NBA

NBA AM: The Free Agency Waiting Game

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The Waiting Game:  While the calendar may have changed, the situations surrounding Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe and Detroit’s Greg Monroe have not.

Both players remain restricted free agents, and both players have sizeable offers on the table from their respective teams.

The Suns feel they have exceeded the marketplace for Bledsoe with their four-year, $48 million offer and that ultimately Bledsoe will relent and sign their deal. Bledsoe has the option of taking the $3.7 million qualifying offer and becoming an unrestricted free agent next year, but for Bledsoe there is risk. Unrestricted free agency may not yield a better package next year and what happens if he gets hurt again?

The Suns view the situation as business, and have been open about their desire to have him back in the fold next season. Bledsoe’s camp is annoyed at the Suns’ stance, mainly because they won’t entertain sign-and-trade scenarios that might work for him and they have been open about their willingness to match anything offered.

Now that the bulk of the free agent money has dried up, Bledsoe finds himself without a lot of options, which is exactly why the Suns haven’t budged from an offer they believe to be more than fair.

The Pistons are in a very similar place with Monroe. Detroit has presented two different contract options to Monroe, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

According to the report, the Pistons have put a five-year, $60 million package and a slightly better four-year, $54 million offer on the table, neither of which have resulted in a deal.

The Pistons’ stance has been from the start that Monroe was their top free agent priority. Detroit, out of respect for him, has entertained sign-and-trade talks. They, however, do value him significantly and would want a serious return for a player they are willing to offer $13.5 million a year for.

The Suns and the Atlanta Hawks both proposed offers for Monroe that basically went nowhere.

The Philadelphia 76ers are the lone team with enough cap room to offer both players more cash than their current teams are offering, however the 76ers are not at all interested in assisting either player and are not looking to make that kind of financial investment at this point in their rebuilding process.

For both players there is nothing gained in signing a compromised deal now, in fact there is a chance that prolonging this process could prompt their home team to adjust their offer slightly, to ensure both players are in camp.

Neither one of these situations is generating a lot of positive momentum. Both player’s camps have indicated picking up their respective qualifying offers is still an option on the table. Bledsoe’s offer of $3.7 million is on the low side for a player of his ability, while Monroe’s $5.5 million isn’t a crazy number either.

There are no guarantees either player would command more on the open market than is on the table from their respective teams, and both players would have to weigh the risk of injury if they take the one-year deal in order to be unrestricted next summer.

Should either player pick up their qualifying offer, they also gain the ability to veto any trade during the final year of their deal, so there is sizable risk for the home team.

Given that nothing is gained in waiting, don’t expect a lot of movement on this front. Both of these situations could go down to the wire and the start of training camps, which is set for the last week in September.

Could Nike Really Lose Kevin Durant?:  If the fervor over Kevin Durant’s first shoe free agency hasn’t gotten silly enough, wait until his deal with Oklahoma City is up.

By now you may have heard that Durant’s contract with Nike is up and that Under Armour has come after Durant with all the muscle they can muster.

The reported offer on the table from UA is said to be worth more than $320 million, with a reported $30 million annual value and a sizable piece of equity in Under Armour as a company.

In talking recently with industry insiders there is a reason that Durant is garnering this much attention, not only because he is one of the top players in basketball, but because Durant moves product.

In 2013, the Durant brand at Nike generated more than $175 million in sales, up from $35 million in 2012. That’s the biggest gain from any of the top brands, especially at Nike. Brand Jordan, the top money earner is said to have generated $2.25 billion for Nike, up slightly from the $2 billion Brand Jordan generated in 2012. LeBron James’ brand generated $300 million in 2013, roughly unchanged from the $300 million generated in 2012. This makes Durant’s almost 500% increase in sales remarkable given the brand names he is line with.

While Durant and Under Armour are continuing to talk, there is a sense that Nike could still be very much in the game with Durant and given what he made them in 2013, ponying up a sizable cash deal or giving him a similar sales/equity based deal that Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan receive isn’t out of the realm of discussion.

Nike has in some situations given players a percentage of sales, which is what’s made both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant’s deals with Nike so lucrative.

Industry insiders caution that Durant’s new deal is an outlier in a business that’s offering less and less in guaranteed money and more and more in incentive based money, however it’s clear that Durant regardless of where he signs his next shoe deal is about to get insanely paid, likely making him the highest paid active player in basketball and among the top earners in all of sports.

Up Close With Jaylen Brown:  While more than 200 players were invited to the 2014 adidas Nations tournament in Long Beach last weekend, none of them may have a brighter NBA future than high schooler Jaylen Brown. While most of the hype this summer has been about Thon Maker, one of Jaylen’s summer time team mates, Brown may be one of the better can’t miss prospects in his class. Basketball Insiders caught up with Jaylen who talked about his crazy summer.


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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 16 seasons.