Free agency is effectively in the rearview mirror as the calendar turns to August, placing a greater focus on the upcoming season ahead. But there is still one aspect of NBA business still unsettled for players across the league. Numerous notable names face questions regarding potential contract extensions before the 2022–23 season kicks off in October, with both league stalwarts and rising stars looking to cash in. Don’t be shocked if we see a number of nine-figure deals signed across the next two months.
So which players are most likely to ink contract extensions before the start of next season? Let’s evaluate a few of the looming contract conversations across the NBA as we look toward 2022–23.
THE BIG FISH
LeBron James, Lakers
James becomes extension eligible Thursday, likely kickstarting a wave of speculation until he puts the pen to paper on a new deal. Los Angeles will likely be eager to offer an extension—likely a two-year deal worth $97 million—though are we sure James will accept such a deal? The answer remains unclear. James appears happy to finish his career in Los Angeles—at least until Bronny James potentially enters the league—though satisfaction with his current situation may not lead to a new contract. James could use his potential free agency as a cudgel over the Lakers’ front office, placing pressure on the organization to upgrade its current roster in sacrifice of future assets. We’ve seen this blueprint before in Cleveland. Don’t be shocked if LeBron plays out the string on his current deal despite the uncertainty that will follow.
Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, Warriors
Joe Lacob has quite the juggling act on his hands. Golden State’s owner has paid a historic luxury tax bill in recent years, and the figure may continue to balloon as we roll through the 2020s. Steph Curry is signed through 2025–26, with $59.6 million owed in the final year of his contract. A similar commitment could be on the horizon for a pair of Golden State veterans.
Green hasn’t been shy about his wishes for a new deal. His current contract expires at the end of 2022–23, and Green says he wants a max extension worth a total of $164.2 million over the next five seasons. It’s hard to see such a deal coming into focus. Green has his greatest value on the Warriors, and he’s unlikely to fetch a massive on the open market. The smartest path may be for the two parties to meet in the middle, handing Green an extension below the max for two or three more seasons.
Thompson hasn’t been as vocal as Green regarding a new deal, and he’s likely a long shot to sign any sort of extension this season. Thompson currently has two years left on his deal, slated to earn $40.6 million next year. Let’s revisit this conversation in August 2023 if he turns in another healthy campaign.
Fred VanVleet, Raptors
Toronto’s point guard could delay his new deal by a year and capitalize on the league’s rising revenues in 2023 and beyond, but this feels like a pretty safe extension candidate before opening night. VanVleet has become a stalwart in Toronto, a player who has deftly shepherded the Raptors from the Kawhi Leonard era to the current group headlined by Scottie Barnes. VanVleet turns 29 this season, and a four-year, $114 extension should be both reasonable enough for Toronto and lucrative enough to keep him off the open market. We should see the Wichita State product entrenched in Toronto for years to come.
Tyler Herro, Heat
It’s unlikely we see a Herro extension until the Donovan Mitchell and Kevin Durant situations resolve themselves, at least as they pertain to the Heat. Herro is effectively unable to be traded until July 2023 if he receives an extension, leaving Miami to hold off on making a long-term commitment before bowing out of the Mitchell or Durant sweepstakes. Such a proposition is possible (and even likely) given the high prices for each star, leading to potential negotiations between Herro and the Heat in September. Don’t be surprised if Herro signs an extension before the season starts, one that could surpass $25 million per year.
RJ Barrett, Knicks
The former No. 3 pick is also impacted by the looming Mitchell sweepstakes, though his involvement in a potential deal with Utah is no guarantee. New York could very well acquire Mitchell with a haul of draft picks and young players, then still extend Barrett before the mid-October deadline. It’s a separate question whether the Knicks want to commit anything close to the full rookie max near $185 million for Barrett, a rising young player who has yet to truly break out. Acquiring Mitchell could change that calculus, allowing the Knicks to either lock in a young trio or shop Barrett in search of a more proven third piece.
Jordan Poole, Warriors
Golden State’s rocketing luxury-tax projections will likely leave one of Green, Thompson, Poole and Andrew Wiggins as the odd man out when it comes to contract extensions. It’s unclear if there’s any preference regarding Poole vs. Wiggins in Golden State’s front office, though Poole could be a (relatively) cheaper option. The Warriors may be able to retain Poole at a figure around $100 million over four years, a dip from what would likely be paid to Wiggins. Such a scenario is solely speculation at the moment. Consider a Poole extension this preseason a relative long shot for now.
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Andrew Wiggins, Warriors
It’s a bit funny to put Wiggins in this category, though it’s hard to qualify him as anything but a veteran as he somehow enters his eighth NBA season. Wiggins is effectively an NBA redemption story at 28 years old, and coming off a revelatory postseason in Golden State, he stands to cash in once again as he enters the final year of a mammoth extension signed in 2017. The Warriors would face a slew of potential suitors should Wiggins enter free agency next summer.
I’m more optimistic about a Wiggins extension compared to Poole. The former No. 1 pick shined as a two-way force in the Finals, hounding Jayson Tatum on the defensive end. Poole’s scoring talent is immense, though, in a broad sense, it’s a bit duplicative of Curry and Thompson. Wiggins fills the vacuum left by an aging Andre Iguodala, serving as an exemplary wing defender and secondary scorer. The former No. 1 pick may very well wait another year and enter the free agency market in 2023, though regardless, his long-term future is likely in Golden State.
CJ McCollum, Pelicans
The former Blazers guard was a revelation for New Orleans last season, shepherding a young Pelicans squad to the playoffs despite the absence of Zion Williamson. The move added a serious dose of professionalism to the franchise, and it’s not a stretch to say McCollum’s presence played a role in Williamson’s mammoth contract extension this offseason. What was once a fractured relationship between Williamson and the Pelicans seems to be back on course, in part due to the veteran guard’s work behind the scenes.
McCollum was no slouch on the floor, either. He took the reins as a lead initiator with ease, averaging 24.3 points per game across 26 regular-season contests in New Orleans. Perhaps McCollum isn’t the league’s most explosive scorer, though he has a shifty, malleable game that can thrive alongside any ball-dominant option. Don’t be surprised if we see a couple of years tacked on to McCollum’s deal, currently set to expire after 2023–24.
D’Angelo Russell, Timberwolves
Russell is eligible for a four-year, $170 million extension, a number he frankly won’t come close to. He’s reportedly signaled he’d be willing to meet in the middle with Minnesota on an extension number, though I’m skeptical any deal will be reached. The Timberwolves now have a frontcourt nearing a combined $500 million, and an Anthony Edwards extension isn’t too far away. Russell is a nice complementary scorer and a nice clutch player. But in a league filled with point guards, it’s hard to see Minnesota making a major investment. Russell is a sneaky trade chip as the year approaches.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Kyle Kuzma, Wizards
Kuzma quietly turned in perhaps his best year as a pro in 2021–22, earning significant opportunities as Washington’s top option after Bradley Beal’s injury. Will he become a running mate alongside Beal for years to come? That’s a dicey proposition. He’s likely to opt out of his deal for 2023–24 given good health this season, and while Washington could retain him via an extension this summer or with Bird Rights next season, luxury tax concerns will quickly come into play. Beal and Kristaps Porziņģis will combine to make $82 million (not a typo!) in 2023–24. Rui Hachimura could be receiving a new deal, and there’s some positional overlap at play with Deni Avdija.
Perhaps Washington is bullish on this current core and subsequently eager to come to terms with Kuzma on an extension. It’s more likely he remains an expiring deal and subsequent piece on the trade market come February 2023.
Kevin Porter Jr., Rockets
Houston has restocked its roster with an intriguing group of young talent in the two years since James Harden’s trade demand, including top-three picks Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. The future of Green’s current backcourt mate remains an interesting question. Point guard Porter is currently eligible for a rookie-scale extension, something he and the Rockets are reportedly interested in agreeing to before the start of the 2022–23 season. Landing on an appropriate annual salary is a more complex question.
Porter flashes as a lead playmaker on many nights, showing the willingness and creativity to find open shooters, cutters and rolling big men as he snakes through the lane. His vision is advanced for a player of his age, and he was passable as an off-the-dribble shooter despite significant volume last season. Porter still has shortcomings as a scorer inside the arc, though growth with his floater should alleviate some of those concerns. You don’t have to squint hard to see Porter as a capable offensive engine.
Previous locker-room incidents in both Cleveland and Houston cast obvious doubt on a potential Porter extension, though, for the Rockets, last year’s dust-up was more an isolated incident than a warning sign. Porter boasts a strong relationship with Green, coach Stephen Silas and assistant John Lucas II, spending much of his summer in Houston. The Rockets could very well wait for Porter’s restricted free agency next year, though it may be in both parties’ best interest in an extension around the $12–$15 million per year range.
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