Before hitting free agency, each year a number of players choose instead to sign extensions with their existing teams.
First-round picks, heading into the final year on their contracts, can avoid the free agency process altogether.
Perhaps the biggest question of the offseason will be the status of Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who could be eligible for an extension that would be near $100 million if he’s voted in again as an All-Star starter.
Whether he wants to stay in Cleveland long-term or not, that may be too much money for any player to turn down.
Irving will have to decide before the end of October, but expiring veterans who have been under contract for at least four seasons are only eligible to sign extensions before July.
The Dallas Mavericks may come to terms with Dirk Nowitzki before the end of the month, if both sides can agree on a price to keep the former NBA MVP under wraps.
Veterans eligible for an extension include Paul Pierce (Brooklyn Nets), Luke Ridnour (Charlotte Hornets), Luol Deng (Cleveland Cavaliers), Shawn Marion (Mavericks), Rodney Stuckey (Detroit Pistons), Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers), Thabo Sefolosha (Oklahoma City Thunder), Emeka Okafor (Phoenix Suns) and Marcin Gortat (Washington Wizards) — among others.
Both Zach Randolph (Memphis Grizzlies) and Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings) can either opt out or opt in to their final seasons, while also taking multi-year extensions.
So too can Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) but he is eligible to sign a five-year if he becomes a free agent and re-signs with New York — rather than staying for three or four years via extension.
In addition to Irving, first-round picks eligible to extend before November include Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets), Bismack Biyombo (Hornets), Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Norris Cole (Miami HEAT), Brandon Knight (Milwaukee Bucks), Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves), Iman Shumpert (Knicks), Reggie Jackson (Thunder), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic), Tobias Harris (Magic), Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns), Marcus Morris (Suns), Joel Freeland (Portland Trail Blazers), Victor Claver (Trail Blazers), Derrick Williams (Sacramento Kings), Enes Kanter (Utah Jazz) and Alec Burks (Jazz).
Looking back over the past season, two veterans signed extensions including Kobe Bryant (Lakers) for $48.5 million over two years, and Andrew Bogut (Warriors) for $36 million over three.
Former first-round picks to sign extensions to avoid free agency this summer include Paul George (Indiana Pacers), John Wall (Wizards), Derrick Favors (Jazz), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Quincy Pondexter (Grizzlies) and Larry Sanders (Bucks).
The Clippers inked Blake Griffin to a maximum extension on his first day of eligibility in July of 2012. Others who extended that offseason include Stephen Curry (Warriors), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia 76ers, since traded to the New Orleans Pelicans), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors), Ty Lawson (Nuggets), Taj Gibson (Bulls) and Serge Ibaka (Thunder).
While a number of players do eventually hit free agency, many of the best players are locked up by their existing teams at first chance.
An All-Star like Irving might toy with other opportunities, but the sheer dollars expected to be thrown his way should lead to a long-term deal in Cleveland.
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