Monday was the last day for teams to sign their 2016 draft picks to contract extensions, and many took advantage. Pascal Siakam signed a full, four-year max extension with the Raptors. Elsewhere, Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis and Kings guard Buddy Hield also signed four-year deals, respectively. The Spurs opted to extend Dejounte Murray, while the Nets inked the relatively newly acquired Taurean Prince to a two-year extension. These deals all have various levels of implications, so let’s run through some winners and losers.
Signing Sabonis gives Indy a longer look at the Myles Turner-Sabonis frontcourt pairing before ultimately deciding how to handle the situation. The returns so far haven’t been optimal, but maybe the newish-look roster makes more sense this season when Victor Oladipo finally returns. If not, the Pacers can try to trade one of their big men, and the return for whoever is theoretically shipped out will be much better if they are under contract. It would have been tough for Indy to either trade Sabonis on a semi-expiring deal or put up with a huge offer sheet next summer. In this scenario, everyone involved still has a chance to make it work on a team that could be sneaky good if Oladipo returns sooner rather than later. At the very least, Sabonis got the money he deserved.
Loser: 2020 Free Agency
Restricted free agency is usually a bit of a letdown anyway, but next year’s class could be particularly bleak. Teams like the Hawks and Cavs could have at least given their opponents pause by offering maxes to likes of Brown and Sabonis. Instead, front offices with money next summer will have to pray Anthony Davis hates Los Angeles, or decide whether or not they want to throw cash at the likes of DeMar DeRozan or Paul Millsap, accomplished players who won’t necessarily move the needle on their own. At least guys like Brown and Sabonis could have brought with them the hope of potential to a possible new team. But now that option is off the table entirely, and the 2020 summer already looks to be way more underwhelming than the one we just experienced.
Winner: Boston’s Young Core
After years of building something in hopes of the next thing, the Celtics—whether by choice or not—now seem fully dedicated to handing over the team to their up-and-comers. Gordon Hayward is still here, but Brown and Jayson Tatum can now command equal footing thanks to the organization’s commitment to them. Tatum will certainly receive an extension next year. Marcus Smart is here through at least 2022. Brown is now signed through 2024. Boston is obviously going to do its due diligence on finding a superstar who wants to be a Celtic. For now, the organization is putting its capital behind the players who’ve either had to take a backseat to others or be bandied about in trade talks. With Kemba Walker figuring to be more of a complementary player (albeit still a wildly talented one) than Kyrie Irving was, the Celtics’ emerging stars will finally get a chance to show what they can do on a team of their own.
Loser: NBA-China Relations, Maybe
It’s impossible to know this right now, but I just want to sneak one galaxy-ish brain take in here: What if someone like Brown felt pressured to take the money now instead of gambling on next summer because he’s worried about a possible cap drop in the wake of the NBA’s kerfuffle with China? It’s not completely far fetched!
Winner: Malik Beasley
Beasley and the Nuggets could not agree on an extension by Monday’s deadline, which means the fourth-year guard will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. I think Beasley is going to get paid! First and foremost, he’s a really talented player, a baseline three-and-D guy at only 22 years old with the potential to grow into something slightly more. Beasley probably isn’t going to become an All-Star, but he has transferable skills that are highly valued, making him a seamless fit on many teams. In a weak free agency class, Beasley could command some sizable offers, especially because the Nuggets will find it difficult to match when Jamal Murray’s own extension kicks in. Perhaps a GM will be willing to throw Beasley a few extra million to ensure Denver doesn’t keep him in town. Ultimately, if Beasley has a season like he did in 2018-19, with a good amount of cash available next summer, he could easily benefit from a small but substantial bidding war.
Loser: Brandon Ingram, For Now
Ingram went from a key cog of the Lakers’ young core to a potential LeBron sidekick to a mystery with the Pelicans in the span of a couple years. Maybe he finally finds his niche running the break with Zion and Lonzo. For now, Ingram—who missed the end of last season because of a blood clot—will have to prove himself for another year, potentially to only sign with a new team next summer. It has to be incredibly frustrating for him, and it’s definitely tough to watch as a fan. I still think Ingram has talent. I really hope he puts it together this season and cashes in sooner rather than later.
Winner: The Cult of the Spurs
Dejounte Murray hasn’t played basketball in over a year, and he’s averaged 6.6 points in two seasons in his career. Basketball Twitter still sometimes talks about him like he’s the second coming of Tony Parker. And you know what? I won’t fight it! I know better than to try to disagree with the Spurs, Gregg Popovich and whatever kind spirits inhabit San Antonio. I’m happy for Murray, and I fully expect him to gut someone in the playoffs when they least expect it.