Happy rookie extension day! The eve of the 2019-20 NBA season is also the deadline for rookie contract extensions, so we saw a flurry of deals materialize before the 6 p.m. ET cutoff. The agreements struck on Monday don’t kick in until next season, but it keeps the players out of restricted free agency in the summer of 2020. And with these four players coming off the board, as did Pascal Siakam over the weekend, the free agency class has been further weakened. Hope you weren’t saving up that cap space for something special.
Here are the four 2016 draftees who agreed to big-money extensions on Monday (sorry, Taurean Prince), and what these deals could mean for them and their respective teams:
Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Brown got paid with a capital P. The Celtics forward agreed to a four-year, $115 million extension with $103 million guaranteed and no opt-outs. This is not something the Celtics usually do. The last Boston rookie to sign an extension on his first deal was Rajon Rondo in 2009. So, why did Brown force the Celtics to break their mold?
For one, he is only 22 years old and going into his fourth NBA season. While he experienced a bit of regression last season amid the Celtics’ chaotic run, Brown proved in his second season to be a dynamic wing with two-way potential. That potential largely remains untapped, and the Celtics are betting they can get more out of him with this deal.
Brown is also a key factor in unlocking this new-look Celtics lineup. While East teams like Philly and Milwaukee trend toward supersized lineups, Boston is betting on its wings. In addition to scoring guards Kemba Walker and Carsen Edwards, they have Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Semi Ojeleye. If you were to place Boston’s best five players on the floor, Smart, the 6-foot-4 bulldog, would effectively be their small-ball center. Whereas in years past, when going small would have been the optimal move to get more shooting on the floor, the wing-heavy strategy is starting to feel more like a zag. It’s why Brown, whether as a player or an asset, is so crucial to the Celtics’ next few seasons.
Signing Walker this summer should keep the Celtics in contention in the East after Kyrie Irving’s departure, but extending Brown shows the team believes it can contend in the future, too. Brown’s defense is already stellar, but if he can take a post-contract leap and become an efficient 3-point shooter (he shot 39.5 percent from 3 in that sophomore season), this Celtics configuration could remain in the mix in the East for the next four years.
Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
After reports surfaced on Friday that the Pacers were gauging the trade market for Sabonis—and Sabonis himself sounded more like a guy on his way out than one staying—the Pacers and the 23-year-old big man agreed to a four-year, $77 million extension with up to $85 million in incentives. Myles Turner’s extension last season, for reference, was four years, $72 million. I’m sure making more than Turner was not a priority for Sabonis and his agent, not at all.
Sabonis is primed to start at power forward this season after becoming a one-man assembly line for double-doubles off the bench. Now, we will get to see whether he and Turner can coexist for long stretches. The two have shared the floor at times, but they have both been better playing without the other. Turner is more of a modern big who can defend the rim and shoot 3s; Sabonis, meanwhile, lives in the midrange and plays at the speed of molasses, but is a conduit for offense and as efficient as they come. The two couldn’t be more different. It will be fascinating to see whether their games coalesce over extended stretches.
If Turner and Sabonis can’t make it work, the Pacers still have options. This deal is no handcuff. The terms are favorable enough that, should the pieces not fit the puzzle, Indy can turn to the trade market and pick the big it wants to keep. For now, though, the Pacers are hoping it works well enough that they can hit the ground running once Victor Oladipo returns from his knee injury.
Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings
As of last week, Hield was taking his contract plight to the postgame scrums. The Kings shooting guard was vocal about wanting to be paid what he wanted to be paid. That number was reportedly $110 million. The Kings were reportedly offering $90 million. It seems they met halfway: Hield agreed to sign a four-year extension worth $86 million with $20 million in incentives. Add those numbers up and you get $106 million. Everyone’s happy!
Everything looking positive, right? A look into contract extension negotiations between Sacramento Kings GM Vlade Divac & Buddy Hield pic.twitter.com/joMaflDp1d— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) October 18, 2019
Last week, my colleague Dan Devine detailed how Sacramento’s salary cap situation will be tricky for the next few seasons, but getting Hield on a team-friendly deal that allows him to also bet on himself seems like a win-win. Hield may have gotten more on the open market—he’s already 26 but he’s shot over 42 percent from 3 the past three seasons; those are Steph Curry numbers—but this deal also keeps Hield tethered to De’Aaron Fox, who will keep getting him plenty of open looks.
The Kings are in a tough position—they’re a team on the rise, but not quite at pace with the rest of the loaded West. As Hield said in that same postgame interview last week, Sacramento is no free-agent destination, so it makes sense to keep the core that it has (though that Harrison Barnes deal, while descending, is still an eyesore). The leap that will matter most is Fox’s. Still, the best thing you can do for your franchise point guard is give him an elite shooter as his running mate.
Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs
The smallest deal of the bunch belongs to the player who has played the fewest games. Murray agreed to sign a four-year, $64 million deal that’s fully guaranteed. The 23-year-old Spurs guard missed all of what was expected to be a breakout last season because of a torn ACL, but is primed to get a redo in 2019-20.
Murray’s stats are not particularly impressive, so this deal banks on both the eye test and his potential. There’s plenty there: Murray’s 6-foot-10 wingspan puts him ahead of most point guards physically, and his development as a ball handler could make him a two-way force the Spurs badly need.
San Antonio is largely composed of win-now veterans, and their two best (LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan) have only two years at most under contract. Murray is the type of prospect who provides hope for the long term. Kawhi’s been gone for two seasons, and retirement talk follows Gregg Popovich every season. Murray, now more than ever, is being positioned as the franchise’s future.