Seven first-round picks from the 2020 draft class have already signed their rookie extensions. Four of them signed for the max. A fifth, Devin Vassell, got a deal that could be worth up to $146 million. That is how the process tends to go. The no-brainers sign quickly. Of course Tyrese Haliburton, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and Desmond Bane were getting paid, all four deals will likely look like bargains.
The next stage of the rookie extension process is the hard part. The majority of 2020’s first-round is still unsigned, and unlike their more accomplished draft-mates, they aren’t no-brainer max players. They’ll have to negotiate, and doing so is tricky. Three years is a relatively small sample when we’re talking about players with no control over their circumstances. Many of them need more minutes to prove themselves. Others would shine in another setting. All of them are theoretically still improving, and they’ll want contracts that reflect that.
Teams have grown increasingly willing to hand those contracts out. Between 2013 and 2019, teams handed out an average of 6.8 rookie extensions per offseason. That sent the majority of ascending youngsters into restricted free agency. But in the last three off seasons, we’ve seen a total of 32 rookie extensions. Teams now recognize that the upside of locking in a young player on the way up is greater than the downside of that player plateauing or leaving for nothing. Most of these deals come in a flurry before the deadline—the last day of the offseason, or Oct. 23 this year—but eventually, the best players tend to get paid.
So who are those players? What are they worth? And who is likeliest to actually get the extension they’re looking for? Let’s go through all 30 2020 first-round picks and try to figure out how likely they are to re-sign and what they’ll get if they do.
Already signed or otherwise settled
As we covered, four max deals have already been given to Haliburton, Ball, Edwards and Bane. Vassell recently inked his own extension, so he is off of the board as well. That leaves us with six other players to cover. The first is Detroit Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart, who got a rare, early-offseason extension that didn’t come close to the max. He’s locked up for four years at up to $60 million. Payton Pritchard joined him with a three-year, $30 million pact to remain with the Boston Celtics.
The next group are the players who didn’t make it through their rookie deals. Two of them were waived while under contract with teams that traded for them. No. 23 overall pick Leandro Bolmaro was waived in February and now plays for Bayern Munich, and No. 24 pick R.J. Hampton was waived in June and is now on a two-way deal with the Miami Heat.
And then there are the players whose options were declined by their original teams. The Utah Jazz did not pick up the fourth-year option of No. 27 overall pick Udoka Azubuike, so he signed a two-way deal with the Phoenix Suns. Finally, we can cross No. 10 overall pick Jalen Smith off of our list as well. As the Phoenix Suns declined his third-year option, he was forced into free agency after his second year. He re-signed with the Indiana Pacers, who traded for him at the 2022 deadline, for $15 million over three years. In total, we’ve now covered 10 of the 30 first-round picks in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Unlikely to extend
Only two out of those 32 rookie extensions from the past three offseasons paid less than $10 million per year: Grayson Allen‘s deal with the Grizzlies and Nassir Little‘s pact with the Trail Blazers. Both contracts were eventually traded. Typically, players in line to make less than starter-money prefer the flexibility of free agency—even if it is restricted—over the certainty of a low-dollars contract. In most cases, these players either believe they are in line for improvement in their fourth season and want to bet on themselves, or their circumstances with the team that originally picked them are so grim that they’d rather try to turn things around on a new team later than stay put.
Five players seem to fit this mold. Killian Hayes has largely been a bust as a No. 7 overall pick that has sadly failed to develop offensively. Zeke Nnaji saw his playing time decrease for Denver last season, and Malachi Flynn topped out at 19 minutes per game as a rookie in 2021. Both could see increased playing time due to the losses their rosters sustained this offseason, but either way, extensions are unlikely. Either they’ll prove they’re ready to contribute or they’ll seek out new teams next summer. Kira Lewis Jr. tore his ACL in his second season and now finds himself crowded out of playing time in New Orleans.
The highest unsigned 2020 pick happens to play for a team that isn’t suited to his skill set. James Wiseman flashed some serious potential in Detroit last season, but he shares a roster with Stewart, Jalen Duren and Marvin Bagley. Wiseman’s ideal team has plenty of shooting and shot-creation to help maximize his vertical gravity. Wiseman’s rookie deal guaranteed him $39.6 million, so he can afford to be picky in finding the right team unless Detroit knocks his socks off with an enormous offer.
The Thunder tend to be as aggressive as possible about locking up role players to long-term deals knowing they can be flipped later. The four-year, $27 million deal Kenrich Williams is a perfect example of that, and a similar deal makes sense for Aleksej Pokusevski. He was relatively impressive in a reserve role last season, and that’s likely all he can hope for now that the Thunder have built such a deep young core, but the Thunder will likely want to keep him in the season as a long-term backup to Chet Holmgren. If nothing else, having a similarly-proportioned backup that shares some skills with a starter is valuable.
Aaron Nesmith started last season and played reasonably well. That’s going to change with Bruce Brown now with the Pacers. Benedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard are bigger organizational priorities as well, so he’ll likely have to continue playing out of position at small forward. Good young wings tend to get paid, though. The four-year, $42.5 million deal Landry Shamet signed with Phoenix seems about right. Shamet is a better shooter, but Nesmith brings more to the table otherwise.
Precious Achiuwa shot 36% from 3-point range in 2022, but fell down to 27% in 2023 on similar volume. Toronto desperately needs him to make 3’s. The Raptors ranked 21st in the NBA in 3-point attempts last season and 28th in 3-point percentage, and that was with Fred VanVleet in the fold. If we read the tea leaves on Pascal Siakam‘s lack of an extension, there seems to be room for Achiuwa to slide into the power forward spot between Jakob Poeltl and Scottie Barnes—two non-shooters. His selling point is his athletic upside, but given the uncertainty on both ends of the equation here, a slightly shorter-term extension would make sense for both sides. The three-year, $37.5 million deal Marvin Bagley signed with Detroit is probably the right baseline. Achiuwa wasn’t drafted nearly as high, but he’s far more versatile. If his shot doesn’t come around, he’s an overpaid reserve. If he does? He’s an underpaid starter.
Borderline starter extensions
Cole Anthony falls cleanly into the “a bucket, a whole bucket and nothing but a bucket” class of backup guards that tend to perpetually compete for Sixth Man of the Year trophies. His per-minute stats are remarkably similar to Jordan Clarkson‘s from this point in his career. Both averaged 18.1 points per 36 minutes in their third seasons, and Anthony was only slightly better as a shooter. Clarkson is currently on a four-year, $52 million deal with the Jazz, but we’ll have to adjust that figure to reflect Anthony’s youth and upside. A four-year, $60 million deal would put him in the same range as players like Luke Kennard, Max Strus and Kevin Huerter, who represent reasonable contemporaries. Such a pact would be worth roughly the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which is what he’d expect as a free agent next summer.
Isaac Okoro is a trickier case. He’s likely lost his starting job to Strus, and Cleveland has to be cautious financially if it plans to either keep its four-man core or swap Donovan Mitchell for players making similar money. He’s shown genuine growth as a shooter, approaching league-average percentages from deep in the past two years albeit on low volume, but he’s merely a good defender thus far, not the great one the Cavs thought they were drafting. Again, teams pay a premium for wings, and Okoro’s physical tools are better than Nesmith’s. The four-year, $54 million deal Herb Jones just signed is probably a bit too rich for Okoro at this stage unless Cleveland really buys into his upside. Something slightly below that figure is likely where he lands if he extends this summer.
Deni Avdija has been even better defensively than Okoro, but it’s hard for him to prove that on the lowly Wizards. His 3-point volume has been higher, but he rarely actually makes those shots. He has more to offer with the ball in his hands. Washington’s youth movement will give him a chance to prove that. That makes him a decent “bet on yourself candidate,” especially if you suspect that Kyle Kuzma gets traded this season. For now, he and Okoro are in similar places. The best they can likely do for now is something in the $10-12 million per year area.
Saddiq Bey seems to want a whole lot more than that. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony said that he wanted a De’Andre Hunter-style contract to re-up, but Bey hasn’t done enough to warrant $90 million over four years yet. Still, he’s above the other players in this group. He played well down the stretch for the Hawks last season and has the tools to eventually be a strong wing defender even if he hasn’t exactly used them much yet. He’s a better individual shot-creator than the other two wings in this group as well. The easiest comp here would be Keldon Johnson, who got a four-year, $74 million deal last offseason. Both had posted strong counting stats on losing teams, and both have the upside for significant growth during their second contracts. Johnson was slightly better, but when you adjust for inflation, that number is a reasonable risk for Bey.
“Bet on yourself” candidates
The Pacers likely won’t pay Obi Toppin starter money yet because he’s only started 15 games in his career. Toppin would be justified in wanting starter money as he’s averaged over 20 points per game in those starts. This is a classic case of neither side having enough information to negotiate yet. Toppin will likely start for Indiana, and his next deal will be based on how well that goes. There isn’t really a precedent to work with here. None of the 32 players who have signed rookie extensions over the past three years has experienced such a drastic change in circumstances. The best analogue might be a player like Naz Reid, who has proven to be a starting-caliber offense-first big man in a reserve role for Minnesota, but is blocked by pricier teammates. He just got $41 million over three years. That’s probably around what Indiana would feel comfortable paying Toppin without seeing him in a Pacers uniform. At that price, it just makes more sense for Toppin to play out the season.
There is an open competition for the starting shoot guard slot in Dallas. The metrics suggest Josh Green deserves it, but Jason Kidd’s trust in him waxed and waned last season. That should suit Green just fine. He has the Mavericks over a barrel, in a sense. If he plays well, they’d have no means of replacing him as a free agent next summer. Even if Kidd yanks his minutes around, he’s put more than enough on tape already to warrant a starter-level offer sheet in restricted free agency. If Dallas wants to lock him up, it would likely need to approach that Keldon Johnson number. Ask Jalen Brunson how comfortable the Mavericks are making big upside bets like that. In all likelihood, their offer underwhelms and Green punishes them for their hesitance during the season.
Clint Capela just spent the summer in trade rumors for a reason. Atlanta is ready to start Okongwu, who has thrived defensively in a bench role for three years now. The trouble for Okongwu is that big men almost never get paid before proving themselves as starters. There are currently 25 centers making at least $10 million per year in the NBA. All of them were primarily starters when they signed their deals except for Reid. Okongwu likely wants starter money, and he knows the Hawks want to give him a chance to prove he deserves it, so taking less now makes little sense. He’s been a better per-minute player than Stewart thus far in his career, so the floor for now would probably have to be $60 million.
A unique case
I’ve covered Tyrese Maxey‘s situation in depth here, but here’s the short explanation: if Maxey extends now, his cap figure in the 2024 offseason would be whatever his new salary becomes, but if he waits, his cap figure would be only $13 million. The 76ers are trying to maximize cap space to sign external free agents, so they’re going to keep Maxey waiting. In all likelihood, they reward him for his patience with something close to a max deal.
Time to cash in
On merit, it would be hard to give Patrick Williams more than Saddiq Bey. Of course, we’re not strictly talking about merit. Rookie extensions are largely dependent on potential. Williams was a No. 4 overall pick. He’s flashed star qualities in very short bursts as a Bull. He’s also largely played on teams loaded with ball-handlers that have stifled his own ability to explore his skill set. Hunter’s $22.5 million per year average is probably the right area for an extension. Even if Williams hasn’t been a $22 million player yet, Chicago’s age and injury concerns mean he is probably going to need to in the near future. If Williams does have a breakout fourth season, he’s going to demand quite a bit more than this. That’s how Jimmy Butler‘s 2014 negotiations with the Bulls went, and it’s likely not a mistake the Bulls will be eager to repeat.
Immanuel Quickley is in a situation that is simultaneously quite different and very similar. He has vastly outperformed his draft position (No. 25 overall), but like Williams, he’d probably like to earn more of an opportunity. Quickley is a starting-caliber guard and perhaps the NBA’s most underrated perimeter defender. For the time being, the Knicks appear set on bringing him off the bench. That might help their team, but Quickley and his representation surely know that if the Knicks won’t pay him as a starter, someone else will. Fortunately, the Knicks have the financial means and the long-term motivation to get a deal done. If nothing else, the Knicks won’t want to lose Quickley as a trade asset. Marcus Smart, Lonzo Ball and Malcolm Brogdon have all signed for around $20 million per year recently as guards that aren’t primary ball-handlers, but thrive in supporting roles. That’s the floor here, and if you account for Quickley’s age, a $25 million average shouldn’t be out of the question.
Jaden McDaniels is where Williams’ promise and Quickley’s production meet. He thrived as a starter last season and made a serious case for All-Defense. Perhaps more importantly for his future, he shot nearly 40% from deep and flashed enough individual shot-creation to potentially grow beyond a 3-and-D role. Vassell’s deal is going to be the comp here. San Antonio’s young wing is a more developed scorer, but McDaniels is so obscenely valuable defensively that their contracts should fall in a similar range. Expect something in the neighborhood of $30 million per year. As scary as another contract of that size looks right now to a Timberwolves team already paying Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert the max, McDaniels is simply too promising to risk losing. Tim Connelly re-signed virtually everybody when he ran the Nuggets. Expect that trend to continue.