Photo Courtesy: Yardbarker
Conventional Wisdom concerning Richard Jefferson posits two items: 1) opting out of a $15mil makes no sense, and 2) the looming lockout makes his expiring contract less valuable as a trade asset. In my estimation, the looming lockout is the key to getting to the deeper meaning of this topic.
No one knows for sure if a lockout will happen, that much I think we all understand. What we are sure of is that the collective bargaining agreement is expiring and that the Owners hold the majority of the cards this time around. Say what you will about Bill Simmons, but he has an encyclopedic memory for all things NBA. One thing he has written about over and over is that a surprising number of NBA players live hand-to-mouth, and they’d rather give in at the bargaining table than go without a paycheck for X number of games. This makes some sense to me, especially for the non-superstar players, which is a category I think we can all say Richard Jefferson falls into.
That in mind, I think we all understand that this summer is the last summer that players have to cash in under the CBA terms in place. They know what they can get and that’s better than taking the chances down the road. This rationale is the reason that Wade, James, and Bosh all signed for shorter contract extensions than they could have at the end of their rookie deals. A few key things that many people believe will change are the length of guaranteed contracts that will be available, the percent of revenue that the Owners will share with the Player’s Union, and the salary cap structure.
Put yourself in Richard Jefferson’s shoes. This is the last chance he will have to sign any sort of “big” contract. More than the usual amount of teams have positioned themselves to be players in the market this summer, and there may not be a season in 2011-2012, but if there is wouldn’t it be better to be “grandfathered in”? Richard Jefferson may have small ears, but I know that he’s heard all of this and it is no doubt bouncing around that peanut head of his. Still as my Granny always said, “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. “ She also liked to say “Ain’t nothing wrong with a little bump-n-grind,” but Granny was a little freaky and inappropriate that way.
So in a nutshell, chances are that Jefferson will keep his big payday next year and see what happens with the CBA, but don’t think it’s as clear as $15mil versus $8mil. A more better thought to have would be $15mil versus $40mil over five seasons.
From the Owner’s side of the equation, things look a little different should RJ decide to keep his current deal. In my opinion, expiring contacts will still carry value on the trade market; here’s why: 1) a CBA could be reached in a timely fashion and teams will need the cap space to build for 2011-2012, and 2) building your team under what most people believe will be a more owner-friendly CBA will be easier with one less old-school guaranteed contract to worry about. It will be a lot like when first-time home buyers finally have enough equity to stop paying PMI, and their monthly payment drops by $500 [ Ed. -$150 for those of you outside of California], things suddenly look a lot rosier.
If the Spurs had the off-season of my dreams they would accomplish these things: sign Tiago Splitter, re-sign an opted-out Richard Jefferson (for $40 over 5, with year 5 partially guaranteed), draft an impact player @ 20, sign a shooter/ complimentary player with the LLE, and let Mason and Bogans walk. Let’s hope that Richard Jefferson takes an unconventional look at his situation and takes the extended pay day he could get today versus the uncertain one he is destined for next summer, because a reasonably priced Richard Jefferson takes away the one complaint we all have about him.