The clock ticks ... toward a big nothing, in all likelihood.
There are two weeks before the Oct. 31 deadline for members of the Class of 2009 to be able to get contract extensions from their current teams. If they don't, they'll become restricted free agents next summer, able to receive offer sheets from other teams, as Roy Hibbert and Eric Gordon did last summer. But, continuing the trend of recent years, it's likely that most of the '09 class will find coal in its designer shoes.
Changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, combined with teams' unwillingness to make big financial commitments, have made the rookie scale extension a relic.
Only six members of the Draft Class of 2008 commandeered extensions -- Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Danilo Gallinari, Jason Thompson and George Hill. Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka also signed an extension, but because he played a year overseas before coming over, the Thunder weren't under the same deadline to sign him.
Only five players from the Class of 2007 got extensions. Kevin Durant got a max deal for $85 million from Oklahoma City, and Al Horford and Joakim Noah got pretty similar deals worth around $60 million. The Grizzlies gave point guard Mike Conley a $40 million extension, and the Suns worked out a more cap-friendly deal worth $22.5 million with Jared Dudley, continuing a downward trend that started in 2002, when 16 members of that year's Draft class got extensions. By 2005, that number had fallen to seven; the next year it was six.
Of course, it's Ibaka's teammate, James Harden, whose status highlights the '09 draftees, with the Clippers already having given Blake Griffin a max deal. The Thunder's limitations to giving another big deal after Kevin Durant's and Russell Westbrook's -- with Ibaka's $48 million on the ledger as well -- are well documented, but it's equally difficult to see Harden giving OKC a hometown discount.
Working against an extension as well are changes in the new CBA. Teams can give only five-year deals to max players, and they can do that only once. OKC already pulled that trigger with Westbrook's five-year, $80 million deal.
"With the new rules you're going to start to see teams be more selective," one team executive said over the weekend. "You can still re-sign them. You just might want to re-sign them for a little bit less than their options."
The lack of a fifth year takes away a decided advantage for the team that already has the player. That fifth year got Rashard Lewis, for example, an extra $20 million in his contract with the SuperSonics before he was traded to Orlando. Of course, that was a sign-and-trade deal, and starting next season, teams over the tax threshold won't be able to do those, either, nor will fifth years be allowed in sign-and-trades. Now, both the team with the player and the team that wants the player can offer only four years.
In past years, a team could offer that fifth year as security. Not anymore.
"Now (that) you can only give the same amount of years that they can get next summer, the player isn't as interested," the exec said. "Now, you have no advantage. I used to be able to say I' can give you a year more today than you can get next year. So let's talk about a deal and maybe the number is more realistic.' But they've taken that away."
By Halloween, we'll see who got tricked, and who got the few remaining eight-figure treats.
9. DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: It's not likely, despite DeRozan's improvement the last three years; they're not close. But don't rule it completely out, either. DeRozan's reps and the Raps have been talking for weeks, generally, but like everyone else, Toronto wants a deal with DeRozan that falls far below the max, and he's willing to test the market.
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