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Saturday, June 23, 2012

THE CLASS OF 2009 : EXTENSION & TRADE CANDIDATES

The 2012 NBA draft is less than a week away and for some of first round picks for 2009 next year could become a do or die season.  Exactly zero of the 30 picks has signed a contract extension.  The draft class itself may have been a bit weak looking back with many players never finishing out their initial contracts.  3 of the top 8 picks (Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, Jordan Hill) were traded twice and are currently unemployed.  The 11th pick, Terrence Williams, switched teams twice as well after being traded and then waived.  DeMarre Carroll, 28th pick, has managed to be traded and waived twice thus far.  For the sake of this article we'll be excluding the 5 guys mentioned above as well as Ricky Rubio (5) & Christian Eyenga (30) who stayed overseas a year or two before signing and Victor Claver (22) who has yet to make the jump to the NBA.  Last, but not least, is Earl Clark (14) who had his option declined before re-signing with Orlando last year.  That leaves us with 22 players still playing out their rookie deals.  Below I'll break down each player and how likely their chances are to either receive a contract extension, get traded or end up as restricted free agents next summer.

BLAKE GRIFFIN

The only question here is whether or not Griffin will get his rumored max contract.  After missing his rookie season with a knee injury Blake has been one of the best young players in the league.  He has proven his durability after not missing a game in the last two seasons and has been a human highlight reel.  He's put up seasons of 22-12 and 20-10 and is the future of the Clippers.  

JAMES HARDEN

If Harden played for any other team this would be a slam dunk extension no questions asked.  Harden won the Sixth Man Award while helping Oklahoma City reach the NBA finals.  He has improved each year in the league and would be a starter on just about every other team in the league.  So what's the problem?  Well, Durant & Westbrook are already locked up and Serge Ibaka will also be due for an extension next year.  I'm a big Harden fan but I'm with the side that says Ibaka is more important to this team going forward.  OKC already has two scoring guards and that makes Harden expendable.  The smart move, if the Thunder decide against extending Harden, would be to trade him before next season starts.  I keep saying Phoenix would be the perfect trade partner.  Harden went to ASU and the Suns seem to be desperately hoping for a two guard to fall to them at 13 in the draft.  OKC could get that pick and use it to find Harden's replacement.  Again, this scenario only works if the team decides to extend Ibaka and doesn't have enough left for the Beard.  They could always wait until after next season to make a move, which is risky, but I'd just hate to see them do it mid season and possibly derail a young team.

TYREKE EVANS

It was widely reported a few weeks ago that the Kings will probably not offer Evans an extension this year and will take a wait and see approach.  Evans dazzled by putting up 20-5-5 on his way to winning the Rookie of the Year award for the 2009-10 season.  Since then, he has seemingly regressed but other see it that he just isn't being used well in Sacramento's offense.  It's possible that the Kings get antsy and make a deal on draft night but they'll likely see where he's at by next year's trade deadline.

STEPHEN CURRY

Golden State moved Monta Ellis this year as a sign that Curry is the guy they want to build around.  Curry has certainly been impressive when on the floor with career averages of 17-4-6 but staying on the floor has been the issue.  The Warriors will almost certainly give Curry an extension but could and should wait until they see if Curry can remain healthy next season.  The constant ankle problems could cost Curry some money on his next contract but if he stays on the court and continues to improve he's almost a lock to be in Golden State for a long time.

DEMAR DEROZAN

DeRozan is a dynamic 6'7" two guard with absolutely no three point shot (he's averaged just a hair over 20% in his first three seasons).  He has, however, put up 17.2 & 16.7 points per game the last two years in Toronto.  I think a lot will depend on what free agents the Raptors can bring in this year.  Jonas Valanciunas is due to come over and it seems like the future is now.  They have been rumored to be agressively shopping their 8th pick in this year's draft for some veteran help as well.  There's a good chance DeRozan will have to play out the season and see if he fits well enough with what Toronto is trying to do.  If not he should be a highly sought after restricted free agent next year.

BRANDON JENNINGS

Jennings improved his scoring average to 19.1 per game this year but still shot just 41.8% (an improvement from his first 2 years of 37.1% & 39%).  The Bucks traded for Monta Ellis who they paired with Jennings down the stretch.  Milwaukee finished 10-11 during the experiment including winning just 3 of their last 10 games in the midst of a playoff race.  Obviously the duo received mixed reviews so it will be interesting to see the direction the Bucks go from here on out.  If the backcourt mates can get on track and are competing halfway through the year then we'll likely see Jennings offered an extension.  If the team starts slow and the experiment fails then Jennings is the more likely trade casualty.

GERALD HENDERSON

Henderson became a full time starter this year and put up a solid 15.1 per game on an awful team.  I've always liked his game and I think he would be a solid option on a good team.  Unfortunately, he's a Bobcat and will likely endure a few more years of hardship as they attempt to turn the corner as a franchise.  Charlotte will most certainly offer an extension but it may be Henderson who decides to decline and head into to next year as a restricted free agent.  That may be the most likely scenario but Charlotte would be wise to match any offers as Henderson could be a good piece to the puzzle.

TYLER HANSBROUGH

Hansbrough was a solid rotation player for an up and coming Pacers team this season.  Unfortunately for him, Indiana has more pressing concerns.  Roy Hibbert & George Hill are both restricted free agents this year and it will take hefty raises to keep them both.  Also, fellow '09er Darren Collison will be looking for an extension as well.  I do think Hansbrough is a nice fit off the bench for the Pacers and if both sides are reasonable a deal could get done but he could end up the odd man out.  In that case, I still think the Pacers hang on to him next year and re-evaluate the team situation at the end of the season.

AUSTIN DAYE

Daye labored through an ankle injury last year while struggling to find playing time on a bad Pistons team.  He showed promise as a rotation player in 2010-11 but was buried on the bench for much of last year.  He has struggled defensively and it has been rumored that he may be traded this offseason.  Detroit will likely have Kyle Singler, last year's 2nd round pick, join the team after he spent the year playing in Spain and that could spell the end for Daye in a Pistons' uniform.  A change of scenery wouldn't be the worst thing for the young player but an extension will not be coming.

JAMES JOHNSON

Johnson had an unspectacular season in Toronto while starting 40 games and mostly coming off the bench towards the end of the year.  As I said with DeRozan, Johnson's role with the club will likely be determined with what happens this offseason.  It seems unlikely that an extension would happen and he'll probably become a restricted free agent at season's end.

JRUE HOLIDAY

Philly has yet to pick up Holiday's option for next year but that seems like a formality at this point.  He showed great improvement during his sophomore campaign before taking a step back this year.  However, Sixers coach Doug Collins has nothing but praise for the young point guard and it seems likely that Philly will lock him up at some point.  Whether that happens this offseason or next is anyone's guess but Holiday seems destined to run the show in Philly for awhile.

TY LAWSON

Lawson was handed the keys to the car in Denver this year and impressed with 16.4 points & 6.6 assists per game.  The Nuggets have already locked up young players Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari & Wilson Chandler with reasonable deals and Lawson should help form a solid core going forward.  It's possible that it could mean the end of JaVale McGee's short tenure in Denver but unloading Nene's massive contract would still make that trade worth it.  It allows Denver to give Lawson a good deal and if they could someone find a taker for Al Harrington's contract they will be in great shape moving forward.

JEFF TEAGUE

Atlanta has toiled in no man's land for a few years now.  Their future is in trouble with Joe Johnson's huge contract, Al Horford's hefty deal and two more years of a terrible Marvin Williams contract.  Josh Smith is entering the last year of his contract as well and will almost certainly be traded at some point because Atlanta simply can't afford keep paying the same guys who can't seem to take the next step as a unit.  Teague started all 66 games this year while putting up 12.6 points and 4.9 assists per game.  Not exactly numbers that jump out at you but considering Atlanta's financial woes they may be wise to offer Teague an extension now while it's still affordable.  If they wait it out and Teague makes a big step forward, they may not be able to afford him next year.

ERIC MAYNOR

Maynor played just 9 games and missed out on OKC's playoff run this year after tearing his ACL.  He played all 82 games during the 2010-11 season and was an absolutely solid backup point guard that the Thunder really could have used this postseason.  If he bounces back from knee surgery and looks sharp early on it would be wise the team to extend him for a couple years at a low cost.  He was never an explosive player to begin with so his overall game shouldn't suffer.  We mentioned Oklahoma's future financial situation in Harden's blurb and it will likely be difficult to find a young, solid player like Maynor to bring off the bench.  

DARREN COLLISON

Collison's future in Indiana depends solely on what happens with restricted free agent George Hill.  Pacers coach Frank Vogel was vocal about wanting Hill to seize the starting point guard spot late in the year and that obviously doesn't bode well for Collison.  His averages (10 pts, 5 ast) were down from his first two years and just looking at the numbers may appear that he's regressing but I believe the Pacers abundance of contributors has a lot to do with that.  If Hill moves on, Collison could certainly play his way in or out of an extension.  The most likely scenario is that Hill re-signs, Collison backs him up most of the year and then is either traded during or after the season.

OMRI CASSPI

Casspi's season was widely regarded as a disappointment.  His starting role was taken away halfway through the season and while he remained in the rotation, he struggled to find any consistency all year.  His three point shooting was abysmal (31.5%) but he kept chucking them up and he failed to impress much in any other areas of his game.  The Cavs have a good chance to get Harrison Barnes or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the draft and so Casspi will probably see his role lessened once again next season.  He'll likely play out the year for Cleveland after which they'll probably let him walk.

BYRON MULLENS

The poor guy was traded from Oklahoma City to the Charlotte Bobcats.  And you think you're life's tough.  Even so it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to Mullens.  While the team was terrible it gave Mullens a chance to showcase his talents.  He was given a starting spot towards the end of the year and put in some pretty impressive performances (back to back 20 pt games, 31-14 at MIL).  He's still developing and isn't really a starting caliber center at this point but certainly has potential if he can impress more regularly next year.  There's always a need for a seven footer with skills so next year will go a long way to determining Mullens' future.

RODRIGUE BEAUBOIS

Beaubois was supposed to seize the back up point guard spot after JJ Barea left town but it didn't go too smoothly.  He had a few minor injuries that caused him to miss some time but Dallas didn't seem to trust him when it mattered as evidenced by his lack of playoff time (12 mins total).  He does provide a nice scoring punch off the bench, though, but it's unlikely he'll have an opportunity to become the Mavericks' starting point guard even if Jason Kidd leaves town.  It's widely known that Dallas covets Deron Williams for that spot but even if they fail to land him, it's likely someone else will keep Beaubois on the bench.  Beaubois seems an unlikely extension candidate at this point.

TAJ GIBSON

Gibson was great off the bench for Chicago last year averaging 7.7 points & 5.3 rebounds in just 20.4 minutes per game.  Recently he has made it known that he wants to remain with the Bulls but even he knows it pretty unlikely given their current cap situation.  There's still a glimmer of hope, though.  It has been rumored that Luol Deng is being shopped and that could certainly free up money to extend Gibson.  Also, there's a strong possibility that Carlos Boozer gets amnestied after next season.  If Gibson can continue to improve and impress the Bulls could make it happen.  We'll have to wait until after the season to find out.

WAYNE ELLINGTON

Ellington's role in his first two years was as a 3 point shooter off the bench where he knocked in just under 40% of his shots.  That fell to 32.4% this year and he'll have to find his stroke again and then some to have any hope of an extension.  It's probable he ends up a restricted free agent after the year at this point.

TONEY DOUGLAS

Douglas is an undersized combo guard who struggled to get off the bench during the second half of the season.  His shooting percentages have dropped off drastically each year in the league and he won't be seeing an extension from the Knicks.  He can put up points quickly but he doesn't seem to fit in with Mike Woodson at the helm.

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