Several contract extensions have been handed out in the NBA across the last week. Which ones are worth the price of admission?
Toronto Raptors and OG Anunoby (four-year, $72 million deal): Not worth it
Continuity is vital in building a contender, and Anunoby has spent his entire career with the Raptors. With that said, this extension feels like the Raptors going to unnecessary extremes to keep their rotation intact.
Anunoby is a “three-and-d” player. He’s a reliable on-ball and perimeter defender and shot a career-best 39.0 percent from beyond the arc last season. Anunoby is a reliable starter for the Raptors, but his role isn’t going to drastically increase in the coming years. Head coach Nick Nurse’s offense is still going to be run through Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Kyle Lowry. By the way, Siakam and VanVleet are under contract for roughly $53 million in the 2021-22 NBA season.
The Raptors were right to want to retain Anunoby, but that doesn’t mean they had to back up the truck to do so. While young, the Raptors could’ve found a replacement for the Indiana product at half the price on the open market next offseason. This extension could also result in Norman Powell asking for a larger NBA contract than previously imagined, as he averaged a career-high 16.0 points per game last season.
Orlando Magic and Markelle Fultz (three-year, $50 million deal): Worth it
Fultz had an encouraging debut season with the Magic, where he played a significant role. Is his extension a bargain for the Magic? It is not, but they have the future payroll flexibility to roll the dice on Fultz building towards a solid 4th year in the NBA.
Last season the 2017 number one overall draft pick averaged 12.1 points and 5.1 assists per game across a career-high 27.7 minutes per game. He appeared to play with more conviction and was a player opposing defenses had to respect off the dribble. Evan Fournier is playing on an expiring deal, and Aaron Gordon is a free agent after the 2021-22 season. If the Magic decide to make a midseason trade, whether it be for a star player or to trade away veterans to open up playing time for youngsters, they can trade one or two of Fournier, Gordon, and Terrence Ross.
In doing the above, rookie guard Cole Anthony could potentially start alongside Fultz, forming a youthful lead guard duo. If Fultz continues to garner confidence and grow into head coach Steve Clifford’s floor general, he’ll play into his contract.
Orlando Magic and Jonathan Isaac (four-year, $80 million deal): Not worth it
Isaac tore his ACL in the NBA bubble, and rehab will likely keep him off the court this season. Why would the Magic give a long-term deal to a player with an uncertain future?
Prior to his injury, Isaac was coming into his own as a reputable frontline player. He was more assertive with the ball in his hands, was shooting more efficiently, making a profound impact on the defensive end. The numbers reflected this too, as he was producing at a career-best clip; Isaac averaged 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game.
A healthy Isaac could warrant a $20 million salary. He’s a two-way player who has gradually improved. Embarking on a contract that begins when Isaac presumably returns to the floor is premature. But there’s no crystal ball for how a player will perform when returning from a gruesome knee injury. Regardless of his vitality to their future, the Magic should’ve waited to extend Isaac until he hit the open market; they could’ve matched a deal, anyway.
Los Angeles Clippers and Luke Kennard (four-year, $64 million deal): Not worth it
The Clippers traded for a player who appeared in 28 games last season and has never suited up for them and extended that player before extending Lou Williams, a vital component to their offense.
Kennard is coming off the most productive season of his NBA career, averaging 15.8 points per game with the Detroit Pistons. He’s a knockdown shooter off the dribble and a capable scorer. But again: he did this across just 28 games due to a knee injury and is now getting paid to be an instrumental source of offense.
Acquired as part of a three-team deal that included the Clippers trading Landry Shamet, an outside sniper himself, Kennard likely takes on a role that involves him playing off the ball and being a primary shooter. Behind the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams, Marcus Morris, and Patrick Beverley, can Kennard be an offensive catalyst? Even if the Clippers feel he could be such a player, why not wait to see if his NBA talent actually materializes, rather than commit to a long term extension to Kennard’s services off the bat?
San Antonio Spurs and Derrick White (four-year, $73 million deal): Worth it
It’s a lot of dough, but when you believe a young player is a key ingredient to your future backcourt you have to pay up; that’s what the Spurs are doing with White.
White has found success both starting and coming off the bench. He’s a respectable defender and outside shooter who has shown a continued ability to be a slick scorer. Last season White averaged a career-high 11.3 points per game while shooting 36.6 percent from beyond the arc. Still 26, the best is yet to come.
DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, who hit the open market after this season, are likely out the door in the near future, paving the way for a young Spurs core that includes White, Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Devin Vassell to take over. With more playing time by means of a permanent starting position, White will produce at a level deemed worthy of his payday. This is a worthwhile investment for San Antonio.