It's been a pretty slow transaction week in the NBA. With the deadline for rookie extensions coming up next month, I wanted to take a look at some of the more intriguing rookie extension negotiations that will be taking place for this week's Cap Talk. Let's dive into possible extensions for my three most intriguing extensions candidates: Collin Sexton, Jaren Jackson Jr, and Mikal Bridges.
I am endlessly fascinated by what each party wants out of a contract extension between Collin Sexton and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sexton is coming off a very productive year three after averaging 24.3 points (18th in the league), 3.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists with 47.5/37.1/81.5 shooting splits. In trying to flesh out a number for an extension, I took a look at recent players that received extensions off their rookie scale deals that played a similar position and had similar production in year three of their careers. Here's a look at that grouping below and what kind of extension they received.
That's an elite group to be apart of and seems a little outrageous to compare Sexton to. But checking the Year Three numbers for this group, it seems Sextons fits right in, if not excels within the group. Don't believe me? Check the below table from Stathead:
A list of categories that Sexton either leads or is second in among the group: Points, Field Goal Percentage, Three Point Percentage, Free throw Attempts, and Effective Field Goal Percentage. It would certainly seem like he was just as productive heading into his last year of his rookie deal as they were. However, the advanced stats below you can see a little bit of drop off in the metrics used to evaluate impact on winning.
You see a similar impact on Devin Booker. Highly productive in traditional stats but lower among the group in impact metrics. Could this have been due to a lack of talent around these two? We saw just what Booker was capable of once he was surrounded with a competitive roster. He was torn to shreds with questions on whether or not he played winning basketball, similar to what Sexton is currently going through.
Now, I'm not saying Sexton is going to lead the Cavaliers to the Finals in a couple years. But he could be a very good player for many years to come. He was just as, if not more, productive in his third year as the guys I highlighted in the tables above. Every single one of those guys signed a max extension. Do I think Sexton should get a max extension? No, probably not. But he definitely should be getting north of $100 million. We will see if the two parties come to terms on a deal, but given the fact that the team was reportedly shopping him pretty openly, I feel there's a good chance this ends in a trade or restricted free agency.
Jaren Jackson Jr
JJJ's rookie contract extension negotiations are equally as fascinating to me. It's been a bit of a weird to start to his career. He's shown incredible flashes of being an elite floor spacer and defender, but has also had his trouble staying healthy and out of foul trouble. He's got career averages of 15.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game with 48.0/37.4/76.5 shooting splits. Here's a look at some similar rookie extensions deals that were made at the center position.
Again, a pretty great group of players. Factoring in the deals above, it would appear a deal around 19%-20% of the cap annually would be a reasonable amount to offer. That puts Jackson just over the $100 million mark over four years. However, I don't think that is a deal that he would accept, nor would the Grizzlies offer. I think it would probably benefit both parties to let the year play out without an extension in place. JJJ can show what he's capable of in a healthy season with three years of experience under his belt, and the Grizzlies can ensure that his health isn't a yearly issue and that he is a foundational building block of their future alongside Ja Morant.
The Suns are in line to spend some serious money this offseason, after inking Chris Paul to a new deal and the expectation to max extend Deandre Ayton. One other key part of their starting lineup is also up for an extension in Mikal Bridges. Averaging 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assist, 1.1 steals, and 0.9 blocks with 54.3/42.5/84.0 shooting splits while playing All-NBA level defense, Bridges was pivotal in the revitalization of the Suns this past season. He should be looking to get paid as a top-tier two-way wing. I took the same method in projecting out a possible extension number for Bridges as I did Sexton and JJJ and came away with extension comparables below.
Taking a look at these deals, the first thing that pops is that OG Anunoby could've gotten much more in restricted free agency than what he settled for. Players like John Collins or Lonzo Ball got more money, even Lauri Markkanen got a similar amount. I think Bridges should learn from this and not settle for a similar deal to Anunoby. Two-way wings that are as talented as Bridges is are a scarce commodity in the league and should be paid as such. Mikal and his representation should be starting negotiations at 4 years $100 million, or roughly 19%-20% of the cap on average, which is in the Jaylen Brown extension ballpark. Brown and Bridges had very similar production in their Year Three seasons. Take a look below.
Bridges was clearly more efficient from the field and more impactful based on the advanced metrics, but Brown does bring more to the table with his self-creation skills. Regardless, this all goes to show just how good Bridges was this past year and that he should be paid accordingly going forward. The Suns are potentially facing down some pretty big tax bills in the coming years, but that is the price to pay to field a Finals contender nowadays.
Extension: Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets
Terms: four years, $92 million
This is an extension the Nuggets probably had to make. They didn't want another Jerami Grant situation on their hands next offseason. They gave up draft capital to bring him in and he fit nicely alongside Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. With a Porter Jr extension likely, this shows the team is committed to paying the tax to keep a competitive roster around Jokic with his extension on the horizon.
Gordon didn't put up great numbers after getting traded to Denver, but he fits a need as a big wing defender that the Nuggets have been missing. That is an absolute must to have in a Western Conference filled with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lebron James and Luka Doncic. I expect a much better season for him next year after an offseason and training camp with the team to build chemistry.
I think this is solid value for the Nuggets. Aaron Gordon fills a need and can play around their big three. This doesn't impact their ability to make future deals, as they weren't going to have cap space any time soon. That is, as long as ownership is willing to pay the luxury tax. It is roughly only 17% of the cap annually, similar to the current contracts for Bojan Bogdanovic and Harrison Barnes. It is a decent size to include in future trades as well.
Signing: Jarred Vanderbilt, Minnesota Timberwolves
Terms: three years, $13.8 million
This is good value for both sides. Minnesota brings back a solid rotation player at the four, a position they are shallow at a fairly cheap contract while Vanderbilt gets to make some real money and can get back on the market at age 25.
Trade: Grizzlies receive Marc Gasol and a 2nd round pick, Lakers receive rights to Wang Zhelin
With the signings of Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan, it was all but assumed that Marc Gasol was not going to be in LA. It is fitting that he was traded from the Lakers to Memphis, paralleling the trade early in his career and is only right that Gasol retires a Grizzly. Lakers save some tax money in the deal and Memphis adds another draft pick.
The Houston Rockets and John Wall have allegedly agreed for Wall to stay away for the team in preparation for a future trade. This makes sense, given the Rockets embracing the youth movement in a full on rebuild. But there is no way they are able to find a trade for Wall. I just don't see it. He has two years $90 million left. Yes, they were able to trade Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. I get it. But Wall just isn't those guys. Plus, these guys were all traded for each other. There just aren't that many big salaries out there that teams would actually trade. I look forward to being proven wrong in some crazy Ben Simmons, five-team trade, though, and can't wait to see John Wall in a Thunder jersey.
Nick Thoreson is a young professional working in finance who is passionate about the NBA and especially all things salary cap related.