Winners of NBA’s Recent Rookie-Scale Contract Extensions
The 2016 NBA draft class cashed in on Monday.
Ahead of the 6 p.m. ET deadline to sign rookie-scale extensions, Buddy Hield, Jaylen Brown, Domantas Sabonis, Dejounte Murray and Taurean Prince came to terms on deals with their respective teams.
They joined Ben Simmons (five years, $170 million), Jamal Murray (five years, $170 million), Caris LeVert (three years, $52.5 million) and Pascal Siakam (four years, $130 million) in locking up long-term financial security and bypassing the 2020 free-agent market.
In total, the Sacramento Kings, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Brooklyn Nets handed out more than $350 million in guaranteed salary to keep Hield, Brown, Sabonis, Murray and Prince in the fold beyond the 2019-20 season, respectively. (Prince is the only one of those five without incentives in his extension that could raise the value of the contract even higher.)
So which players and teams came out winners Monday, and who could regret what came to pass?
Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings
Leading up to Monday’s extension deadline, Buddy Hield made the stakes of his negotiations clear.
“If they don’t want to do it, we’ll look for somewhere else to go, maybe in the offseason, maybe this season, I don’t know,” Hield told reporters this past Wednesday. “They have to plan. I don’t know what their plans are with me.”
The Kings reportedly offered Hield a four-year, $90 million extensions, while he was hoping for “a number closer to $110 million,” according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. In the end, they wound up splitting the difference.
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Hield signed a four-year extension worth $86 million guaranteed and $20 million in incentives. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dubbed $8 million of those incentives as “exceedingly reachable bonuses,” although the deal is structured in a team-friendly fashion either way.
Amick reported Hield’s salary starts at $24.4 million and then declines 8 percent each season so that he’s projected to take up only 13.5 percent of the Kings’ salary cap in the final year of his deal. With forward Harrison Barnes signed to a similarly decreasing deal, Sacramento has done well to ensure it won’t be feeling too much of a financial squeeze once De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III are up for extensions in the coming years.
In the meantime, the Kings will be paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $22-26 million for a long-range flamethrower who’s fresh off hitting the seventh-most three-pointers during a single season in league history.
Seeing as Hield shot 42.7 percent from deep on a career-high 7.9 attempts per game last season, he may well have been in line for a max deal next summer barring a drastic regression.
The Kings were wise to lock Hield up when they did, as his price point might have gone up had they waited even a few more hours…
Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Shortly after news of Hield’s extension broke, Wojnarowski reported the Boston Celtics came to terms with forward Jaylen Brown on a four-year extension worth up to $115 million.
According to Jay King of The Athletic, Brown’s deal contains $103 million in guaranteed money, $4 million in likely incentives and $8 million in unlikely incentives. That’s a huge jump from what they had on the table last week—a four-year, $80 million offer, according to Haynes.
To some extent, the Celtics can justify this gamble as betting on Brown’s talent.
He flashed upside during the 2018 playoffs when he averaged 18.0 points on 46.6 percent shooting and 4.8 rebounds while helping to guide Boston to within one game of the NBA Finals despite the absence of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
However, Brown took a step back last season, as Hayward’s return from a horrific ankle injury pushed his young teammate to the bench for all but 25 games. Brown started all nine of the Celtics’ playoff games, but he mustered only 13.9 points as Boston meekly crumbled against the Milwaukee Bucks during the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Brown will be competing for touches this season with Jayson Tatum—who will likewise become extension-eligible in July—along with All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and Hayward. That could make it difficult for him to put up huge numbers right away, which could lead to fan/media grumbling about his contract in the not-too-distant future.
But with Hayward still somewhat of a question mark and Walker rapidly approaching the wrong side of 30, the Celtics decided to ensure Brown would stick around as a cornerstone alongside Tatum for years to come.
Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
Buddy Hield wasn’t the only 2016 draftee whose long-term future was in question leading up to Monday’s extension deadline.
On Friday, Amick reported Domantas Sabonis and the Indiana Pacers were “far apart in discussions about a possible contract extension,” and a deal was “looking unlikely” at the time. As a result, the Pacers had “engaged in active trade talks with several teams” about the big man, although sources told Amick that their asking price was “too high.”
Three days later, they came to terms with Sabonis on a four-year, $77 million guaranteed extension with incentives that could push it to $85 million, according to Wojnarowski. He’ll earn an additional $1.3 million per year if he’s named either an All-Star or makes it onto an All-NBA team, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (via Wojnarowski).
After factoring in salary-cap growth, Sabonis’ extension is similar to that of his frontcourt partner, Myles Turner, who reached a four-year, $72 million guaranteed extension last October with incentives that can push it to $80 million. Having Turner’s deal in place gave both Sabonis and the Pacers a baseline, and neither side strayed far.
It remains an open question whether Sabonis and Turner can coexist long term, as the two played only 429 minutes together during the regular season last year. The Pacers just gave themselves a far longer runway to figure out the answer to that question, though.
If they’re ultimately forced to choose between two, both bigs should have plenty of value on the trade market. After losing three starters this offseason to free agency and retirement, the Pacers clearly valued maintaining continuity in their frontcourt as they begin to work new pieces such as Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren and Jeremy Lamb into the fold.
Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs
Dejounte Murray missed the entire 2018-19 season after tearing his ACL during the preseason, which might have made the San Antonio Spurs hesitate to throw a big-money extension his way.
But based on his play this preseason, they likely didn’t have a choice.
Two years ago, Murray led all point guards in defensive real plus-minus and ranked ninth league-wide among all positions, according to ESPN. If this preseason sequence against James Harden is any indication, the Washington product will likely force his way toward the top of that leaderboard again soon.
The Spurs rewarded Murray with a four-year extension worth $64 million, with incentives that can push it up to $70 million, according to Wojnarowski. While that may look exorbitant based on his career production to date—he averaged 8.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists in only 21.5 minutes per game during his last healthy season in 2017-18—it could easily become a steal in short order.
Alongside fellow young guards Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and Bryn Forbes, Murray seems likely to become a cornerstone for the next Spurs era. Although DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge figure to be San Antonio’s two leading scorers this year, the defensive potential of Murray and White should help fuel another 45-plus-win season.
A $16 million average annual salary puts Murray right in line with Reggie Jackson and directly behind Ricky Rubio ($17.0 million), Goran Dragic ($17.0 million), Eric Bledsoe ($17.5 million) and Dennis Schroder ($17.5 million) among point guards.
It likely won’t be long before he emerges as a far better value than most (if not all) of that quintet.
Taurean Prince, Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets doubled down on their investment after acquiring Taurean Prince in an offseason trade with the Atlanta Hawks. Before seeing him suit up in a regular-season game, the Nets signed him to a two-year, $29 million extension, according to Wojnarowski.
The 25-year-old averaged a team-high 16.8 points on 63.2 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds and 4.0 three-pointers during four preseason contests. Although he was miscast as a primary offensive option in Atlanta, he’ll fit better as a complementary three-and-D weapon in Brooklyn.
Prince drilled 39 percent of his 5.7 three-point attempts per game last season with the Hawks, and his 6’7″ frame gives him the versatility to switch between both forward positions on either end of the floor. With Kevin Durant likely to miss the entire 2019-20 season and Wilson Chandler suspended for the first 25 games, Prince will play a critical role on a Nets team devoid of forward depth.
The Nets now have Durant, Kyrie Irving, Prince, Caris LeVert and DeAndre Jordan signed through the 2021-22 season (if not further), giving this core a three-year window to win a championship. Although Prince doesn’t have the cachet of Durant, Irving or LeVert, he could wind up emerging as the X-factor for this Brooklyn squad in the coming years.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NBA.com or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Early Bird Rights.
Bryan Toporek is a contributor at The Basketball Writers. He’s also a Quality Editor for Bleacher Report, co-hosts The NBA Podcast and contributes at FanSided and elsewhere. He still trusts the Process.