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Essay: Grading The 2009 Draft Class Extensions

Seven players from the NBA Draft class of 2009 signed extensions this week. Some were surprising, others not so much. Let’s take a look.

Los Angeles Clippers sign Blake Griffin (No. 1 pick) to five-year, $80 million extension

The best player of the ’09 class receives as much money as the rules allow. Seems fair. This was a great move for the Clippers, who locked up a young franchise player capable of bringing in fans and endorsements. Blake is the sole All-Star/All-NBA player from the 2009 class up until now, and he’s clearly shown he can dominate. He still has a long way to go before truly becoming one of the elite—his defense and lack of offensive creativity are problematic—but all signs point up for his development.

Grade: A

 

Houston Rockets sign James Harden (No. 3 pick) to five-year, $80 million extension

James Harden tied Blake for the most amount of money received, and while he hasn’t shown as much as Blake has, this contract isn’t that simple to judge. Up until now, Harden has proven the following: 1) He is arguably the most efficient wing player in the league, 2) He’s a brilliant playmaker, 3) He’s a great shooter.

Harden obviously didn’t have to carry the load in OKC with two All-NBA players by his side, but his importance to that team cannot be overstated. The Rockets took a fairly large risk with this contract, considering how Harden is now on a team where he will be the main target on defense, but his skill, age, and production indicate that he’ll be able to grow into earning a good portion of it. And if you’ve been paying attention, he hasn’t been doing too bad as Houston’s franchise player so far.

Grade: B+

 

Golden State Warriors sign Stephen Curry (No. 7 pick) to four-year, $44 million extension

This contract is a bit tricky to evaluate. Stephen Curry is an excellent young player who, in my opinion, can grow to be one of the elite point guards in this league, but his ankles woes have been a major cause of concern these last few seasons. If Curry stays healthy and continues producing, this contract will be a steal. If he doesn’t stay healthy, well, the contract still will not be terrible. I see this as high reward/low risk, and I think the Warriors will look back happily on the contract when it ends.

Grade: B

Toronto Raptors sign DeMar DeRozan (No. 9 pick) to four-year, $42 million extension

Terrible contract. Just terrible. A replacement level player who barely deserves the mid-level exception getting more than $10 million a year? DeRozan has no above average skills barring a decent midrange game (which seems to have been a one-year wonder) and an alright ability to draw fouls (he has a career free-throw rate of o.37), but the Raptors already have a replacement for him on the roster with rookie Terrence Ross. DeRozan is pretty young and has decent athleticism, but I doubt he’ll ever live up to this contract.

Grade: D-

 

Philadelphia 76ers sign Jrue Holiday (No. 17 pick) to four-year, $41 million extension

Jrue Holiday is a nice player, and is quite young, but I feel his ceiling is capped. He’s already a good shooter/defender (two of the main areas young players improve in) and he will not have the opportunity to dominate the ball on his team. Jrue could blossom next to Bynum, but it seems like he is the player now that he will always be, and that is not worth $10 million a year. This contract is decent: it overpays Jrue but he is an intriguing guy. The 76ers took the risk of locking him up before free agency, and they will be making a gamble.

Grade: B-

 

Nuggets sign Ty Lawson (No. 18 pick) to four-year, $48 million extension

I covered Ty Lawson’s contract before, and my view has not changed. He is a productive young player who is of vital importance to his team. He is overpaid if you compare the money to his current production, but its very likely he’ll start earning his money and possibly even become underpaid. The deal is good for both sides, and it’s a rare mix that you don’t usually find.

Grade: B

 

Chicago Bulls sign Taj Gibson (No. 26 pick) to four-year, $38 million extension

This was an interesting signing, and one that you cannot look too superficially at. Gibson is crucial to the Bulls because of the injury concerns of both of their starting power forward and center, because he is arguably their most important defender, and most importantly, because of the possibility of Carlos Boozer being amnestied. Boozer being amnestied has been a hot topic for quite some time, and if he is amnestied, Gibson would take his starting role.

Having a competent player locked up in case of that event happening is very important to the continued success of the Bulls. Gibson is being overpaid but the circumstances dictate it to be so. Still, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a great rebounder and defender.

Grade: B-

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