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|Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward are Utah's cornerstones now.|
Only 10 days to go until the Halloween buzzer for contract extensions for former first-round picks entering their fourth NBA season.
That leaves roughly a week and a half for class of 2010 draftees to generate four more new deals and trump the eight extensions amassed by the class of 2009.
The 2010 rookies are off to a promising start thanks to five extensions (listed below) that have already been hammered out. The 2009 rookies whose contracts were extended before the horn sounded on Halloween 2012 were Blake Griffin, James Harden, Ty Lawson, Steph Curry, Jrue Holiday, DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Serge Ibaka, who was drafted in 2008 but gets lumped in with the 2009 class because he didn't have an NBA contract until the 2009-10 season.
The reality is that extensions for Year 4s have gotten increasingly harder to come by in a league where luxury-tax fears are growing for every team based outside the borough of Brooklyn. So the five-extension flurry over the past few months doesn't change the fact that a total of eight or nine extensions would be a great overall haul for the current crop.
Knowing that any player eligible for an extension this month can only become a restricted free agent in July if passed over now -- giving the incumbent team every opportunity to match whatever the open market brings -- has helped drop the average number of extensions every October to six for the past five draft classes starting with 2005.
Yet our annual five-category forecast on the extension likelihood for the remaining 2010 first-rounders, as the 11:59 p.m. deadline on Oct. 31 draws near, duly follows here:
To quickly review what I suspect you already know well: No. 1 overall pick John Wall landed a five-year max deal from Washington in July that's expected to be in excess of $80 million in the final calculations. Ditto for No. 10 pick Paul George, this draft class' only All-Star to date, last month in Indiana.
No. 5 pick DeMarcus Cousins scored a four-year max deal worth in excess of $60 million from Sacramento, while No. 3 Derrick Favors (Utah) and No. 15 Larry Sanders (Milwaukee) have received four-year deals valued at nearly $50 million and $45 million, respectively.
How many more extensions will we see?
No. 9 pick Gordon Hayward, according to sources briefed on the situation, remains on course to join Favors in landing an extension from the Jazz by month's end, making him the strongest candidate still out there.
Given his emerging status as the closest thing to a face of the franchise in Salt Lake City in the post-Deron Williams era, sources say Hayward is likewise in contention to score a deal that could wind up richer than Favors' contract, which helps explain why Favors' negotiations got done first.
The Jazz know that letting Hayward reach restricted free agency in July exposes them to a lucrative (and potentially even max) four-year offer that is bound to cost them more than any deal that gets done this month, judging by the widespread fondness in front offices around the league for Hayward's versatility, shooting and size at his position. Few players in Las Vegas in July, when Team USA gathered close to 30 of the league's top 25-and-under players in the same gym, had rival coaches and execs more excited than Hayward, who undeniably has lots to prove as he moves into a role of prominence in the coming season but will also see lots more of the ball as he tries to live up to those ramped-up expectations.
The whole rest of the month might be needed to finalize a deal, but sources continue to project an eventual extension as more of a when than an if for the former Butler darling.
Thanks to those five faster-than-usual deals, there would appear to be only two other names in contention for an extension at this juncture.
They are Phoenix's Eric Bledsoe (No. 18) and Memphis' Ed Davis (No. 13).
As seen with the likes of Curry, Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson last season, Bledsoe believed he could command an extension valued at more than $10 million annually when he was still Chris Paul's backup with the Clippers. And he's only been emboldened by the trade to the Suns that has established him as a Phoenix cornerstone who will be running a team for the first time this season.
The Suns could elect to let Year 1 with Bledsoe play out and allow the market to set the 23-year-old's price next July, but that's a risky strategy given the modest (to put it mildly) crop of free-agent point guards projected to be available come July 2014. (How modest? Eight months out, Kyle Lowry or Rodney Stuckey ranks as the most attractive unrestricted free agent among lead guards.)
The extension Favors earned might also end up helping Bledsoe. They indeed play completely different positions, but Favors was paid in part because of what he's expected to produce in an expanded role after the departures of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Bledsoe is in a similar position.
The Grizzlies' Davis ranks as the sleeper of this extension class after he was barely used by former coach Lionel Hollins upon arriving in Memphis in late January in the Rudy Gay trade. Extensions are historically rare for role players, but Davis is regarded in some corners as the heir to Zach Randolph's frontcourt spot alongside Marc Gasol, with Z-Bo down to this season and next season's $16.9 million option left on his contract at 32. Though it remains to be seen if negotiations progress to the serious stage, sources say that Davis' camp and the Grizzlies have been discussing a deal this month.
There are some pretty big names in this category, starting with Pistons center Greg Monroe. The consistent word out of Detroit all month holds that 2010's No. 7 overall pick, despite his undeniable promise and standing as one of the East's top bigs, is most likely headed to restricted free agency next summer. The Pistons just spent big money to sign Josh Smith and are believed to be saving their biggest bucks for young center Andre Drummond, factors that appear destined to force Monroe to play the market in July 2014 and see if the Pistons are willing to match the best offer he commands. Yet it should be noted that Monroe's agent, David Falk, has said for months that he's very confident good offers await in July and is comfortable waiting if necessary.
And Monroe's situation, however it plays out, must sound good to 2010's No. 2 pick, since Evan Turner concedes he has pretty much no shot to score an extension with Philadelphia rebooting completely and management determined to dodge any sort of long-term obligation with anyone other than new coach Brett Brown. The reality is that, with the Sixers as synonymous as any team with the primary goal this season to wind up in Andrew Wiggins territory in next May's lottery, Turner is more likely to be traded than extended.
Boston's blossoming Avery Bradley, meanwhile, recently heard team president Danny Ainge announce that a new deal was "most likely next summer," with the Celtics also in the midst of starting over and thus not exactly eager to extend 2010's No. 19 selection irrespective of his rep as a topflight defensive stopper.
No. 17 pick Kevin Seraphin and No. 28 Greivis Vasquez might have been long-shot contenders for new deals this month if their teams hadn't spent so much already. With Wall's Washington Wizards, that affects Trevor Booker (No. 23) and Seraphin, while Cousins' new deal in Sacramento -- as well as what we noted earlier about role players rarely scoring October extensions -- makes it difficult for either Patrick Patterson (No. 14) or Vasquez to press for early cash. (Another issue for the Venezuelan guard: Vasquez is coming off late-summer ankle surgery.)
Memphis' Quincy Pondexter (No. 26) still ranks as a long-shot contender similar to his Grizzlies teammate Davis. No one is banking on an extension, but it hasn't been completely ruled out as it has for Milwaukee's Ekpe Udoh (No. 6) and Boston's Jordan Crawford (No. 27).
Quite an exhibit to slam home the point that the modern draft so rarely delivers NBA-ready talent: 12 of the 30 players selected in 2010's first round aren't even eligible for an extension this month because they've either been waived by an NBA team at least once or didn't play well enough to get a third- or fourth-year option picked up along the way.
It's a group that includes four lottery picks, headlined by No. 4 overall selection Wesley Johnson, who should make the Lakers' opening night roster this season -- but only after failed stints in Minnesota and Phoenix.
No. 8 pick Al-Farouq Aminu re-signed with the New Orleans Pelicans this summer as a free agent after the Pelicans, having acquired him from the Los Angeles Clippers in the Paul trade, passed on his 2013-14 option. No. 11 Cole Aldrich and No. 12 Xavier Henry, drafted in succession by Oklahoma City and Memphis, have drifted to the point that both are training camp hopefuls this October with the Knicks and Lakers, respectively.
The other 2010 first-rounders who have been in and out of the league since their big draft-day moment: No. 16 Luke Babbitt, No. 20 James Anderson, No. 21 Craig Brackins, No. 22 Elliot Williams, No. 24 Damion James, No. 25 Dominique Jones, No. 29 Daniel Orton and No. 30 Lazar Hayward.
Anderson (Philadelphia), Williams (Cleveland), James (Denver) and Orton (Philadelphia) are the four players from that club of disappointments who, like Aldrich and Henry, are at least in camp with new teams and thus still alive in the race for roster spots as cut-down day (Oct. 28) approaches.