Eight eligible players received extensions. While collusion conspiracy theorists might point out that it’s two less than the 2011 class, it also is one more than the 2010 class and the same number as the 2009 class.
As in previous seasons, the top pick got a five-year max deal and at least one other lottery pick also received a max deal of either four or five years. There were a handful of guys who reached a middle ground with their teams. And of course, there were a number of players deserving of extensions who were unable to come to an agreement.
But a closer examination of the 2012 draft class shows that it is much different than the three preceding classes. And here are the three reasons, all driven by the stratospheric leap the salary cap will make next summer with the influx of revenue from the new TV deal:
1. Bench players received extensions. From the 2009 class, the only true reserve to receive an extension was Chicago’s Taj Gibson. The following year also had just one bench player being rewarded – Quincy Pondexter of Memphis. From the 2011 class, both Phoenix’s Marcus Morris and Utah’s Alec Burks were reserves when they got paid. That’s just four bench players over three years, and their collective deals averaged $6.87 million per season.
The 2012 class has three on its own – Milwaukee’s John Henson, Toronto’s Terence Ross and Charlotte’s Jeremy Lamb. (Ross did start often for the Raptors but clearly is a reserve now … and likely will be as his new deal begins next year.) Their extensions average $9.8 million per season.
Yes, NBA salaries go up virtually every year. But they aren’t supposed to go up that much. The increase in the salary average from 2009-2011 to 2012 is 42.5 percent. Even if you remove Pondexter’s outlier deal of $14 million over four years – it is by far the smallest handed out in the last four years – the increase in salary average is still 25.1 percent.
The salary cap is expected to jump from $70 million to $90 million, or 28.6 percent. So not only are more bench players getting extensions previously not handed out, they are being paid commensurate with the salary increase as a whole.
What does this mean? Two things. With more money available, free agent reserves shouldn’t have to settle for bi-annual and room exceptions or veteran’s minimum deals. And if players with resumes as barren as Lamb’s are getting $7 million per season, the mid-level exception – currently at $5.46 million and already calculated to increase a lousy 3 percent to $5.63 million next summer – won’t have the powers of attraction for teams it has had in the past.
Also, memo to the Charlotte Hornets: At shooting guard, you might want to start Lamb, whom you just gave $21 million over three years, instead of P.J. Hairston, whom you decided wasn’t worth picking up his third-year option. Just a thought.
2. Average money per extension. We already illustrated how this year’s seven extensions do not vary much from any of the last three years. Overall, somewhere between one-fifth and one-third of first-round picks get extensions every year.
However, the average money of these extensions is dramatically different. The 2009 class received seven extensions totaling $386 million for an average of $55.14 million. The 2010 class had six extensions for $339 million for an average of $56.5 million. The one-year average increased 2.5 percent, very much in line with the negligible increase of the salary cap.
The 2011 class had nine extensions totaling $462 million for an average of $51.33 million. That was actually a 9 percent drop from the previous year, despite the fact that the salary cap rose 7.5 percent to $63 million in the summer of 2014 and 11 percent this summer.
This year’s seven extensions totaled $474 million for an average of a staggering $67.7 million. Even if you don’t include the increase Anthony Davis is virtually certain to get via the “Derrick Rose Rule,” the average is still $64.1 million. If you include Davis’ bump as we have, the one-year increase is a remarkable 32 percent.
Again, the percentage increase somewhat mirrors the anticipated 28.6 percent increase of the salary cap. But keep in mind that the extension average includes the supposedly smaller extensions given to three bench players, which should in theory create a drag on the average but instead is giving it a boost. And if you’re wondering, the 2009 class (Blake Griffin), the 2010 class (Paul George) and the 2011 class (Kyrie Irving) each had a “Rose Rule” player.
So in addition to the benchwarmers, studs and starters are getting more money as well. The studs are limited by max salaries and are directly benefitting from the cap increase. But compare the non-max deals of centers Nik Vucevic (4 years, $52 million) from last summer and Jonas Valanciunas (4 years, $64 million) from this summer. You can debate the relative merits of each player. But you cannot debate who received much more money.
3. Expect more player movement. This summer, it became obvious that it pays for players to be patient. Virtually everyone who turned down an extension last year got more money as a restricted free agent. And although three of those players were dealt at the deadline by teams looking to avoid a huge financial decision, none of them had to change teams to get their new, larger deals.
With the increase in the cap, you can expect to see more player movement next summer. A potential example is Harrison Barnes of Golden State, which already is over the cap next season. Do the Warriors want to keep Barnes? Of course. But if Barnes turned down a four-year, $64 million extension, that means his camp believes he can get considerably more – perhaps even a max deal starting at $20.4 million.
On the open market, Barnes would be a desired commodity given his youth, skill set and the league-wide emphasis on wing play. And the increase in the cap will create plenty of suitors. There will be more than 20 teams with cap space for a max deal, and a player like Barnes who already has a ring might take $87 million and lots of touches over four years from Philadelphia or Portland.
Would the Warriors be willing to match? They can count on extra playoff revenue and they are moving into a new arena soon. But with Stephen Curry due for a max deal in 2017, Andre Iguodala also coming due that summer and Festus Ezeli also looking for an extension, the tax implications could get steep, even with the exponential growth in the cap.
Barnes is going to get more money than he turned down. So are Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, Terrence Jones, Tyler Zeller, Evan Fournier and even Meyers Leonard and his career 4.9 points per game. But they might have to change addresses to get it.
And next summer, being patient will benefit teams to a degree as well as players. After Davis and Damian Lillard, no one in the 2012 class deserved a max extension more than Pistons center Andre Drummond. But the Pistons and Drummond agreed to wait until the summer to sign the deal, because it creates slightly more cap room.
Right now, Detroit’s cap figure for next summer is just under $65 million. That does not include cap holds but does include all options, including Drummond’s qualifying offer of $4.3 million. If Drummond signed a max deal now, Detroit’s cap would be near $81 million, which is barely enough to sign Jeremy Lamb. But by waiting, the Pistons apply Drummond’s cap hold of $8.2 million. That puts their cap figure at roughly $69 million, which leaves just enough space for a max player.
It also benefits teams like the Washington Wizards, who reportedly would not offer Bradley Beal a max extension. Beal will get max money, and most likely from the Wizards. But by failing to reach a deal, the lesser cap hold replaces an actual salary, leaving plenty of room to chase Kevin Durant. And if Beal signs a max offer sheet with another team, it will be with annual raises of 4.5 percent rather than 7.5 percent. If Washington matches, it would save almost $2 million over a four-year deal.
All this extension season accomplished was to reinforce what folks in the know both inside the league and out have been saying since the new TV deal was announced: There is going to be a boatload of money available next summer, and virtually everyone – from studs to starters to scrubs – is going to get theirs.
TRIVIA: Who is the only player making twice as much money this season as the second-highest paid player on his team? Answer below.
THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT: In a sponsorship deal with the fast food chain Sonic, the Memphis Grizzlies gave a fan who hit a halfcourt shot free tater tots for life. Napoleon Dynamite, eat your heart out.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, on his team’s 36 percent shooting in Thursday’s loss to the Clippers:
“We couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle.”
TANKS A LOT!: Through three games, 11 players have taken the floor for the Sixers. Four are rookies, and the only one with more than 78 games worth of experience is Hollis Thompson with 151 appearances in two-plus seasons.
LINE OF THE WEEK: Stephen Curry, Golden State at New Orleans, Oct. 31: 36 minutes, 17-27 FGs, 8-14 3-pointers, 11-11 FTs, four rebounds, nine assists, four steals, two turnovers, 53 points in a 134-120 win. Curry fell one point shy of his season high as he scored 28 points in the third quarter, or two more than the Pelicans. He had one flurry of 11 points in 92 seconds and another of 10 points in 2:01.
LINE OF THE WEAK: Joe Johnson, Brooklyn vs. San Antonio, Oct. 30: 25 minutes, 1-7 FGs, 0-1 3-pointers, 0-0 FTs, two rebounds, one assist, one steal, one turnover, five fouls in a 102-75 loss. Going back to last season, Johnson has been held to one bucket three times in his last 10 regular-season outings. If he doesn’t score, the Nets have no chance of winning.
TRILLION WATCH: There were 2 trillions from Warriors guard Brandon Rush on Tuesday, Nuggets guard Erick Green on Friday and Pacers forward Solomon Hill on Saturday. But the early leader in the clubhouse is Warriors guard James Michael McAdoo, who somehow had a 4 trillion while Golden State and New Orleans were combining for 254 points on Saturday. Honorable mention to Thunder forward Mitch McGary, who wrecked a 4 trillion with two turnovers Saturday.
GAME OF THE WEEK: LA Clippers at Golden State, Nov. 4. In case you haven’t noticed, these teams don’t like each other very much. Both teams are off to 4-0 starts. Seems like the ideal setting to find out just how “lucky” the Warriors actually were last season.
GAME OF THE WEAK: LA Lakers at Brooklyn, Nov. 6. Someone needs to explain to GMs Mitch Kupchak and Billy King of these winless clubs that you can’t rebuild by hoarding max players and trading away draft picks. With a game Sunday vs. the Knicks, this also could be the last time through New York for Kobe Bryant, who is shooting a spiffy 31 percent and assessed his play this way: “I suck right now.”
TWO MINUTES: Curry is at 77 consecutive games with a 3-pointer and is about to start inching up the all-time list. Dennis Scott is fourth with 78 games, Michael Adams is third with 79 and Dana Barros second with 89. Coincidentally, Curry entered this season with his streak at 73 games, the same number as Hawks forward Kyle Korver when he began the 2013-14 season – and went on to shatter the all-time record wih 127 games. After 73 games, Curry was shooting threes at a .451 clip (266-of-590) and Korver was at .459 (189-of-412). He hasn’t been held without a three since going 0-of-7 in a home loss to San Antonio on Nov. 11, 2014. … The following players don’t appear to be in their team’s rotation: J.J. Hickson, Vince Carter, Chris Kaman, Tyler Hansbrough, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Hill. … Most of the focus with the Spurs early in the season will be on LaMarcus Aldridge and how quickly he becomes acclimated with San Antonio’s offense of constant movement and unselfishness. But another element that bears watching may be Tony Parker’s flagging defense. Down the stretch of Oklahoma’s season-opening win over San Antonio, the Thunder repeatedly went to a 1-3 pick-and-roll with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, forcing Parker to give space to Westbrook or switch onto Durant. When Gregg Popovich countered by placing Danny Green on Westbrook and Parker on Dion Waiters, Thunder coach Billy Donovan wasted no time going to isolations for Waiters, who responded with consecutive buckets in a one-possession game. “We went to the mismatches,” Waiters said. Parker, who has never been a good defensive player, is 33 and definitely slipped last season. … When Portland walloped New Orleans last week, the Trail Blazers actually set an NBA record with their 15th straight home-opening win. Boston won 14 straight home openers from 1979-92, a stretch almost parallel to the career of Larry Bird. … New coach Scott Skiles is trying to change the culture and demeanor of the Magic, who have been in rebuilding mode since trading Dwight Howard. Friday’s home game vs. Oklahoma City could have been a step forward but ended up being two steps back and illustrated the size of the chore. Orlando’s Victor Oladipo buried a 3-pointer with three seconds left in regulation, and his teammates began celebrating, even though the Thunder were out of timeouts and the ball was coming back into play. Russell Westbrook took the inbounds pass, sped to halfcourt and banked in the tying shot. The Thunder won, 139-136, in double overtime. “They had no timeouts left. We were unaware,” Skiles said. “He drove down and banged in a 3 and tied the game while we were celebrating. Totally unacceptable and unprofessional, so we have to address that.” … By winning its first three games, Detroit moved three games above .500 for the first time since Feb. 11, 2009. … In New Orleans’ first three games, it surrendered a 24-point quarter by Stephen Curry, a 22-point quarter by C.J. McCollum and a 28-point quarter by Curry. … Washington’s John Wall just missed a 5 by 5 on Wednesday at Orlando with 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists, five blocks and three steals. There has been just one since 2006; Nic Batum went 11-5-10-5-5 for Portland vs. New Orleans on Dec. 16, 2012. … Steve Nash was inducted to the Suns’ Ring of Honor on Friday. Remaining totally in character, Nash began addressing the crowd at Talking Stick Resort Arena with this gem: “I didn’t prepare a speech and they gave me a lot of drinks in the last couple hours.”
Trivia Answer: Marc Gasol of Memphis, who makes $19.689 million to Zach Randolph’s $9.638 million. … Happy 47th Birthday, Mister Jennings. … Until Monday night, it sure looked like James Harden and the Rockets were yet another victim of the Kardashian Kurse.
Chris Bernucca is the managing editor of SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Monday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.