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NBA AM: Did Bledsoe Deal Set The Market?

Will Eric Bledsoe’s five year $70 million deal with the Suns impact the price for the next wave of Rookie scale extensions?

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Did Bledsoe Set The Market?:  As the players drafted in 2011 close in on their own deadlines to reach early contract extensions of their rookie scale deals, many around the league watched how the Eric Bledsoe restricted free agency drama played out in Phoenix closely. Bledsoe’s new five year, fully-guaranteed $70 million deal may set the bar for what some other players are looking for especially when you factor in Bledsoe’s injury history and production.

Here are the players eligible for extensions and where some of them may be headed:

2011 Draft position – Player Name (Team)

2 – Derrick Williams (Sacramento Kings)

It is unlikely that Williams is extended before the October 31 deadline for rookie scale extensions. Williams has never really lived up to his second overall pick status and while the Kings like him, they are unlikely to lock him in unless it’s a deal that’s a landslide in their favor. It’s more likely than not that Williams hits restricted free agency in July than gets a deal in October.

3 – Enes Kanter (Utah Jazz)

Like Williams, an extension for Kanter seems unlikely. The Jazz still are unsure where Kanter fits in the big picture and with a new coaching staff in place, Kanter will need to blow some people away this season or he could find himself on the trading block rather than in line for a big payday. His performance in camp could earn him a deal, but that’s unlikely given the premium placed on bigs. Kanter needs to have a solid season to land his big payday.

4 – Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)

Fresh off a $70 million deal with Phoenix, Thompson’s agency Klutch Sports will start in on the Cavs next. Word is there have not been any meaningful extension talks yet. It’s more likely that Thompson gets his deal next summer for a lot of reasons, but the biggest is this year Thompson could arguably cement himself into a real role with the Cavs and up his value. Given that Thompson is represented by the same agent as LeBron James, its pretty clear that unless Thompson really does poorly, he’ll get his new deal. The questions becomes how much and for how long and the answer to that might be best served after understanding where Thompson really fits into the new-look Cavs.

7 – Bismack Biyombo (Charlotte Hornets)

It is doubtful that Biyombo is extended; it’s more likely that he takes a trip through restricted free agency next summer and someone else sets his price. With so much uncertainty about the roster in Charlotte beyond this season – namely big man Al Jefferson’s pending free agency – locking in Biyombo to a larger deal doesn’t make a lot of sense.

8 – Brandon Knight (Milwaukee Bucks)

The Milwaukee Bucks like Brandon Knight, but view him as more of an off-guard. Clearly Knight’s camp uses Bledsoe’s number to re-enforce Knight as a $10-$12 million a year guard. That’s not likely a number Milwaukee buys in October, which means unless Knight’s price comes down to around the $7-$8 million a year range he’s headed to restricted free agency. The Bucks are in transition so unless an extension deal plays in their favor, they may wait out a deal for Knight.

9 – Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)

If anyone’s price went up yesterday is was arguably Walker’s. Kemba put up similar numbers to Bledsoe last season and he is clearly a starting caliber guard on the rise. The question is will Charlotte ink a deal now and lock him in or do they wait and play things out in restricted free agency like Phoenix did with Bledsoe? There is risk that another team tacks an extra million or two on to the deal, much like Charlotte did with Gordon Hayward this summer. Given the similarities in their production Walker’s price likely comes in the $13-$14 million a season range today and that’s likely up a couple of million after the Bledsoe deal.

11 – Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Thompson’s camp had been talking max money before the Bledsoe deal, and with five years and $70 million being the bench mark for a top level scorer, Thompon’s position got a little stronger yesterday. The Warriors are saying all the right things about Thompson and wanting to keep him long-term, the questions is will they ink him to a max money, $16 million per year deal or will they try and get something done just under that before the October 31 deadline? If the Warriors let Thompson hit restricted free agency, it’s more likely than not that one of the 12-14 teams looking at hefty cap space put a big number on the table in July. So the issue for the Warriors is should they pay now or pay later? Like Bledsoe, the Warriors might get a near max deal done now. If Thompson has another solid season, the absolute max is more likely.

12 – Alec Burks (Utah Jazz)

Burks isn’t a likely candidate for an extension unless it’s on the cheap. This will be a big season for Burks to prove not only that he’s a bona fide starter, but that he’s worth investing in. With a new staff and a lot of competition for minutes Burks is going to have to stand out in a major way or he could not only be headed towards restricted free agency, he could be trade bait. The Jazz have some duplication and could look to carve out bigger roles for rookies like Dante Exum and Rodney Hood, both of which could see time at the two spot.

13 – Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns)

This one is interesting, because Markieff is the one worth investing in, but the Morris twins have already floated the notion that they are a package deal. Phoenix likes Markieff, a lot, and doing an extension makes sense for the Suns, but only at the right price. As we saw with Eric Bledsoe, the Suns might let this flow into restricted free agency if only to see how he progresses. There is a thought that Markieff might emerge as a starter and that’s a totally different price for a player than a borderline starter, which is what he is today. The right price for Markieff might be the $9 million per year guys like Taj Gibson got in early extensions. However, with Bledsoe getting $14 million will the price go up appreciably or will the Suns reach a package deal and trim the annual cost on Markieff a little lower by getting something done with Marcus?

14 – Marcus Morris (Phoenix Suns)

As mentioned above there is a sense that both Morris twins want to stay together and do their deals as a package deal. Amusingly during the draft process in 2011, most thought Marcus would be the more dominating NBA prospect, however Markieff was drafted higher and it seems Markieff has emerged as the guy with starter’s potential. Marcus could likely earn more on a another team and carve out his own role somewhere else, but if the goal is to stay with his brother, he may have to take less to achieve that.

15 – Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)

If Bledsoe got five years and $70 million, there is almost no scenario in which Kawhi Leonard doesn’t get max money or awfully close to it. The question is do the Spurs lock it now and keep things running smoothly, or do they let the possibility of restricted free agency seep into their locker room? The Spurs did a new deal with Tony Parker to close that door for him, so it seems inevitable that Leonard will get his deal before the October 31 deadline. Leverage for the team sort of goes out the window when a guy helps lead them to a championship and is named Finals MVP.

16 – Nikola Vučević (Orlando Magic)

This one is interesting because the Magic may be better suited waiting the season out and seeing how their team comes together, especially after giving Channing Frye four years and $32 million. Word is the numbers being kicked around with Vucevic are closer to four years and $40-$45 million; it’s unclear if that’s a deal that’s going to get done before the deadline. Vucevic is a heck of an offensive player, but he really leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end. The Magic have the cash for the foreseeable future to pay Vucevic, so this isn’t a cap space issue. It’s a valuation issue and given how much the fans like Vucevic it might be foolish to not make a deal, especially if the Magic can get something done that gives them flexibility like a team option along the way.

17 – Iman Shumpert (New York Knicks)

It’s unlikely that Shumpert gets an extension. All the right things are being said by both Shumpert and the Knicks, but reaching an extension before the deadline is not expected. For Shumpert to have a real future with the Knicks he is going to have to prove he can be that big point guard Phil Jackson loves in the triangle. He’ll have to be a facilitator and knock down shots. If Shumpert can’t play the one for head coach Derek Fisher than he is battling for minutes with Tim Hardaway Jr and JR Smith and he may lose that battle as both are likely better two guards in the triangle than he is. For Shumpert’s part, he’s put in the work. He lived at IMG Academy in Bradenton for most of the summer and really tuned up his body, handle and jump shot. Shumpert will get his chance, but he has a lot to show before a new deal in New York becomes realistic.

19 – Tobias Harris (Orlando Magic)

Like Vucevic, the Magic may be best suited waiting out the season and seeing what comes together before investing in any of their players. Harris isn’t going to command crazy money, likely something in the $7-$9 million per year range. If that sounds excessive, keep in mind that Harris averaged 14.6 points and seven rebounds a game last season with 36 starts. Chandler Parsons averaged 16.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game on 74 starts and landed a three year, $45 million deal. Harris is not viewed around the league like Parsons was, but impact scorers like Harris have gotten paid this summer. It’s believed that Harris would do a reasonable deal with Orlando to remove the burden of pending free agency, but his biggest payday might come as a restricted free agent after posting a strong season. The issue for Harris is there is a logjam at his position and if he falls out of favor for any reason his stock could decline. Harris is happy in Orlando, so there is room for a deal, but from a business point of view it may be better for all parties to see what the season brings.

22 – Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)

Last summer Faried had told a group of players he was going to get a max extension. At the time that seemed laughable. Today, that seems a lot more realistic. Faired erupted late last season for the Nuggets and backed that up with a stellar showing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. If the Nuggets don’t get a deal done before the deadline, there is a real chance they will find themselves in a bidding war with a couple of the teams that will have more than $20 million in possible cap space next summer. It seems unlikely that Faried doesn’t get a max level offer as a restricted free agent, so do the Nuggets try and shave a little bit off a deal now, or do like they did with Ty Lawson and get Faried to defer a little cash down the road in exchange for a deal today. Lawson’s deal got done because he was willing to help the Nuggets out in the cash flow department. If Faried is willing to do the same, a deal likely gets done before the deadline and you can expect the deal to be north of $75 million.

24 – Reggie Jackson (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Jackson is an interesting one too. He wants to be a starter and there was talk all summer that Russell Westbrook may see a lot more time at the two guard spot with Jackson running the point. That lineup solved a lot of problems during the playoffs, and it would solve Jackson’s biggest hurdle of commanding a starter’s contract. The next part is will the Thunder do a deal before the deadline? With Bledsoe setting the ceiling for guards at likely $70 million, is Jackson worth $60 million and will the Thunder pay it? The Thunder are not opposed to extensions, in fact they are usually pretty aggressive in getting that discussion going so that contracts are not a distraction during the season. The smart money says Jackson gets his new deal and it’s a hefty agreement. The Thunder can’t afford to let another talented guard walk away and with Kevin Durant’s free agency just around the corner, locking guys in for a title run again makes the most sense both in the short term and the long term.

28 – Norris Cole (Miami HEAT)

Given where the HEAT are as a team, it’s more likely that Norris hits restricted free agency. The HEAT re-signed Mario Chalmers, so overpaying Cole might not be in the plans. This is likely a case of reaching a reasonable deal in an extension or waiting until July and seeing how the season plays out and what the market believe Norris is worth. Like some on this list, a strong showing could really change the financial landscape for Cole. He would be wise to wait it out rather than taking what his perceived value is today.

29 – Cory Joseph (San Antonio Spurs)

It’s highly unlikely that Joseph gets a deal before the deadline, unless it’s a landslide in San Antonio’s favor. Joseph hasn’t emerged enough yet to justify an extension, unless it’s on the cheap, which his camp may look at. The smart money says Joseph is a restricted free agent next season and both sides play it from there.

30 – Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)

Butler is in a tough spot. He had a stellar season two years ago, which is likely a lot closer to his norm, but he posted a ho-hum season last year, logging a ton of minutes while playing through some nagging injuries that clearly affected his offensive game. The Bulls have been at the table, so there is a desire to get something done, but much like the Bulls did with Taj Gibson, they are trying to lock Butler in on the cheap side. For Butler, he could get a deal today if he wanted to sign one, but it would be based off what his value was last season, not on what his potential is going forward. Do you bet on yourself that you can get healthy and return to your norm, or do you take the security of a deal now? Butler could go either way. There are a number of teams that are going to have cap space, and if Butler logs a solid season he could see a $10-$12 million a year payday through restricted free agency. The Bulls like Butler a lot, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He may have to come into camp and prove that his offensive numbers can return to what they were two seasons ago and maybe he gets his deal. Both sides are talking, but to think that something is close really comes down to Butler and what kind of season he thinks he can have.

Teams have until October 31 to reach extensions on rookie scale contracts. If teams do not reach a deal, they will have the option to restrict a players’ free agency with a qualifying offer.

If you are curious what those numbers look like, checkout the Basketball Insiders salary database.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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