- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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When only six first-rounders from the 2006 NBA Draft scored contract extensions before the Halloween deadline last October, we witnessed a new low in the Modern Rookie Scale era.
And now we’re quite possibly heading for a new low.
The deadline for extensions for 2007 first-rounders is a day later than usual -- pushed to Nov. 1 because Oct. 31 falls on a Sunday this year as opposed to a business day -- but it’ll take a late rush to see even five extensions before this year’s buzzer.
You’ve probably heard or read by now that only two first-round draftees from 2007 have secured extensions to date: No. 2 overall pick Kevin Durant ($85 million max deal over five seasons from Oklahoma City) and No. 9 Joakim Noah ($60 million plus incentives over five years from Chicago).
Thanks to an increasing reluctance leaguewide among GMs to hand out extensions before they know the specifics of the next collective bargaining agreement – and the lukewarm overall regard for many of the players taken in the Durant Draft -- everyone else from the Class of ’07 appears headed for restricted free agency in the summer of 2011 unless they can manufacture an extension in the next 10 days.
Who still has some hope of joining Durant and Noah?
There appears to be only one strong contender at present: No. 3 overall pick Al Horford.
Despite persistent chatter in recent days that Horford and the Hawks have made little recent progress in negotiations, sources close to the situation maintain that a deal before the deadline remains probable, given Horford’s status as a borderline All-Star big man … and the fact that Horford is being represented in negotiations by the same agent (Arn Tellem) who squeezed the biggest contract of the summer ($123.7 million over six seasons) out of the Hawks for Joe Johnson. (Word is reigning Sixth Man Award winner Jamal Crawford, meanwhile, has to wait until Horford’s window passes before Atlanta seriously entertains the idea of signing Crawford to the extension he seeks.)
UPDATE (Oct. 26): If negotiations do end up progressing from “probable” to done deal -- with much of the hesitation stemming from the fact that Hawks GM Rick Sund did not hand out extensions in somewhat similar circumstances to Ray Allen or Rashard Lewis in Seattle and waited until Johnson’s free-agent summer to strike a new deal with the Hawks’ All-Star guard -- one source with knowledge of the talks says we should expected a five-year deal “just slightly north of Noah’s” in the $65 million range.
As for names beyond Horford, there are only maybes galore.
A source with knowledge of Greg Oden’s thinking told ESPN.com that 2007’s No. 1 overall pick is resigned to the idea that an extension from the Blazers is not forthcoming. I’m told Oden isn’t even pressing for it, after appearing in just 82 games over his first three seasons, because he knows he’s better off trying to put together one strong season and proceed to restricted free agency -- provided restricted free agency still exists in the next CBA -- than negotiate now against his lengthy injury history.
No. 5 overall pick Jeff Green? Oklahoma City, as ever, has been exceedingly quiet about its intentions, but one source close to the process said this week that Thunder general manager Sam Presti and agent David Falk “aren’t close” to a deal despite maintaining a regular dialogue on the matter. The belief persists that OKC wants to save its money for next summer, when point guard Russell Westbrook is eligible for the sort of extension Durant just received.
No. 4 Mike Conley (Memphis), No. 7 Corey Brewer (Minnesota), No. 15 Rodney Stuckey (Detroit) and even No. 26 Aaron Brooks (Houston) appear highly unlikely to be extended thanks to their teams’ reluctance to spend money before a new labor agreement is in place … and with Stuckey’s situation complicated by the Pistons’ sale-in-progress.
One source with knowledge of Washington’s thinking said recently that extensions for No. 6 Yi Jianlian and No. 14 Al Thornton would definitely be discussed, but that’s as far as it’s gone to this point. (Although I tend to believe that the Wiz, having watched Yi follow up his strong play in the World Championships in China with a good start in DC, could still try to sell him on an Andray Blatche-type deal.)
I’ve also been advised to at least file away the possibility that No. 23 Wilson Chandler might make a late charge for an extension, if only because the first year of a new deal from the Knicks would figure to be less than his projected free-agent cap hold next summer of roughly $6.5 million.
But the only confirmed new name we can add to the discussion is No. 22 Jared Dudley, whose emergence as a reliable sparkplug and fan favorite in Phoenix has established Dudley as a member of the Suns’ core, which has kept alive extension talks this month.
“We are talking and have been talking for a few weeks,” Dudley’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN.com on Thursday. “They’ve made it very clear that they want Jared to be there and Jared has made it clear to them that Phoenix is where he wants to be. Whether that means we can make a deal that makes sense for both sides, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Waiting and seeing. In the Modern Rookie Scale era, we’ve never seen more of that.
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