacing from Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell and OG Anunoby, Siakam will be one of the most dangerous slashers in the league. He's a classic matchup problem. When guarded one-on-one, he'll burn bigs and bully smalls.
He has the potential to be a defensive anchor, as well. Since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Toronto has allowed 3.3 fewer points per 100 possessions when Siakam is in the game. He's switchable on the outside and showed some shot-blocking chops early in his career (2.0 blocks per 75 possessions in Year 1).
This is the Siakam era for the reigning champions, and it officially begins when he signs this extension.
Prediction: Siakam signs a four-year, $131 million max extension with the Raptors before the deadline.