04-14-2006, 01:20 PM
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=sheridan_chris&id=2408450&action=login&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fnba %2finsider%2fcolumns%2fstory%3fcolumnist%3dsherida n_chris%26id%3d2408450
if someone posts this - thanks
ps - if darko pans out to be a good player, how crazy would the 2003 draft class be in a few years. That's a helluva starting lineup
pg - D. Wade
sg - L. James
sf - C. Anthony
pf - C. Bosh
c - D. Milicic
Still, that's assuming Darko turns out to be as good as the scouts say he might be.
04-14-2006, 01:42 PM
LeBron's a max player, but Darko and Kaman? Not yet
By Chris Sheridan
Two weeks ago in Orlando, Fla., Darko Milicic and his agent sat down to discuss his contract extension options. The talk was brief, according to agent Mark Cornstein, and rightfully so. Nobody is quite sure what Darko is worth, and it's unlikely he'll find out this summer.
That makes him an aberration among the top five members of the draft class of 2003. The other four are certain to receive maximum-value, five-year contract extension offers from their teams this summer.
To put it simply, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are all "max" players.
James, Anthony and Wade are all expected to accept their extensions, but Bosh has said nothing definitive as of yet.
"If he's offered [a maximum extension], we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," said Bosh's agent, Henry Thomas.
Darko is not in that class -- at least not yet.
"I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that he's a max player by the summer of '07. There are scenarios that can play out that would make him a max player, and there are other scenarios that would make him not even close to that level," Cornstein said. "We'll have to wait and see."
Milicic does not appear to be as crucial to the Magic's fortunes as the other members of 2003's top five are to their franchises. What would the Cleveland Cavaliers be without James, and what kind of a future would the Heat have if Wade left Miami? Ditto for Bosh in Toronto, along with Anthony in Denver. Those teams will try to retain their players at all costs, which in this case means the maximum cost.
Under collective bargaining rules, players with a maximum of six years of service can sign a contract with a starting salary equal to almost 25 percent of the salary cap. Players with seven to nine years can get nearly 30 percent of the cap, and players with 10 or more years can get almost 35 percent. (Next season's cap will be set at 51 percent of designated revenues, but the contractual maximums are still based off the old formula that set the cap at 48 percent of revenues.)
If next season's salary cap is set at $54 million, those four players would be eligible to receive starting salaries of roughly $12.5 million. Extended out over five years, with maximum 10 percent raises each season, each deal will be worth approximately $75 million.
Milicic might be a $7 million-per-year commodity right now, but a strong 2006-07 season would undoubtedly ratchet up his value. If he were to sign an extension this summer, he could be costing himself millions.
"The numbers are all enormous numbers," said Cornstein, who has yet to engage the Magic in discussions about an extension for Milicic, who will turn 21 this summer. "It's a gamble on both sides."
Orlando's decision on whether to offer Milicic an extension will be influenced by its long-term plan to be a significant player on the free-agent market in the summer of 2007. If Milicic were to be given an extension, it would eat up a big slice of the Magic's cap space.
"Basically we're taking a wait-and-see approach," Magic general manager Otis Smith said. "To discuss an extension based on just 30 games probably wouldn't be fair to him or to us, but we'll call his agent and discuss it. If there's something that makes sense to both sides, we'd do it."
Few decisions are as tricky or as consequential as deciding on whether to offer contract extensions to players coming off the rookie salary scale. The Golden State Warriors might be regretting their decision to extend Mike Dunleavy on the eve of the season for $44 million, but the Detroit Pistons are having no second thoughts about securing Tayshaun Prince through 2010-11 for $49 million.
The decision is especially tricky when it comes to centers.
Two big men, Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler, signed contract extensions last summer and then had poor seasons. Another center who was a restricted free agent, Samuel Dalembert, actually lost his job for a while to Steven Hunter, a player the Sixers tried to trade to New Orleans during the season before Hunter failed his physical with the Hornets. Think Dalembert is worth the $8.4 million he's being paid this season and the $55.8 million he's still owed? One would think not.
But if Dalembert can get $8.4 million, Chandler $9 million and Curry $7.2 million, what does that make Milicic worth? Or for that matter, Chris Kaman, who went sixth in the 2003 draft?
There aren't many people out there who would consider Kaman a "max" player, but his agent, Rob Pelinka, who also represents Kobe Bryant, will try to establish a max contract as Kaman's true value.
Centers are considered prized possessions, and Kaman has demonstrated the most low-post talent of any player. Then again, Milicic might hold that distinction when it's all said and done.
"Look at how few centers are out there, and Shaq is getting old, Yao Ming just broke his foot and Amare Stoudemire just underwent his second knee surgery," Cornstein said. "You go down the list and it's no secret there are not a lot of centers. When you do have a 7-footer with potential, those guys will get paid."
Players who are not offered or do not accept contract extensions typically sign a qualifying offer that allows them to become restricted free agents after their fourth season. In the case of Kaman, there are teams that would make a run at him as a restricted free agent by offering a front-loaded contract that they believe the Clippers might not match.
Other players taken in the 2003 lottery will have to decide whether to take the sure money that will be available this summer, or to try to increase their worth and take their chances on the restricted free agent market in the summer of '07. Included in that group are former lottery picks Kirk Hinrich of Chicago, T.J. Ford of Milwaukee, Mickael Pietrus of Golden State and Nick Collison and Luke Ridnour of Seattle.
The situation for lottery picks Michael Sweetney (Chicago) and Jarvis Hayes (Washington) is less clear. The jury is still out on whether they are worthy of extensions.
Two players who were first-round picks in 2003 and did not have their fourth-year options picked up, Minnesota's Marcus Banks (selected 13th overall) and Milwaukee's Reece Gaines (15th), will become unrestricted free agents this summer.
Among the rest of the '03 first-round picks, Boris Diaw (No. 21) and Leandro Barbosa (No. 28) of Phoenix, Josh Howard (No. 30) of Dallas, Kendrick Perkins (No. 27) of Boston and David West (No. 18) of New Orleans have established the most value for themselves heading into the first offseason in which they can reap a long-term reward. Look for their extension negotiations, and several others, to last right up until the deadline for signing extensions at the end of October.
Two first-round picks from '03 (Troy Bell, No. 16, and Ndudi Ebi, No. 26) are no longer in the NBA. Almost all of the other first-rounders, including Zarko Cabarkapa (No. 17), Sasha Pavlovic (No. 19), Dahntay Jones (No. 20), Zoran Planinic (No. 22), Travis Outlaw (No. 23), Brian Cook (No. 24) and Carlos Delfino (No. 25), have not established themselves in the league to the point that they've merited extensions. Look for most of them to wind up as restricted free agents a year from now.
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