While the nation considers the futures of 2010 draftee holdouts Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe, who have both been offered $12 million per year or more to stay with their current team for several more years, NBA teams must also begin to navigate the extension waters of the 2011 NBA Draftees.
Each fall, an average of 5 rookie contract extensions are given out to players before beginning their fourth season. So far, only Kyrie Irving (5 years, $90 million) has signed an extension which would head off restricted free agency and inevitable discomfort and pitfalls that come with it.
A team can negotiate with their 2011 draftees from July 1 until October 31 to agree to a contract extension that kicks in next year. The young player would still earn his small-ish salary in 2014-15, then see the big jump in pay (up to potentially $15.8 million as a starting salary) next summer. Teams can agree to pay "the max", which would rise or fall next summer with the cap, or they can agree to a hard number now. Either way, the player is "off the market" next summer.
Here are the candidates for a rookie contract extension from the 2011 Draft.
Full stats too:
Those marked in green are those likely to be extended at their asking price in the next two months because they are foundational players to their team's future.
Generally, pre-fourth-year contract agreements are made only with foundational players whose team cannot see replacing with anyone else on the market next summer. Not all pre-fourth season extensions are "max" deals, but all are with players the team has no interest in losing.
I really only see Kawhi Leonard and Jonas Valanciunas fitting that bill from the 2011 Draft. Maybe Jimmy Butler, but only if the contract amount is reasonable.
Those marked in yellow are those players deserving of a long terms deal, but likely won't get it until restricted free agency next summer because their team won't want to tie up the cap space just yet.
As you can see from last year, only 5 players got the pre-fourth-year extension (and one of those teams - Milwaukee - is probably kicking themselves over it).
Full stats too:
These two graphs highlight the crapshoot that is the NBA Draft. Just 6 of the Top 10 players from the 2010 Draft were worthy of big contracts after four NBA seasons to prove themselves, let alone after their third.
And, only 46% (42 of 90) of first round picks in the 2008-2010 drafts earned long-term contracts after their fourth NBA season.
The Mo Bros
Even the Phoenix Suns, mired in contact negotiations with Eric Bledsoe, must consider what to do with 2011 draftees Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris as those players enter their final rookie-contract season and face the potential for restricted free agency next summer.
In contrast to Eric Bledsoe, who hadn't started many games before last season, the Suns know exactly what they have in the Morris brothers. There is of course the potential for further improvement next year, translating into more earning power next summer, but there's also the potential for regression as well. That's the unknown of rookie contract extension negotiations before the fourth season begins.
Yet, I don't see the Suns making much effort to extend the Morris brothers this fall for one big reason: As structured, their cap sheet would allow for a max free agent next summer as long as the Morris brothers and Gerald Green become free agents. The Suns would prefer the flexibility afforded by cap holds on replaceable players rather than guaranteed contracts.
In this increasingly fungible NBA, expect most teams to wait until summer (and restricted free agency) to seal the deal with their 2011 extension candidates.