There’s been no progress as agent Brian Elfus and the Spurs have spoken several times over the past few weeks about a rookie scale extension for Kawhi Leonard, who’s seeking the maximum salary, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Several league executives tell Wojnarowski that the reigning Finals MVP is in line to receive offer sheets for the max should he hit restricted free agency next summer. The Spurs would almost certainly match in that case, according to Wojnarowski, but it appears the team is reluctant to commit itself to the max before Friday’s deadline for an extension.
It’s not quite clear exactly how much a maximum-salary extension would entail, since the max won’t be known until the NBA sets its salary cap for 2015/16 next July. A five-year max extension would be worth about $85MM based on this year’s figures, which would yield a $66MM max over four years if the Spurs elected not to make Leonard their Designated Player. The league nonetheless projects the cap will rise from $63.065MM this year to $66.5MM for next year, though at least one report has suggested that $66.5MM is a low-end estimate.
The cap will assuredly rise even farther beginning in 2016, when the league’s new TV deal kicks in, and should Leonard hit free agency, that dynamic might drive him to sign an offer sheet similar to the one Chandler Parsons took from the Mavericks. Parsons’ player-friendly deal allows him to become a free agent after two years, and if Leonard signed an offer sheet with the same structure, he could become an unrestricted free agent in 2017, as Wojnarowski points out. That would be after the TV money pushes the cap and the maximum salaries much higher. However, an offer sheet could only contain raises of 4.5%, lower than the 7.5% raises the Spurs are allowed to give.
Leonard expressed confidence in reaching an extension with the Spurs soon after they won the championship this year, and Gregg Popovich has spoken of the 23-year-old Leonard as the next preeminent star of the team. I predicted over the summer that Leonard would be cognizant of the fact that he’s only once scored at least 20 points three games in a row and willing to make financial concessions as so many of his Spurs teammates have. However, it appears he’s not on board with accepting the discounted rate of $50MM over four years that I pegged when I examined his extension candidacy. It’s unclear if the Spurs are pushing for an extension in that range, and they would have plenty of room for the max if they want to go there, since they have only $34.2MM in commitments for 2015/16.