We’ll drop the final installment in our preseason series — my annual list of crazy predictions — next week before the season starts. But some noteworthy roster decisions will be decided before then, so let’s run through them.
While there don’t appear to be a lot of likely extension candidates ahead of the Monday deadline for 2015 first-round picks, these are the ones to watch:
Both are about 50-50, and could go to the wire. A pessimist would note that the deadline is fast approaching. The optimist’s counter: Good-faith talks at 50-50 territory with 72 hours to go often cross the goal line. You’ve come too far to go back, and all that.
The midlevel exception often sets the parameters for players at this level. Any team — even those over the cap — can offer a midlevel deal in July. It starts at around $8.6 million. Agents often see no reason to lock into an early extension unless it is a chunk above that number. But Nance and Portis are reserve bigs in a league shifting toward wings, wings, wings. Their teams might wonder if such players — even young and bouncy ones with room to grow — are worth eight figures when the midlevel could net reasonable replacements.
My gut says at least one of them gets done. I’ll go with Portis, since Chicago drafted him and has interest in retaining him. But no outcome — two deals, one, or zero — would really surprise.
• Delon Wright. I’d call this a 20-80 proposition, leaning against. Wright’s agent, Greg Lawrence, is heading to Toronto this weekend for some last-minute meetings, sources say.
Wright is a player-type every team wants: a point guard who can slide off the ball, hit just enough 3s, and defend all three perimeter positions. He is almost more wing than point guard in Toronto, with Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet combining to play all 48 minutes in meaningful games. Wright’s point guard skills make him even more effective attacking scrambled defenses off the catch in that role.
I might go up to a three-year, $36 million deal — admittedly a lot for a reserve. But Wright could start for some teams, and close games for Toronto. He’d be movable as the cap bulges.
The Raptors are in a tricky spot. If Kawhi Leonard stays, their tax bill is gets ugly. Could they wait and squeeze Wright in restricted free agency? If Leonard leaves, they might pivot into a full-on youth movement; does Wright fit that vision in his late 20s, on an eight-figure salary?
If the sides can’t reach a deal, don’t rule out an in-season trade.
• Justise Winslow (Update: Winslow agreed to a three-year, $39 million extension, according to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski). I’d lean yes. Winslow is asking for a lot, the Heat are in tax hell, and Winslow’s tangential involvement in the Jimmy Butler fiasco has clouded talks. But there is a workable middle ground. Miami can do a Butler deal without Winslow.
• Terry Rozier. I’d lean no, but this one is murky. The league knows how good Rozier is. The Celtics could extend him at a big number and remain confident in his market value. Extending him now unlocks more in-season trade options, even though he’d be subject to a “poison pill” salary-matching quirk. Worth monitoring.
• Myles Turner. Very unlikely, though you can never rule out the Pacers finding a deal at the last minute. If Turner hits free agency this summer, he will carry a cap hold of $10.2 million until someone signs him. Extending him above that number would eat into Indiana’s cap space. But the Pacers are slated to have so much room, they shouldn’t care about cannibalizing a little of it if they get close with Turner now.
More of my NBA predictions to come before opening night …