Assessing the NBA Contract Extension Landscape (UPDATED)

As the calendar rolls to August, the focus shifts from free agency to the next season ahead. One component of the NBA business, though, remains a source of concern for players all throughout the league. Several well-known players are contemplating contract extensions before the start of the 2022–23 season in October, as both league veterans and young stars aim to cash in.

Expect a number of nine-figure deals to be struck during this time period. For the upcoming season, who do you think will have their contracts extended most quickly? As we look ahead to the NBA season of 2022–23, let’s take a look at some of the upcoming contract negotiations.

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The Big Fish

LeBron James, Lakers

James becomes eligible for an extension on Thursday, which is sure to trigger a flood of conjecture until he signs a new contract. If James accepts a two-year agreement worth $97 million from Los Angeles, the city is expected to be keen to extend his contract. The question is still unanswered. A new contract may not be in the cards for James, who appears content to end his career in Los Angeles until Bronny James enters the league.

A prospective free-agent contract for LeBron James would put pressure on the Los Angeles Lakers’ front management to strengthen their existing squad rather than risk losing future assets. In Cleveland, we’ve seen a similar design before. Despite the upcoming uncertainties, don’t be surprised if LeBron James plays out the remainder of his current contract.

Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, Warriors

Joe Lacob is juggling a lot of balls at the same time. In recent years, Golden State’s owner has paid a record-breaking luxury tax bill, and the sum is expected to keep rising until the 2020s. Steph Curry has a contract that runs through 2025–26, with a final-year salary of $59.6 million due to him. Two Golden State Warriors veterans could make a similar commitment in the near future.

When it comes to wanting a new contract, Green hasn’t been bashful about saying so. Green’s current deal expires at the end of the 2022–23 season, and he has requested a five-year, $164.2 million contract extension. It’s difficult to envision a deal like this coming together. If he leaves the Warriors, Green will be worth far less than he would on the open market.

The best solution may be for the parties to come together and agree on a deal that extends Green’s contract for two or three more seasons below the maximum. Thompson is unlikely to get a new contract this season because he hasn’t been as loud about it as Green. Thompson has two years left on his contract, which will pay him $40.6 million this year. What about in August 2023? Let’s revisit this subject then.

Fred VanVleet, Raptors

In order to take advantage of NBA income growth in 2023 and beyond, Toronto’s point guard could delay signing his new contract by a year. However, this appears like a safe extension candidate before the season begins. VanVleet has established himself as a key member of the Raptors’ roster in the wake of the departure of Kawhi Leonard and the emergence of the team led by Scottie Barnes.

This season, VanVleet will be 29 years old, and a four-year, $114 million contract should be enough to keep him off the free market. We should expect to see Wichita State products in Toronto for a long time to come.

Rising Stars

Tyler Herro, Heat

It’s unlikely we see a Herro extension until the Donovan Mitchell and Kevin Durant issues resolve themselves, at least as they pertain to the Heat. Herro is effectively unable to be traded until July 2023 if he receives an extension, forcing Miami to hold off on making a long-term commitment before dropping out of the Mitchell or Durant sweepstakes.

Such a suggestion is plausible (and even likely) given the hefty fees for each player, leading to potential negotiations between Herro and the Heat in September. Don’t be surprised if Herro gets an agreement before the season starts, one that might reach $25 million per year.

RJ Barrett, Knicks

The previous No. 3 pick is also impacted by the upcoming Mitchell sweepstakes, though his involvement in a potential trade with Utah is no guarantee. New York could very well acquire Mitchell with a bounty of draft selections and young players, then still extend Barrett before the mid-October deadline.

It’s a distinct matter whether the Knicks want to spend anything close to the whole rookie max of $185 million for Barrett, a promising young player who has yet to completely break out. Acquiring Mitchell may shift that math, allowing the Knicks to either lock in a young trio or shop Barrett in pursuit of a more proven third piece.

Jordan Poole, Warriors

Golden State’s rocketing luxury-tax forecasts will likely leave one of Green, Thompson, Poole, and Andrew Wiggins as the odd man out when it comes to contract extensions. It’s unknown if there’s any preference regarding Poole vs. Wiggins in Golden State’s front office, though Poole could be a (relatively) cheaper alternative, with a new deal likely landing at around $100 million over four years.

But unless Poole is prepared to take a big discount this offseason, expect him to enter restricted free agency next summer.

Established Veterans

Andrew Wiggins, Warriors

This is a bit of a stretch, but it’s hard to argue that Wiggins isn’t an NBA veteran heading into his ninth season. It is safe to say that at 28, Andrew Wiggins has the makings of an NBA comeback narrative. He is coming off a memorable postseason in Golden State and is entering the final year of a massive agreement inked in 2017. If Wiggins becomes a free agent after this season, the Warriors will have a crowded free agency market to contend with.

In comparison to Poole, I’m more hopeful about a Wiggins extension. As a two-way force in the Finals, the former No. 1 selection excelled. However, Poole’s overall scoring prowess pales in comparison to Curry and Thompson’s. Wiggins steps in to fill the void left by the departed Andre Iguodala, and he does so admirably on the wing as a defender and scorer. No of what happens in 2023, the former No. 1 pick’s long-term future is most likely in the Golden State Warriors.

CJ McCollum, Pelicans

Last season, despite Zion Williamson’s absence, the Portland Blazers guard was a revelation for the New Orleans Pelicans, leading them to the playoffs. It’s safe to assume that the addition of McCollum boosted the team’s professionalism, which is why Williamson agreed to a massive contract extension this offseason.

There was once a strained relationship between the Pelicans and Williamson, but it appears to have been remedied in part because of Williamson’s efforts behind the scenes. On the other end, McCollum wasn’t a slouch either. He was a natural leader in New Orleans, as he averaged 24.3 points per game over the course of 26 regular-season games.

Despite the fact that McCollum may not be the league’s most explosive scorer, he can thrive alongside any ball-dominant option thanks to his nimble and versatile style of play. McCollum’s contract, which is now due to expire in 2023–24, could be extended by a few years.

D’Angelo Russell, Timberwolves

It’s unlikely that Russell will be able to match the four-year, $170 million extension he’s eligible for. Although I’m skeptical any deal will be struck, it has been widely reported that he is willing to meet in the middle with Minnesota on an extension number. With the addition of Anthony Edwards, the Timberwolves now have a frontcourt totaling nearly $500 million.

Russell is a good all-around player who can also come up big when the chips are down. There are so many point guards in the NBA that a substantial investment by the Vikings is unlikely. As the end of the year draws near, Russell is a valuable trading chip.

Keep an Eye on

Kyle Kuzma, Wizards

A year after Bradley Beal’s injury, Kuzma quietly had the best year of his professional career as Washington’s No. 1 option. Is he going to be Beal’s long-term running mate? That’s a risky bet to make. Assuming he stays healthy, Kuzma will opt out of his contract for 2023–24.

While the Wizards might keep him with an extension this summer or with Bird Rights, next season, luxury tax worries will rapidly enter the picture. In 2023–24, Beal and Kristaps Porziis will earn a total of $82 million (that’s not a typo). Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura share some positional responsibilities, therefore a new contract for the former could be in the works.

A contract extension with Kuzma may be in Washington’s best interests, given their confidence in the present core. As of February 2023, it’s more likely that he will remain an expiring contract and a component of the trade market.

Kevin Porter Jr., Rockets

Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. were both selected in the top three rounds in the two years following James Harden’s request for a trade to Houston. Even Green’s current backcourt partner, who has yet to be named, faces an unclear future.

Prior to the 2022–23 season, Kevin Porter Jr. and the Houston Rockets are reportedly interested in a rookie-scale contract extension, which Porter is currently eligible for. Finding the right yearly wage is a trickier proposition. It’s not uncommon for Porter to emerge as the team’s primary facilitator, snaking around the lane in search of open shooters, cutters, and dribbling big men.

It’s hard to believe that he’s only 22 years old, but his vision is advanced for a player of that age. However, Porter’s floater should relieve some of the concerns about his ability to score inside the three-point line. Porter is a capable attacking engine that doesn’t require a lot of squinting.

However, despite the fact that both Cleveland and Houston had previous locker room incidents, the Rockets’ event last year was more of an isolated incident rather than an early warning sign for Porter’s future. By all accounts, there looks to be a lot of support for Porter from the coaching staff as well as the athletic department.

When Porter becomes a restricted free agent next year, the Rockets may decide to wait until then to sign him. Securing an extension in the $12–$15 million per year area may be in the best interests of both sides. For more such updates do follow us only on Lee Daily

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