More Players Become Eligible For Vet Extensions

There’s been a run on veteran extensions of late. Four players have signed such deals within the past six months after only two had signed them since the 2011 lockout that begat the existing collective bargaining agreement. Zach Randolph, Tony Parker, Anderson Varejao and Rudy Gay all agreed to forfeit free agency, where the rules would have allowed them to sign for more money over a greater amount of time. Players who sign veteran extensions can tack no more than three years on their existing deals, and they can earn raises of no more than 4.5%. Free agents can re-sign with their teams for five seasons and raises of up to 7.5%. That’s why LaMarcus Aldridge put an end to extension talk this past summer even as he pledged to remain with the Blazers for the long term. It would harm him financially to sign an extension, and ostensibly, the Blazers would like to keep him for as long as possible. No such restrictions are in place for rookie scale extensions, which is why teams and players continue to strike those deals at a prolific rate.

Randolph, Varejao and Gay fall into the sweet spot that makes veteran extensions, usually anathema for players who seek to maximize their earning potential, advantageous for them. All three are veterans who wouldn’t command the maximum salary in free agency and were on contracts that paid them at or above their market value. There’s no bottom floor for the value of an extension, so Randolph and Gay were free to negotiate within the broad range of their existing player-friendly salaries all the way down to the minimum. Neither was about to sign for the minimum, but both found a middle ground with their teams that saw them agree to pay cuts over the next few years. Varejao’s existing contract pays him a nearly $9.705MM salary this season that was likely in line with what his market value was to have been at the time he signed his extension, which predated his torn Achillies, so the slight raises the extension calls for suit him fine.

Parker is a different case, as he gave up the chance to command a maximum-salary deal in free agency this coming summer for a discount that ties him to the Spurs until he’s 36 years old, meaning he’s unlikely ever to see that maximum money. It was a clear self-sacrifice that owes its only explanation to the point guard’s comfort with the Spurs, and indeed a player’s comfort with his team often helps drive an extension. Varejao has never played for any team other than the Cavs, Randolph has blossomed in Memphis like never before, and the Kings helped revive Gay’s career. Age, which seemingly would have been a motivating factor for Parker not to sign his extension, was conversely a likely reason why Randolph and Varejao signed theirs, since Randolph, 33, and Varejao, 32, probably wouldn’t have merited five-year deals were they to have hit free agency.

The timing of the recent spate of veteran extensions is counterintuitive, since the lockout prevented several would-be extension-eligibles from even considering the idea for much of this year. Players become eligible for veteran extensions three years after they sign their contracts. Those who signed long-term contracts in 2011 became eligible for veteran extensions in 2014, but because the lockout pushed the typical July flurry of signings into December, those players only became eligible this month. Here’s a look at the players who’ve become eligible for extensions in the past few weeks, along with the date that they became eligible:

In addition, Russell Westbrook becomes extension-eligible on January 19th, while Kevin Love can sign an extension starting January 25th. It’s almost certain that neither will agree to one, however, since they’re likely to command maximum salaries in free agency. That’s not the case for a pair of Nuggets who’ll become extension-eligible later this season, with Danilo Gallinari set to cross the threshold on January 25th, and Wilson Chandler poised for extension-eligibility on March 18th. Grizzlies trade candidate Kosta Koufos becomes eligible for an extension on January 25th.

The new group of players eligible for veteran extensions joined fewer than two dozen who had been eligible before December. Here’s the complete list of veteran extension-eligible players as it currently stands, sorted by team. The names from the above list are repeated below and mixed with the names of the players who had already been eligible for veteran extensions:

RealGM was used in the creation of this post.

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