Posted Oct 12 2010 12:06PM
The race to sign players from the NBA Draft's Class of 2007 to contract extensions by the Nov. 1 deadline is shaping up to be one between the tortoise and the slug.
It's not much of a sprint.
The looming labor negotiations, coupled with the lack of star power from that 2007 Draft, is convincing teams to sit on their wallets for now and deal with the consequences later. And although that'll mean the vast majority of those players will hit the market as restricted free agents next summer, the threat of losing them is being met with a collective shrug.
Teams just aren't willing to make such a financial leap this early, not like before. There's too much uncertainty right now, with the salary cap, with revenue, with labor talks and the economy, not to mention the players themselves. Yes, that draft is looking weaker by the day, especially among the lottery picks; only a handful of players are starters. Expect some to get the Joe Alexander treatment, meaning their options won't get picked up next season, making them unrestricted free agents. That's why only Kevin Durant and Joakim Noah have been extended, with Al Horford the only sure bet among the remaining bunch to get his money by the deadline. They're the most accomplished players and already cornerstones to their teams.
A few others shouldn't sweat much. Marc Gasol (48th pick), Carl Landry (31st pick), Glen Davis (25th pick) and Aaron Brooks (26th pick) will get paid regardless because their upside is solid. Everyone else better pray for good health and better production in 2010-11, and keep their fingers crossed. They could feel the pinch from the next labor deal and wind up with fewer dollars than expected, if not shorter extensions, depending on what the owners and union hammer out.
Here's a look at the top 15 draft picks who haven't been extended yet, and the odds of that happening by the deadline, or ever:
Greg Oden (No. 1 overall), Blazers: Noah got $60 million after averaging 10.7 points and 11 rebounds last season, numbers well within reach by a healthy Oden. But do the Blazers invest so heavily in a player who's had two major surgeries in three years and played only 82 games? Or do they let him test his market value, which would rise next summer if Oden has a breakout season? Tough call, either way.
Mike Conley (No. 4 overall ), Grizzlies: Memphis is giving Conley every chance to make money; is he blowing it? With no real competition at point guard and scorers galore to pass to, Conley better have a big season. If not, the penny-pinching Grizzlies could decline to even qualify him ($6 million) and just turn him loose.
Jeff Green (No. 5 overall), Thunder: He saw his teammate get a new deal in about five seconds. Obviously, the Thunder will think a bit longer about extending Green, a 6-9 'tweener who doesn't rebound well (six per game). He lacks star appeal although he could last 10 years as a complementary player to Durant.
Yi Jianlian (No. 6 overall), Wizards:. He's halfway around the world from his birthplace and hasn't found a second home. Two teams have already given up on him, and he might get lost in the front-court shuffle with the Wizards, who aren't extending him before the deadline. What's Chinese for "better bring it or else?"
Corey Brewer (No. 7 overall), Wolves: The third member of Florida's back-to-back NCAA championship team to go in the first round will also be the last to ink an extension. And it will be with someone besides Minnesota. After watching Brewer's sluggish improvement, the Wolves went and got others who play the same swing role, creating a logjam. He could be dealt at the trade deadline.
Brandan Wright (No. 8 overall), Warriors: A bum shoulder has limited him to an Oden-like 77 games, and then the Warriors wrote an $80 million check to David Lee to be their premier big man. However, if Wright can stay in one piece and show some toughness, he'll have a future on a team still low on quality bigs.
Spencer Hawes (No. 10 overall), Sixers: He can block a few shots and hit some medium-range jumpers, but he just couldn't find a niche with the Kings. This is his last chance to make a statement, since he's the only true center on the Sixers' roster.
Acie Law (No. 11 overall), Grizzlies: He quickly flamed out in Atlanta and became a journeyman, now playing for nickels in Memphis and hoping to cut into the playing time of Conley, another desperate Class of '07 member.
Thaddeus Young (No. 12 overall), Sixers: His career started fine, then tailed off slightly last season, which all but killed any chance of Young becoming richer by Nov. 1. The Sixers do like him and he'll make money, it's just a matter of when and how much.
Julian Wright (No. 13 overall), Raptors: He didn't pan out in New Orleans and could be an end-of-the-rotation guy in Toronto. Not the type of player you'd jump to extend, or even qualify at this point.
Al Thornton (No. 14 overall), Wizards: With the Wizards going through a rebuilding stage and looking to slot players around John Wall, this is Thornton's chance to stick in Washington. Front-court minutes might be a luxury, though.
Rodney Stuckey (No. 15 overall), Pistons: He improved every season, averaged 16.6 points last year, and definitely has a future with the Pistons. Although, didn't they give some of his money to Ben Gordon?
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