Twenty-three players became eligible for rookie scale extensions when the 2018/19 NBA league year began in July. One of those 23, Devin Booker, quickly finalized a new deal with the Suns, leaving 22 other players who could sign rookie scale extensions before the October 15 deadline. In the weeks leading up to that deadline, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the strongest candidates for new contracts.
Our examination of this year’s candidates for rookie scale extensions continues today with Cavaliers big man Larry Nance Jr. Let’s dive in…
Why the Cavaliers should give him an extension:
The Cavaliers liked Nance enough at last season’s trade deadline that they were willing to give up a first-round pick and take on Jordan Clarkson‘s contract – not exactly a bargain – to acquire him from the Lakers, despite the fact that the deal helped pave the way for LeBron James to eventually sign with L.A.
Nance struggled a little to adjust to his new team, playing just 15.4 minutes per game in the postseason, but he provided the Cavs with the sort of energy and athleticism that their frontcourt had been lacking. For the season, Nance established new career highs with 8.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and a .581 FG%, showing an ability to run the floor, finish at the rim, and guard multiple positions on defense.
While the sample size wasn’t huge and his numbers were certainly boosted by playing major minutes alongside James, Nance’s on/off-court stats for the Cavs were impressive — the team had a 102.7 defensive rating during his minutes, compared to a 110.9 mark for the rest of the season.
Taking into account his on-court ability, his age (25), and his familial ties to the franchise – Larry Nance Sr. was one of the best players in Cavs history – it makes sense that the Cavs would view Nance Jr. as a long-term building block.
Why the Cavaliers should avoid an extension:
Nance has yet to enjoy a true breakout season, and it’s not entirely clear what such a year would look like. He doesn’t have an outside shot and probably isn’t the type of player who will ever average 20 PPG in a season.
Of course, that same sentiment applies to Clint Capela, who just secured a five-year deal with the Rockets worth between $80-90MM, so it’s not as if Nance doesn’t have value. But unlike Capela, who has developed into one of the NBA’s best interior defenders, Nance isn’t an elite rim protector. While he’s solid on that end of the floor, Nance may not be capable of anchoring a defense.
Even if the Cavs do view Nance as part of their future, the team may want to see what he looks like in a LeBron-less rotation during the 2018/19 season before making a significant financial investment in him. After years of the Cavs’ game plan revolving around James and Kyrie Irving, it remains to be seen how the leftover pieces will fit together going forward.