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Rubio, Burks, Thompson Win at Extension Deadline

The extension deadline for players on rookie-scale contracts was Friday. Our Eric Pincus grades the deals.

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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.

Declined Options

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.

Eric Pincus is a Senior Writer for Basketball Insiders, with a focus on the business side of the game.

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