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Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Extensions coming for class of 2009?

By Marc Stein
ESPN.com

James Harden
Will the Thunder pay the big bucks for James Harden? That's one big story to follow before Halloween.

Halloween is always a big night in the NBA.

Every Oct. 31 serves up the sweetness of numerous regular-season openers to ingest along with a helping of deadline drama on contract extensions for former first-round picks entering their fourth season -- provided there's no lockout in effect.

To wit: Halloween 2012 delivers a nine-game slate and a last chance for 20 draftees from the NBA's class of 2009 to score new deals to join the only two extension recipients since July 1: the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin and Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (who actually was drafted in 2008 but gets lumped in with this group because he didn't have an NBA contract until the 2009-10 season).

The reality is that extensions for Year 4s have gotten harder to come by every year, with cost-conscious teams frequently preferring to let the deadline pass knowing that the player in question can only become a restricted free agent next July, which gives the incumbent team every opportunity to match whatever the open market brings.

You'll recall that only five members of the 2008 draft class managed to score extensions this past January after the lockout finally ended: Chicago's Derrick Rose, OKC's Russell Westbrook, Minnesota's Kevin Love, and Denver's Danilo Gallinari and Kosta Koufos. And that's after just five extensions for the Class of 2007, down from six for the Class of 2006 and seven for the Class of 2005.

I tend to believe that we could actually see as many as four more extensions by the time the 2012 calendar flips to November, but maybe that's just a byproduct of my usual October giddiness, knowing that I'm about to score a big stash of my beloved spearmint Chiclets two-packs.

A five-category forecast on the extension likelihood for 2009 draftees, with exactly two weeks to go before Halloween's 11:59 p.m. buzzer, follows here:

Probable


Gibson

Taj Gibson, Bulls
Next to Derrick Rose, there's no Bull valued more by the organization than Gibson. Which is why many rival teams expect the Bulls to have Gibson signed to a new deal by month's end, even though Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is seemingly never in a rush to do extensions.

The high dollars and luxury-tax implications are such in James Harden's case that it wouldn't totally shock the world if the parties reach November without a deal ... but no deal in Gibson's case would expose the Bulls to the same conditions that made it possible for Houston to pilfer Omer Asik in restricted free agency this past July. Which is something Chicago really can't afford. Extending Gibson now and cutting ties with Carlos Boozer later via the amnesty clause, sources say, is still the most likely outcome here.

Harden

James Harden, Thunder
You still have to presume, for all the hints of pessimism dropped in recent weeks by Thunder GM Sam Presti, that the parties will find a way to come to terms, largely because Harden is the most accomplished player not named Blake Griffin in this draft class and because OKC is where he so badly wants to be. Presti-watchers haven't forgotten that the Thunder traded away the last guy in Harden's spot next to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on OKC's three-man marquee, but let's be clear here: Jeff Green wasn't at Harden's level when Presti shipped him out. Follow those cues until we tell you differently.

Lawson

Ty Lawson, Nuggets
It'll happen closer to the Oct. 31 deadline should the deal get done, but sources close to the process continue to say that an extension with the Nuggets remains more of a "when" than an "if" for the speedy point guard. HoopsWorld.com reported this week that the Nuggets have offered Lawson a four-year deal worth $44 million, which would suggest that the sides aren't far off as we speak if the numbers are genuine.

Curry

Stephen Curry, Warriors
The Warriors and Curry's camp have been pretty open about their plans to get through the exhibition season before entering into serious extension discussions. Although concerns about Curry's longstanding ankle woes persist, there will still be enough time after the preseason for the sides to make a deal, which remains the Warriors' preference given their high hopes that Curry and Andrew Bogut will emerge as a core tandem. Most of these deals, remember, materialize close to the buzzer.


Possible


Holiday

Jrue Holiday, 76ers
I originally had Holiday pegged as a likely extension recipient after hearing earlier this month that the Sixers were motivated to get him locked up. He has since been downgraded to an extension maybe, at best, because of increasing rumbles that the sides are pretty far apart, with Holiday said to still be seeking a max deal that the Sixers aren't prepared to offer. Philly has plenty to think about this month anyway, truth be told, given how little they've seen from ailing new face of the franchise Andrew Bynum.


Unlikely


Daye

Austin Daye, Pistons
"Unlikely" is the exact word recited by one well-placed insider when asked about Daye's hopes for an extension. It appears that the Pistons aren't about to trifle with any of next summer's projected cap space after wishing for years that they could take back the deals handed out to Charlie Villanueva and the recently traded Ben Gordon.

DeMar DeRozan, Raptors
The Raptors, by all accounts, want to be wowed by DeRozan this season before they take the step of committing to him for the long term. They've even dropped hints to that effect publicly and are highly unlikely to change that stance in the next two weeks.

Evans

Tyreke Evans, Kings
Team president Geoff Petrie has issued multiple proclamations in recent weeks that the organization would prefer to hold off on any binding decisions about Evans' future with the Kings until after they see how he bounces back from a season-plus of regression. Which is pretty telling given how rarely Petrie makes announcements of any kind.

Tyler Hansbrough, Pacers
Would the Pacers sign George Hill and Hansbrough to long-term deals before prized swingman Paul George was eligible to receive his first major payday? Hard to picture.

Gerald Henderson, Bobcats
Henderson is valued to the degree that he was recently named a Bobcats co-captain alongside veteran guard Matt Carroll. But no extension is expected here unless the terms are super favorable to Michael Jordan's Bobcats.

Jennings

Brandon Jennings, Bucks
The distinct vibe out of Milwaukee is that the Bucks are taking a wait-and-see approach to pretty much every major decision looming. With coach Scott Skiles and general manager John Hammond also in their contract years, that means Jennings -- still one of our faves to watch with those echoes of Nick Van Exel in his game -- has plenty of prove-yourself company.

Jeff Teague, Hawks
The Hawks like Teague, but they'll also have copious amounts of salary-cap space to make an offseason run at a pretty good point guard named Chris Paul. The same Chris Paul who was famously fond of the idea that he'd be drafted by the Hawks back in 2005. Which leads you to believe that they're going to hold off on anything with Teague until they know CP3 is out of reach.


Long Shots


Collison

I've been advised that you can safely rule out extensions for the Dallas guard duo of Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois, with the Mavericks intent on preserving maximum cap space for the summer of 2013 after 2012's unsuccessful run at Deron Williams.

Oklahoma City's Eric Maynor (given the Thunder's total focus on the Harden situation) and Memphis' Wayne Ellington (with the Grizzlies in the midst of being sold) are likewise near-certainties to see the Halloween extension deadline pass quietly.

Indications are strong that the same holds for Houston's Toney Douglas, Sacramento's James Johnson, Charlotte's Byron Mullens and regrettably even Omri Casspi, Cleveland's first-ballot Stein Line HQ Hall of Famer.


Not Even In The Conversation


Thabeet

Hasheem Thabeet, who really was the No. 2 overall pick by Memphis in 2009, did score a three-year deal during the offseason ... but it was a three-year minimum deal with Oklahoma City.

There's also a handful of 2009 first-rounders who, like Thabeet, are still trying to establish themselves as NBA regulars while playing on modest contracts. No. 6 overall pick Jonny Flynn had to take a non-guaranteed camp invite with Detroit to jumpstart his career; No. 8 Jordan Hill was the recipient of a two-year, $8 million deal from the Lakers in July; No. 11 Terrence Williams finds himself in Pistons camp alongside Flynn battling for a roster spot; No. 15 Earl Clark was a trade throw-in to the Lakers in the Dwight Howard deal ... and No. 27 DeMarre Carroll is trying to make Utah home after failing to stick in Memphis, Houston or Denver.

No. 5 overall pick Ricky Rubio, meanwhile, isn't even eligible for an extension until the summer of 2014 because he delayed his NBA debut until last season. Two more 2009ers who likewise aren't yet extension-eligible are Portland rookie Victor Claver (No. 22 overall) and Orlando's Christian Eyenga (drafted No. 30 by Cleveland).