The NBA regular season ends in less than a month, 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’ll examine the likelihood of each player opting in or out, starting in the Eastern Conference, where no one seems a lock to opt in. We’ll follow later with a look at the West.
Likely to opt out:
- LeBron James, Cavaliers ($24,004,173) — The more lucrative path is for James, who’ll continue to command the max, to opt out and take advantage of a new, much higher, max.
- DeMar DeRozan, Raptors ($10,050,000) — The amount the option would pay him pales in comparison to the max offers that reportedly await, so even as DeRozan has spoken time and again of his fondness for Toronto, he almost certainly won’t be staying under this contract.
- Pau Gasol, Bulls ($7,769,520) — He’s said repeatedly that he’s likely to opt out.
- Wayne Ellington, Nets ($1,567,500) — He’s planning to opt out, at least as of last month, NetsDaily reported.
- Shane Larkin, Nets ($1,500,000) — He’s planning to opt out, at least as of last month, NetsDaily reported.
- Thomas Robinson, Nets ($1,050,961) — He’s planning to opt out, at least as of last month, NetsDaily reported.
- Arron Afflalo, Knicks ($8,000,000) — Afflalo told Marc Berman of the New York Post just a few days ago that he’s not sure what he’ll do about his option. An up-and-down season makes it tough to predict, but his 38.7% 3-point shooting and the rising salary cap will tempt him to turn down the $8MM.
- J.R. Smith, Cavaliers ($5,375,000) — This one is tough to call in part because of the unusual structure of the contract. Smith can pick up the option, but even if he does, his salary would be only partially guaranteed for $2.2MM until September 7th, when a full guarantee would kick in. Smith is in the midst of switching agents, which would suggest he’d opt out, but he reportedly plans to sign with Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, the agency of LeBron James, Smith’s close friend. That suggests Smith would opt in, or at least stay with the Cavs.
- Derrick Williams, Knicks ($4,598,000) — Williams said recently that he’s undecided. His scoring and rebounding averages are better than last season’s even though he’s seen fewer minutes per game, but his deal was player friendly from the start.
- Bismack Biyombo, Raptors ($2,940,630) — He’s made it clear he loves the Raptors, but he’s a 23-year-old defensive stalwart who’s scoring and rebounding as well as he ever has.
- Jeremy Lin, Hornets ($2,235,255) — Lin has fit in much better as a backup for the Hornets than as a starter in recent seasons for the Lakers and Rockets, but many of his numbers are either equivalent to or worse that what he put up last year.
- Mo Williams, Cavaliers ($2,194,500) — The 13th-year veteran in January called this season the most difficult challenge of his pro career but said he’s not interested in playing for another team. His 8.9 points and 19.7 minutes per game are his fewest since the 2003/04 season, his rookie year, so the market for him doesn’t figure to be robust.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.