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NBA Saturday: Recapping the 2014 Rookie-Contract Extensions

Basketball Insiders recaps which 2011 rookies agreed to extensions before yesterday’s deadline.

Jesse Blancarte

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Yesterday was the deadline for first-round picks from the 2011 draft to agree to an extension of their rookie contracts. This year’s extension class featured a lot of quality players, but many of them are not clearly worth max-money. Further complicating matters for this year’s extension candidates is the uncertainty created by the NBA’s recently agreed to TV deal with ESPN and Turner Sports, which will cause a significant rise in the salary cap.

With this in mind, here is a recap of which notable 2011 first-round draft picks agreed to an extension with their teams, and which are heading to restricted free agency next offseason (Note: this list excludes players that have fallen out of the league completely and those who are not extension eligible this season due to staying in overseas for a season or more).

Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz: The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Wednesday that extension talks between the Utah Jazz and center Enes Kanter had broken off.

“We just looked at it and both mutually decided to wait to negotiate again next year,” Kanter’s agent, Max Ergul told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Enes can concentrate on the future. This is an important year for him and the Jazz. It will set a precedent for years to come.”

Kanter has posted impressive per minute stats, is a skilled offensive player, and has the potential to improve moving forward. However, Kanter was supposed to be the long-term answer at center for the Jazz, but proved ineffective in the starting lineup along power forward Derrick Favors. One major issue is Kanter’s defensive limitations. Last season, the Jazz started the season 1-14 with Kanter starting next to Favors, forcing Kanter to the bench. This issue is exasperated by the presence of promising young center Rudy Gobert, who has length and athleticism that rivals players like DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee.

Kanter’s defensive limitations, the TV deal and Gobert’s continued development all factored into Kanter not receiving an extension. Kanter has a $7.4 million qualifying offer for next season.

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson will test restricted free agency next summer as he and the Cleveland Cavaliers failed to agree to a rookie-scale extension. Several media outlets reported that there was optimism that a deal could get done, but the Cavaliers seemed more focused on locking up big man Anderson Varejao, who agreed to a three-year, $30 million extension with Cleveland.

Thompson will be a restricted free agent, and will get a lot of attention from teams if he has a breakout season playing behind Kevin Love. If Thompson signs an offer sheet with another team next offseason, the Cavaliers will have the option of matching the offer and retaining Thompson. However, if the offer is too big, the Cavaliers may let Thompson go considering Love is already on the roster.

Thompson has a qualifying offer for $6.7 million next season.

Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Hornets: The Charlotte Hornets did not agree to an extension with big man Bismack Biyombo, who was selected seventh overall in the 2011 Draft.

Biyombo saw a huge drop-off in playing time last year with the arrival of Al Jefferson. Biyombo, in 13.9 minutes per game, averaged 2.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks last season. Biyombo has talent, and is an especially good shot blocker, but at this point, his effectiveness is limited.

The Hornets had another player that was extension-eligible in Kemba Walker, who was clearly their main priority.

Biyombo has a $5.1 million qualifying offer for next season.

Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks: On Friday, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that extension negotiations between the Milwaukee Bucks and Brandon Knight had ended and Knight would enter restricted free agency next July.

Knight is a solid point guard, but at this point it is hard to determine how much he is worth in comparison to other point guards. Knight has career averages of 14.8 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Last offseason, the Bucks signed Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague a four-year, $32 million offer sheet (which the Hawks eventually matched). Teague was coming off of a season where he averaged career highs in points (14.6) and assists (7.2) per game. Considering this, the Bucks were probably offering Knight a deal that falls short of the deal offered to Teague, which Knight probably rejected with the new TV deal in mind.

Knight has a qualifying offer for $4.7 million next season.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets: On Thursday, the Charlotte Hornets and Kemba Walker agreed to a four-year, $48 million extension.

Walker has career averages of 16 points, 5.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Walker arguably could have held out for money considering he puts up numbers in the same ballpark as Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, who received the same contract as Walker this offseason, but is four years younger than Lowry.

Nevertheless, now Walker has financial security and can focus on helping the Hornets take the next step in their development. He already rewarded the Hornets with a game-tying three-pointer on opening night against the Bucks, which forced overtime and led to a Hornets’ victory.

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors: The Golden State Warriors and Klay Thompson agreed to a four-year, $70 million extension on Friday, just hours before the deadline. The Sacramento Kings reportedly made a late push to swing a trade for Thompson, offering anyone but DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.

Thompson’s contract situation caught more attention than just about any other player. He is arguably the best two-way shooting guard in the league, and with Stephen Curry comprises arguably the NBA’s best backcourt. The Warriors highly value Thompson, as evidenced by their reluctance to offer him up in trade negotiations for Kevin Love this offseason.

Alec Burks, Utah Jazz: On Friday, the Utah Jazz and guard Alec Burks agreed to a four-year, $42 million extension (including incentives that could drive the deal as high as $45 million).

The Jazz are starting to make big time investments in their core of players as they already locked up Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward. However, as previously discussed, the Jazz did not lockup Enes Kanter, and will let him hit restricted free agency.

Nevertheless, the Jazz are starting to assemble and lock in a core of young, promising talent.

Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns: The Phoenix Suns went all in on the Morris twins more than a month before the extension deadline. Markieff received a four-year, $32 million extension after averaging 13.8 points, six rebounds, and 1.8 assist per game last season.

Markieff is expected to step up and fill in for the loss of Channing Frye, who signed a contract with the Orlando Magic this offseason (though he will need to raise his career 33.2 three-point percentage to do so effectively).

Marcus Morris, Phoenix Suns: Marcus Morris received a four-year, $20 million extension to stay in Phoenix with his brother. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough knows that the Morris twins are more effective when they are playing with one another, so investing in Marcus makes a lot of sense.

“We wanted to lock these guys in for as long as possible,” McDonough said last month. “The twins and Leon Rose really wanted to get it done. Marcus and Markieff saw the value of playing together. If they went into restricted free agency without extensions, I don’t want to say it’d be impossible to stay together but it would’ve been harder.”

It’s not clear what either Morris twin may have received in free agency, but by extending them now, the Suns ensure that they keep both in Phoenix without worrying about another team overpaying for one of them next offseason.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: Last season’s Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard will test his worth in restricted free agency next year. The San Antonio Spurs declined offering Leonard a max-extension now, and will re-explore the situation next summer.

Here is what Leonard’s agent Brian Eflus had to say about the situation.

“We feel Kawhi is deserving of a max contract, and we are disappointed that something couldn’t get done,” Elfus told Yahoo Sports. “There’s no debating Kawhi’s value. The market has been set. He’s done everything the Spurs have asked of him, exceeded all of their expectations. Coach [Gregg] Popovich has gone out of his way to call Kawhi the future face of the franchise. We have great respect for the Spurs organization, but here, we simply agree to disagree.

“There will be no shortage of teams interested in Kawhi’s services next year. There will be a lot of contract scenarios available to us, and we will explore them all.”

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, many league executives highly value Leonard and expect that he will command a max offer sheet on the market next offseason (though the Spurs would likely match any offer for Leonard).

Leonard has a $4 million qualifying offer for next season.

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic: On October 21, the Orlando Magic and Nikola Vucevic agreed to a four-year, $53 million extension.

Vucevic has established himself as a double-double machine, and is one of the better all-around centers in the league. He has started off this NBA season strongly, averaging 19 points, 17.5 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in the first two games of the season.

Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks: It has been known for over a month that the New York Knicks would not negotiate an extension with shooting guard Iman Shumpert.

Shumpert is a promising young player, but struggled with his offense all of last season. Shumpert was never going to receive an extension with Tim Hardaway Jr., on the team and the Knicks looking to stay as financially flexible as possible heading into next offseason.

Shumpert has a $3.7 million qualifying offer for next season.

Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic: Tobias Harris will become a restricted free agent next summer as he and the Orlando Magic failed to agree to an extension. Both sides say they want to stay together long term, but with the Vucevic extension and Mo Harkless also on the roster, the deal never came together.

Harris has a $3.4 million qualifying offer for next season.

Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets: Earlier this month, the Denver Nuggets and Kenneth Faried agreed on a five-year, $60 million contract. The contract was soon after amended to four-years, $50 million as the original deal was in violation of the CBA. Under the four-year deal, Faried will make $500,000 more per season.

Faried has shown substantial improvement in his game over the last year, and was a standout this offseason for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup Tournament.

Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder: The Oklahoma City Thunder did not reach an extension with guard Reggie Jackson.

Jackson filled in admirably for Russell Westbrook last season, and is one of the better young combo guards in the league. Jackson has ambitions of being a full-time starter, but it seems that Thunder coach Scott Brooks is still unconvinced of that.

Failing to extend Jackson conjures up memories of 2012 when the Thunder failed to reach an extension with James Harden and instead traded him to Houston for assets.

Jackson has a $3.2 million qualifying offer for next season.

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls: On Friday, Jimmy Butler rejected the Chicago Bulls’ final offer for an extension and now plans on testing his worth in free agency.

“It came down to me deciding that I want to bet on myself,” Butler told Yahoo Sports on Friday. “It was about me believing that I put the work in this summer to become a better player with the hope that my improvement will give the Bulls a better chance to win a championship.”

Butler is one of the best perimeter-defenders in the league, but struggled with a lingering foot injury last season. Butler is highly thought of around the league and could receive an offer in free agency that makes it difficult for the Bulls to retain him.

Butler has a $3 million qualifying offer for next season.

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves: Though he was drafted in 2009, Rubio did not officially play in the NBA until 2011. For this reason, Rubio was extension-eligible this year. On Friday, just three hours shy of the extension deadline, Rubio and the Timberwolves agreed to a four-year, $55 million extension. Rubio will earn $13.75 million per season, making him Minnesota’s highest paid player (replacing Nikola Pekovic, who will make $12 million this season) and the eight highest paid point guard in the league.

Rubio’s deal envisions the potential Rubio has, and the player he may become one day. While Rubio is a gifted passer and underrated defender, his inability to shoot the ball consistently limits his effectiveness.* Consider that Kemba Walker and Kyle Lowry both agreed to four-year, $48 million deals, while putting up bigger per game numbers, and it is apparent that the Timberwolves expect major growth in Rubio’s game.

*Note: Several news outlets are reporting that Rubio’s deal includes a $1 million incentive, which is tied to serveral shooting benchmarks, including field goal and free throw percentage.

This has been one of the more active seasons for rookie-scale extensions. A lot of players landed nice extensions that offer significant financial security, but there will be plenty of good players like Kanter, Thompson, Leonard, Jackson and Butler who will  test their worth in the restricted free-agency market next offseason. Only time will tell whether gambling on themselves over accepting guaranteed money now was the right choice.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA

David Nwaba and the Road Less Traveled

David Nwaba speaks to Basketball Insiders about his unconventional path to the NBA.

David Yapkowitz

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A player’s path to the NBA usually follows the same formula: A star in high school, a strong college career, and then eventually being selected in the NBA Draft. However, there are times when a player’s path is more unconventional. In the case of David Nwaba, he definitely took the path less traveled.

He attended University High School in West Los Angeles, where he was named All-Western League MVP twice as well as being an all-league selection. He finished his senior year in 2011 putting up 22.0 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game.

He went to an NCAA Division 2 school, however, Hawaii Pacific University, but never suited up for them as he redshirted his freshman year. He played a year at Santa Monica Community College, where he was the Western State Conference South Division Player of the Year before transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. According to Nwaba, the decision to leave Hawaii Pacific was made with the NBA in mind.

“It was always a dream of mine, it’s also why I left a Division 2 school that I started at,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “I had bigger dreams of playing D1 and potentially the NBA. So that was a dream of mine. I never thought the journey would go like this but it is how it is.”

Behind Nwaba, Cal Poly made their first-ever NCAA appearance in 2014. They won the Big West Tournament as the seventh seed out of eight teams, and then knocked off Dayton for the right to come in as a No. 16 seed against No. 1 seed Wichita State. Cal Poly would go on to lose to Wichita State, but sparking that run to March Madness put Nwaba on the basketball map.

He didn’t get to the NBA right away, though. His first professional experience came with the then Los Angeles D-Fenders, now South Bay Lakers, the Los Angeles Lakers G-League affiliate. He initially began with the Reno Bighorns, the Sacramento Kings affiliate, but his rights were traded to Los Angeles. His strong play in the G-League was what caught the Lakers’ attention, enough to give him a pair of 10-day contracts, and then one for the rest of the season.

“It was a perfect spot to start up my professional career The G-League is a place to develop your game, and I think I developed a lot,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “I learned a lot about the game, and I think it was a good place for me to start just out of college.”

Although he made a strong impression on the Lakers, Nwaba found out that nothing is ever guaranteed in the NBA. Due to a roster crunch when the team signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over the summer, the Lakers ended up cutting him. He didn’t stay unemployed for long though. Before he had a chance to hit the open market, the Chicago Bulls claimed him off waivers.

He’s since carved out a role as one of the Bulls most dependable players in the second unit. And just like his path to the league, his role is a bit of an unconventional one as a shooting guard. He’s shooting 51.7 percent from the field, but most of his shots come from in the paint. He only shoots 26.3 percent from three-point range. It’s been effective for him though.

“It’s just bringing energy off the bench and just being that defender,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “For the most part, I just try to be aggressive going to the basket, finishing at the rim, making the right plays, just defending and playing hard.”

The Chicago Bulls got off to a slow start this season. They lost 17 of their first 20 games. In December, they started to pick up their play, winning 11 of their 20 games including a seven-game win streak. However, they’ve now dropped eight of their last 11 games. Despite that, Nwaba does see some encouraging signs. And in the Eastern Conference, he’s not quite ready to count out another run.

“We’re developing every game, just building chemistry amongst each other,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “Who knows, all it takes is just a streak of eight to ten games or something and we’re already back in the playoff race. You never know, anything can turn around. It’s still a long season, a lot of games to be played, and a lot of time to develop our game. We’ve still got a lot of time with each other.”

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NBA Daily: The Los Angeles Lakers Could Be Up Next

The Los Angeles Lakers may not make the playoffs this season, but they’re trending in the right direction.

Dennis Chambers

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The Los Angeles Lakers are coming.

They may not be playoff-bound this season as some of their purple and gold faithful hoped for, but the prestigious franchise occupying the Staples Center is showing improvement from their young players. Perhaps even enough to lure the likes of established stars come summer time.

In Luke Walton’s second season as the Lakers’ head coach, he hits the All-Star break with his team holding a 23-34 record. Granted, that’s not the level of success he was used to during his time with the Golden State Warriors, but it is only three fewer wins than his team had all of last season.

Prior to limping into the break on the back of a three-game losing streak, the Lakers had won eight of 10. During that stretch, they’d beaten the likes of Oklahoma City (twice), Indiana, and Boston. Along with making the most of their performances over that span, the Lakers were also doing so without 2017’s second overall pick, Lonzo Ball, who’s sidelined with an injury.

But Ball isn’t the only Los Angeles darling who has shined this season. In fact, it’s arguable that he’s not even the most impressive youngster on the team.

Drafted second overall last season, Brandon Ingram is showing the improvement this season that warranted such a high selection. His play thus far suggests he’s one of the building blocks of the Lakers’ next era in contending for a championship.

In his 53 games this season, Ingram is averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. His shooting from the floor and from beyond the arc have both seen dramatic increases as well this season. Over the same stretch that saw the Lakers go 8-2 with wins over cemented playoff teams, Ingram upped his assists per night to 5.2, taking the place of facilitator with Ball sidelined.

Though Ingram and the Lakers haven’t been setting the win column on fire all season, the steady growth and improvement show to him that the team is moving in the right direction, under the right coach.

“I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job,” Ingram said to reporters during All-Star weekend. “I think guys have gotten better every single day. I think we come in with the mindset that we have a really good coach that pushes us every single day. I like the progress of what we’re doing in our organization.”

Walton, this season more than last, has shown the ability to get the most out of the players he has. Ingram’s improvement, plus the capability as a point guard Ball has shown, are the givens. They were highly selected players, expected to contribute immediately. But it’s the production of the players who were afterthoughts that are a major testament to Walton’s teachings.

Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart were selected with the 27th and 30th picks in last June’s draft. Both were collegiate upperclassmen with noted handicaps in their respective games that led to teams selecting younger, or more athletic, or sweeter shooting players in their place.

A few years from now when everyone looks back, that could prove to be a silly mistake.

All Kuzma has done this season is keep his name consistently in the Rookie of the Year award race by averaging 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and shooting nearly 36 percent from beyond the arc. He’s been a lightning rod of scoring for the Lakers on nights where they desperately need it, racking up 13 games where he’s reached at least 20 points, and three games breaking the 30-point plateau.

Hart, on the other hand, hasn’t been as steady a performer as his fellow late first-round selected teammate. But when called upon, especially since Ball has been out, Hart’s shown the all-around game that made him one of the most decorated players in college basketball while at Villanova.

Over the last month, Hart has averaged 8.8 points and five rebounds per game, while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. During that same stretch, Hart’s scored in double-figures six times and registered three straight double-doubles at the beginning of February.

Moving forward, as the Lakers look to add high-priced free agent in the coming summers, having guys like Kuzma and Hart on cost-effective rookie contracts is a luxury teams around the league hope to have.

Diamonds in the rough like Kuzma and more than capable contributors like Hart are nice, of course, but the real reason for optimism in L.A. is Ingram. He’s the player with a star power ceiling. He’s the guy that the likes of LeBron James and Paul George look at when they weigh their free agent options, as a guy who can handle the workload on the nights they may not have it.

Ingram’s game isn’t finished, though; far from it, in fact. But he knows that, and he’s aware of the steps he needs to take to get to that next level.

“To improve my game I think from a shooting standpoint,” Ingram said. “If I get that down, I think it would be a lot more easier for me to drive to the basket, break down a lot of guys, make plays for my other teammates. I think it would take me to a whole other level.”

Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers doesn’t come void of expectations. There, in Hollywood, everyone is always watching. Fans, other teams, the media, everyone is waiting for the next time a Laker championship comes around. With the weight of the world on their shoulders, Ingram thinks the current legend captaining the ship is the young team’s best asset to achieving that ultimate success everyone in Los Angeles is accustomed too.

“Magic Johnson,” Ingram said. “He’s in our front office. He’s at most of every practice, every single day. For any advice why not go to him, with the caliber of player he was and how many championships he won, the way he carries himself. He always there for just information on anything we need.”

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NBA All-Star Friday Recap

Simon Hannig recaps NBA All-Star Friday 2018.

Simon Hannig

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NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game was highlighted by many stars this year, including Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Nate Robinson, Candace Parker, Bubba Watson, Rachel DeMita and many more. Team Lakers was led by head coach, Rachel Nichols. Team Clippers was led by Katie Nolan.

Quavo, of hip hop group Migos, had the first the two points for Team Clippers, and Justin Bieber had the first three points for Team Lakers.

Team Clippers defeated Team Lakers 75-66.

Quavo led the way for Team Clippers with 19 points on 7/10 shooting, with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Olympic sprinter Andre De Grasse had 17 points on 8/14 shooting and 6 rebounds. Actor and social media star Brandon Armstrong finished with 16 points on 6/17 shooting, 11 rebounds and 3 assists for Team Clippers. Both wereamong the top three leading scorers for Team Clippers.

NBA2KTV host, actress and model, Rachel DeMita led the way for Team Lakers with 17 points on 6/12 shooting and 2 rebounds. NBA legend Nate Robinson was the second leading scorer for Team Lakers with 14 points on 4/11 shooting, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

Other notable NBA and WNBA legends stats from tonight’s game — Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky) had zero points. Paul Pierce had 4 points on 2/3 shooting and 1 rebound. Jason Williams had 2 points on 1/3 shooting and 1 rebound. Tracy McGrady had 3 points on 1/3 shooting, 3 assists and 2 rebounds. Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) had zero points.

Quavo was named MVP.

BBVA Compass Rising Stars Game

There is a ton of young talent in this league, and the league will be in good hands for years to come. The talent was put on display tonight in Los Angeles.

Utah Jazz rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell gave us an early preview of the dunk contest tomorrow by throwing an ally-oop pass to himself off the backboard in the first half.

However, it was all Team World in the first half as they led 78-59 at the break. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings each had 14 points to lead Team World. Jaylen Brown led the way for Team USA with 16 points at the half.

It felt like a three point contest throughout the entire game, as there were 96 combined three point attempts. Bogdanovic led the way with seven three pointers made for both teams.

All in all, Team World defeated Team USA 155-124. Hield led the way for Team World with 29 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics led the way for Team USA with 35 points and 10 rebounds.

The MVP of the game was Bogdan Bogdanovic, who dazzled the crowd with his three point shooting. He had 26 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds with seven made three’s.

Next up for the NBA in this fun-filled weekend is NBA All-Star Saturday Night with the dunk contest, three point contest and much more.

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