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Extension looming for Thompson, Warriors?

10/17/2014

We're inside the final two weeks of what was initially forecasted to be a very busy extension season for the NBA's class of 2011.

The updated forecast?

After news of the league's monstrous new TV deal leading into the 2016-17 season landed so loudly on Oct. 7, uncertainty about exactly when -- and how drastically -- the NBA's salary cap will start rising has been rampant. So making predictions about who will and won't receive extensions before the Halloween deadline, as a result, got a lot tougher.

To date we've seen four class of 2011 players score extensions: Team USA standouts Kyrie Irving (Cleveland) and Kenneth Faried (Denver), along with the Phoenix Suns' Morris twins.

But this particular October was thought to comfortably possess double-digit potential in terms of total extensions, compared to the mere six members of the Class of 2010 who scored new deals before the Halloween buzzer in 2013.

There's still sufficient time, of course, for a late rash of deals before Oct. 31, but the list of players in limbo is l-o-n-g. League sources say that the following players are all in the midst of active extension negotiations with their respective teams as the end of the window -- and restricted free agency for those who aren't extended -- draws ever closer:

San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard, ‎Golden State's Klay Thompson, Minnesota's Ricky Rubio, Charlotte's Kemba Walker, Chicago's Jimmy Butler, Cleveland's Tristan Thompson, Oklahoma City's Reggie Jackson, Milwaukee's Brandon Knight and Orlando teammates Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris.

Just to name 10.

(You could also throw in the Utah duo of Enes Kanter and Alec Burks, as well as New York's Iman Shumpert and Miami's Norris Cole, if you need a few more names actively pursuing new deals.)

Yet the most confounding case of them all, on this scorecard, is Klay Thompson's. ‎You've undoubtedly seen the reports about the annual gulf of $3 million or so between Thompson's camp and the Warriors, but the Warriors appear to have more to lose than any team in that mix above if they can't ultimately come to terms with Thompson by month's end.

It was essentially 12 months ago that our suggestion that Gordon Hayward would get a max offer in restricted free agency if the Jazz didn't lock him up was roundly scoffed at. The Charlotte Hornets duly stepped up in July with a four-year max offer sheet for Hayward in excess of $60 million that Utah was forced to match, which wound up costing the Jazz more than $10 million extra compared to what Hayward was willing to take in October 2013 to avoid restricted free agency altogether.

And now I'd argue that Thompson is even more of a lock to attract a four-year max in the summer of 2015 if he winds up in the RFA Club. Worse yet for Golden State: One real option, I'm told, is Thompson pursuing an offer sheet from a new team modeled after the loaded three-year contract structure Chandler Parsons scored from Dallas this past summer.

Which is to say that Thompson, were he to pull a Parsons and sign a three-year deal with a player option to return to free agency in Year 2, would be setting himself up to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent in 2017 ... at the exact same time as Splash Brothers sidekick Steph Curry.

Don't think the Warriors want that.

The sense I get is that Warriors owner Joe Lacob, after capitalizing on Curry's myriad ankle problems over the years to secure one Splash Brother at a bargain extension of $44 million over four years, is trying to pull off a similar trick with the very durable and defensive-minded Thompson. But it's a different marketplace in 2014-15. And Thompson is poised to hit that market in a stronger position than Curry found himself in October 2012 because of those old ankle woes.

Thompson, like Faried, was a breakout star for Team USA at the FIBA Basketball World Cup over the summer, quietly finishing second on the squad to James Harden in scoring and emerging as one of Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski's favorite players because of his dogged D.

Although some skeptics remain, given his modest statistical production beyond points per game, Thompson is nonetheless making a case to succeed Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade as the NBA's foremost two-way guard. At the very least, at a mere 24, Thompson has established himself as an undeniable impact player at both ends, known as much today for hounding perimeter players of all different sizes as he is for his 3-point prowess.

There are other fascinating extension situations around the league, whether it's the ongoing Rubio stalemate with Minnesota or the Spurs' Kawhi Conundrum, after Leonard unexpectedly played his way to an NBA Finals MVP trophy in June.

The Spurs, though, have already been to the NBA mountaintop, which puts them in a more secure position than the Warriors. Leonard's determination to keep a Spurs-ian low profile, furthermore, makes him look born for San Antonio as much as any Spur we've seen since that Timothy Theodore Duncan fellow. With Leonard, whether a deal gets done now or takes until summer, you really have to twist yourself into a pretzel to imagine a scenario where he isn't in South Texas for the long term.

Thompson's long-term future? I'm not so sure. It strikes me as far riskier for the Warriors to let this month pass without Thompson being signed and sealed, imagining the sort of toxic offers he'd get in restricted free agency from the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers, ‎who've already tried unsuccessfully to trade for Thompson in the past.

The Warriors would still retain their fair share of say in the matter if terms can't be reached with Thompson ‎over the next two weeks. As a restricted free agent next July, Thompson wouldn't be able to walk unless Lacob was prepared to let him go.

Yet you have to ask: Did the Warriors ultimately walk away from the months-long Kevin Love trade talks with the intention of letting Thompson sign a short-term, booby-trapped max deal with an early opt-out and fat trade kicker ‎that creates a whole new set of challenges?

Don't think they want that.