Now that the OPP Community has had a few weeks to let the dust settle after the NBA Draft, and play has concluded in the Orlando Summer League, I thought I would hopefully get some discussion going about the next order of business for the Orlando Magic – negotiating contract extensions with Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris.
Basically, Nik and Tobias will become Restricted Free Agents after this upcoming 2014-15 season (unless they accept 1-year qualifying offers, which is highly unlikely), that is unless Orlando decides to offer either of their young emerging players a maximum extension. Orlando will have until October 31st to come to an agreement on an early extension with either Vucevic or Harris.
Obviously, the benefit of extending the contract of your own player before he hits RFA is to gain additional insurance. Restricted free agents can sign offer sheets with other teams, but the original team can match the salary of the offer sheet if they so choose to keep their player (like Orlando did at one time w/ JJ Redick, who was signed by the Bulls). However, if another team decides to offer a contract that is exorbitant, a team may have to massively overpay to keep their player. By not extending Vucevic or Harris by November, we could be risking other teams making over the top offers to them in July 2015.
Using the 2010 draft class as a case study, John Wall (pick #1), Derrick Favors (pick #3), DeMarcus Cousins (pick #5), Paul George (pick #10), and Larry Sanders (pick #15) were able to negotiate contract extensions in the Fall of 2013 with the teams that originally drafted them/paid their rookie salaries. These extensions locked up these players and protected them from hitting Free Agency this summer.
Player Avg. Salary per year in New Contract
Wall $16 million/year
Favors $13 million/year
Cousins $15 million/year
George $16 million/year
Sanders $11 million/year
In contrast, Detroit, Phoenix, and Utah decided NOT to extend Greg Monroe, Eric Bledsoe, and Gordon Hayward respectively. In Utah’s case, they allowed Gordon Hayward to hit RFA, only to match his offer sheet from Charlotte this past weekend. Hayward will now be making roughly 16 million dollars per year. Utah arguably had to significantly overpay Hayward to keep his services. If they would’ve extended him this past fall, his contract wouldn’t have ended up resembling the contracts of John Wall and Paul George, all-star caliber players from the class of 2010.
There is a cap, or maximum extension that fourth year rookie contract players can agree to, and a lot of that salary figure has to do with your draft selection position (Vucevic was drafted 16th in 2011, Harris 19th). Larry Sanders, who signed an extension for roughly $11 million per year with Milwaukee last fall, was drafted 15th in 2010. That contract (4 years, $44 million) may end up looking very similar to something Orlando and Nik could come to early terms with.
Lastly (just for context and to understand the market) I want to list a few players that I feel produce at the same level and are worth the same to their teams as Nik Vucevic and Tobias Harris:
Name Position Salary (est.)
I mentioned these players just to get discussion started about the market value of our young guys. These listed guys may not be perfect examples or comparisons of Nik and Tobias and their particular games, but they share similar PER’s, WS’s, stats, etc.
Please vote and leave your comments below. If you were Rob Hennigan, would you offer Nik Vucevic and/or Tobias Harris maximum qualifying offers to sign extensions based off of their rookie contracts? I’m guessing a starting point for discussion with Nik would be 4 years/$48 million, and with Tobias maybe something like 4 years/$33-35 million.
Either way - as an organization, Orlando must seriously consider the futures of both these players in pinstripes, or risk having to overpay to keep them next summer (or worse…). Both Nik and Tobias were significant assets Hennigan was able to acquire (via Dwight & JJ), and these moves created considerable lead way for the young GM as he has attempted to rebuild the roster. Losing one, or even both of these players to other teams in the market for a piece could prove to be highly frustrating.