This week marked the contract extension deadline for the NBA's 2018 first-round draft class and veterans with two years remaining on their deals. Keep in mind, all other players on expiring contracts can still sign extensions, as Jonas Valanciunas did with the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. More deals may trickle out throughout the season, but with 25 already on the books, now is as good a time as ever to rank them.
25. Landry Shamet, Phoenix Suns
Four years, $42.5 million (non-guaranteed third year; fourth-year club option)
Shamet signed what will essentially be a standard mid-level exception contract, which is not terrible and a sign that no general manager made a crippling mistake in the offseason. Only two years are guaranteed.
On three teams in four seasons, he has proven to be a 3-point shooting threat, converting 40% of his 5.3 attempts per game. He has shown little else. The Brooklyn Nets did not trust him in last season's playoffs, to the point he only played seven minutes for a team in desperate need of production in their Game 7 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. It is hard to justify giving an eight-figure extension to a replacement-level player.
24. Wendell Carter Jr., Orlando Magic
Four years, $50 million
Carter was billed as a neo Al Horford. He has only shown that potential in small bursts, partly due to injury. His 54 games last season were the most of his three-year career, and the results were again mixed. He does many things well, but nothing at an elite level. We have yet to see him contribute to a winning team in a meaningful way, and at 22 years old, there is still plenty of time, but there is no harm in making him earn it.
23. Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Four years, $117 million (fourth-year player option)
Randle's monster opening night — 35 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and three blocks in 46 minutes of a thrilling double-overtime win — suggests last season's Second Team All-NBA effort was no fluke. Then again, his dismal performance in the playoffs raised questions about his ability to deliver when it matters, and $117 million through 2025 is a serious commitment to a player with one great regular season under his belt. It may be that the risk of losing their best free agent signing in years outweighed the possibility Randle does not live up to this contract, and any sane decision by the Knicks cannot be criticized too greatly.
22. Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
Four years, $90 million
This contract was coming now from the Suns or someone else next summer after Bridges' contributions to Phoenix's Finals run. He is a 25-year-old above-average wing who should at least be a 3-and-D contributor for years to come. Whether that is truly worth $22.5 million annually on a team featuring three players who will command higher salaries will depend on Bridges' ability to add a playmaking dimension to his game.
21. Terry Rozier, Charlotte Hornets
Four years, $96.3 million ($24.9 million fourth-year guarantee)
Rozier is one of the more underrated players in the NBA. His production in Charlotte the last two seasons (19-4-4 on 44/40/84 shooting splits) silenced critics of the three-year, $56.7 million deal he signed in July 2019. At some point, though, you run the risk of turning an underrated player into an overpaid one, and Rozier has seemingly been riding that line for a while. This deal banks on him continuing to exceed expectations.
20. Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets
Four years, $92 million (fourth-year player option)
The Nuggets had to pay Gordon after trading a trio of assets for him at last season's deadline, and for a brief stretch before Jamal Murray suffered a season-ending knee injury, they looked like championship favorites with the ex-Orlando Magic forward in the lineup. Then, Gordon looked just OK in Denver's first-round playoff loss — only his second career postseason appearance — and again you wonder whether a fourth option can produce enough to justify paying him $23 million annually. A title makes it all worth it.
19. Daniel Gafford, Washington Wizards
Three years, $40.2 million
I like Gafford's game — have since he was only playing in spurts as a rookie second-round pick for the rebuilding Chicago Bulls in 2019. He is a quality rim-running lob threat and athletic enough to develop into a defender who can hold his own in space. JaVale McGee has also been living in a similar space on minimum contracts for the past six years, so it feels like that $40 million could have been allocated better.
18. Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks
Two years, $46 million
At least Capela has proven himself a bona fide rim protector for conference finalists in Atlanta and Houston. He finished fifth in both Defensive Player of the Year and All-NBA voting. I've still never thought of him as irreplaceable. The Hawks got him for a non-lottery pick 20 months ago, and I don't know that his value has risen all that much. If his salary squeezes out any of Atlanta's more versatile contributors, that's a problem.
17. Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers
Two years, $45 million
Brogdon is a sub-All-Star level player, and $22.5 million per year is the going rate for that kind of talent in a league that expects to see a rising salary cap in the near future. He has missed 87 games over the past four years after entering the league with injury concerns, so securing $132.5 million in career earnings is quite the accomplishment for the second-round pick. He had two more years left on his current contract, and I might have let him play out one more year before handing over this extension, especially since it restricts the Pacers from trading him this season for Ben Simmons or anyone else who might become available.
16. Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans
Two years, $30.1 million
Valanciunas is an absolute beast. His teams are always better than you expect them to be, and he has quietly stacked numbers, averaging 19 points and 13 rebounds per 36 minutes for the past eight seasons. He almost hit those marks in 28 minutes per game last season. Only a fractured left hand and left thumb injury have slowed him down for any significant period. He has the track record, so to get him for roughly the same price as Gafford, for a shorter commitment, feels like a fair deal. I still might have waited to see how he performed alongside Zion Williamson before giving him the contract, but that also risks losing him.
15. Robert Williams III, Boston Celtics
Four years, $48 million
Gafford's ceiling is somewhere below Capela, but Williams' might be higher, given the passing ability he has shown in addition to his athleticism as a rim runner and protector. If he can stay healthy, which is a real concern, Williams should exceed the value of this contract. If not, the price is not so steep he is immovable.
14. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Four years, $104.7 million (declining salary, Exhibit 3 injury protection)
Jackson is a highly skilled big man with the potential to be a great offensive player. His ability to space the floor (37.4% on 4.6 3-point attempts per game in his career) with agility at 6-foot-11 is a difficult quality to find, but the injury history to his knees and his defensive limitations could prevent him from ever meeting the value of this contract. The Grizzlies did well to build a prior injury exclusion into Jackson's contract.
13. Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Four years, $77.1 million
Smart is an elite defender, capable distributor and average shooter. He looks for his own shot too often, but his intangibles outweigh any statistical deficiencies. Smart believes he is worth more on the open market, and I don't disagree. Any contending team would be eager to add his complementary skill set to a roster.
12. Josh Richardson, Boston Celtics
One year, $12.2 million
Richardson is a mid-level player, and this deal keeps him under contract at a reasonable rate for an extra season. It is not a significant commitment, and his expiring price tag could come in handy next summer.
11. Grayson Allen, Milwaukee Bucks
Two years, $17 million
Allen carried a reputation as a dirty player into the NBA from Duke, and it has matured into competitiveness in his NBA career. He started half the season for a young Grizzlies team that made the playoffs last season, and his shooting promise has translated to a 40% conversion rate on nearly five 3-point attempts per game over the past two seasons. He will see plenty more open shots playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.
10. Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks
Four years, $65 million
Is this difference between Huerter and Bridges so wide it is worth $25 million extra to the Suns over the next four years? I'm not so sure. There is a lot to like about Huerter's game, and the Hawks should feel good about paying this price to a guy who just won them Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
9. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Four years, $184 million
Butler is an All-Star who led the Heat to the Finals in 2020. There should be some hesitation about whether he can carry so heavy a weight again. Those years playing 37+ minutes under Tom Thibodeau put a lot of miles on Butler, and this deal runs through his 36th birthday — a year after he said he planned on retiring.
8. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Five years, $172.5 million ($207.1 million if 2022 All-NBA; $12M fifth-year guarantee)
Porter is among the favorites to win this year's Most Improved Player award. He averaged 23.5 points on 56/49/85 shooting splits once Jamal Murray went down with an ACL injury last season, demonstrating an impressive scoring ability from every level at 6-foot-10. That he earned this contract after missing his entire first year of service with a back injury is a testament to his ability to overcome serious medical concerns prior to his draft selection, and this contract is a bet on two uncertainties — his health and his potential.
7. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Five years, $172.5 million ($207.1 million if 2022 All-NBA)
Gilgeous-Alexander might have made the All-Star team last season if he were not playing on an abysmal team. The Thunder have nobody else near his value, so they might as well give Gilgeous-Alexander a fully guaranteed max contract. Here is hoping they don't waste his talent chasing draft picks for the bulk of it.
6. Terance Mann, Los Angeles Clippers
Two years, $22 million
Mann's 40-to-1 odds are great value for Most Improved Player. With Kawhi Leonard injured, Mann is free to maximize his role, and if last season's playoffs were any indication, he should seize the opportunity. The 25-year-old scored 39 points in a closeout game against the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals. Even a third of that production on a consistent basis would yield a nice return on the Clippers' investment.
5. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Four years, $196 million
Embiid was the MVP runner-up last season, arguably the league's most dominant player when healthy. That health is the only real concern about paying him $54.2 million in 2026-27, but the Sixers are pot-committed to building around Embiid for the long-term, since their other franchise cornerstone is currently mailing in the second year of his five-year max contract. Might as well ensure someone is happy playing in Philadelphia.
4. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Four years, $192.5 million
Durant proved he can still be the Best Player Alive after his Achilles injury, and if the Nets were willing to pay him the max before they knew he could reach those heights again, they might as well give him an extension now that he has. Paying him $53.3 million at age 37 might not be the greatest investment, but if his commitment to Brooklyn gets James Harden and (gulp) Kyrie Irving to re-sign, this deal is well worth it.
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Four years, $215.4 million
Curry will make $59.6 million at age 37, which is mind-boggling, but taking the next step toward making the greatest shooter in basketball history a lifelong Warrior is a move Golden State will make every day.
2. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Five years, $172.5 million ($207.1 million if 2022 All-NBA; fifth-year player option)
Young proved he can put up ludicrous numbers during his 2020 All-Star campaign, submitting a 30-4-9 on 44/36/86 shooting splits at the age of 21. And he proved he can harness his skills on a winning team, leading the Hawks to a surprising Eastern Conference finals appearance last season, when he missed the All-Star team for what will be the last time in a long while. You hit every mark, you get the max, and he did.
1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Five years, $207.1 million (fifth-year player option)
Doncic is arguably the greatest 22-year-old offensive player in NBA history. Give him whatever he wants.
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