Extending the 2009 NBA Draft Class
There are numerous first-round picks out of the 2009 draft that will become eligible this summer to receive lucrative contract extensions. Last season, just four players out of the 2008 draft class (Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Kosta Koufos) received early extensions so collecting extra years isn’t a given for the majority of eligible players.
If no extension is offered between now and the early extension deadline, the players currently eligible for an early extension could potentially become restricted free agents if they receive a qualifying offer from their respective teams before the 2013-14 season. This would result in a bidding war between the current team and an impending suitor in which the home town team has the right to match any offer.
Of course, if the team has no further interest in said player, a qualifying offer could be withheld – thus making that player an unrestricted free agent.
Let’s take a look at some notable 2009 draft picks who are likely to get re-upped this summer, some that aren’t and those that fall somewhere in between:
Blake Griffin (LA Clippers):
Having made the All-Star team in each of his first two seasons in the NBA, Griffin is primed to receive a lucrative extension after becoming one of the best power forwards in the game. The Los Angeles Clippers made the playoffs this season for just the fourth time in team history and Griffin was a huge part of that success, and Los Angeles continues to battle the San Antonio Spurs in the second round.
Griffin led the Clippers in both scoring (20.7) and rebounding per game (10.9) during the regular season and his explosiveness and ferocity around the rim is unmatched.
The only thing working against Griffin and an extension is that Chris Paul’s contract runs out after next season and he will need to be secured as well. The good news is that L.A. will have plenty of room to sign both All Stars as the Clippers have just $10.9 million in guaranteed salaries (DeAndre Jordan) after next season.
In terms of possible extension numbers, Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves was eligible for an extension this past offseason and he received a four-year, $60 million extension. Fair to say Griffin’s deal will be in that same ballpark but more likely the maximum five years instead of four.
Likely Early Extension Candidates
Ty Lawson (Denver):
With his blazing quick speed and scoring acumen, Lawson is another player that could be in line for a big payday this summer. In his first full stint as the starting point guard for the Denver Nuggets, Lawson had an excellent 2012 season and an even better postseason as he continues to evolve as a player at just 24 years old.
Lawson led the Nuggets in points per game this season (16.7) and was second in the NBA among point guards in shooting percentage (48.8 percent) behind only Steve Nash.
In seven games against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, Lawson bumped up his scoring to 19 points per game and his shooting to over 51 percent while averaging six assists per contest.
With newly acquired center JaVale McGee eligible for a qualifying offer this offseason, Denver is going to have it’s hands full but letting Lawson get to that point is not a sensible option. The Nuggets still have the ability to use the amnesty clause on a player, likely Chris Andersen, and free up over $9 million over the next two seasons.
A max extension (a la Russell Westbrook’s five-year, around $80 million deal) is a possibility but five years at $60-$65 million seems much more likely for Lawson.
Stephen Curry (Golden State):
When healthy, Curry has shown all the tools and potential to be one of the top point guards in the game. Unfortunately for the Golden State Warriors, staying on the court has been an issue for the 24-year-old Curry.
Even with chronic injuries early on in his career, Curry’s talent level still dictates that he has an excellent shot at getting a multi-year extension this offseason.
Another reason Curry is likely to get an extension is the mere fact that his only legit competition at the point guard position, Monta Ellis, was traded away at the deadline to the Milwaukee Bucks. With the potential that he has, it would be hard to believe that the team and Curry can’t come together on an extension this summer.
Realistically, Curry’s extension could be near what Danilo Gallinari received (four years, $42 million) this past offseason.
Taj Gibson (Chicago):
By averaging 10 points, 7.2 rebounds and two blocks per game against the Philadelphia 76ers this postseason, Gibson may have landed himself the starting power forward position for the Chicago Bulls next season. The 26-year-old Gibson, who’s played well off the bench in each of his first three seasons, may be in line for a raise to go along with that starting nod.
Defensively, Gibson is one of the most stout and fiercest players on that end of the floor in the NBA. While not a superstar-caliber player like the first three on this list, Gibson’s hard nose play is a big part of the Bulls’ identity as a team.
Don’t expect an astronomical deal, but Gibson should be re-upped this summer.
Harden’s play suggests he should be in the No-Brainer category above, but the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to have some painstaking decisions to make over the next few seasons. Serge Ibaka, another key part of Oklahoma City’s young core, is also eligible for a qualifying offer before the 2013-14 season and the Thunder might have to decide which player is more valuable moving forward.
If the Thunder can find a way to keep both, they certainly will; but the general thinking right now is that Sam Presti will have to choose unless OKC decides to amnesty Kendrick Perkins. With proven scorers Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook already locked up for the foreseeable future, the Thunder may view Harden as expendable. That being said, Harden has proved to be just as valuable as both Durant and Westbrook, especially considering those three are the only true scorers the Thunder possess.
If no max contract extension is offered, it would be in Harden’s best interest to wait until after next season when he would become a restricted free agent pending a qualifying offer. Harden would then force OKC to match any contract offered on the open market.
So You’re Saying There’s a Chance
Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee):
While he’s shown flashes of elite point guard ability, Jennings still has failed to put together a complete and consistent season for the Milwaukee Bucks. The addition by the Bucks of Monta Ellis at the deadline this season also indicates that the organization’s faith in Jennings is waning.
However, elite-caliber point guards don’t exactly grow on trees and Jennings has shown flashes that may make the Bucks hesitant to let him reach free agency.
Tyreke Evans (Sacramento):
Now a man playing without a position for the Sacramento Kings, Evans may be looked at as expendable going into the offseason. A career 18.2 point per game scorer (20.1 his rookie season), Evans has proved that he can put the ball in the basket on a consistent basis.
The emergence of Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton at the guard positions, however, may be enough for the Kings to take their chances on Evans reaching free agency.
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto):
After a breakout 2011-12 campaign in which he averaged 17.2 points on 46.7 percent shooting for the Toronto Raptors, DeRozan took a bit of a step back this season. While he still averaged a respectable 16.7 points per contest, DeRozan’s offensive efficiency took a hit as his shooting percentage plummeted to just 42.2 percent.
At just 22 years old, DeRozan still has plenty of room to improve so it isn’t necessarily out of the question that he could receive an early extension from Toronto.
Gerald Henderson (Charlotte):
Another player who’s provided glimpses of being a high-caliber contributor, Henderson finds himself at a crossroads with the Charlotte Bobcats. Even though Henderson played pretty well for the struggling Bobcats this season, Charlotte still finished with the worst record, percentage-wise, in league history.
Working in Henderson’s favor is the simple fact that there’s not a whole lot of his quality of talent currently on the roster if he wants an early extension. Working against Charlotte is the simple fact that Henderson may not want to spend the majority of the rest of his career there.
Not Going to Happen
Darren Collison (Indiana):
Collison has lost his job as the starting point guard for the Indiana Pacers and it’s highly unlikely that they sign him to an early extension.
Tyler Hansbrough (Indiana):
Although he’s a solid player on the inside for the Indiana Pacers, it’s unlikely Hansbrough incites a bidding war if he becomes a restricted free agent.
Both Collison’s and Hansbrough’s chances are decreased even more by the fact that All-Star center Roy Hibbert is eligible for a qualifying offer this offseason.
Rodrigue Beaubois (Dallas):
After breaking out in his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks, Beaubois hasn’t been able to gain the trust of head coach Rick Carlisle since injuring his foot prior to the 2010-11 season.
Toney Douglas (New York):
After a breakout 2010-11 campaign, Douglas took a giant step back this season for the New York Knicks and was relegated to a reserve roll for the majority of the 2012 season.
Earl Clark (Orlando) – Player option for 2012-13 season (not on rookie scale deal)
Jonny Flynn (Portland) – Unrestricted free agent this summer
Jordan Hill (L.A. Lakers) – Unrestricted free agent this summer
Ricky Rubio (Minnesota) – Drafted in 2009 but rookie in 2011-12
Hasheem Thabeet (Portland) – Unrestricted free agent this summer
Terrence Williams (Sacramento) – Unrestricted free agent this summer
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