The deals involving star players aren’t yet over this offseason. Even beyond the unresolved free agencies of Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe and the looming specter of a Kevin Love trade are rookie scale extension candidates. Any player who signed a rookie scale contract is eligible to sign an extension from July 1st to October 31st after his third season in the league. If the player doesn’t sign an extension in that window, he’ll be eligible for restricted free agency the next summer.
Six players signed rookie scale extensions last offseason, and Kyrie Irving became the first to do so this summer, signing the first day he was eligible. Here’s a look at what Irving received and a primer on the rest of the market.
Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers — Irving already signed a five-year max extension. Irving’s lone financial concession was giving up the right to receive approximately 30% of the salary cap should he trigger the Derrick Rose Rule. He’ll instead earn about 27.5% should he meet the Rose Rule criteria and the standard 25% max if not.
Klay Thompson, Warriors — Agent Bill Duffy is seeking the max in negotiations with Golden State, and the team appears to have decided to keep his name out of offers for Love, at least for the time being. The Warriors have taken steps to plan for such a deal, even dating back to the veteran extension they signed last year with Andrew Bogut. Co-owner Joe Lacob has vowed to strike a deal with the shooting guard, though it’s not entirely clear whether he intends to do so through an extension or next summer in restricted free agency. Signing an extension would trigger the Poison Pill Provision, making it difficult for the Warriors to trade Thompson until next summer, so I think he’ll sacrifice some money for a degree of certainty. Prediction: Four years, $58MM.
Kawhi Leonard, Spurs — The Finals MVP is confident a deal will get done, and Gregg Popovich believes the 23-year-old will become the face of the franchise. Still, the three straight games with 20 points or more he compiled in the last three games of the Finals represented the first such streak in his entire career, and only the second time he’d ever scored 20 in as many as two games in a row. He’s also grown among a Spurs core that sacrificed money for championships. Prediction: Four years, $50MM.
Nikola Vucevic, Magic — There’s reportedly mutual interest in a deal, though it sounds like Orlando has put the matter on the backburner. Vucevic’s progress seemed to stall this past season, but the leap he made in his second NBA season, the first in which he saw significant playing time, is probably enough to convince the Magic to deal. Orlando has been profligate in its spending on mid-tier veterans, so I imagine the team will follow suit with its promising 23-year-old center. Prediction: Four years, $48MM.
Kenneth Faried, Nuggets — Denver GM Tim Connelly and coach Brian Shaw spoke in support of Faried this spring, and Connelly was to have met with agent Thad Foucher and company at the beginning of this month. Still, the Nuggets reportedly floated Faried’s name in trade talks early last season, and concerns about his defense remain. Prediction: Four years, $44MM.
Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves — Agent Dan Fegan wants the five-year max that former GM David Kahn infamously refused to give to Love in order to save it for Rubio, but injury and shooting woes have kept the point guard from displaying superstar potential. Flip Saunders, who replaced Kahn in the Minnesota front office, might be willing to overpay a smidge to prevent losing both Love and Rubio, but given Fegan’s demands, it seems unlikely they come to terms. Prediction: No extension; restricted free agency next summer.
Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers — The Rich Paul client has increased leverage now that LeBron James, the top client on Paul’s list, has returned to Cleveland, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports recently wrote. Cleveland will have a tough time engineering cap flexibility to chase Love next summer, and it would be hard to trade Thompson if he signed an extension, thanks to the same Poison Pill Provision that would trip up the Warriors and their extension-eligible Thompson. It’s also tough to see where Tristan Thompson fits in if Cleveland does acquire Love. Prediction: No extension; restricted free agency next summer.
Jimmy Butler, Bulls — Butler is yet another rookie scale extension-eligible player tied to Love. The Wolves would reportedly like to receive Butler in a trade involving Love, but the Bulls apparently kept him out of their recent offer. That indicates that Chicago envisions a future with the Happy Walters client. Prediction: Four years, $42MM.
Reggie Jackson, Thunder — The last time a Thunder sixth man came up for a rookie scale extension, they traded him to the Rockets. It doesn’t seem like a drastic move like the James Harden blockbuster will happen this time, but Jackson wants a job at starting point guard he won’t get as long as Russell Westbrook‘s in town, and GM Sam Presti has seemed dismissive of extension chatter. Prediction: No extension; restricted free agency next summer.
Kemba Walker, Hornets — Charlotte has taken a fast track to rebuilding the past two seasons, but next summer might be about maintaining the status quo more than building, with Al Jefferson possessing the chance to hit free agency. Unless GM Rich Cho has designs on keeping everyone together and making a significant upgrade at point guard, I think he’ll be willing to get a deal done with Walker before Halloween. That goes double if it prevents another team from driving up Walker’s cost in restricted free agency, just as Cho drove up Gordon Hayward‘s cost this summer. Prediction: Four years, $40MM.
These are the rest of the players eligible for rookie scale extensions this year. Even though none of them seem likely to sign, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two of these players ink a small-scale extension like the four-year, $14MM deal the Grizzlies gave Quincy Pondexter.