As basketball fans eagerly await the start of gameplay for the next NBA season, owners and front office personnel have been hard at work since the new league year officially began on July 1.
With that turnover comes a certain level of decision making for the very same front office folks. Beginning this offseason, players that were selected in the 2014 draft became eligible for contract extensions. This opportunity offers these particular players the first chance to really get paid following their rookie-scale contracts.
For some players, the decision to hand them a big time deal is a no-brainer by their team’s’ general manager. For others, and the various reasons that come along with the indecisiveness of inking that player to a second contract, the negotiating process isn’t so black and white.
When the shot clocks start ticking during next season, most of the following players will be performing with the thoughts of a new deal lurking in the back of their mind.
Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
For the former No. 1 overall pick, the path to his second NBA contract in the neighborhood of $150 million is more of semantics than anything.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor spoke on Monday about his willingness to offer Wiggins a max contract extension on one condition. Taylor wants to sit down with Wiggins face-to-face a literally hear him say that he will work to become a better player than he already is.
Essentially, here’s a nine-figure contract, but you promise you’ll try hard right?
At just 22 years of age, Wiggins still possesses a “sky is the limit” label. He averaged 23.6 points per game last season, crossing the 40-point plateau five times, and his level of athleticism is nearly unmatched throughout the league. Wiggins can score the basketball, period.
However, and this may be what Taylor was alluding to when he requested of Wiggins to become more of a complete player, the small forward is just plain bad defensively. Even with his insane athleticism and 7-foot wingspan, Wiggins has never posted a positive defensive box plus/minus in his career. In fact, through his first three seasons, each DBPM was worse than the year before.
So, while Wiggins can score in bunches, his track record suggests he lets his man score at will too. Sinking $150 million into a one-way player is a hefty risk, which is presumably why Taylor wants to hear straight from the horse’s mouth that improvement is on the way.
All in all, Wiggins will probably get his extension barring some weird outcome where he tells the owner of his team that he doesn’t want to get better, therefore giving up millions of dollars.
But hey, stranger things have happened. Right?
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
Unlike Wiggins, Parker’s owner isn’t coming out publicly and offering a max deal with lip service stipulations attached to it. Instead, Parker’s next contract may be a bit more debated within the Bucks’ front office.
In his third season, Parker began to show great strides as the player that was selected second overall in his draft class. Through 51 games, Parker was averaging 20.1 points per game along with 6.2 rebounds and shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc. Parker was turning into a perfect complementary piece alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Then Parker tore the ACL in his left knee. Again.
After suffering the same tear just 25 games into his rookie season, another one of Parker’s prime developmental years was cut short. Along with losing another season, as well as the first half of next season presumably, Parker now has a reoccurring left knee concern that may have cost him millions.
Given the circumstances, and the fact that Parker may not return next season until around the All-Star break, his contract extension watch will be an interesting storyline to follow next summer.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Talk about injury concerns.
By the time opening night rolls around, Embiid will have played just 31 games through three seasons on an NBA roster.
And yet, if the Sixers signed Embiid to a max extension tomorrow, there would be a strong voice within the NBA community who support the decision. But, Philadelphia really needs to see that Embiid can complete more than half of a season before they pour boatloads of money into his bank account.
If another season of Embiid’s ends in injury, the Sixers will have to think long and hard about what kind of deal they bring to the table during Embiid’s negotiation.
However, just like everything else that surrounds the 7-foot-2 center from Cameroon, the Sixers are going to just have to Trust The Process.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Gordon is an interesting case for the Magic.
Through three NBA seasons, it’s still unclear what position he actually plays — or should play for that matter. Over the course of his first two seasons, Gordon played about two-thirds of his minutes at power forward, with the other third coming at small forward. Last season, those numbers were flipped.
At 6-foot-9 with crazy hops, Gordon fits the bill physically as an impactful wing player in today’s NBA. There’s just one problem, he can’t shoot. Up until this point, Gordon is a career 29 percent three-point shooter. Granted, he’s just 21 years old with plenty of time to improve, but there is little chance that Gordon ever becomes a lights out shooter from beyond the arc.
With more than one extension decision to take into account, and a new regime who wasn’t responsible for draft Gordon, the matter of his next contract offer could be interesting, especially with Orlando selecting Jonathan Isaac No. 6 overall in last June’s draft.
Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
Speaking of more contract extension decisions, Payton is also on the list for Orlando.
With career averages of 10.8 points and 6.5 assists per game, Payton has shown that he can make a decent impact while on the court. However, similar to Gordon, Payton can’t shoot.
With an identical shooting percentage to Gordon’s from beyond the arc, the Magic are in a position to extend two players who both lack the singular skill that the league is transitioning to value the most.
How things shake out for these two 2014 lottery picks in Orlando will be an indication of where new management is headed for the rebuild of the Magic.
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
After being selected towards the back end of the lottery on draft night in 2014, LaVine turned into a fine young player for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
So fine of a young player, in fact, that the Wolves were able to ship him off to Chicago in a deal that allowed them to acquire Bulls’ star player, Jimmy Butler.
Before tearing his ACL last season, LaVine was averaging 18.9 points per game and shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc while showing legitimate improvement in his game. At 22 years old, LaVine has plenty of time to recover from his knee injury and continue to grow into the next stage of his career.
Considering the position LaVine is in as the centerpiece of the haul Chicago got for their franchise player, common sense would assume the Bulls are all-in on resigning LaVine should his knee prove to be healthy.
For the sake of the Bulls’ franchise (and the All-Star weekend dunk contest) let’s hope LaVine’s knee comes back better than ever.
Other Notable Extension Eligible Players: Julius Randle (Los Angeles Lakers), Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers), Gary Harris (Denver Nuggets), Rodney Hood (Utah Jazz), Dante Exum (Utah Jazz), Kyle Anderson (San Antonio Spurs), Clint Capela (Houston Rockets).
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