In what was little more than a formality, the Sixers exercised their 4th-year options on Thad Young and Jason Smith, and their 3rd-year option on Marreese Speights today. Effectively, locking them down for next season. This news isn't really news, there was never a doubt concerning Thad and Speights, probably not for Smith either. This does raise a question about what happens next summer, though. We'll dive into it after the jump. (Also, info on a fantasy hoops league)
Quick, name the last significant restricted free agent who has changed teams when the team who owned his rights wanted to retain his services. Two names come to my mind, Gilbert Arenas and Josh Childress. The Arenas situation led to a change in the CBA to close a loophole. Childress fled to Greece, and he's still playing over there. That's it.
I start with that little tidbit because the Sixers will have a fairly big decision to make one year from now. Thad Young will be entering his fourth season with the team and the window for him to sign an extension with the team (before becoming a restricted free agent) will be closing quickly.
Whether or not to extend a guy in this situation is a complicated question. On the one hand, Thad will only be 22 years-old, and should only get better. This may be the cheapest time to extend him. If you think back, the Sixers tried to extend Iguodala for roughly $55M at this point of his career, he turned them down, and wound up adding another $25M onto that price tag the following summer. On the other hand, extending Thad next summer will effectively do two things: #1, it will make him much harder to trade, should the Sixers decide to go that route. If they simply let him play under his rookie contract, his value in a trade is simply $2.9M. If they extend him, the average yearly value of the extension is his cap number in a trade, possibly up above $10M. #2, Any payroll flexibility is gone.
As of this moment, the Sixers are on the hook for just over $65M next season, then $47M in 2011 (not including Thad and J. Smith cap-hold figures, nor the two first-round picks between now and then), then $44M in 2012. If they play their cards right, they could add another piece in the summer of either 2011 or 2012. If they extend Thad early, that option is pretty much off the table. They'll need to make trades to add any kind of significant player.
A lot is going to depend on how Thad progresses between now and then. Let's take a look at a guy in the news, LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland just extended Aldridge for $65M over 5 seasons. Here's a comp of both Thad and Aldridge through their first two seasons. Aldridge actually didn't progress much from his second to third seasons. He's still a light-rebounding PF who prefers to shoot from the perimeter. Yet Portland felt comfortable tying up about 20% of the salary cap in him.
Here's the question, if you are Ed Stefanski, would you opt for an early extension for Thad, would you take the chance that he'd progress in his fourth year and you'd wind up paying more for him as a restricted free agent the following summer (I'm completely discounting losing him as a restricted free agent, because it simply doesn't happen), or even risk losing him altogether after his fifth season as an unrestricted free agent?
If you're interested in joining a fantasy hoops league with myself and some other readers, please e-mail ASAP and I'll get you an invite. Limited spots are available. It's a free league.