Should, Shouldn’t, Did, Didn’t: NBA Rookie Scale Extensions

03
Nov

There’s no great rhyme or reason to this. Did/didn’t is clear, did the player receive a rookie scale extension or didn’t they? Should/shouldn’t is less clear. There are various competing ideas here. A player in one situation maybe should aspire to get extended and others should avoid it.

A team should lock someone like Bradley Beal up on a rookie scale extension one would think. But restricted free agency is a cruel mistress. Maybe the max will be higher, but maybe no one offers the max since the Washington Wizards will definitely match. I’ll explain my reasoning for each choice, but just know they might not always be from the same perspectives.

Jared Sullinger (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Boston Celtics

Sullinger has shown some potential over the year. He’s a capable shooter from three for a big, though that is only starting to manifest this year as he is shooting 33% at the moment. The issue is that his percentages have always been inefficient. Sullinger is up over 50% in reduced minutes this season, but that’d be a 13 point jump in FG%, one that likely won’t stick. This is a classic prove it going into restricted free agency. If he takes a step, they’ll give him the qualifying offer, but I think there’s a good chance they let him walk. Didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Tyler Zeller (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Boston Celtics

Zeller’s playing just 11.2 minutes per game right now. He was actually a capable defensive big man last season, reducing opponent’s shooting percentages across the board, but never to an impressive degree. Zeller offers almost no spacing to make up for that and has been an unimpressive rebounder, sticking at just 14% in REB% last year. No secret here, probably no qualifying offer. Didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist  (Did/Should) – Charlotte Hornets

Barring the injury that sidelined Kidd-Gilchrist for the season, MKG is the future of the Charlotte Hornets right now. There is no player on the roster with a higher upside. Signing a 4-year, $52 million extension was very smart for MKG and his agent. Missing a full season and heading into restricted free agency is a recipe for low-ball offers that Charlotte could have used to re-sign MKG on the cheap. There is risk for Charlotte because of the lost development time, but MKG is probably going to be worth this deal defensively at least and has the potential to fix his shot. Did and should have.

Jeremy Lamb (Did/Should) – Charlotte Hornets

DEALS. 3-years, $21 million for a $7 million average salary. That will be miniscule in the next CBA and is only marginally higher than the likely qualifying offer next year. I’m not a big fan of Lamb, but at $7 million a year, he just needs to be a quality shooter on kick outs. In a small sample in 2015-16, Lamb is shooting 44.4% from deep on 4.5 attempts per game. A 40% 3-point shooter with little else will be worth $7 million in the next few years. Risky, but did and should have.

Drummond

Andre Drummond (Didn’t/Should) – Detroit Pistons

There isn’t a ton of risk here for either side. I think no matter what happens short of an epic fall the like of Larry Sanders, Drummond will be signed to a max extension. He’s eating up rebounds and playing well for a 3-0 Detroit Pistons team right now and had enough upside that he would have gotten a max offer sheet last off-season too. They didn’t come to a deal, but I think they should have. It’s mostly just delaying the inevitable now.

Harrison Barnes (Didn’t/Should) – Golden State Warriors

I’m a little worried about the ability for the Golden State Warriors to add pieces in the future. There were murmurs of the Warriors attempting to get in on Kevin Durant, which is possible only if Durant demands it (anything is possible if a superstar demands hard enough). I think signing Barnes now would have benefited the Warriors. Barnes turned down a reported 4-year, $64 million extension offer in the off-season. That might have been a bit high and it included risk for the Warriors, but I think it would have been a good deal for both sides. Barnes and his agent see the cap jump coming and know he could potentially be a max guy. If not, he still might get more because the max will be so high so the next tier will be higher as well. They didn’t but I think they both should have.

Festus Ezeli (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Golden State Warriors

The Warriors will need a replacement for Andrew Bogut some day in the coming years. That answer is not Ezeli as a starter. He’s been a nice little piece as a big off the bench (something that gets less minutes in Golden State than other places). There’s not a lot here. Didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Terrence Jones (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Houston Rockets

I went back and forth a bit here. Jones has potential, is athletic, and has the capability to shoot and score without a high usage rate, something valuable in a fourth or fifth option. He’s faced a good amount of injuries in his career though and I think it’s the right decision for the Rockets to throw Jones into the restricted free agency fires instead of signing him to a rookie scale extension. He doesn’t rebound at a high rate, but he plays a lot of time next to Dwight Howard. It’s close for me, but didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Donatas Motiejunas (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Houston Rockets

Motiejunas just hasn’t proven it yet. He spaced the floor pretty well and fairly efficiently last season in an increased role it’s tough to say exactly what he hasn’t proven. There are so many things Motiejunas has only made small steps forward on. I think Motiejunas sticks around in Houston in the long-term, but not on a rookie scale extension obviously. Didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Henson

John Henson (Did/Shouldn’t) – Milwaukee Bucks

Maybe the Bucks aren’t a team that has to worry too much about saving money for free agency. But committing 4-years, $48 million to a player that won’t be getting nearly as many minutes with Greg Monroe on the team. Johnny O’Bryant is playing much more than Henson, though mostly due to an Achilles injury to Henson. It made sense at the start as a “don’t worry, Monroe is the short-term” sort of contract. But, Henson still needs to develop and can’t do it if he doesn’t get minutes, it remains to be seen what the minutes split will be with a healthy Henson. He has defensive potential, he limited shots within six feet to 6.5 percentage points lower than usual FG% when he defended, but teams would not have showered Henson with money if he doesn’t average more than 10-15 mins per game this year. Did and shouldn’t have based on current trends.

Miles Plumlee (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Milwaukee Bucks

Unexciting. Didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Anthony Davis (Did/Should) – New Orleans Pelicans

Why waste my breath on this. The only argument that Davis shouldn’t have involves wanting to leave or a rising cap. In the end, this is the right move for both sides. Davis will be a free agent again when he’s 28 years old. The New Orleans Pelicans should have and did sign Davis to a a max 5-year, $145 million contract.1

Dion Waiters (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Oklahoma City Thunder

Almost did, but never came to a deal. Another team that might not have a lot of freedom to add pieces in the future if they manage to keep Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. We all know Waiters is a very inefficient shooter and that hasn’t changed this year, but he is shooting respectably from three-point range. Normally, I’d say a sixth man type that has potential should be signed. It usually seems worth it. But, I think that Waiters is the archetype of the player that will find restricted free agency as a very cold, barren world. The Thunder should be able to get a great deal on re-signing Waiters next year and will still have the option to let him go if he continues to be…bad. Didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Evan Fournier (Didn’t/Should) – Orlando Magic

You can’t make decisions based on the first three games of the year, but Fournier is playing fantastically right now and is getting a lot of minutes. That might not continue into the future and the Magic can rest on the fact that Fournier has not been efficient in his scoring. There definitely will be minutes issues if/when Mario Hezonja starts to play more, but Fournier could have been a value I think, especially with the Lamb deal as a possible comparable. It’s close, but didn’t and probably should have.

Andrew Nicholson (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Orlando Magic

Naaahhhhhh. A qualifying offer will be much higher than what Nicholson likely earns on his next contract per year. Even if there is still potential here, which there is, there simply isn’t the minutes for him in the front court. Didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Wroten

Tony Wroten (Didn’t/Should) – Philadelphia 76ers

Should is definitely from the 76ers point of view in this case. They likely gave him a reduced offer because of his injury and there is no set timetable for return yet. Wroten can put the ball in the hoop and the 76ers don’t have a lot of money committed elsewhere. It would have been a worthwhile risk on the right dollar amount (obviously), but the circumstances surrounding his current injury and the mish/mash level of play makes it a near impossible sweet spot to find. Didn’t but should have in a perfect world.

Maurice Harkless (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers will be looking to the future for a few years now. They have intriguing pieces and have performed admirably so far. Unfortunately for Harkless, he feels redundant behind Al-Farouq Aminu, who already got the contract. Harkless still has some talent, but it likely won’t come to the forefront with the Trail Blazers in the future. Didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Meyers Leonard (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Portland Trail Blazers

There was a lot of hope for Leonard as a sort of stretch-five to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge. That obviously will never happen on Portland at least. Leonard shot 42% from deep on limited attempts last season and that’s valuable, but it’s hard to pin down just how valuable that is when Leonard doesn’t provide much of a defensive punch. He’s a fine player with potential to move around the league like a Spencer Hawes possibly. But it was the right decision not to extend him yet. Didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Damian Lillard (Did/Should) – Portland Trail Blazers

The second easiest decision in the bunch. The Portland Trail Blazers are in full rebuild but are equipped with a 25-year-old scoring guard that could compete with the best in points per game in the right season. Lillard is a capable shooter from deep, roughly 35% on his career, and is already seeing a predictably huge rise in his usage, roughly 7% higher so far. He has his flaws, but they did and they should have signed Lillard to a 5-year, $120 million max rookie scale extension.

Ross

Terrence Ross (Did/Should) – Toronto Raptors

The key here is value. 3-years, $33 million for the next few years won’t be much for a player with the upside of Ross. The $11 million figure used to be that strange and scary mid-range zone where the player was neither a value nor an albatross. Ross likely won’t become much better of a value than this, but the Toronto Raptors don’t expect to have many other options, plus he’s still very tradeable with this extension connected to him. He’s a good shooter (37% from 3) but will need to improve his defense to ever see the floor more than a backup. Players shoot better than average against Ross, no matter where they are on the floor. They snuck it in at the last minute and they should have.

Jonas Valanciunas (Did/Should) – Toronto Raptors

This was much easier for the Raptors to decide. Valanciunas has his warts, without a doubt. But a good, not great, scorer for a big man is valuable. 4-years, $64 million is steep and I was close to saying shouldn’t, but without Ross and Valanciunas, this team doesn’t have a lot to look forward to. It would’ve also been a big risk to play a prove it season and rely on the gruffness of restricted free agency because Valanciunas has gotten better every year. If he takes too big a step, you’re looking at a near max extension instead of a $64 million one. Did and should.

Bradley Beal (Didn’t/Shouldn’t) – Washington Wizards

Beal is close to Lillard level, but it does make some sense for the Washington Wizards to wait this out. This isn’t the sure thing that some other players on this list are, though it’s awfully close. His usage this season has jumped to 30% so far and he’s a sniper from deep, shooting 40% for his career, but this could be a bit of a prove it time for Beal. As far as the Wizards are concerned, Beal isn’t going anywhere, they have the right of first refusal in restricted free agency and know they’re going to match if he continues to play well. If not? Restricted free agency is a cruel mistress. They didn’t and it’s completely defensible, though it does risk some alienation.


  1. This is a percentage of cap deal and could jump to a higher per year total of 30% of the cap if Davis is an All-Star Starter again in 2015-16 

About the author: Colby Rogers

Colby is the Editor-in-Chief, Founder and Lead Contributor to Other League. Also a law student focusing on Labor & Employment law and intersections with law and sports. You can find him on Twitter via @Colby_OL.