With the bulk of the free agency moves behind us, news around the NBA is beginning to slow down as it typically does around this time of year.
However, a huge storyline began to emerge earlier this week as it was reported that the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook were progressing in contract extension negotiations. Of course, the team made the extension official yesterday at a press conference at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The new deal will reportedly pay Westbrook $26.5 million this upcoming season, $28.5 million during the 2017-18 season and $30.6 million in 2018-19. Westbrook will have a player option for the final year, which he is almost guaranteed to waive in order to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
The re-worked deal will be more in line with what Westbrook is realistically worth. He is arguably a top-five player in the NBA and has proven to be extremely valuable to his team. Prior to the new contract, Westbrook would have made $17,769,374 next season, which seems like it would have been a bit of a bargain for a player of Westbrook’s stature.
With Westbrook signing a new contract this week, we began thinking about other players who are on a bargain contract that was signed prior to this offseason. With the cap rising this summer, and again next summer, the value of contracts is changing a bit. These players were signed when the cap was lower, which makes many of them a great bargain right now.
Of course, when talking about players on bargain contracts, Hassan Whiteside must be brought up. Whiteside was one of the most dominant players in the post last season and earned just $981,348. However, he’s no longer in the bargain category, as the Miami HEAT rewarded Whiteside this summer by inking the big man to a four-year, $98 million deal.
Many players who still on rookie-scale contracts will surely be in line for a significant payday as well. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zach LaVine, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope among others have all outperformed their rookie deals and will likely be signing for much more when they hit restricted free agency. For this article, we’ll exclude those players.
Here is a look at several other players that have outperformed their current contracts and are signed onto very team-friendly deals (all salary data can be found on Basketball Insiders’ Salaries Page):
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors:
We’ve all seen the meteoric rise of Curry, who has become one of the league’s best players. He’s won the past two Most Valuable Player awards, won a championship, set the NBA record for most three-pointers in a season and seemingly has it all. Perhaps the most shocking thing is Curry is only due to make $12.1 million next season. The other unbelievable part about his deal is he’ll be the fourth highest-paid player on the Warriors’ roster next season. Of course, when he signed his four-year, $44 million extension in 2012, there were a lot of concerns with how his ankles would hold up. After seeing his success since signing that deal, it’s safe to say that he’s exceeded all expectations and then some.
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics:
Thomas is one of the most feel-good stories in the league. He was the last pick in the 2011 draft by the Sacramento Kings and has transformed himself into one of the best point guards in the league today. He averaged a career-high 22.2 points, 6.2 assists, three rebounds and 1.1 steals per game last season and is due to make just $6.5 million next season and $6.2 million the following season. His contract for the Celtics is a steal and he’ll be among the best bargains in the league over the next two seasons after emerging as an All-Star.
J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers:
Redick turned in one of the best campaigns of his 10-year career this past season for the Clippers. He averaged 16.3 points per game and shot a staggering 47.5 percent from three-point range, which was second-best in the NBA. Redick enters next season in the final year of his contract and is slated to make $7.3 million. Redick has established himself as one of the best shooters in the league and should be in for a big pay raise next summer if he can remain productive for the Clippers, especially with how much shooting is valued in the NBA today.
Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic:
After seeing what some other big men signed for this offseason, it’s looking like Vucevic’s deal is a bargain for the Magic. Vucevic signed a four-year, $48 million contract extension nearly two years ago and is due just $11.75 million next season. Vucevic is one of the better offensive centers in the NBA and has a great mid-range shot. He averaged 18.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per game last season. He’s been talked about as an All-Star snub in each of the past two seasons, which proves he’s been highly effective for the Magic. Vucevic even said recently that he wishes he were a free agent right now, but acknowledged there’s nothing he can do about it now.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors:
Lowry is coming off of his best season as a professional after averaging a career-high 21.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. Lowry, and backcourt teammate DeMar DeRozan, have helped the Raptors solidify their place as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. He was an All-Star in each of the past two seasons and will be playing for Team USA in Rio. Lowry will be a bargain next season, as he’s going to make $12 million. He holds a $12 million player option for the 2017-18 season, but will likely opt out next summer and become an unrestricted free agent.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets:
The Charlotte Hornets proved successful in locking up Walker for the foreseeable future by signing him to a four-year, $48 million extension nearly two years ago. By agreeing to the extension prior to the 2014-15 season, Walker avoided hitting restricted free agency last offseason . It’s very likely that Walker could have signed for much more if he were a free agent this summer. Walker averaged a career-high 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game last season. He earned $12 million last year and will earn a flat $12 million over the remainder of the three years of his contract. The Hornets figure to have a bargain in Walker for the next three seasons.
Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics:
Crowder has established himself as one of better two-way players in the league. He is coming off of a career-year, averaging 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He signed a five-year, $35 million contract last summer and will make just $6.2 million next season.
Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics:
Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ front office deserve a lot of credit for being able to add quality players at bargain prices. Bradley has become the Celtics’ second-leading scoring option, scoring 15.2 points per game last season. His scoring might drop a bit with Al Horford coming in, but it’s clear he’s on a great deal for the Celtics as he’ll earn just over $17 million over the next two seasons.
John Wall, Washington Wizards:
Although it may seem hard to rationalize adding Wall to this list after he signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension three years ago, it seems pretty reasonable to believe he’d make much more now. Wall is a three-time All-Star and among the best playmakers at point guard. He’ll earn just under $17 million next season and won’t be a free agent until three years from now. Wall infamously noted last summer that Reggie Jackson now makes the same as him – and Jackson has yet to make an All-Star team.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings:
Cousins is perhaps the best big man in the game. He averaged a career-high 26.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last season. He’ll earn just under $17 million next season and $18 million in 2017-18. Cousins had the infamous tweet moments after it was reported that Tristan Thompson agreed to a five-year, $82 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s very possible that Cousins will be one of the highest-paid players when he hits free agency in two years.
Most of the players on this list were just victims of bad timing. Wall admitted as much when discussing Jackson’s contract. He said these players hit the market at the right time, under the new CBA and with the new television deal kicking in.
It’s reasonable to think that if these players can remain healthy and continue playing at a high level, they’ll be taken care of once their time comes in free agency.
Which players would you have added to this list? Hit the comments and let us know!
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN
NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener
Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.
“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”
That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.
While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.
Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.
While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.
Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).
While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.
Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.
Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).
“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”
Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.
Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.
“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.
For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.
“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”
Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.
The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.
Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics
Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.
Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.
Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.
In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.
Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.
“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.
“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”
The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.
“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.
“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”
Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.
“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”
The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.
“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”
Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.
“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.
“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”
Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.
“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.
“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”
While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.
“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.
“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”
Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.
Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.
Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.
“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.
“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”
You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.
Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.
“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?
“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”
Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.
“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”