Looming Player Option Decisions: West

The NBA regular season ends in less than three weeks, so time is running short for players to make their final impressions. The stakes are higher for those whose contract situations for next season are unresolved. Player options are a coveted contractual feature, but the decisions players make often depend on how other teams regard them. Players do well to gauge the potential free agent market for their services, lest they follow the path of J.R. Smith, who turned down a $6.4MM player option last summer and wound up languishing in free agency for two months until accepting a deal from the Cavs that pays him only $5MM this season.

Most option decisions aren’t due until late June, but as the season winds to a close, we’ve examined the likelihood of each player opting in or out. We started last week in the Eastern Conference, and we’re following up now with the Western Conference, where many of the tougher calls exist:

Likely to opt out:

  • Dwight Howard, Rockets ($23,282,457) — Howard is expected to opt out in search of a max deal that would pay him about $30MM next season.
  • Chandler Parsons, Mavericks ($16,023,000) — The versatile forward’s potential season-ending injury is reportedly expected to have no bearing on his plans to opt out and enter a robust market.
  • Deron Williams, Mavericks ($5,621,026) — The 31-year-old is putting up numbers strikingly similar to the ones he posted in his final season with the Nets. The difference is that this year’s production comes against much lower expectations in Dallas. The rising salary cap presumably lifts the stock of just about every free agent, so Williams stands to make as much or more than he did last summer if he opts out. That’s particularly so considering Williams didn’t really experience an open market last year, coming free from the Nets after most other notable players had signed.
  • Austin Rivers, Clippers ($3,344,106) — The combo guard signed a short-term deal last summer because he wanted to improve his stock and quickly return to free agency. The terms of his existing contract were dictated by the declined option on his rookie scale pact, which barred the Clippers from giving him more, but no such bounds will exist for his next deal. A career-high 8.3 points per game so far will help Rivers, the son of Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers.
  • Darrell Arthur, Nuggets ($2,940,630) — This one’s a tough call, but Arthur’s production is up, and his work on the boards is better than it’s been in four years. His 14 starts this season are his most since he started 64 games as a rookie.
  • Caron Butler, Kings ($1,551,659) — It’s surprising that he’s still on Sacramento after the Kings reportedly promised to trade him in December. He was supposedly a strong bet for a buyout last month, but that didn’t happen, either. It’s tough to say much with certainty here given the evidence, but it seems like the 36-year-old will try to latch on elsewhere for a better chance at the playoffs.
  • David West, Spurs ($1,551,659) — Money was clearly no object for West this past offseason, when he took a sharp pay cut to sign for the minimum salary with the Spurs and chase a title. We can assume that he’ll opt out to see if he can again go after a ring and make more money doing so, though that’s certainly not a given.

Toss-up:

  • Tim Duncan, Spurs ($5,643,750) — Duncan, even as he approaches his 40th birthday next month, is worth far more than the value of his option, but he’s no stranger to discounts, and this decision likely comes down to whether or not he wants to retire.
  • Manu Ginobili, Spurs ($2,940,630) — Ginobili, who turns 39 this year, is in the same position as Duncan. If he wants to play again, he probably opts in. If he wants to retire, he’ll turn it down.
  • Wesley Johnson, Clippers ($1,227,286) — His minutes and scoring are down significantly from last season, though that was to be expected after a Lakers-to-Clippers move.
  • James Anderson, Kings ($1,139,123) — The swingman’s minutes have been inconsistent this season, though coach George Karl thinks he’s probably the team’s best defender. Still, Anderson was out of the NBA last season, so his position isn’t secure.

Likely to opt in:

  • Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks ($8,692,184) — Nowitzki hasn’t said so explicitly, but he told USA Today’s Sam Amick in November that he plans to “ride this contract out,” presumably meaning he’ll stay under this discounted pact, one that helps the Mavs chase other stars who could team with Nowitzki in a title quest.
  • Brandon Bass, Lakers ($3,135,000) — It’s conceivable he’ll opt out to seek either a larger role, a better chance to win or both, but the bet here is that he sticks it out with the Lakers after putting up his lowest numbers in six years this season.
  • Alonzo Gee, Pelicans ($1,379,400) — The journeyman has started 36 games for the injury-depleted Pelicans, but he’s averaged only 4.0 points per game and shot just 28.1% from 3-point range. The option gives him slightly more than he’d get on a minimum salary deal, and the money is guaranteed.
  • Cole Aldrich, Clippers ($1,227,286) — The big man has been in the rotation since Blake Griffin‘s went down around Christmas, but it’s tough to see him doing much better than the guaranteed minimum salary his option provides.
  • Seth Curry, Kings ($1,015,696) — Sacramento’s minutes for Curry have fluctuated, leading him to mild frustration, but he’d played only six NBA games before this season, so giving up guaranteed money would be a major risk.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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