This year’s NBA salary cap situation for every team was bound to look significantly different compared to prior years given the ongoing pandemic. That wasn’t the case though as Adam Silver and the Board of Governors sought ways to make the CBA flexible for teams to spend in their usual statures.
While that may be the case, it still doesn’t explain some of the contract extensions we’ve seen go through in the past few weeks. One of the only logical explanations is that some teams may have become desperate at the thought of players having breakout seasons and not wanting to risk giving up that said player in the long run.
Most of these players that were signed to extensions have an unknown ceiling at the moment, while some could mostly turn into legitimate role players in the future.
Here are some of the more shocking names that got an extension at the 2020-21 NBA deadline.
4. Kyle Kuzma: Three years, $40 million
By no means is Kuzma’s deal not a favorable one for both he and the Los Angeles Lakers at this point. The 25-year old hasn’t been able to prove himself much in the time since Anthony Davis arrived in LA, which doesn’t exactly make the front office jump at the thought of giving him a rookie scale max deal.
Still, Kuzma has shown the capabilities to become a decent two-way player as he becomes wiser with his gameplay. At times, Kuzma still makes mistakes that are often spotted from a rookie. Coming into his fourth year, the Lakers will be looking for him to produce and contribute to a much higher standard than what he did last season.
LA would want nothing more than for Kuzma to form into a two-way star that could be paired alongside Davis and LeBron James. The ultimate goal down the line would be having Davis and Kuzma form a co-star presence similar to what the Davis-James duo is putting on right now.
3. Markelle Fultz: Three years, $50 million
Fultz has had one of, if not the, most confusing path for a former No. 1 NBA Draft pick. The Philadelphia 76ers banked high on the guard after taking him first in a draft that also included Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and De’Aaron Fox, all of which just signed max rookie extensions. While that’s the case, Fultz hasn’t had the best of luck given some never-before-seen nerve conditions that impaired much of his skill set during his first two seasons.
A flukey jump shot and a trade later, and Fultz is coming off his best season to date. He averaged 12.1 points, 5.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds last season for the Orlando Magic, which poses as decent numbers for a guard, but nothing measuring up to $50 million. At this point, the Magic are banking on Fultz’s potential that was showcased during high school and college. If not for that, the extension becomes shaky at best.
He’s shooting 26 percent from 3-point range while connecting on 46 percent of his shots overall from the field. While the margin is vastly wide, it’s because Fultz’s shot hasn’t fully developed into what’s required of a formidable guard. If his goal is to simply become a past-first guard that occasionally shoots, five assists a game doesn’t quite cut it.
2. Jonathan Isaac: Four Years, $80 million
The Magic are 2-for-2 right now with extensions. As bad as they want to start the formation of their young core, now simply may not be the time. Even on an improved trajectory, Fultz and Isaac don’t put the Magic at the front of the Eastern Conference in the coming years.
Isaac’s extension is more questionable than Fultz’s at the moment. He’s rehabilitating from a torn ACL that’ll force him to miss the upcoming season. He was already set to miss the remainder of the 2019-20 season in January after suffering a posterolateral corner injury and a medial bone contusion to the same knee that he later suffered the torn ACL in.
No one likes to immediately throw around the injury-prone label, but even if the Magic don’t want to consider him a flight risk just yet, signing him to such a lengthy extension wasn’t necessary. Even as a restricted free agent, Isaac wasn’t likely going to command that amount of money given his injury history at his size.
From a production standpoint, he was averaging 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds last season before ultimately going down during the NBA Disney bubble from his ACL injury. He played a total of 32 games, which should give a glimpse of the end-result of his production for the season.
1. Paul George: Four years, $190 million
Talk about trust. For any franchise, there’s possibly no greater feeling than locking in one of your cornerstones for the foreseeable future. When it comes to Paul George though, it’s about as shaky as it can get for any superstar. One minute the 30-year old forward can make you believe he’s worth every penny and more. Other times, spectators are left wondering where exactly George ranks with the greats that currently take the floor every night.
This may have been a chess move by the front office to show Kawhi Leonard that they’ll obviously give him the same respect when the time comes for his extension next offseason. Locking in George shows Leonard that the front office is set on believing in the duo to lead them to the promised land.
While that dream could come true, no one can stand to see another playoff struggle from George this season. All of that money goes down the drain if the same scenario from last NBA season reoccurs.