NBA PM: The Impact of George’s Potential Deal
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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That collective sigh of relief that you heard Wednesday afternoon came from the entire state of Indiana upon hearing All-Star swingman Paul George’s definitive statement that he’ll have a contract extension in place with the Pacers before the start of the regular season.
George is eligible for a five-year extension worth an estimated $78 million. In order to give George a five-year extension, the Pacers have to make him their designated player. October 31 is the deadline for an extension to be completed, otherwise George would become a restricted free agent at season’s end – given that the Pacers would obviously issue a $4.4 million qualifying offer to ensure they have the right to match any offer.
George has voiced his desire to be a max player and considering the strides he made last season, averaging 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists, he’s worthy of a deal either at the max or very close to it.
Pacers ownership has a mandate in place against going over the luxury tax threshold, though. So as management negotiates an extension with George, they have to be very mindful of staying out of the luxury tax.
Currently, the Pacers have $68 million in guaranteed commitments, which has them a couple million shy of the projected luxury tax line ($70.3 million was the threshold in 2012-13). They have $46.9 million guaranteed to eight players next year, not including George or Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson, both of whom will be unrestricted free agents at season’s end. Only $1.5 million of Luis Scola’s $4.8 million contract is guaranteed next season, so if they keep him their guaranteed total grows to roughly $50 million.
If George does get the max and has the standard ascending contract that most players have, he’ll make $12.8 million in year one, $14.2 million in year two, $15.6 million in year three, $16.9 million in year four and $18.3 million in the fifth and final year.
That puts the Pacers’ salary at an estimated $63 million for 2014-15, leaving very little means to go after other free agents or try to re-sign Granger and/or Stephenson.
After coming one win shy of advancing to the NBA Finals without him last year, Granger has gone from being the Pacers best player to an expendable piece. If losing him for nothing is part of the cost to keep George off of the free agent market, it’s a justifiable expense.
Losing Stephenson would be a tougher pill to swallow. The former second-round pick is coming off of a career year as a starter and is poised to get a significant raise from the $1 million he’s going to earn this year. He’s likely going to get moved to the second unit this season as long as Granger is healthy, but even if it negatively affects his play, Stephenson has probably played his way out of the Pacers’ price range.
There will be plenty of teams with cap space this summer in hopes of landing a big name in what could be a star-studded free agency class. The Pacers are wise to try to avoid any situation where George leaving is a possibility, no matter how remote it is. However, by doing so they are going to severely limit their flexibility moving forward and likely end up losing Granger and Stephenson.
George’s potential extension is another indication that 2014 free agency could end up being quite anticlimactic. LeBron James is getting everything he could possibly want in Miami, Carmelo Anthony appears to be content in New York and now George looks like he won’t even hit the market. Teams with hopes of adding star power could find their options to be much more sparse than expected.
Belinelli Talks Free Agency: Marco Belinelli finished the year strong for the resilient Chicago Bulls, who advanced to the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs without their leader Derrick Rose. As a result of his solid play, Belinelli was pursued by several teams at the start of free agency. However, one team’s pitch stood out to him above everyone else’s.
“This summer a lot of teams called me to sign a contract with them,” Belinelli said to HoopsHype. “But at the same time when a team like San Antonio and a coach like Gregg Popovich call you, and they want you so bad on their team, then you want to win the championship with them. The money was good, it’s a two-year deal, but at the same time it was the best team to improve my game and try to win the title.
“I think it’s one of the best teams or maybe the best team in the NBA, they have a great organization, a great coach. I will improve my game and help the team to win the championship.”
Belinelli was basically brought in to replace Gary Neal, the sharpshooter who signed with the Milwaukee Bucks this season, but Belinelli brings more to the table than just his shooting ability.
“I’ll just try to be the player that I am,” Belinelli said. “Help the team, score the ball, play good defense, play the pick-and-roll. I’ll do everything to improve my game and try to win.”
Belinelli’s career has consisted of five scenery changes in six years. This season, he’ll have the luxury of playing in one of the most stable situations in the league. There’s no gray area with the Spurs or Coach Popovich. Belinelli will be told exactly what is expected from him and what they do or how they go about things as a team will not change at any point.
With Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, the Spurs’ starting lineup is pretty set, but Belinelli still looks to be a major part of the rotation as one of the first players off of the bench along with Manu Ginobili. His ability to play both guard positions and keep defenses honest with his three point shooting will help him fit in seamlessly with a Spurs team that is focused solely on getting back to the NBA Finals and getting the job done this time.