A few players from the NBA Draft class of 2010 have signed max extensions recently. As I mention frequently, the timing of such deals is often perplexing.
Rookie scale max extensions are usually given earlier than warranted. John Wall, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins have now all been extended, even though it is hard to understand the urgency from their teams' point of view to dole out such huge contracts before it is necessary.
The fear a team like Washington, Indiana or Sacramento must have is that their young star player will become alienated if not offered an extension a full season before they could hit restricted free agency. That seems to be overly pessimistic thinking to me, as most players are not great enough to use such leverage as a serious negotiating tactic.
If Wall, George or Cousins were dissatisfied with a lack of an extension before the start of the '13-14 regular season, they would still be bound to their current team when free agency hits in the Summer of 2014. They would become restricted free agents, and therefore their current franchises should not view them as assets that could potentially be "lost" next Summer. Any deal can be matched; any restricted player can be kept if so desired.
In my opinion a team should be able to explain to a player this fact. Waiting to extend a restricted player is not a personal offense, but just smart business that helps reduce risk. The player can be upset, but they really shouldn't be if anyone explains the situation to them clearly.
This is especially true with the players who were just extended. Wall is not Derrick Rose at the same point in his career, and Cousins is not Blake Griffin. Rose and Griffin's early max extensions at least made some sense because they were already superstars, but the same case cannot yet be made for Wall, George or Cousins.
It is also worth mentioning that Milwaukee's timing in extending Larry Sanders with a 4 year, $44 million contract is a totally different situation, and an understandable move by the Bucks. Sanders' deal hypothetically saves the Bucks money in the future because they will not have to commit a max extension to Sanders next Summer. Oklahoma City did the same thing with Serge Ibaka last year, and this is the whole point of signing such players early - to save money long-term on their contracts. It's certainly not the case with the three recent big extensions:
-Paul George became Indiana's designated player by signing a five year extension worth at least $80 million, and maybe more if he hits escalator clauses. George is obviously a superb player, particularly defensively, but the Pacers are probably being delusional if they think he can become a dominant superstar and perennial All-NBA player. George's PER topped off at a career high 16.8 last season, a number that will need to significantly improve if George is going to live up to making massive money over the next half decade. In the very least Indiana should have waited until next year to give George such a lavish contract.
-DeMarcus Cousins did not become Sacramento's designated player, but he did snag himself a 4 year max extension in the $60 million range. I have always loved Cousins' talent, but he has been an absolute space case in his first three seasons in the league. Apparently the new Kings' ownership believes enough in Cousins to extend him now instead of later, but again the timing is baffling. If Cousins has another chemistry flameout with his team, he might become untradeable because of his new contract. I would have waited as long as possible before committing so much money on a loose cannon. Let Cousins show he deserves it before you give it to him.
-I wrote about John Wall in April, and don't have much more to add. The timing and the designated player status of his new 5 year, $80+ million deal were perplexing, but in step with the Wizards' dysfunctional management style. Wall is a potentially great player who may end up being only good, and he has legitimate injury concerns. Committing a five year max extension before he has one single healthy All-Star season strikes me as erroneous.