A few players – Mitch McGary, Jordan Adams and R.J. Hunter – had their rookie-scale-contract team options declined as their teams waived them this offseason. Another player, P.J. Hairston, had his third-year option declined last fall.
But only one player that we know of so far from the 2013 and 2014 draft classes remains on a team but won’t finish his rookie-scale deal:
Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne, the No. 15 pick in 2014.
Minnesota will decline his $3,100,094 team option for 2017-18, a decision that will become official Tuesday.
Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:
Payne will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Timberwolves can re-sign him, but only at a starting salary up to $3,100,094. Any other team can offer up to the max.
Payne probably won’t be worth $3,100,094 next summer. He’s a stretch four without 3-point range and a long 2-point jumper that is expectedly inefficient. He doesn’t move well enough in any direction, including vertically, to defend well. The concern on him coming out of Michigan State – that he relied too heavily on beating up on younger players – looks valid. Payne will be a 26-year-old free agent.
But $3,100,094 is a small amount against a large salary cap. Is it really worth letting Payne hit the open market without seeing what he does this season first?
This is the problem the Pacers ran into with Solomon Hill. They declined his $2,306,019 2016-17 team option, and he had a breakout year. He signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Pelicans this summer as Indiana could do nothing but watch.
I don’t expect Payne to duplicate Hill’s emergence, but the Pacers obviously didn’t see it coming with Hill, either. As long as Payne remains on the team, it’s probably worth Minnesota buying itself an extra year of potentially cheap labor.
If Payne develops, he could be an irreplaceable bargain. If he doesn’t, it won’t cost much to waive him – especially because the Timberwolves can stretch him.
Even if the odds are against that plan bearing fruit, the upside is high enough to justify exercising the option.
But Minnesota apparently feels differently. Barring a sudden change of plans in the next few days, Payne will be on an expiring contract.