Kevin Love got paid. So did Danilo Gallinari and Kosta Koufos – yes, Kosta Koufos – as the Nuggets dropped a cool $50 million.
The rest of the 2008 draft class, including Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez and Nicolas Batum? Please take a number, young man.
A dose of fiscal responsibility by owners – brought on by the new CBA – and a combination of trepidation and smarts by executives make it unlikely for most 2008 first-round picks to get some early financial security.
Some GMs are reluctant to set an unreasonable market for a middling player when you can allow another GM to do it via restricted free agency.
Others have their eyes on a bigger prize. With a stacked free agent class becoming available this summer, teams want to maintain flexibility with their salary cap. That’s why Lopez – a 7-footer who never missed a game until this season and has career averages of 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – didn’t come close to a contract extension.
Here’s a rundown of the Class of 2008, with some snotty remarks.
1. DERRICK ROSE: A no-brainer. Already an MVP, he got a bump to 30 percent of the salary cap, which adds up to $94 million over five years. That bump is now known as “The Derrick Rose Rule.”
2. MICHAEL BEASLEY: The Wolves were drawing an inexplicable hard line with Love. They weren’t even talking to Beasley, who has been hurt this season and could end up as trade bait.
3. O.J. MAYO: His status was sealed at the beginning of last season, when the Grizzlies surprisingly extended Mike Conley, knowing they still had to retain Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Losing his starting job didn’t help, although he has been a pro about it.
4. RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Western Conference foes silently rooting for a breakup were disappointed when he decided $79 million (over five years) to be Kevin Durant’s second banana wasn’t so bad. But next year, GM Sam Presti might have trouble backing up the Brink’s truck for everybody.
5. KEVIN LOVE: The Wolves offered the $62 million max for four years but wouldn’t budge on a fifth year, which was petty. So Love flipped it back in his favor by getting an opt-out after three years. Every GM is now looking at his projected 2015-16 payroll.
6. DANILO GALLINARI: He got $42 million for four years, which is a bit much for someone who hasn’t had a sniff of the All-Star Game. Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri says Gallo will get better, and he will. But eight figures is a big gamble under this economic system.
7. ERIC GORDON: They went to the wire but could not get it done. Can’t believe a trade landing Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Lamar Odom in New Orleans was vetoed, yet it’s OK for the Hornets to build their franchise around an injured shooting guard with no history of winning. Gordon deserved to be extended, but he’s not a cornerstone. As a GM, David Stern makes a great commissioner.
8. JOE ALEXANDER: Hasn’t even played in the NBA since March 27, 2010. Currently in Russia. Nice pick by the Bucks.
9. D.J. AUGUSTIN: His fate was sealed as soon as the Bobcats landed Kemba Walker in the draft. He has a future, but not in Charlotte.
10. BROOK LOPEZ: Under normal circumstances, Lopez should have been maxed out already. But as long as the Nets believe they can acquire Dwight Howard, they will treat Lopez as mere chattel. You could do a lot worse in the middle, and most teams do.
11. JERRYD BAYLESS: A backup point guard, no matter what he may think. And backups don’t get extensions – unless they’re Kosta Koufos.
12. JASON THOMPSON: Never understood the accompanying hubbub. He has had more than ample opportunity to establish himself with the Kings and hasn’t. Doesn’t deserve an extension of any kind.
13. BRANDON RUSH: He makes threes and defends, two nice qualities in a shooting guard. But that does not make him unique.
14. ANTHONY RANDOLPH: Headed to unrestricted free agency, where he will pick up scraps for the next two or three summers. Can’t see the Wolves making the $4 million qualifying offer, especially when they might have to make one twice that size to Beasley.
15. ROBIN LOPEZ: Marcin Gortat’s nine straight double-doubles are making the decision much easier on Lopez, who isn’t anywhere near the player his brother is.
16. MARREESE SPEIGHTS: Another UFA candidate, although at least he is getting a chance to drive up his value by actually getting on the court for the Grizzlies. Doug Collins buried him in Philadelphia for not playing defense.
17. ROY HIBBERT: The 7-footer is clearly part of Indiana’s long-term plans, but the Pacers will have a ton of cap room this summer and want to first explore free agency. They can always match any offer Hibbert gets elsewhere – and he will get one.
18. JAVALE McGEE: The Wizards are, shall we say, in flux. Giving anyone on that roster an extension right now would be a huge mistake. They should be forced to spend the rest of the season playing for their jobs. But McGee is Tyson Chandler with training wheels and will attract offers, even as a restricted free agent.
19. J.J. HICKSON: One of three Kings forwards on this list and perhaps the best one. But he is not getting paid. GM Geoff Petrie will let others set the market.
20. ALEXIS AJINCA: Currently playing for Strasbourg in France. The French word for extension is extension, only they say it funny.
21. RYAN ANDERSON: Like Brook Lopez, another very good player whose short-term future is being undermined by the Dwight Howard mess. Under normal cirumstances, probably should have come in at a little less than Gallinari at around $30 million over four years.
22. COURTNEY LEE: In his first three years, he went from a starter on a Finals team to a reserve on a lottery team. That is probably his long-term future.
23. KOSTA KOUFOS: Without a doubt, the biggest surprise extension, although the money (3 years, $9 million) is highly manageable. The 7-footer will play 10-plus years in the NBA; we just didn’t think it would be in multi-year chunks.
24. SERGE IBAKA: Didn’t start playing until 2009, so isn’t due until next year – when teammates James Harden and Eric Maynor also come up. Presti will have some decisions to make.
25. NICOLAS BATUM: The Blazers were talking with him about an extension but could not reach an agreement, bringing harsh words from his agent. Last season’s acquisition of Gerald Wallace – and the likelihood that Wallace will opt out this summer – has had an impact, because you never want to give starter money to a sub.
26. GEORGE HILL: The Spurs moved him to the Pacers because they knew this day was coming. Indiana’s desire to remain flexible impacts him much as it does Hibbert. Might get a mid-level exception offer as a restricted free agent.
27. DARRELL ARTHUR: Came on for the Grizzlies last season, but Conley’s deal and a season-ending injury this year sealed his fate as an RFA.
28. DONTE GREENE: Don’t see him ever being more than he is now. Might get a qualifying offer.
29. D.J. WHITE: Has been demoted and traded but has hung with it and actually is averaging almost double figures for the Bobcats, who don’t spend money.
30. J.R. GIDDENS: Out of the NBA since April 2010 and currently playing in Greece. I’m sure at some point during his stint with the Celtics, Tommy Heinsohn compared him to Sam Jones.