It has been widely reported (or reported once and then repeatedly linked to) that the Bulls signed Center Joakim Noah to a 5 year extension of his rookie-scale contract, for $60-65 million (depending on whether Joakim reaches certain contract-based incentives). Various Bulls sages have already weighed in with the reasons why this was a good move by Gar Forman, John Paxson and Little Mikey Reinsdorf (see KD, Thonus andMcHale). First off, let me voice complete agreement with those assessments, I think Noah is a fantastic part of the Bulls and that I think the team would not have been as well positioned as they are now if he’d been included in that rumored deal for Carmelo Anthony.
But, rather than re-iterate what has been said elsewhere, I thought I’d provide two thoughts on the franchise’s next steps prompted by Noah’s extension: Prevent D-Rose Doomsday and Draft John Jenkins.
1. Prevent D-Rose Doomsday
In a vacuum, extending Rose’s Rookie-Scale deal seems like the obvious next step for the Bulls. By extending Rose after Noah, the Bulls can lock down the two most important positions in the NBA with certifiable studs for the next five years. Unfortunately, Rose’s extension will not occur in a vacuum, but rather in the messy summer of 2011.
Generally, rookies in Rose’s position (former ROY, all-star, face of the franchise) get max deals when the time for an extension comes. Lets look at the last three ROYs who extended their contracts with their original teams:
Chris Paul, 2005 Rookie of the Year. Chris Paul signed a 4 year deal for the maximum amount available under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. And despite the kerfuffle over Paul’s “trade demand” this summer, it appears he will play out the remaining years of that deal.
Brandon Roy, 2006 Rookie of the Year. Roy signed a max extension of his Rookie Scale Deal, 5 years for $82M.
Kevin Durant, 2007 rookie of the year. OKC’s franchise player extended his rookie scale contract this summer (to great acclaim by announcing it over twitter) for 5 years at whatever the maximum salary value is under the new CBA.
Based on those benchmarks, D-Rose would be the prime candidate in the entire league for a max extension next summer, but if the next CBA is not worked out to each party’s satisfaction by the July 1, 2011 deadline, the League will impose a lock-out and Derrick and the Bulls will not be able to discuss his extension. Why? If a lock-out occurs, under the current rules, the time to extend Rose would fall in the off-season of a year where players and management have no contact. According to CBA-maestro Larry Coon:
Options have a window of time during which they may be exercised. The specific opening and closing dates of this window are a matter of individual negotiation, except in the following circumstances . . . For team options in Rookie Scale contracts, the window opens on the day following the July Moratorium and closes on October 31 [or the next business day if the 31st falls on a weekend or holiday] of the calendar year prior to the year the option takes effect. (via)
The window for the Bulls to exercise their option to extend Rose’s contract would run from July 2011 to October 31, 2011. If there is a lock-out, players and management will have no contact during that off-season. And the actual NBA season, by definition, will not start until the lock-out ends. That means the Bulls’ option window on Derrick Rose will never open. This eventuality is not provided for in the current CBA.
The option is so important because it is incredibly valuable. By rule, the option to extend Rose’s contract is held by only one team: the Bulls. The option restricts the market for Roses’ services to his current team, in order to keep the league’s young stars with the team that drafted them. So, if the option window runs out without being exercised, Rose would become a restricted free agent in 2012 and any team in the league with sufficient cap space could poach the Bulls’ best player by offering more money than the Bulls could match. Basically, it is the same scenario Utah Jazz fans endured this summer with Wesley Matthews. Utah signed him as an undrafted free agent, he played fantastically toward the end of the year and in the playoffs and in the offseason Portland swooped in with an offer the Jazz couldn’t match and Matthews couldn’t refuse. Now, take that scenario, plug Rose in for Matthews and imagine the Bulls being outbid for his services. There’s your doomsday scenario: no extension for Rose in the Summer of 2011, no NBA in 2011-12, one season of D-Rose in a Bulls uniform in 2012-13, restricted free-agency and then watching highlights of #1 in a Nets jersey for all eternity.
So, all that is left now that Noah’s extension is done is to hope for the best. Hopefully the Players Association and Management are aware of this scenario. If so, they could negotiate for the 2011 rookie-scale option period extended by some type of grandfather-clause language in the next CBA to prevent these options from expiring during the lockout. Hopefully Billy Hunter and David Stern finish the new CBA before July 1, 2011, (happy thoughts!) allowing the Bulls to lock in Rose (with Noah! remember him?) for the foreseeable future. Hopefully this is all moot. But, forewarned is forearmed.
2. Draft John Jenkins.
I took a look at the team’s salary structure going forward (via the invaluable sham sports (donate!), and the team has only Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, James Johnson and Taj Gibson locked up beyond 2013. Assuming doomsday doesn’t come, and the Bulls sign Rose to a max extension this coming summer, that would keep the core of Boozer, Deng, Rose and Noah together for the next four years. No matter what the next CBA looks like, it likely wouldn’t leave much money on the table for free agent shooters, so the team will have to build through the draft.
Everyone agrees that that core needs help from beyond the arc, and in the 2011 draft, there might be a sleeper pick waiting at the end of the first round or early in the second for the Bulls to pounce on. So, they should go after John Jenkins, a sophomore SG from Vanderbilt. According to Draft Express he was the best outside shooter in the college game as a freshman, but he isn’t a great defender, and isn’t incredibly athletic so he’s projected as a early-mid second rounder. Assuming his stroke doesn’t abandon him, and given the right coaching (safe assumption) and some time to adjust to the speed of the league for a year or so, he could step into the starting SG role with size (6’5″) and a leathal touch from beyond the arc. That would fit mighty nice with that future core.
So, those are my two thoughts after Noah’s extension. What are yours?