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NBA Saturday: Recapping the 2014 Rookie-Contract Extensions

Basketball Insiders recaps which 2011 rookies agreed to extensions before yesterday’s deadline.

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Yesterday was the deadline for first-round picks from the 2011 draft to agree to an extension of their rookie contracts. This year’s extension class featured a lot of quality players, but many of them are not clearly worth max-money. Further complicating matters for this year’s extension candidates is the uncertainty created by the NBA’s recently agreed to TV deal with ESPN and Turner Sports, which will cause a significant rise in the salary cap.

With this in mind, here is a recap of which notable 2011 first-round draft picks agreed to an extension with their teams, and which are heading to restricted free agency next offseason (Note: this list excludes players that have fallen out of the league completely and those who are not extension eligible this season due to staying in overseas for a season or more).

Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz: The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Wednesday that extension talks between the Utah Jazz and center Enes Kanter had broken off.

“We just looked at it and both mutually decided to wait to negotiate again next year,” Kanter’s agent, Max Ergul told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Enes can concentrate on the future. This is an important year for him and the Jazz. It will set a precedent for years to come.”

Kanter has posted impressive per minute stats, is a skilled offensive player, and has the potential to improve moving forward. However, Kanter was supposed to be the long-term answer at center for the Jazz, but proved ineffective in the starting lineup along power forward Derrick Favors. One major issue is Kanter’s defensive limitations. Last season, the Jazz started the season 1-14 with Kanter starting next to Favors, forcing Kanter to the bench. This issue is exasperated by the presence of promising young center Rudy Gobert, who has length and athleticism that rivals players like DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee.

Kanter’s defensive limitations, the TV deal and Gobert’s continued development all factored into Kanter not receiving an extension. Kanter has a $7.4 million qualifying offer for next season.

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson will test restricted free agency next summer as he and the Cleveland Cavaliers failed to agree to a rookie-scale extension. Several media outlets reported that there was optimism that a deal could get done, but the Cavaliers seemed more focused on locking up big man Anderson Varejao, who agreed to a three-year, $30 million extension with Cleveland.

Thompson will be a restricted free agent, and will get a lot of attention from teams if he has a breakout season playing behind Kevin Love. If Thompson signs an offer sheet with another team next offseason, the Cavaliers will have the option of matching the offer and retaining Thompson. However, if the offer is too big, the Cavaliers may let Thompson go considering Love is already on the roster.

Thompson has a qualifying offer for $6.7 million next season.

Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Hornets: The Charlotte Hornets did not agree to an extension with big man Bismack Biyombo, who was selected seventh overall in the 2011 Draft.

Biyombo saw a huge drop-off in playing time last year with the arrival of Al Jefferson. Biyombo, in 13.9 minutes per game, averaged 2.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks last season. Biyombo has talent, and is an especially good shot blocker, but at this point, his effectiveness is limited.

The Hornets had another player that was extension-eligible in Kemba Walker, who was clearly their main priority.

Biyombo has a $5.1 million qualifying offer for next season.

Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks: On Friday, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that extension negotiations between the Milwaukee Bucks and Brandon Knight had ended and Knight would enter restricted free agency next July.

Knight is a solid point guard, but at this point it is hard to determine how much he is worth in comparison to other point guards. Knight has career averages of 14.8 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Last offseason, the Bucks signed Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague a four-year, $32 million offer sheet (which the Hawks eventually matched). Teague was coming off of a season where he averaged career highs in points (14.6) and assists (7.2) per game. Considering this, the Bucks were probably offering Knight a deal that falls short of the deal offered to Teague, which Knight probably rejected with the new TV deal in mind.

Knight has a qualifying offer for $4.7 million next season.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets: On Thursday, the Charlotte Hornets and Kemba Walker agreed to a four-year, $48 million extension.

Walker has career averages of 16 points, 5.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Walker arguably could have held out for money considering he puts up numbers in the same ballpark as Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, who received the same contract as Walker this offseason, but is four years younger than Lowry.

Nevertheless, now Walker has financial security and can focus on helping the Hornets take the next step in their development. He already rewarded the Hornets with a game-tying three-pointer on opening night against the Bucks, which forced overtime and led to a Hornets’ victory.

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors: The Golden State Warriors and Klay Thompson agreed to a four-year, $70 million extension on Friday, just hours before the deadline. The Sacramento Kings reportedly made a late push to swing a trade for Thompson, offering anyone but DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.

Thompson’s contract situation caught more attention than just about any other player. He is arguably the best two-way shooting guard in the league, and with Stephen Curry comprises arguably the NBA’s best backcourt. The Warriors highly value Thompson, as evidenced by their reluctance to offer him up in trade negotiations for Kevin Love this offseason.

Alec Burks, Utah Jazz: On Friday, the Utah Jazz and guard Alec Burks agreed to a four-year, $42 million extension (including incentives that could drive the deal as high as $45 million).

The Jazz are starting to make big time investments in their core of players as they already locked up Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward. However, as previously discussed, the Jazz did not lockup Enes Kanter, and will let him hit restricted free agency.

Nevertheless, the Jazz are starting to assemble and lock in a core of young, promising talent.

Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns: The Phoenix Suns went all in on the Morris twins more than a month before the extension deadline. Markieff received a four-year, $32 million extension after averaging 13.8 points, six rebounds, and 1.8 assist per game last season.

Markieff is expected to step up and fill in for the loss of Channing Frye, who signed a contract with the Orlando Magic this offseason (though he will need to raise his career 33.2 three-point percentage to do so effectively).

Marcus Morris, Phoenix Suns: Marcus Morris received a four-year, $20 million extension to stay in Phoenix with his brother. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough knows that the Morris twins are more effective when they are playing with one another, so investing in Marcus makes a lot of sense.

“We wanted to lock these guys in for as long as possible,” McDonough said last month. “The twins and Leon Rose really wanted to get it done. Marcus and Markieff saw the value of playing together. If they went into restricted free agency without extensions, I don’t want to say it’d be impossible to stay together but it would’ve been harder.”

It’s not clear what either Morris twin may have received in free agency, but by extending them now, the Suns ensure that they keep both in Phoenix without worrying about another team overpaying for one of them next offseason.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: Last season’s Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard will test his worth in restricted free agency next year. The San Antonio Spurs declined offering Leonard a max-extension now, and will re-explore the situation next summer.

Here is what Leonard’s agent Brian Eflus had to say about the situation.

“We feel Kawhi is deserving of a max contract, and we are disappointed that something couldn’t get done,” Elfus told Yahoo Sports. “There’s no debating Kawhi’s value. The market has been set. He’s done everything the Spurs have asked of him, exceeded all of their expectations. Coach [Gregg] Popovich has gone out of his way to call Kawhi the future face of the franchise. We have great respect for the Spurs organization, but here, we simply agree to disagree.

“There will be no shortage of teams interested in Kawhi’s services next year. There will be a lot of contract scenarios available to us, and we will explore them all.”

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, many league executives highly value Leonard and expect that he will command a max offer sheet on the market next offseason (though the Spurs would likely match any offer for Leonard).

Leonard has a $4 million qualifying offer for next season.

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic: On October 21, the Orlando Magic and Nikola Vucevic agreed to a four-year, $53 million extension.

Vucevic has established himself as a double-double machine, and is one of the better all-around centers in the league. He has started off this NBA season strongly, averaging 19 points, 17.5 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in the first two games of the season.

Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks: It has been known for over a month that the New York Knicks would not negotiate an extension with shooting guard Iman Shumpert.

Shumpert is a promising young player, but struggled with his offense all of last season. Shumpert was never going to receive an extension with Tim Hardaway Jr., on the team and the Knicks looking to stay as financially flexible as possible heading into next offseason.

Shumpert has a $3.7 million qualifying offer for next season.

Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic: Tobias Harris will become a restricted free agent next summer as he and the Orlando Magic failed to agree to an extension. Both sides say they want to stay together long term, but with the Vucevic extension and Mo Harkless also on the roster, the deal never came together.

Harris has a $3.4 million qualifying offer for next season.

Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets: Earlier this month, the Denver Nuggets and Kenneth Faried agreed on a five-year, $60 million contract. The contract was soon after amended to four-years, $50 million as the original deal was in violation of the CBA. Under the four-year deal, Faried will make $500,000 more per season.

Faried has shown substantial improvement in his game over the last year, and was a standout this offseason for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup Tournament.

Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder: The Oklahoma City Thunder did not reach an extension with guard Reggie Jackson.

Jackson filled in admirably for Russell Westbrook last season, and is one of the better young combo guards in the league. Jackson has ambitions of being a full-time starter, but it seems that Thunder coach Scott Brooks is still unconvinced of that.

Failing to extend Jackson conjures up memories of 2012 when the Thunder failed to reach an extension with James Harden and instead traded him to Houston for assets.

Jackson has a $3.2 million qualifying offer for next season.

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls: On Friday, Jimmy Butler rejected the Chicago Bulls’ final offer for an extension and now plans on testing his worth in free agency.

“It came down to me deciding that I want to bet on myself,” Butler told Yahoo Sports on Friday. “It was about me believing that I put the work in this summer to become a better player with the hope that my improvement will give the Bulls a better chance to win a championship.”

Butler is one of the best perimeter-defenders in the league, but struggled with a lingering foot injury last season. Butler is highly thought of around the league and could receive an offer in free agency that makes it difficult for the Bulls to retain him.

Butler has a $3 million qualifying offer for next season.

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves: Though he was drafted in 2009, Rubio did not officially play in the NBA until 2011. For this reason, Rubio was extension-eligible this year. On Friday, just three hours shy of the extension deadline, Rubio and the Timberwolves agreed to a four-year, $55 million extension. Rubio will earn $13.75 million per season, making him Minnesota’s highest paid player (replacing Nikola Pekovic, who will make $12 million this season) and the eight highest paid point guard in the league.

Rubio’s deal envisions the potential Rubio has, and the player he may become one day. While Rubio is a gifted passer and underrated defender, his inability to shoot the ball consistently limits his effectiveness.* Consider that Kemba Walker and Kyle Lowry both agreed to four-year, $48 million deals, while putting up bigger per game numbers, and it is apparent that the Timberwolves expect major growth in Rubio’s game.

*Note: Several news outlets are reporting that Rubio’s deal includes a $1 million incentive, which is tied to serveral shooting benchmarks, including field goal and free throw percentage.

This has been one of the more active seasons for rookie-scale extensions. A lot of players landed nice extensions that offer significant financial security, but there will be plenty of good players like Kanter, Thompson, Leonard, Jackson and Butler who will  test their worth in the restricted free-agency market next offseason. Only time will tell whether gambling on themselves over accepting guaranteed money now was the right choice.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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