NBA AM: More Max Players In 2010 Draft Class?
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
Follow @Yannis KoutroupisYannis Koutroupis
On Wednesday, the Washington Wizards officially announced that they have agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract extension with their starting point guard John Wall. Wall, who the Wizards drafted No. 1 overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, is coming off a solid third season in which he averaged 18.5 points, four rebounds and 7.6 assists per game in 42 contests. If Wall’s contract is ascending with the standard 15 percent annual increases, he’ll make $13.2 million in 2014-15, $14.6 million in 2015-16, $16 million in 2016-17, $17.3 million in 2017-18 and $18.7 million in 2018-19.
The saying is that you can’t truly judge a draft class until at least three years later and there’s no better indicator for how a class turned out than how many players receive extensions, especially max extensions. The 2010 draft class was projected to be a strong class and while it has plenty of disappointments like most draft classes, there is still the potential for a few players to enter max contract territory.
It may not happen before the October 31 deadline, which will lead to them becoming restricted free agents as long as their teams issue qualifying offers (near certainties), but the following players from the 2010 draft class are positioned to have leverage to make max contract demands if they have a big 2013-14 campaign.
DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings, Center
2012-13 Statistics: 17.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 0.7 bpg
There have been reports that the Sacramento Kings and Cousins’ agent Dan Fegan, who also represents Wall, will enter contract negotiations soon. From a talent perspective, Cousins is deserving of a max extension now. The Kings seem willing to commit that amount of money to Cousins, what it just comes down to is whether or not they want to do it before the season.
Making that kind of sizable commitment to someone like Cousins, who has had some tumultuous times already in his career, has its pros and cons. From one perspective, the security and confidence that comes from having that kind of deal could go a long way in helping Cousins mature and harness his incredible gifts to their fullest potential. He’ll know that the franchise is behind him and that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
From the opposite end of the spectrum, there has to be some concern about making Cousins the face of your franchise for the next five years before he goes through a season incident free. Making him one of the top paid players in the league before he does this could be somewhat of a risky move and maybe magnify some of his issues with authority. Considering that that he’d only be a restricted free agent at season’s end, the Kings aren’t in a position where they have to do anything before they’re ready. It’s not like the Kings have to worry about him walking while they receive nothing in return.
They can match any offer he receives, so really what this comes down to is whether the Kings feel confident enough to pay Cousins now or next July instead. Either way, as long as his stat line stays somewhere in the neighborhood of the 17 points and nine rebounds he produced last year and stays healthy, Cousins has max money coming his way.
Paul George – Indiana Pacers, Shooting Guard/Small Forward
2012-13 Statistics: 17.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 4.1 apg
With Danny Granger basically out for all of last season, George exploded with the expanded opportunity. Not only did he become an All-Star, but he also became the future face of the franchise. The Indiana Pacers have made it clear that they will not let George get away from them.
They felt fortunate that he fell to them at No. 10 on draft night and they turned out to be extremely so because George has developed into one of the top three players in this class.
The only thing the Pacers are concerned about is staying out of the luxury tax moving forward. Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird recently talked about how they just can’t pay it under any circumstance. Luckily, with Granger’s $14 million coming off of the books after this season, the Pacers do not have to worry about crossing the luxury tax threshold to extend George.
George has gone on the record saying he would like a max contract. He earned it with his play last year; don’t be surprised to see the Pacers award him with it before the October 31 deadline.
Larry Sanders – Milwaukee Bucks, Power Forward/Center
2012-13 Statistics: 9.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.8 bpg
Sanders is in a really interesting position, much like Philadelphia 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday was last offseason. Like Sanders, Holiday was coming off of a season that established him worthy of a serious raise. The 76ers offered him a four-year, $41 million deal that at the time was right around his value. However, Holiday went on to have his best season and now $41 million over the next four years is not as great of a deal as it was at the time. The decision to sign an extension early rather than waiting cost Holiday a pretty penny to say the least.
However, waiting can backfire as well. Last year, Brandon Jennings was in the same position as Sanders, negotiating an extension with the Bucks. Milwaukee was reportedly offering $10 million to $11 million a season, but Jennings felt he was worth more money after watching some of his peers ink more lucrative extensions. Jennings decided to wait and then received significantly less money when he hit free agency, making just $24 million over three years in a sign-and-trade to the Detroit Pistons.
There’s a fine line between cashing in and taking a good offer based off of what you’ve done already and having confidence in what you’re going to accomplish over the next seven months and waiting to ensure you get as much as you can.
As of today, it’d probably bit premature for the Bucks to give Sanders a max deal. He hasn’t earned that just yet, but he could by the end of the season. The Bucks will likely make a handsome offer that gives Sanders a lot to think about, though, and it will be on him and his camp to decide whether the difference between what they offer and the max is worth holding out for.
Greg Monroe – Detroit Pistons, Power Forward/Center
2012-13 Statistics: 16 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.5 apg
For the Pistons, this offseason was all about trying to put together a roster that was capable of ending a four-year playoff drought this upcoming season. By adding Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith in free agency, Detroit certainly looks poised to take a major step forward next season.
As impactful as Jennings, Smith and hopefully lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be next season, the man who really has them on the verge of getting back into the top eight in the Eastern Conference is Monroe. The Georgetown product has really come into his own as one of the most versatile big men in the league; a true matchup nightmare.
In an era like this one where quality big men are so hard to come by, the Pistons really have a gem in Monroe. Should they let him hit free agency, there will likely be no shortage of suitors eager to throw as much money as they legally can under the Collective Bargaining Agreement at him.
The Pistons did some spending this offseason, but their guaranteed total for next season is still only $30 million. That gives them plenty of breathing room to sign Monroe, who has played well enough so far in his career to warrant an offer before October 31 that’s so close to the max that it doesn’t make much sense to hold out for it.
Eric Bledsoe – Phoenix Suns, Point Guard
2012-13 Statistics: 8.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 3.1 apg
This is the year where we are finally going to see just how good Bledsoe is. Bledsoe has never had a team to call his “own”, one where he is clearly at the top of the totem pole and the guy who the team is going to count on night in and night out to produce at a high level. In college, he shared the backcourt and point guard position with John Wall. In Los Angeles with the Clippers, he spent the last two years backing up Chris Paul, arguably the league’s best point guard.
Phoenix has another talented, young point guard in Goran Dragic, but make no mistake about it: Bledsoe was brought in to run the show and be the guy. He’s going to have an opportunity like he has never had before. He’s developed into the league’s top reserve point guard, and now this upcoming season is his chance to prove that he’s one of the league’s best point guards overall.
The Suns newly-hired general manager Ryan McDonough has started a youth movement since taking over, putting a major emphasis on having future flexibility. The Suns have just $15 million guaranteed for next season; if Bledsoe’s great play as a reserve transfers over as a starter, the Suns will have ample space to make him a max offer. But, this is a situation that will have to play out next year. The likelihood of a deal being worked out before the deadline is unlikely. It’s in both side’s interest to wait.
Derrick Favors – Utah Jazz, Power Forward
2012-13 Statistics: 9.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg
Of all the players on this list, Favors has the most ground to cover if he is going to earn a max deal. He’s been stuck playing behind Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson for his entire tenure with the Jazz so far, but now they are with the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Bobcats respectively. The reins have officially been handed over to Favors, and they come at the perfect time since he will be playing for a new contract.
It’s not really in either side’s interest to waste much time in negotiations prior to October 31 because Favors’ body of work is too limited. There’s clearly promise there and the Jazz wouldn’t have let Millsap and Jefferson walk for nothing if they didn’t feel like Favors was ready to takeover. However, that doesn’t mean they’re ready to commit the kind of money that it would take for him to put his name on the dotted line of an extension.
This season will determine how much Favors is worth. The Jazz are embracing a youth movement. He’s going to be their starter and a focal point. They have $5 million in guaranteed contracts on their books for next season, meaning they can give Favors the max, as long as he goes out there and earns it.
LeBron Leading Union?: The NBA Players Union is currently in need of a president and according to Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports, Miami HEAT forward LeBron James is interested in taking on the role.
“It’s something he has talked about with a small group of people,” a source close to James said to Whitlock. “There is a new executive director coming in and new commissioner. He recognizes that this is the time for the union to change.”
At this time James’ candidacy is still in the infant stages, with his already sizable work load being one of the factors deterring him from potentially taking over.