The extension deadline for players on rookie-scale contracts came and went on Friday, with Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio receiving a sizable four-year deal worth roughly $55 million.
The Golden State Warriors ponied up a four-year maximum extension for shooting guard Klay Thompson, which could exceed $70 million once the salary cap is set in July of 2015.
With the NBA’s new television deal kicking in for the 2016-17 season, it’s difficult to say with certainty if Rubio and Thompson were overpaid or even underpaid — as the salary cap is expected to climb as the league’s yearly income jumps by almost a billion dollars a year.
A number of players will let the market decide their future next summer. The San Antonio Spurs didn’t extend NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Reggie Jackson also didn’t lock in a deal.
Klay Thompson — Golden State Warriors — four-years at the maximum (TBD) — Grade A
If Thompson was not worth giving up for Kevin Love, when the Warriors were negotiating with the Minnesota Timberwolves, then he’s a max player. Whether he is or isn’t is subjective, but clearly to the organization Thompson is a franchise player.
With Stephen Curry and Thompson in the backcourt, Golden State will be a force in the Western Conference. Klay isn’t as prolific a scorer as Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden (also making the max), but he’s a much better defender — and Thompson can both shoot and score.
Thompson was going to get max offers in free agency, so why should the Warriors wait? Cap room wasn’t going to be a factor for the franchise, so getting a deal done early made sense for all concerned.
Golden State may face a payroll crunch with eight-figure salaries going to five players (David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, Curry and Thompson), but with the salary cap and luxury tax threshold climbing in coming years — the Warriors will either bite the bullet and pay tax, or look to move out from other salary (presumably Lee).
Regardless, the Warriors have invested in a core they believe in. Now Thompson, Curry and the Warriors need to deliver in the playoffs.
Ricky Rubio — Minnesota Timberwolves — four years, ~$55 million — Grade C+
Rubio is a creative passer. He’s capable defensively with his length, and generates steals at a high rate. His glaring weakness is shooting. Additionally, the Wolves got nowhere with the Kevin Love/Rubio combination. The point guard isn’t being compensated for what he has done on the floor, but what Minnesota hopes he will do.
Looking back over recent years, “good” point guards have earned roughly $8 million a season (Jeff Teague, George Hill, Brandon Jennings, etc.). Ty Lawson set the price last year for the next tier of point guards at $12 million a year, which is what Kyle Lowry got this summer.
Eric Bledsoe set the market for the next range, signing for five years, $70 million, or $14 million a season.
The Timberwolves are paying Rubio like Bledsoe, when he may not be Lowry/Lawson — but rather in the $8 million tier. A compromise might have been $10 million but the Wolves are probably overpaying by $6-8 million a season for Rubio.
That said, the salary cap is climbing and with the uncertainty surrounding the new television deal, perhaps $12 million is the new $8 million — and $14 million the new $12 million.
Kemba Walker — Charlotte Hornets — four years, $48 million — Grade B+
Is Walker on par with Teague or Lowry? The Hornets say Lowry, and they may be right.
Charlotte has been a lottery-bound franchise for years but last season the squad made the playoffs — and this year, has hopes of being a force in the Eastern Conference.
Walker will be a major part of any success the Hornets have in reaching that goal.
Alec Burks — Utah Jazz — four years, $42 million — Grade C+
Burks looks primed to have a fantastic season. The better he plays, the stronger the grade for the Jazz — who invested early on a player, perhaps above his market value.
Has Burks shown enough to get an average of $10.5 million a season? Not yet.
Burks is in the DeMar DeRozan range ($10.1 million this season) of pay but may be closer to Wesley Matthews ($7.2 million).
Both DeRozan and Matthews helped their squads to the playoffs last season (Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers, respectively).
Matthews, in the final year of his deal, will presumably get a pay hike next summer.
Burks is an important piece on the Jazz, but Utah was a lottery team last season.
The Jazz could have waited for restricted free agency, like they did with Gordon Hayward, but the team brought back Burks on their terms — which may not be a bad thing — if he really breaks out this year.
Nikola Vucevic — Orlando Magic — four years, $48 million — Grade A
While Vucevic was inked well before the deadline, he’s part of the same rookie class.
The Magic are paying a talented young big man who can score, rebound and block shots $12 million a season — on par with Utah’s Derrick Favors.
Both will look like good deals long-term as the salary cap continues to jump.
Kenneth Faried — Denver Nuggets — four-years, $50 million — Grade A
As long as Faried continues to blossom as he did over the summer as a crucial part of Team USA, the Nuggets will get their money’s worth from the athletic forward.
At $12.5 million a season, Faried will make slightly more than Vucevic and Favors, but not enough to bring down his grade.
Kyrie Irving — Cleveland Cavaliers — five-years at the max, possibly Rose-rule max — Grade A
The first step toward getting the LeBron James-train rolling was locking in Irving.
He was the first of his class to sign, just minutes into the eligibility period in July. Irving currently projects to make $90 million over five seasons but that could grow to over $102 million if he’s voted in again as an All-Star starter (via the Rose rule).
Whatever the price, it was the right move for the Cavaliers.
Markieff Morris — Phoenix Suns — four-years, $32 million — Grade A
Morris took a relatively light $8 million a season, to stay long-term with his brother Marcus.
The young forward can play both inside and out, and yet is getting as much per season as veteran Channing Frye (Magic).
If Morris can continue to improve as a player, he’ll become increasingly underpaid as the cap climbs in coming years.
Marcus Morris — Phoenix Suns — four-years, $20 million — Grade B+
Morris is probably a $5 million a year player, but he still needs to find consistency.
In a package deal with the twins, the Suns did well, locking in important parts of what the team is trying to do now and into the future.
If Marcus, who plays small forward while Markieff plays the four, can become a more reliable scorer, he too may prove to be underpaid over the coming seasons.
Note: Anderson Varejao signed a three-year, partially-guaranteed $30 million extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers — but the deal was independent of the deadline for rookie-scale players. Cleveland could have waited until the end of June to extend Varejao.
Extension Deadline Passes with No Deals
Kawhi Leonard did not get an extension from the Spurs, but he likely will over the summer.
He’ll be looking for a maximum salary, which could pay in the neighborhood of $17 million — almost $10 million more than his $7.7 million cap hold.
The Spurs will have more spending power this summer by virtue of waiting on Leonard, who will likely get his desired salary when the time comes.
San Antonio’s Cory Joseph also wasn’t extended, but has yet to make his mark in the team’s rotation.
Chicago Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler has blossomed into a strong two-way player. He’ll be looking for max money if he can get it — and while that might be a bit high, he’ll get more than Alec Burks received from the Jazz. Butler could end up paid in the $11-12 million range.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are still adjusting to the influx of stars (LeBron James and Kevin Love). How the group fits together may determine if Tristan Thompson has a long-term future in Cleveland. Thompson is a strong rebounder, who has shown flashes as a rim-protecting shot-blocker. If he can near a double-double this season, he could end up getting paid $11 million or even up to $14 million per season.
Tobias Harris is a high-scoring forward who can rebound, but the Orlando Magic chose to wait for the summer before giving him an extension. Given Harris takes up just $6 million in cap space, waiting makes sense for the Magic. Harris could earn in the DeMar DeRozan/Burks range of $9-11 million a season.
Guards Brandon Knight (Milwaukee Bucks) and Reggie Jackson (Oklahoma City Thunder) need to prove they’re $12 million a year point guards, and not the $8 million per variety.
The Utah Jazz weren’t ready to commit to Enes Kanter, who could end getting Jordan Hill money ($9-10 million).
It’s difficult to gauge the market next summer for an offensively-challenged shot-blocker like Bismack Biyombo (Charlotte Hornets). If he can make an impact on the floor this season, Biyombo might be able to find a deal in the $5-7 million range.
Norris Cole should have the opportunity to prove his worth this season. Expect Miami to make him restricted next summer, and possibly re-sign the young point guard. Cole may not climb to the $8 million range but he could get a deal on par with teammate Mario Chalmers (approximately $4 million).
A number of teams have interest in the defensive-minded Iman Shumpert. The Knicks are prioritizing cap space, and may pass on giving him a $3.7 million qualifying offer, with its corresponding $6.5 million cap hold. Best case for Shumpert may be a deal close to Minnesota Timberwolves’ swingman Corey Brewer ($4-5 million).
Derrick Williams has shown flashes but the Sacramento Kings forward has yet to break through. A solid year could put him in the $5 million range.
Both Joel Freeland and Victor Claver of the Portland Trail Blazers still need to prove they can be consistent contributors.
In addition to the extension deadline, teams needed to decide on third- and fourth-year options for first-round picks by Friday.
While most options were taken — some were not.
The New York Knicks passed on Shane Larkin‘s third-year option at $2.6 million, looking to maximize cap room next summer.
The Golden State Warriors haven’t seen enough from Nemanja Nedovic to pick up his third-year option at $1.2 million.
The New Orleans Pelicans chose not to take Austin Rivers‘ fourth-year option ($3.1 million), while the Portland Trail Blazers passed on Thomas Robinson‘s ($4.7 million) and the Atlanta Hawks said no to John Jenkins.
Both Arnett Moultrie (New York Knicks) and Marquis Teague (Philadelphia 76ers) were cut outright with guaranteed salary, making their options for the 2015-16 non-existent.
NBA Daily: Three-Point Champion is Just a Regular Joe
Joe Harris had his league-wide coming out at All-Star weekend when he shocked fans across the globe in upsetting three-point shootout favorite-Steph Curry.
Joe Harris’ fortunes and those of the Brooklyn Nets appear to be traveling on the same trajectory. Harris’ personality and approach embody the softer side of the Brooklyn Nets’ team persona: he is loyal, hardworking and humble. And while Jared Dudley and DeMarre Carroll provide veteran leadership and Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offer personality, Harris provides a grounded approachability.
No one would blame him, though, if he develops a small ego. After all, Harris just received his formal introduction to the world, having won the NBA’s three-point championship last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s hard to deny that his star is rising.
And yet, Harris seems unaware that his status is rising.
“To be honest, I am solid in my role. That’s what I’m about,” Harris told Basketball Insiders before the Nets’ January 25 game against the Knicks. “I’m pretty realistic with where I view myself as a player. And I have the self-awareness to realize that I’m not a star player in this league by any means. I mean, I’m good in my role and I’m trying to take that to another level and be as complete as I can in my niche role that I have.”
While Harris’ comments could be misinterpreted as a humble brag, they shouldn’t be. He is simply a hard-working player who perhaps doesn’t quite realize everything he adds to his team. But let’s be clear, Harris’ presence absolutely improves the Nets’ play.
Harris boasts the second-best three-point percentage in the NBA (.471) through the first four months of the season; he trails only Victor Olapido and J.J. Reddick for top three-point percentage of all 48 players who have at least 10 “clutch” attempts from long-range and he’s ranked tenth in points per clutch possession (1.379).
He helps space the floor for teammates D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, who take advantage of his long-range acumen by attacking an often less congested pathway to the hoop — and drives account for 53.4 percent of the Nets’ points (third in the entire league).
It is no surprise then that the Nets are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
“At the end of the day we’re just trying to go play good basketball.” Harris said. “The wins are a byproduct of that. It’s about staying locked into this process and how it’s gotten us here regardless of who is on the court.”
Harris’ dedication to the team and its process is becoming more unique each year as players hop from franchise to franchise more frequently than ever before. While Harris only joined the Nets in 2016, he was immediately seen as a key player by the Nets’ leadership, albeit one on a minimum deal – according to Kyle Wagner of the Daily News, Coach Kenny Atkinson saw a lot of Kyler Korver in his game and GM Sean Marks wanted him to study Danny Green.
And while Harris’ 2018-19 stats reflect similar production to the career highs of both of Korver and Green (13.2 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of .622 for Harris versus 14.4 points with an eFG% of .518 for Korver and 11.7 points with an eFG% of .566 for Green), at only 27 years old, he should only continue to improve.
A lot has changed in the two and a half seasons since Harris signed a free agent deal with the Nets, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his character.
“We had various deals that were shorter for more (money),” Harris said. “And some were longer and roughly the same, but this is where I wanted to be and I’m happy it ended up working out.”
Harris ultimately signed a two-year deal for approximately $16 million, which can be viewed as both cashing in, given where he was only two years ago (out of the league), and betting on himself, considering the short-term nature of the contract and his relative youth.
And what’s more, Harris will probably go down as a value signing for the Nets considering his versatility. After all, he is not merely a one-dimensional shooter. In fact, he is actually shooting slightly better than 60 percent on 3.2 attempts per game from the restricted area – which is better than All-Star teammate D’Angelo Russell (53 percent on 2.8 attempts). Further, Harris shoots a fair amount of his three-point attempts above the break, which is to say that he does not rely heavily on the shorter corner threes – which tend to be a more efficient means of scoring (1.16 vs. 1.05 points per possession league-wide from 1998-2018) as they are typically a spot where specialist players lurk awaiting an opening look.
The question is, how much more can we expect to see from Harris in the future? If you ask him, he’d probably undersell you on his ceiling and allude to steady progress that ultimately looks similar to what he’s done recently. But the only thing similar about Harris’ career production is that it has steadily improved – and that’s partially due to his process-oriented approach.
“We talked about it in the midst of the losing streak,” Harris said. “What are you going to change, what are you going to do (when you’re in a slump)? Not that we were going to do the exact same thing, but we felt like we were very process oriented. We felt like we were right there. Our whole thing was about being deliberate and doing it as consistently as possible.”
Harris sees the validity in repeating what works. And he’s figured that out, partially with the help of his teammates. Harris clearly values veteran input and team chemistry.
“You look at our team right now and we have really good veteran presences with Jared and DeMarre and Ed (Davis),” Harris said. “That’s the voice from the leadership standpoint. I’m learning from them just like DLo is. And all the other guys in the locker room are. They’re the guiding presence of what it is to be a professional and they keep everything even keel. They don’t go too low when things are tough, and they don’t let us get too high when things are going well.”
Harris is clearly a little uncomfortable taking credit for his team’s success, and he shies away from the spotlight a bit. He seems to prefer anonymity. But Harris should probably get used to the attention he’s received this season because it will only increase as his profile continues to rise as we enter the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
“He’s not just a shooter,” Atkinson told NBA.com last April. “He’s worked on his drive game, he’s worked on his finishing game. I think he’s worked on his defense. So just a complete player who fits how we want to play. He’s one of our most competitive players. Not a surprise watching, from the first day we had him, how locked in he was, how hungry he was. On top of it, he’s a top, top-ranked human being.”
So expect to see more of Joe Harris this April and beyond, but don’t be surprised by his humility. It’s one aspect about him that won’t change.
NBA Daily: Danuel House Optimistic About Future
David Yapkowitz speaks to Danuel House about life as a two-way player for the Houston Rockets & what he hopes comes out of his time in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Opportunity is everything in the NBA. Last season’s implementation of two-way contracts gave a lot more players potential opportunities in the league that may not have been previously available.
One player who has used two-way contracts to showcase himself and really prove that he belongs in the NBA is Danuel House Jr.
House actually began his career two years ago as an undrafted rookie with the Washington Wizards. However, he suffered a wrist injury only about a month into the 2016-17 season.
He was subsequently cut by the Wizards and used the summer to heal up before joining the Houston Rockets for training camp prior to the start of last season. He ended up being one of the final cuts in camp, and he joined the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
His strong play earned him a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns after only two months of G League play. This year, he rejoined the Vipers, only to earn another two-way contract with the Rockets. Having had some experience now with a two-way, it’s something that House sees as being beneficial.
“It’s got its good perks and its bad perks. But then the NBA is just trying to open more doors for more guys to be seen and have an opportunity,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s a good idea, it’s gonna work the kinks out so it can be more beneficial to the players. It’s still new and it’s still trending and working itself through the NBA.”
This season has been a bit of a whirlwind for House. He initially joined the Golden State Warriors for training camp, only to have them cut him before the start of the season. After spending about a month with the Vipers, the Rockets called him up, only to cut him and then eventually re-sign him to a two-way deal.
Due to injuries in the Rockets lineup, House saw meaningful minutes right away, even being placed in Houston’s starting lineup. He had some solid performances down the stretch of last season with the Suns, but this season he really looked the part of a legitimate NBA rotation player.
When a player signs a two-way deal, they are allotted a maximum of 45 days of NBA service, meaning that the rest of the time they must remain in the G League. If a player exceeds the 45-day limit, they must be sent back down to the G League unless they’re able to reach an agreement on a standard contract with the NBA team.
Because of the Rockets’ necessity of House in the rotation, he used up his NBA days last month. He and the Rockets were unable to agree on a contract, so he returned to the G League with the Vipers. While there haven’t been many updates as of late, he’s still hopeful that something can work out with the Rockets.
“Hopefully I can go back to Houston and compete for a title. There’s nothing like learning from James [Harden] and Chris Paul, Gerald Green, Eric Gordon and those guys,” House told Basketball Insiders. “And now with the additions of [Iman] Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, I’m just excited to hopefully get something done so I can be out there and competing with those guys.”
Initially, House wasn’t playing with the Vipers upon returning to the team. But he made his return to the court a few weeks ago on Feb 8. In that game, House shook off some initial rust and ended up having a solid performance including hitting the game-winning free-throws.
In the past, the G League was often times seen as a punishment for NBA players. The league didn’t have that great of a reputation, but over the past few years that image has started to change. The competition has gotten a lot stronger, and according to House, there are plenty of guys who are that close to making it to the NBA.
“The competition here is real. There’s a lot of dudes out here that got a lot of talent that they can showcase. They just want their one opportunity, their one chance that I was so fortunate and blessed with,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I know not to come out here and take it for granted, that’s why I’m playing hard and of course still trying to be a student of the game and learn.”
Recently, during a media availability session, Rockets star and perennial MVP candidate James Harden expressed hope that the Rockets and House could work something out. Harden told reporters that they all know how good House is and what he brings to the team.
In 25 games for the Rockets this season – including 12 starts – House put up nine points per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line. He’s in the mold of a three-and-D type player, but he also moves well without the ball on cuts to the rim and can attack the basket as well.
“My role was to play defense and make the right read,” House told Basketball Insiders. “Shoot when I’m open, drive, attack the rack, and run the floor. Of course, defend and rebound and make good reads. It was easy.”
As it stands, the Rockets have 12 players on their roster, and a pair of two-way deals for House and Vincent Edwards. House is not eligible to rejoin the Rockets until the G League season concludes. Even then, he won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs as per two-way deal restrictions.
The Rockets will need to add at least two players to get up to the league-mandated 14 players on the roster. House would appear to be a good candidate for one of those spots, but that remains to be seen. But regardless of whether or not it works out in Houston, House is confident that he’s done enough to prove he belongs in the NBA.
“It gave me the utmost confidence, but my hard work, my passion, and my faith in the man upstairs gave me the ability. I asked him to guide me through the journey and he’s been taking care of me,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I’m so grateful that the opportunities and I used my ability to perform and do something I love to take care of my family.”
PODCAST: Checking In On Clippers & Lakers, East Arms Race, Warriors’ Challengers
Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.
Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.