It’s difficult to say any player move is likely until it’s imminent, but the notion that Sergey Karasev won’t be on the Nets for much longer isn’t far-fetched, even though Karasev denied reports that he wants Brooklyn to trade him. No such rumors have surfaced about P.J. Hairston and the Hornets or Solomon Hill and the Pacers, but neither is a strong bet to stick with his team. They were the only three players this fall with pending rookie scale options for 2016/17 whose teams declined to pick them up. There were four players last year whose 2015/16 options went unexercised, and none of the four is still with the team that declined the option. Three of them wound up changing teams before the end of last season.
All players with rookie scale options on their contracts are former first-round picks who carried significant promise at some point. Rookie scale option decisions are due a year in advance, and when those options are declined, it puts the team and the player in an awkward situation, since it signals that the team has essentially abandoned hope that the player will develop into a worthwhile contributor. The team can’t re-sign the player the following offseason to a starting salary greater than the value of the option, further limiting the chances of a continued relationship.
Here’s a look at what happened to each of the four players whose rookie scale team options were declined last year:
- Shane Larkin, Knicks — Larkin signed with the Nets this past summer on a two-year, $3MM deal. He’s scoring more points in fewer minutes per game this season, an improvement he attributes to no longer playing in the triangle offense.
- Nemanja Nedovic, Warriors — The partnership between Nedovic and Golden State didn’t last even two weeks after the Warriors declined his option, as the shooting guard asked for and received his release from the team in an early November 2014 buyout so that he could sign with an overseas team willing to give him more playing time. That turned out to be Valencia of Spain, which signed him shortly thereafter to a two-year deal. Still, Nedovic only saw 15.9 minutes per game for Valencia, and they parted ways last summer. Nedovic moved on to Spain’s Unicaja Malaga for this season, though he’s seen only 13.5 minutes per game there.
- Austin Rivers, Pelicans — New Orleans traded Rivers to the Celtics in January, and Boston relayed him to the Clippers three days later in another trade. The Clippers re-signed Rivers to a two-year deal worth nearly $6.455MM with a starting salary of precisely the amount of his declined option, which was the most they could pay him this season — $3,110,796.
- Thomas Robinson, Trail Blazers — The Blazers traded Robinson to the Nuggets at the deadline in the Arron Afflalo deal, and Denver waived Robinson shortly thereafter. He reportedly agreed to sign a 10-day deal with the Nets contingent upon him clearing waivers, but the Sixers swooped in and claimed him, foiling that plan. Still, that only delayed Robinson’s trek to Brooklyn, since he signed with the Nets over the offseason on a two-year, minimum-salary deal.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.