Accounting for Klay Thompson choosing a contract extension over new-TV-deal money

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As the age-old saying goes, $89,138,886 in the hand is better than $121,667,219 in the bush.

The Warriors and Klay Thompson are negotiating a contract extension, and the shooting guard said he’d prefer to reach a deal now rather than waiting to sign a new deal under a higher salary cap created by the new national TV contracts.

Is Thompson right to push for an extension now?

He’ll make $3,075,880 this season, the final year of his rookie contact. It’s his salaries for future seasons that are in flux.

An extension would begin in 2015-16, and if he doesn’t sign one, he’d become a restricted free agent next summer. However – unless the NBA enacts more-drastic cap smoothing – the salary cap won’t rise drastically until the 2016-17 season, the first of the new TV deals. That means Thompson, if he dares to wait for a long-term contract until the cap skyrockets, is basically committing to two more seasons – including this one – of a low salary.

Let’s start with the simple solution: Thompson signs an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline. A max extension, based on the NBA’s projected 2015-16 salary cap, would pay $89,138,886 over five years.

I don’t know whether Thompson can command the max, but the Warriors kept him rather than trading for Kevin Love. Thompson should at least ask – and considering how much more he could earn by delaying a long-term deal, they might say yes.

If Thompson doesn’t accept an extension, he could always re-sign next summer for up to the same amount a max extension would pay. If Thompson plans to do that, he might as well just push for the extension now.

But becoming a free agent next summer could bring more-lucrative opportunities.

In order to make Thompson a restricted free agent, Golden State would have to extend him a qualifying offer, a standing one-year contract offer. Thompson’s qualifying offer is slated to to be $4,210,880. But if he starts one game or plays 1,132 minutes – both of which would be, by far, career lows – he’ll meet the starter criteria and would be eligible for a larger qualifying offer of $4,433,683. Obviously, I project he’ll do that.

The Warriors play the Kings on Oct. 29, so Thompson could start that game and know he’d know he’s met the starter criteria before the extension deadline of Oct. 31. I doubt that would mean much to him, but it ever-so-slightly minimizes his risk.

As for the upside? That would come in 2016 after his year on the qualifying offer. With the cap projected to rise as the new TV deals kick in, many teams will have cap room, and salaries will soar.

Here’s the max amount Thompson could earn – using my cap projection for 2016-17 – by:

  • Signing an extension (black)
  • Signing a qualifying offer in 2015 and then signing elsewhere in 2016 (blue)
  • Signing a qualifying offer in 2015 and then re-signing in 2016 (yellow)

image

Year Extension Qualifying offer
and sign elsewhere
Qualifying offer and re-sign
2015-16 $15,502,415 $4,433,683 $4,433,683
2016-17 $16,665,096 $20,388,441 $20,388,441
2017-18 $17,827,777 $21,295,332 $21,917,574
2018-19 $18,990,458 $22,202,224 $23,446,707
2019-20 $20,153,139 $23,109,115 $24,975,840
2020-21 $26,504,973
Total $89,138,886 $91,428,795 $121,667,219

If Thompson can get a max offer in 2016, he should reject an extension and sign the qualifying offer to become a free agent then. He doesn’t even need a max deal from the Warriors – who can provide a fifth season and larger annual raises (7.5 percent vs. 4.5 percent) than other teams – to come out ahead. If Thompson leverages any teams into a max offer, he fares better than he would have on a max extension now.

Of course, nobody knows whether Thompson can get a max contract in 2016.

Only Thompson can decide for himself which course is best. An extension is the only way to secure huge money now, but waiting could bring a bigger payout.

This probably won’t affect his decision, but the higher Thompson’s salary in the final year of his deal, the higher his max salary could be in his following contract. That’s because free agents can always sign for 105 percent of their previous salary. So, holding off on a long-term deal could mean Thompson is eligible for even more money on his second long-term deal.

Is Thompson a star worthy of a max contract, let alone a megastar worthy of two in his career?

It’s rare a player turns down his first big guaranteed payday in order to chase a bigger deal later, but a national TV deal of this size is unprecedented. The game has changed, and as a result, even a max contract extension is no longer guaranteed to be the optimal financial path.

I understand Thompson’s inclination to take the money now, but if he does that, he should make sure the Warriors give him all of it. Max extension or bust.

Ben Simmons targeting Friday vs. Hawks to return from calf strain

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets
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Ben Simmons has missed the Nets’ last three games with knee pain tied to a left calf strain, and he will be out Wednesday, too, when Brooklyn takes on Charlotte.

However, he plans to return on Friday (Dec. 9) against the Hawks.

Simmons was adjusting to a new role in Brooklyn. In Philadelphia he was a point-forward with the ball in his hands playing off Joel Embiid (at least at first), but in Brooklyn the ball needed to be in the hands of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the halfcourt. Simmons is playing more small-ball five, and is asked to be aggressive and attack when he gets the ball — not shoot jumpers — and to push the rock in transition. It took a while for Simmons to settle into that space, but he seemed to in games against Philadelphia (11 points, 11 assists), Toronto (14 points, six assists) and Indiana (20 points). Then the injuries hit.

Brooklyn sits at 13-12, with a middle-of-the-pack offense and defense for the season. While there are doubts about the ceiling for this team, it has a talent level that should be better than this record, it’s just been beset by injuries, controversy causing Kyrie Irving to miss time, and a coaching change. The Nets have yet to hit their stride.

But they could have a clean injury report on Friday night, and maybe that can be the start of this team getting on a run.

Suns, Hawks reportedly show interest in Kuzma trade, Wizards see him as cornerstone

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets
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Kyle Kuzma was the kind of quality, two-way role player the Lakers needed around LeBron James and Anthony Davis to win the 2020 NBA title (the type of player the Lakers wish they had now).

In Washington, his role has been elevated — he’s a 20-point-a-game scorer (20.6 points per game this season, to be precise) who is a key part of generating offense, not just playing off the stars of Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. As he told Shams Charania of The Athletic:

“As soon as I got traded, I was ready to be more,” Kuzma told The Athletic.

It’s been enough to draw the interest of a couple of teams looking for a trade, Charania adds. The Wizards are not necessarily interested in moving on, however.

Several teams, such as the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns, have expressed trade interest in Kuzma, according to league sources. By the same token, the Wizards have shown interest in Hawks forward John Collins, and the sides seriously discussed a potential deal last offseason, league sources added…

However, the Wizards’ front office, led by general manager Tommy Sheppard, has made clear that it views Kuzma as a cornerstone moving forward as the franchise has seen him thrive since the mega-trade in the 2021 offseason. The Westbrook trade provided future flexibility and assets for the Wizards, who have been known to be aggressive and active in research across the league.

Kuzma has a $13 million player option for next season that he will unquestionably opt out of, making him a free agent in search of a healthy raise (north of $20 million a year, although expect something more in the ballpark of the four-year, $104 million Jalen Brunson contract). If the Wizards are willing to pay they likely can keep him (they have his Bird rights). But if Washington isn’t sure it wants to pay market value, or if management sees a shifting path for future seasons, it should consider trading Kuzma at the deadline.

If he becomes available, far more teams than the Hawks and Suns would be interested, quality two-way forwards are in demand around the league. Kuzma would have some leverage over where he gets sent because he can leave as a free agent (teams would offer up less if they believed Kuzma would only be a rental for this season).

Magic send Jonathan Isaac to G-League for practice, rehabilitation

2022-2023 Orlando Magic Media Day
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There was a time when it was thought Jonathan Isaac might be the Magic’s next big star.

However, he has not stepped on an NBA court since he was in the bubble (Feb. 8, 2020), then he tore his ACL in August of that year (which came on the heels of missing much of that season with an injury to the same knee). Last March he had a setback and another procedure, and at this point he has missed two full seasons plus the start of this one.

Isaac is still working toward recovery and the Magic have assigned him to the Lakeland Magic of the G-League to get in some practice.

Because NBA teams barely practice during the season — the schedule of games nearly every other day plus travel and recovery doesn’t permit more than film sessions and walk-throughs — these kinds of baseball-style minor league rehab assignments are more and more common.

The story from the Magic’s official website notes this will be the first time Isaac will play 5-on-5 with other players during his rehab, which is a significant step forward.

There is no timeline for his return, but the Magic have him under contract this season for $17.4 million and two more fully guaranteed years at the same price. There is no reason for the franchise to walk away, even if some around the league question if his knees will ever let him back on an NBA court again.

The Magic have found their next star in Paolo Banchero and have built a promising young core, something Isaac — an elite defender before his injuries — should fit in well with. If he can get healthy and back on the court.

Antetokounmpo talks about plans for his 28th birthday while holding Simpsons plush

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Happy birthday, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak turns 28 today.

After he dropped a casual (for him) 34-13-5 line in the Bucks’ win over the Magic last night, Antetokounmpo discussed his birthday plans. He’s not going out, maybe just dinner, playing with his kids, and once they are asleep… ya know.

I feel safe saying Antetokounmpo is the first NBA player to talk about birthday sex while holding a Homer J. Simpson plush doll.

If you’re asking, why the Simpson doll… why not? Bucks reserve forward Sandro Mamukelashvili won it at Universal Studios, brought it to the game, left it behind in the locker room and Antetokounmpo appropriated it.

In a world where most postgame press conferences are formulaic and filled with cliches it’s good to see a player willing just to be himself and have some fun behind the mic.