No matter what they say publicly, players just are not wired to trust their team to take care of them financially “down the road”. No matter how good the story sounds, money not taken is money potentially never to be seen again.
Sure, the Phoenix Suns can have a discussion with Devin Booker this summer about waiting a year to sign his maximum rookie extension. Booker’s extension would kick in for the 2019-2020 season, after he completes his fourth year in the league.
Theoretically, if Booker waits a year to sign that extension, the Suns could spend up to $18 million MORE dollars on other players next summer before giving him the exact same extension NEXT July.
Sounds great in theory.
In theory, Booker doesn’t lose a dime of earnings, and he gives the Suns tons of room to enhance the talent on the team around him at the same time.
Booker’s trajectory is hot. He’s a productive machine with a new offense-oriented coach who has shown an ability to maximize the value of his wing players. Igor Kokoskov catapulted himself into NBA Head Coach consideration when he led the tiny country of Slovenia to the European Championship gold medal, on the back of a pair a talented wings in Goran Dragic and 18-year old Luka Doncic.
Under Kokoskov, it’s likely Booker comes even closer to All-Star status in the 2018=19 season while he plays out his cheap rookie contract. So waiting a year to sign the same extension shouldn’t impact Booker in the least.
Except, what if Booker plays poorly next season for some reason, such as playing through nagging injuries that hurt his efficiency and defensive abilities? Or gets hurt and misses the season and becomes an injury risk? Or the Suns fire McDonough, and the new GM doesn’t want to pay the max? Or, regardless of the GM, the Suns decide to play hardball and only give Booker what another team can offer in restricted free agency.
If something, anything, negative happens, Booker may never see that max extension on a contract offer next year.
Then it becomes a win-lose, with Booker being the loser.
That’s why no one likes the words “trust me”.
Starting on July 1 of THIS summer, Booker is eligible for a maximum rookie extension of $157 million over five years that would begin in the 2019-20 season, with a starting salary of about $27 million per year.
If he signs that extension this summer, he’s on the books for $27 million for the 2018-19 season, locked in as free agency begins on July 1, 2019.
If he waits until after the free agency rush next summer (late July), his free agent cap hold would only be about $10 million, thanks to his original draft position (13th overall in 2015).
That’s a $17 million difference.
With Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels expiring next summer, plus other expiring deals, the Suns could potentially create $40+ million in cap space for free agency 2019. But if Booker is already on the books for his max salary, that number drops almost in half.
In other words, as the Suns will explain it, if Booker would just cool his jets and wait about 400 days to put his name to paper, the Suns could sign TWO free agents to $17+ million contracts instead of just one.
Doesn’t that sound good, Devin?
Such is the pitch the Suns will make in July of this year.
Unfortunately, reality doesn’t always work like that. Imagine that person you love who just can’t make that commitment back to you.
“All I need is a little time,” they say. “Half a year. A year. Just to get all my other things worked out. Then I promise we can be together forever. Let me take care of these other things in my life, clear some mental roadblocks. Then we can be together. Trust me.”
Do you trust that person?
For a while you do. Because you love them. They are offering what you want, what you need, but it’s just a little down the road.
You breathe. You wait.
But the whole time you can’t help looking for signs of trouble. Part of you hates yourself for trusting something you can’t control. And part of you hates that person for making you do it.
Eventually, you get agitated. Especially if you’re not seeing the linear progression to commitment that you were promised. Maybe that person is still struggling to take care of things. If there’s five obstacles to clear, shouldn’t they be clearing them one at a time? And what if they come up with a new obstacle? What then? Or they meet someone else in the meantime? What THEN?
A year from now, what if the Suns are still one of the worst teams in the league? What if McDonough gets fired, and Kokoskov is let go because the new GM wants to hire their own guys?
And what if that GM or coach doesn’t like Booker as much? What if they want to use Booker’s restricted free agency status as a money-saving bargaining chip against Booker instead of honoring McDonough’s promise?
Without an extension, Booker would be a restricted free agent next summer, giving the Suns the right to match any offer from another team. But no other team can offer five years, or the same annual raises. And few will even have the cap space to make an offer in the first place.
So, now you’ve got Booker kindly turning away from $157 million this summer so he can set himself up to get screwed next summer, giving the Suns all the cards?
That’s why Devin Booker should respectfully listen to the Suns pitch, but then just as respectfully tell the Suns to put the damn extension in front of him this summer and guarantee him the money now.