Tick-Tock, Extension Clock Is Winding Down: NBA teams have until midnight on Friday to reach rookie scale contract extensions with those players that were drafted in the first round in 2011.
A few deals have gotten done already.
Cleveland inked Kyrie Irving to what is expected to be a five year, $90 million deal. The final value of that deal gets locked in next season based on where the salary cap number falls.
Phoenix inked Markieff and Marcus Morris to extensions valued at four years, $32 million and four-years, $20 million respectively.
The Orlando Magic reached a deal with center Nikola Vucevic on a four year, $48 million deal that’s said to include an additional $5 million in achievable incentives.
The Denver Nuggets reached a four year, $50 million extension with Kenneth Faried as well.
There are still active conversation taking place with a few other notable names, here is what we know:
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves: The Wolves and Rubio could reach a deal before the deadline. Both sides understand what it will take to reach a deal with Rubio’s camp clinging to the notion of a max or near max contract. The Wolves understandably want a better financial deal. As the clock ticks down, a deal still remains possible as both sides seem to want to continue the marriage; the question is does a deal get done now or will Rubio see free agency next summer? This one is 50/50. They continue to talk, which could always lead to a deal.
Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz: The Jazz would like to lock up Kanter to a deal that makes sense. The problem for Utah is some of the deals that have gotten done have raised the bar a little higher than the Jazz would like to go. It’s possible that Kanter and the Jazz reach an agreement before the deadline, simply because big guys command money in free agency. If Kanter has a solid year he could get pricey and the Jazz would like to avoid that, especially after matching Gordon Hayward’s max offer sheet from Charlotte this summer. This is 40/60, that a deal doesn’t get done. There is interest in one. We’ll see if things swing over the course of the week.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers and Thompson continue to talk. Word is Thompson’s camp is seeking a deal in the $11-$12 million per season range, which is awfully pricey for what Thompson has produced thus far. The fact that Thompson is represented by the same agent as LeBron James surely doesn’t hurt the situation, but sources close to the process say that James’ status isn’t impacting the process. There is a chance that the Cavs and Thompson reach a deal, although sources said both sides seem to be ok if this thing has to get pushed to the summer. This one is 50/50, with it being likely that a deal is reached if the price comes down.
Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks and Knight seem to want to make a deal, although this one has played out pretty quietly. The going rate for a starting point guard in the NBA is basically $10-$12 million a season. That’s a ton for a team that still isn’t sure if Knight is a point guard or not. There has been an ongoing dialogue, so a deal remains possible; however, it’s hard to imagine the Bucks doing a $45-$50 million deal for Knight. This one looks 40/60, with Knight likely headed to free agency if only to let the season play out and determine his role in this new Bucks’ system.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets: There are a couple of things to note on this one: Walker and the Hornets have been talking and the tone and progression of things seems promising. The Hornets seem like they want to reach a deal, however, the five-year, $70 million deal Eric Bledsoe reached with the Suns has sort of gummed up the valuation. It seems likely that Walker and the Hornets reach a deal, the question becomes how much and for how long. This one looks 60/40 that a deal gets done before the deadline.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors: The Warriors and Klay Thompson seems to be at odds over price. Both sides have been talking, but Thompson’s camp wants a max or near max deal, while the Warriors seem to be hovering around the same sort of four-year $44 million package that Stephen Curry took in 2012 – something in the neighborhood of $12 million per season. This one could go to the wire. The Warriors don’t want Thompson’s contract to be the story all season and his camp knows it. So it’s a question of who blinks first. League sources believe this one gets done. The question is how much. If your putting odds on it, this one might be closer to 65/35 that it gets done.
Alec Burks, Utah Jazz: Like Kanter, the Jazz would like to lock Burks in and avoid what’s sure to be a bidding war over his services in July. Burks isn’t going to command crazy money as a free agent, but he could get a $7 or $8 million a year offer and if the Jazz can lock him in cheaper than that it’s simply good business to retain your high level draft picks. This one could get done as it’s not going to be crazy expensive. The question is does Burks want to bet on himself to have a solid year and bust out of the tier he is slotted in? This one is 50/50, with a deal possible.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: While this one has been characterized somewhat negatively in the press, the truth is the Spurs and Leonard both want to reach an agreement. The problem is Leonard’s camp is seeking a full max deal, and the Spurs simply don’t do max contracts. This one might get done. There is a possibility that Leonard backs off the max number, however there is a sense that if Leonard gets to restricted free agency in July a number of teams would put a max level offer on the table, which is why Leonard’s camp is sticking to their guns. It’s unlikely that san Antonio lets Leonard walk, however not reaching a deal will introduce doubt into a locker room that doesn’t tolerate distractions. This one seems likely, with something like 60/40. The reason this one gets pegged lower odds-wise is it does not seem likely that Leonard’s camp budges off the max price tag.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic: The Magic and Harris have had talks, and those talks are said to be continuing. However, it does seem they are not close in a valuation. Harris’ camp sees him as an elite level scorer that has star potential and wants him paid accordingly. The Magic are not ready to pay that kind of price and seem more interested in letting Harris play out the season to see what the marketplace thinks. The Magic can always match a bigger dollar deal next summer, which gives them time to see if Tobias is really the player his representation believes he can be. For Harris’ part, he’d like to remain in Orlando and there seems to be room for a conversation if the gap between the Magic’s number and Harris’ number closes. That could happen before the deadline, however this one looks like it’s not going to get done. The one is like 30/70 that it doesn’t.
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder: Like Kemba Walker in Charlotte, there is a desire to get a deal done with Jackson. The problem is the valuation. Jackson’s camp sees him as a starting point guard and wants to see him paid accordingly. The Thunder have always been somewhat frugal in their approach to early contract extensions and usually look for a little discount for locking in guys early. It seems likely that a deal will get reached. Both sides are sort of on the same page, the question becomes dollars and years. This one is likely 50/50. If Jackson agrees to something under $10 million a year, that should get the deal done.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls: The Bulls and Butler could reach a deal. There is a reasonable number on the table and that number likely gets another push upwards. The question is will Butler take a compromised deal in the $8 to $9 million per year range or will he gamble on himself and look for a potentially bigger payday as a restricted free agent. The Bulls and Butler want to continue the relationship. The Bulls were quick to produce an offer, so that’s usually a sign that a deal can get done. This one has a 50/50 feel to it, mainly because Butler’s value could go up significantly if he has another strong season like he did two years ago. The Magic number here seems to be four years, $44 million, that’s not an insane number given where the Bulls are cap wise, but this one could go either way.
If teams do not reach an agreement by midnight on October 31, they will still have the option of restricting their player’s free agency with a qualifying offer next summer, giving them the right to match free agent contract offers in July.
The risk for teams not making a deal is that as many as 15 NBA teams could clear at least $15 million in cap space, with more than dozen being able to clear more than $20 million in space, making many of these players highly coveted free agent targets next summer.
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NBA Daily: Checking In With Terrance Ferguson
Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson talks to Basketball Insiders about learning from his teammates, earning minutes and being mentally tough.
Before he reached the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson was once often referred to as a man of mystery. After changing course on two different programs in a two-month span, Ferguson ditched the typical one-and-done collegiate season for an adventure on the other side of the planet. But even after the Thunder selected Ferguson with the No. 21 overall pick in last year’s draft — the questions still lingered. How would a teenager with one season overseas adjust to the world’s most physical basketball league?
Not many rookies can contribute to a 40-plus win squad out in the cutthroat Western Conference so quickly — but down the stretch, here Ferguson is doing just that. With the Thunder locked in a tight playoff battle with six others teams, the 19-year-old’s hard-working personality has fit alongside the roster’s three perennial All-Stars — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And although his rookie season has come with some growing pains, Ferguson is earning meaningful minutes and making the most of them.
“I think it’s my work ethic, I come in every day with the same mentality,” Ferguson said. “I work my butt off — inside the game, being physical. Even though I’m a skinny guy, as everyone can see, I’m still everywhere on the floor being physical. I think [the coaching staff] really likes that, especially on the defensive end.”
Skinny or not, Ferguson is one of the league’s youngest players, so the 6-foot-7 guard has plenty of room to grow — literally. But for now, he’s playing an integral role on an Oklahoma City team looking to protect its high postseason seed. Late January brought the unfortunate season-ending injury to Andre Roberson — an All-Defensive Second Team honoree in 2016-17 — so the Thunder have needed both new and old players to step up in bigger roles.
While those candidates included the three-point shooting Alex Abrines, veteran Raymond Felton and the newly-acquired Corey Brewer, Ferguson’s recent rise in the rotation has arguably been the most interesting development. Since the calendar flipped to January, Ferguson has featured in almost all of the Thunder’s games, tallying just two DNP-CDs and one missed contest following a concussion. This steady diet of opportunity comes as a stark contrast to the 15 games in which he received no playing time, spanning from the season’s opening tip to the new year.
Of course, playing time is not always indicative of success, but Ferguson himself isn’t surprised that he’s carved out a crucial role ahead of the playoffs.
“Not really, it’s all up to coach’s decision,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just here playing my part, staying ready at all times and some minutes came, so I’mma take them and play to the best of my ability.”
Back in October, Basketball Insiders’ own Joel Brigham spoke to Ferguson about his unconventional path to NBA and the choice to spend a year grinding with the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian outfit. In the land down under, Ferguson averaged just 15 minutes a night, considerably less than he would’ve likely received as a highly-recruited prospect here in America. Some five months later, Ferguson’s early-season stance on the move still stands out.
“I’m living the dream now, right? I must have done the right thing,” Ferguson said.
Today, it’s hard to disagree with Ferguson’s decisions considering that they’re currently paying off. In 2009, Brandon Jennings became the first to skip college and play in Europe before being drafted, with Emmanuel Mudiay most notably following in his footsteps six years later. While those two point guards both were selected in the top ten of their draft classes — at No. 10 and No. 7, respectively — it still remains the road far less traveled.
Considered raw by most pre-draft evaluations, an early expectation was that Ferguson would spend much of the season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate. Instead, Ferguson has played in only three games with the Blue, where he has averaged a commendable 14.7 points, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
But as of late, the Thunder have found somebody that’ll always work hard, learn from others and do the little things that don’t show up in the box score.
“I’ve learned a lot more from when I first started,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I got great teammates — I got Nick Collison, I got Russ, PG, Melo, so just picking their brains. I got Corey now, so just the work ethic they put in, just picking their brains each and every day about what I can do better, watching game film, it’s a lot of things.”
When he was drafted, Ferguson had a reputation as a skyscraping leaper with the athleticism to become an elite perimeter defender. Although his current averages with the Thunder understate his innate potential, Ferguson knows he can contribute without scoring — even noting that he can make up for it “on the other side of the court.” Playing defense and competing hard every night, he has slowly made a name for himself.
And while Ferguson has tallied far more single-digit scoring outings than his 24-point breakout performance in early January, he’s earned the trust of head coach Billy Donovan and his veteran teammates, which is something the rookie will never take for granted.
“Coach believes in me and that means a lot to me,” Ferguson said. “But my teammates believe in me, so I’m not gonna let them down. I’m gonna go out every day and play my hardest, compete and try to get the win each and every night.”
One might assume that his year abroad in Australia helped to mentally mold him into the high-flying, hard-nosed rookie we see today. Ferguson, however, contends that he’s had that edge from the very beginning.
“I’ve been mentally tough, it wasn’t overseas that did that,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I had to be mentally tough just to go over there — so I’ve always had that mentality, the [desire] to just dominate, play to the best of my ability and compete.”
And now he’s doing just that in the NBA.
Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?
Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.
The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.
With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.
It couldn’t get worse, could it?
Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.
My understanding is that Kyrie Irving is getting a 2nd opinion on his left knee, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Bottom line: he needs the screws out. Knee is flaring up. He will either play thru it going forward or … he will get thee screws out and won’t play at all. Stay tuned.
— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) March 20, 2018
With lack of progress on his ailing left knee, Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving plans to travel for a second opinion later this week, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 20, 2018
In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.
The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.
Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.
The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.
Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.
Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?
If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.
Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.
NBA Daily: Houston Has It All
Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.
It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.
So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.
As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.
Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.
One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.
Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.
Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.
This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.
Small Ball Ready
Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.
At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.
When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.
Shooting, Versatility and Experience
All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.
Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.
Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.
With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.