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Every Friday, the
best available minds Hardwood Paroxysm has to offer will gather around the proverbial dinner table and discuss a random topic of great existing interest. Today we have Curtis Harris, Sean Highkin, Amin Vafa, Jared Dubin and myself discussing the newly minted extensions rewarded to 6 members of the 2009 draft class.
1. What did you think about James Harden’s extension (5 years, $80 million)?
Noam: It’s a no-brainer, and I thought this even before Harden’s electrifying Rockets debut. I don’t know if Harden can be THE MAN or not, I don’t know if he’s an alpha dog by nature, and I don’t know if he’ll get too many beard hairs stuck in the drain and annoy clean sink aficionado Patrick Patterson. And I don’t care. His production is off the charts, and he’s worth a post-rookie max. That’s it.
Curtis: I was born in Houston. I was raised right outside the city. I slept in an Hakeem Olajuwon shirt as a child. I bleed Rocket fuel. HELL YES WE GOT JAMES HARDEN. ROCKETBEARD! WOOOOO!!! Worth every penny.
Sean: Harden is worth the money. His efficiency may decline slightly from the insane levels it was at with the Thunder, but that just comes with the territory of taking more shots. I thought he was worth the max before the trade, but after seeing the way he and Jeremy Lin play off each other in Houston, I’m even more sold.
Amin: So glad they finally locked him down. The Thunder are going to be so… wait. What’s that? Oh, you’re saying he signed that extension with the Rockets? Wait, how is he on the Rockets? Oh, he got traded because he OKC didn’t want to pay him? So OKC shifted their window from now to 3 years into the future, hoping Jones and Lamb pan out? I mean, I guess that’s a good idea. But… WOOHOO JAMES HARDEN GOT PAID AND THE ROCKETS ARE FUN AGAIN!
Jared: Well, we knew this one was coming, and it’s well-deserved. Harden had star level production with bench player minutes and third-wheel shot attempts in OKC, but he’s the superstar foundational player Houston has been waiting for and finally got. If his first game as a Rocket is any indication, he’ll have no trouble living up to his price tag. It won’t all be as simple as he made it look against the Pistons, but Harden is a stud, and he’ll produce like one for the duration. The pressure he takes of Jeremy Lin is just a bonus. Harden’s mastery of the pick-and-roll as well as his isolation prowess make him a terrific offensive player. If he can take a leap on the defensive end, he’ll be a top 10 player in the entire league.
2. What did you think about Ty Lawson’s extension (4 years, $48 million)?
Noam: I’m a big fan of both Lawson’s game and Masai Ujiri’s braintrust. The Nuggets continue to build an unorthodox roster full of the midrange sort of deals that usually kill a team’s cap situation, but they’re giving them to very good players while hoping that they can either make the leap or be traded for very good value. Lawson may be closer to the former than any of the Nuggets before him.
Curtis: It may be slightly over his worth, but this deal for Lawson is solid like Lawson himself. Denver’s got the point guard spot safely locked up and in great hands for years to come. There are fewer ways to spend your money better and a lot more to spend it worse… like extending JaVale McGee for basically the same amount.
Sean: I’m a huge fan of Lawson, and I see no reason to doubt Masai Ujiri’s process in coming up with this figure and getting Ty to agree to it. Worst-case scenario, it’s a slight overpay but not an egregious one. Best-case, this could be as big a bargain for the Nuggets as Rajon Rondo’s $55 million deal with the Celtics.
Amin: I think it’s great. I think Lawson is worth the money, and I think Ujiri has proven to be really smart with his contracts. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen. At this point, everyone thinks Lawson is great and would have given him that money. If it turns out that he’s not worth the money (let’s call this the “Nene Fear”), then the front office will keep it hush-hush, shop him around, and get a great deal. Nice work for Denver and Lawson on this one. Plus, you gotta sign a guy who can feed McGee and Iguodala for alley-oops. I want to see like 90 of those per game. Is that doable?
Jared: This is just about a perfect deal. Lawson’s value to the Nuggets is obvious. He’s the jet-engine that makes the high-octane Denver offense run smoothly. His ability to get into the lane, draw defenders and either score at the rim or dish to one of the many versatile finishers on the roster is an insanely valuable asset on a team that likes to push the pace whenever possible. He also plays nicely with backup Andre Miller, which allows George Karl to go to those two point guard lineups that worked so well last season. He’s not quite a guy you max out, but he’s close to that level, which makes $12 million per year a nice in-between number to settle at.
3. What did you think about Stephen Curry’s extension (4 years, $44 million)?
Noam: It’s all about the ankles, right? If Curry is healthy, it’s a steal; if the papier mache that connects his foot to his leg has yet to be replaced with proper ligaments then the Warriors are screwed. Statistically, the Warriors are bound to catch a break sometime in the near future. Hopefully it’s with Steph, because he’s too fun to watch on the court and too painful to watch on the bench.
Curtis: Ultimately, I think Golden State made the right, if perilous, move. How great it pans out depends totally on Curry’s fragile ankles. Not the safest of draft horses to hitch the wagon to, but the Warriors were unlikely to get a fine stallion like Steph from the local husbandry. I think that’s all the horse metaphors I can make.
Sean: I like this deal for the Warriors, mainly because Curry is worth far more than $11 million a year if he’s healthy. Having lived through a max contract for a player with max-level talent but massive injury red flags, I applaud Golden State for insulating themselves to a degree from the fate that met the Blazers with Brandon Roy. I hope he can stay on the court, because this Warriors team has a ton of potential.
Amin: I think this one is tricky, because it’s great contract for Curry, and it’s a great contract for Golden State… if Curry stays healthy. So far, the jury is out on his ability to prevent his ankle from turning into jelly. If he can prevent that, then they’ve got a steal.
Jared: Curry would be worth far more than $11 million per year if he could just stay on the floor. Unfortunately, his ankles are made of something even softer than paper mache. The Dubs were already pot-committed to Curry after they traded Monta Ellis, so extending him made sense. If he can stay on the court, this deal is great. If not, it’s not. Them’s the stakes.
4. What did you think about DeMar DeRozan’s extension (4 years, $40 million)?
Noam: Dammit, Bryan Colangelo. You were on such a good streak. You were patient and calculated and I was so sure you stopped overreacting to every semi-good thing coming your way, and then you had to do this. News flash: DeMar DeRozan is not good. He’s a really nice guy, and he doesn’t do dumb stuff, and other than that, he’s Nick Young without the range. Would you give $40 million to a smart Nick Young without the range? What’s next, $18 million to Landry Fi… dammit.
Curtis: GOOD LORD THIS DEAL IS AWFUL. I’m so sorry Toronto.
Sean: I don’t get this one at all. DeRozan strikes me as the perfect candidate for restricted free agency. My impression wasn’t that a lot of teams would be lining up to pay him, especially now that Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings are going to be on the market. So why wouldn’t the Raptors let him set the market and decide whether or not to keep him? $10 million a year is a massive overpay.
Amin: I think Toronto set the value high, but I think that’s OK. Basically, there aren’t that many high-profile SGs out there that you can build a team around, especially those that are approaching free agency. And if you’re saying “DeRozan isn’t a high-profile SG; my God, he’s got a below average PER,” then you’re half-right. He’s not great, but people know who he is (perception matters; thanks dunk contest!). Someone was going to give him that contract in the off-season, and Toronto was going to have to think about this decision down the road no matter what. This way, they create a better relationship between the front office and the player, the front office and DeRozan’s agent, and they get to see what he’s made of next to Lowry, Ross, and Valanciunas.
Jared: I do not understand this deal in any way whatsoever. The Raptors presumably drafted Terrence Ross and signed Landry Fields (ugh) specifically so they wouldn’t have to commit something like $40 million to DeMar DeRozan, but then they went out and did it anyway. There is nothing in his profile that even hints at him being a $10 million per year player, but the Raps made him one anyway. I’m dumbfounded.
5. What did you think about Taj Gibson’s extension (4 years, $38 million)?
Noam: I don’t love it, but it had to be done. Big men get paid in this league, Taj is as good as they get defensively, and once Chicago let Omer Asik go they couldn’t afford to lose the last remainder of The Ensemble Formerly Known As The Bench Mob. Taj is already 27, so unlike the rest of these guys, he’s unlikely to improve over the length of this deal, but if Chicago had let the market dictate his value, it would have been dictated much higher.
Curtis: Better than Boozer and half the price! This should seal Boozer’s amnestied fate next summer and not a moment too soon. Taj replicates well enough Boozer’s positives while absolutely covering up his awful defense. Love this deal.
Sean: This one is going to look like as much of a bargain as Omer Asik’s deal in Houston once the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer and Taj gets to start full-time.
Amin: Awesome work by the Bulls. He’s definitely worth more, and I think we can look for the frugal Bulls to shop Boozer this year or amnesty him in the off-season. They’ve lost Asik and they’re committed Noah and Gibson; Boozer’s not in those plans either. I could even see the Bulls trying to trade into the tail end of the lottery to get a decent young big man to group with Noah and Gibson in the rotation. Look for a team that wants some scoring but isn’t that serious about competing to take Boozer on (too many teams to name).
Jared: This will look like a bargain once the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer next summer, assuming Jerry Reinsdorf is willing to pay a guy to not play for his team (not a guarantee). Gibson is the lone remaining soldier of the best bench unit in the league, and he’s a start-level player getting bench player minutes. He’ll be well worth the $8+ million per year, even if he doesn’t improve from this day til the end of the deal. Foundational defensive big men don’t grow on trees, and the Bulls locked one up for below market value, just because they have another player who plays his position.
6. What did you think about Jrue Holiday’s extension (4 years, $41 million)?
Noam: This isn’t significantly higher than what I thought Jrue would get, but I really would have preferred it if Philly waited for the summer and got a good look for another year. Holiday hasn’t progressed like one hopes so far, and while at 22 he still oozes potential from every pore, Philly has taken something of a leap of faith assuming he works out. I doubt it comes back to haunt them, but I would have gone down the more cautious route.
Curtis: I looked up at basketball-reference.com the number of players who have averaged 10+ ppg and 5+ apg (Holiday’s averages) since 2010. It was 29 players. He’s literally an average PG at the moment. Not worth the money unless his supposedly voluminous potential begins to be actualized. I’m reserving judgment for now, which isn’t what you really want to hear when a team has just thrown $10 million a year at someone.
Sean: I’ll hedge on this one. He hasn’t been worth $10 million a year to this point, but he’d probably get more than that from somebody next summer, and he’s good enough that it’s worth locking him up before then and hoping he develops into that caliber of a point guard.
Amin: A great deal for both teams. The Sixers are in an exploratory stage with their team right now; with the loss of Iguodala and the unknown status of Bynum, they’ve got to hang onto their known commodities. Though it’ll be interesting to see how this deal influences Evan Turner’s deal down the road.
Jared: I’m not sold this is a good deal yet, but it’s infinitely better than the DeRozan one. Holiday’s seemed like a pretty average point guard so far in his career, but his size, athleticism and speed mean he profiles much better. He has a chance to be one of the better defenders in the league at the guard position, and if his offense ever catches up, he’ll be worth that double-digit million dollar money per season. I’m skeptical it happens, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.