Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fact or Fiction: 2009 NBA Draft Class Contract Extensions

As the country was out giving candy to either children or twenty-something girls that were both curiously wearing the same size costumes, the NBA's deadline for 2009 Draftee extensions came and went. The draft class ended up with seven different players being offered multi-year deals, while the rest would go on to being restricted free agency next summer. Thus, players like OKC's Eric Maynor, Sacramento's Tyreke Evans and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings could be extended offer sheets by other teams, only to have them matched by their current squad. 

Before this week, Clippers forward Blake Griffin had been the only 2009 rook to sign an extension, a five year pact worth approximately $95 million. Since then, six of these twenty-somethings have signed within the past few days, four just before the midnight buzzer Wednesday night. 

Resuscitating a feature from THE GREAT MAMBINO's blog predecessor NYisMecca, we're going to examine these deals and ask "these young fellows worth the money: Fact or Fiction?"

James Harden: $80 million over 5 years and Blake Griffin: $95 million over 5 years 
2012 stat lines: (Harden) 16.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.7 apg .491/.390/.846 shooting and (Griffin) 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 3.2 apg .549/.125/.521 shooting

Fact.  Griffin was an open and shut case for an extension here, even with a documented history of knee injuries. By the time this extension even begins, he'll most be one of the most decorated Clippers in franchise history (two presumed All-Star teams, one 2nd Team All-NBA nod and perhaps another one on the way). This isn't to speak to Griffin's still burgeoning potential--he's got enough room to grow to fit both of Boris Diaw's boobs--but rather to the dubious distinction which is being a good player on the worst franchise in American sports history. Owner Donald Sterling couldn't let Blake go no matter what the price was for keeping him. 

Harden has had his detractors the past few days after the trade to Houston, but after his ridiculous 37 point, 12 assist night (even against the lowly Pistons), I can't imagine there's very many people yelling "fiction" at his max deal. The Beard is questionably one of the top-20 players in the NBA right now, and could end up being one of it's 15 best in April. Fact, fact, fact over the validity of this contract.
DeMar DeRozan: $40 million over 4 years

2012 stat line: 16.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, .422/.261/.810 shooting
(From El Miz)

Hilarious Fiction, on par with the movie Super Troopers.  DeMar can't create his own shot, doesn't defend particularly well, and in fact doesn't really do anything other than dunk particularly well.  In 2014-15 the Raptors owe Landry Fields $8.5 million and DeRozan $10 million (unless its escalates every year, in which case it'll probably be around $11.25 million) -- so they'll owe at least $18.5 million to two wing players, neither of whom is an elite scorer, neither of whom can even create their own shot. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo needed to be fired yesterday; how much longer can that guy ride the coattails of Mike D'Antoni and Steve Nash? Toronto should have let DeRozan go to restricted free agency. I highly doubt any other team would give him a contract of this size after another decent but largely uninspiring season from a
one-dimensional player.

Jrue Holiday: $41 million over 4 years
2012 stat line: 14.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.5 apg .432/.380/.783 shooting

Fiction, but bordering on fact...maybe one day. Holiday is only 22 years old, but by all indications it doesn't really look like he's capable of very much more than what he's been doing. The former Bruin is a good ballhandler and decent passer, but not the playmaker in the mold of fellow draftees Stephen Curry, James Harden or even Ty Lawson. In regards to scoring, perhaps he's being held back by coach Doug Collins' system, but he hasn't shown a particular propensity to be able to take defenders off the dribble; he's been more of an effective spot-up shooter and finisher at the rim off of the pass. Holiday actually holds most of his talent as a defender, and one of the league's most underrated at that. I still remember him terrorizing my cousin during his high school days as a hated Campbell Hall Viking in Los Angeles, as a future NBA point guard dominated a small but mighty Japanese-American bench warmer. I think every member of my family peed themselves a little. 

Because of his age, I suppose that Holiday could grow into this contract, but watching him night to night, one suspects that this deal is a bit too much fiction. Holiday is a starting-caliber player, but his limited athleticism and killer instinct give me the notion that he's hit his ceiling. As he is, Jrue is no $10 million dollar per year player. The Sixers would have been much better served to let him go to restricted free agency and let the market gauge his value. Of course he could have improved his situation with a breakout season, but I just don't see that in the cards.

Taj Gibson: $38 million over 4 years
2012 stat line: 7.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.7 apg .495/---/.622 shooting

Fact. Gibson could start for a number of teams in the NBA, so this contract is so much fact that it could be a New York Times bestseller (he's currently stuck behind future amnesty-victim Carlos Boozer). The Bulls reserve forward is already one of the league's best defenders and a primary reason why the Bulls always seem to be on the attack, no matter which unit is on the floor. His offense has been steadily improving over his three seasons, and as his minutes and touches tick up with the de-emphasis on Boozer going forward, this contract will look better and better. On any other team, Gibson would be a nightly double-double threat and an All-Defense lock. I'm more surprised than anything that Gibson accepted a type of deal like this, as I could see another team overpaying a young, defense-minded player like him a mint as a restricted free agent next year.

Steph Curry: $44 million over 4 years
2012 stat line: 14.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 5.3 apg .490/.455/.809 shooting

Probably the hardest to judge out of the lot. On terms of sheer talent, Curry is the third-best player in this draft without question...even over Ricky Rubio. He's a potential .500/.400/.900 guy shooting the ball, the type of ridiculous percentages achieved only by Steve Nash and Larry Bird. Curry has shown an ability to run the offense and get his own shot, doing all of it with the same fearlessness that almost burned down Davidson College. No, he couldn't defend Oscar Pistorious if the Olympian decided to play basketball, but Steph's offensive acumen is so keen that Golden State has to overlook those shortcomings. $44 million? Talent-wise, Curry is worth a maximum contract.

But the guy can't stay healthy. He's missed 48 games over the past two years, including a gaggle of injuries that have kept him on the shelf periodically all during last season. Curry has had more sprained ankles than a Chinese gymnast (including an injury that kept him out almost all of training camp) and thus the Warriors were in a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" scenario in regards to this contract. If the point guard made it through the season nearly unscathed, there's little doubt another team--Charlotte, Dallas, Atlanta, Utah--would extend him a far richer deal than what he just signed next summer. The best case scenario is that Golden State just signed a potential perennial All-Star to a below market deal. However, if he continues to get hurt, the Warriors have a very pricey millstone around their finances. Looking at his body and injury docket, this contract probably is fiction.

Ty Lawson: $48 million over 4 years
2012 stat line: 16.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 6.6 apg .488/.365/.824 shooting
(From El Miz)
Fact.  I love lawson; fastest guy in the NBA in my estimate, perfect point guard for the Nuggets and George Karl to have running the offense, and most importantly, a guy who is improving. This is the third most expensive contract of the bunch, but he's the third most talented. He'll be a fringe All-Star and perhaps even make the team once or twice, a la Jameer Nelson in his prime. A good contract for a guy with his skill set and who (very important here) plays hard every single night.

The Knicks (with Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni at the helm) passed on Lawson (as well as Brandon Jennings) to draft Jordan Hill, a move that to this day boggles my mind.  This guy was tailor-made to run MDA's offense.  I digress...Kurt Thomas is starting at PF for the knicks on friday.  FML

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