The Julius Randle Extension: Yes or No?

The 2014 draft class is eligible for contract extensions of three more years at a higher salary. A few will benefit. Others, without extensions, will be restricted free agents in the summer of 2018.

Offering an extension is fraught with complications and in a lot of ways can backfire. The message beforehand is to proceed with caution. Offer an extension to hedge your bet. Don’t offer an extension and the market will set the price and you will either be forced to match or see your four year player walk.

Otto Porter is a cautionary tale of how good intentions go awry. Porter was not offered an extension and then went on to have the best year of his career. He signed a restricted free agent deal that was more than what an extension, nine months earlier,  would have cost the Wizards. They gambled and lost.

We look at the top-7 picks in the 2014 draft class.

#1 Andrew Wiggins.

245 games. 20.4 points. 4.1 rebounds. Offensive Rating: 105. Defensive Rating: 114. PER: 15.7. Usage Rate: 26.3%.

Andrew Wiggins signed a $145 million extension. It was a no-brainer. He was Rookie of the Year. He was a 20 point scorer in his second year, 23 point scorer in his third year. He still hasn’t reached the limit of his offensive ability. He has only missed one game in three years so he is very durable, even as he gets hit at the rim. He seems genetically sound, able to take hits and not have his body collapse. But he struggles in the mid-range, shooting under 40% from that distance, which makes him pretty easy to defend, given his reluctance to drive, stop, and drain a 14 footer.

But he is only 22 years old. He is nowhere close to reaching the ceiling of his ability. Wiggins has a tendency to sleep walk on defense or to just rest on offense. He isn’t the prototypical arrogant iso scorer; he has a low motor.

He is the player the Cavs traded but needed in the Finals, someone who can create, finish at the rim, get to the line and score points.  Fitting his game in with Jimmy Butler will be a Tom Thibodeau problem but Wiggins is an offensive star. (Brendan Gillespie)

#2 Jabari Parker.

152 games. 15.8 points. 5.6 rebounds. Offensive Rating: 107. Defensive Rating: 109. PER: 16.3. Usage Rate: 22.8%

As crazy as it sounds considering two knee injuries, I’d offer Jabari Parker an extension. The Steph Curry extension. Like Parker, Steph had some injury years in his first contract and then signed an extension far less than what he was worth because he wasn’t quite sure if his injury luck would continue. It gave the Warriors flexibility to add quality talent and made Curry the most underpaid superstar of all time. It is a good blueprint for Parker, who also cannot remain healthy, but who showed me this year that he is a 20 point per game scorer.

He can play downhill, run the break, create off the dribble and finish. He took more three point shots and more free throws then he ever had; threes may be where his career is headed as a compromise, something to save his knees from contact.

Parker is not a rim protector, not blocking shots, but once again, that is good too. At this point in his career, he needs to be conscious of torque. He is a good second option for the Bucks and Giannis. Together, they are a strong duo.

Parker is an efficient scorer at the rim but needs a lot of work on his elbow jumpers. But he is not out there to ball stop. He plays hard and with good energy and the Bucks can build around him and Giannis. The question comes down to this: can you trust the intangibles? Can you trust his body not to betray him?

That’s an unknown and a glass is half full or half empty question. I go the half full route and put faith in the fact that Jabari Parker will be back and consistent. Pay less, get more. (Mallory Stith-Wheat)

#3 Joel Embiid.

31 games. 20.2 points. 5.9 rebounds. Offensive Rating 103. Defensive Rating: 102. PER: 24.1. Usage Rate 36.0%

Embiid finally proved The Process has some merit. In his case, it worked. Sort of. He played 31 games before he was shut down because of injury. Embiid is an unknown. Can his body hold up over a grueling NBA season, particularly given the fact that his usage rate will be high because Philly just doesn’t have much else?

When Simmons comes back Embiid will have help which should knock his usage rate down a peg but still, do you give a max extension to a player whose number of NBA games amount to a drop in the ocean?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Embiid is everything you want for the face of a franchise. He has the personality; he wants the attention and fans will come to see him. More importantly, he has the game. He can finish outside and inside. His shooting isn’t particularly efficient for his size because he takes a lot of jumpers. He has a similar percentage as DeMarcus Cousins. He is a great rim protector, a strong offensive rebounder but he turned the ball over a little too much, given his limited minutes. That, though, you can chalk up to being his rookie year. He was strong at long two point shots but needs to polish up his midrange game. He runs the floor and is a big target and most importantly he has a high motor.

You know a star when you see one. Embiid, if he can stay healthy, will be a star and return Philly back to the promised land. (Julian Billick)

#4 Aaron Gordon.

205 games. 9.7 points. 5.3 rebounds. Offensive Rating: 109. Defensive Rating: 108. PER: 14.9. Usage Rate: 18.3%

When Aaron Gordon was drafted, it was apparent what he was. Blake Griffin lite. He was a dynamic athlete, extremely explosive. But he didn’t have much of an offensive game. He was the poster child for potential. Three years later, that potential has yet to deliver on its promise.

I would pass on an Aaron Gordon extension. It is not that he doesn’t do certain things. He does. He finishes at the rim with thunderous dunks. But he’s an average shooter for his size, more of a shooting guard’s stats of 45%. He doesn’t space the floor so he’s in no man’s land in this space the floor era. He plays nearly 30 minutes but barely gets to the line three times a game. With his athleticism he should block more shots than he does. Once he gets past three feet, he’s pretty worthless on the offensive end except this year he had nice numbers from 10-16 feet. It is too early to know if that was a one year fluke or if his potential is slowly coming into fruition.

It makes no sense to lock him up for another three years. Give him the opportunity to have a career year. Let the market determine his price and then match the offer if he truly has developed. (Julian Billick)

#5 Dante Exum.

148 games. 5.4 points. 2.1 assists. Offensive Rating: 100. Defensive Rating: 109. PER: 6.8. Usage Rate: 15.5%.

When you look at the numbers, it makes no sense to offer Dante Exum an extension. He hasn’t played more than 22 minutes a game. The year after his injury, he only finished 42% of his shots. He can’t shoot threes, a negative for any point guard. The Australian Exum was the youngest player in the 2014 draft. He’s only 21 years old and this season, after he missed all of 2015-16, he showed some promise with the ball. He had a proficiency to make shots from the midrange. He only played 18 minutes so it is still really hard to get a grasp on what his ceiling is but he hasn’t reached it yet.

I’d offer Exum an extension in the $10-$12 million range. It may be two more years before you know who he is. Exum was always considered a project. I would not give up on him. He has speed and the ability to play defense if he commits to it. Right now, he is a baby. Still too young to throw in the towel. (C.J. Hampshire)

#6 Marcus Smart

207 games. 9.3 points. 3.7 assists. Offensive Rating: 101Defensive Rating: 105. PER: 12.0. Usage Rate: 17.3%

Every team wants a  Marcus Smart. He defends with a maniacal rage, never taking plays off. But his offense has never translated to the NBA. He isn’t a shot maker and is equal part bad across the board. 34.6% three to ten feet. 37.5% midrange. 31.5% long two’s. And perhaps the reason you don’t have to extend Smart is his career 29.1% from three. He is all defense and nothing on offense except for his streaky threes late in games.

Smart is never going to be overbid for a max deal so organizationally the Celtics can hedge their bets in the summer of 2018 and see what the market bears. After trading for Kyrie Irving and signing Gordon Hayward as a free agent, the Celtics don’t have extra money lying around and so let Smart prove how much he deserves an extension instead of locking him in. The fact is if the Celtics lose Smart in 2018, the Celtics are not a worse team. He can be replaced.  (Julian Billick)

#7 Julius Randle

156 games. 12.2 points. 2.6 assists. Offensive Rating: 102. Defensive Rating: 110. PER: 15.0. Usage Rate: 21.3%

Julius Randle is the most intriguing extension candidate in the 2014 draft class. He is the one player whose fate was changed when the Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball and acquired Brook Lopez. It meant that Randle was on the bubble. Randle, a power forward who is more exceptional when he is the point forward, still is limited offensively. His shot has been blocked 155 times in two years as he is undersized and is not a leaper.

The plus side for an extension is his incredible motor and work ethic and unselfishness.  He can be relentless on the boards. But he doesn’t space the floor and is a mediocre defender when he has to go up against athletic forwards like Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis.

Randle doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well. He is more a jack of all trades, master of none. And since the Lakers have Paul George, LeBron James dreams, Randle’s extension is a fantasy. The Lakers want to save money, not spend it. (C.J. Hampshire)

photo via llananba