Monday at 6 p.m. Eastern is the deadline to extend the 2015 NBA Draft class, but Brooklyn Nets D’Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson won’t be signing new deals.
For the first-round picks from the 2015 NBA Draft class still on their rookie deals, Monday is an important day — the deadline for them to sign extensions. For D’Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of the Brooklyn Nets, though, that deadline will pass without incident.
The Phoenix Suns didn’t take long to get Booker locked up, signing Booker to a max five-year, $158 million extension on July 7.
Towns was the next to opt to remain with his original team, agreeing to a five-year, $190 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sept. 22.
Winslow’s deal with the Miami Heat wasn’t nearly as large, but he signed a three-year, $39 million extension with the Miami Heat on Friday.
The Nets acquired the rights to Hollis-Jefferson from the Portland Trail Blazers shortly after the University of Arizona product was taken with the 23rd overall pick. Russell, who was the No. 2 overall pick in 2015, came to Brooklyn in June 2017 in a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers.
But general manager Sean Marks indicated over the summer he was inclined to let the extension clock hit :00 and let Russell and Hollis-Jefferson become restricted free agents next July 1, as reported by Brian Lewis of the New York Post last month.
Not a lot has been said about the possibility of extending Hollis-Jefferson, who did not play this preseason after injuring his hip in an August charity game in China, because the focus has been on Russell.
RHJ has emerged as a nice complementary piece in his career, slowly adding pieces to his offensive game and making the transition from the 3 to a small 4. He led the Nets in rebounding last season, albeit with only 6.8 per game in the 68 games he played.
But Hollis-Jefferson hasn’t established himself as a foundational piece to this point and the Nets will still be able to offer him more as a restricted free agent next summer than any other team can pony up because of his Bird rights.
Russell has shown glimpses of what he could be capable of becoming, but he’s had trouble — due to both injury and inconsistency — putting it together for extended periods.
For most of his first three seasons, he’s been a point guard with a score-first mentality and has been turnover-prone.
That inconsistency showed itself in microcosm in Brooklyn’s final two preseason games.
Against the Toronto Raptors, Russell had one assist and seven turnovers — a ratio not fit for any NBA player, much less a point guard — but followed that up with eight dimes and one turnover in the victory over the New York Knicks to close out the practice slate.
Russell can score, but just not quite as well as he sometimes thinks he can. He’s averaged 14.6 points per game over two seasons with the Lakers and one in Brooklyn, but has shot just 40.9 percent overall and 34.4 percent from 3-point range in his career.
In the preseason, Russell averaged nearly 16 shots a game and hit 42.9 percent overall, while connecting on 37 percent from deep while taking almost seven attempts a night and averaged 18 points in 27.5 minutes per game.
That would represent a step, but his assist-to-turnover ratio was just 1.4-to-1.
Compare that to Spencer Dinwiddie‘s ratio last season of 4.1-to-1 — second-best in the NBA — and you can see why there have been whispers that Dinwiddie, not Russell, should be the point guard of the present and perhaps the future, as well.
Russell’s ratio last season paled by comparison at 1.7-to-1.
As for the rest of the 2015 first-round picks, the only other All-Star in the group besides Towns is likely not to receive an extension, but there are extenuating circumstances. Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks, the No. 4 overall pick in that draft, is still recovering from a torn left ACL.
Unlike some recent Knicks executives, GM Steve Mills appears to be willing to let Porzingis hit restricted free agency rather than commit nine figures to a guy who hasn’t yet shown he’s recovered from a major injury.
Two of the top five picks in the draft are already off their rookie contracts. No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor had his fourth-year option declined by the Philadelphia 76ers last fall before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets in December.
The Nets did not attempt to re-sign Okafor, now with the New Orleans Pelicans on a two-year, partially guaranteed deal.
No. 5 overall selection Mario Hezonja had a similar fate, with the Orlando Magic declining the option on his fourth year. He signed a one-year deal with the Knicks this offseason.
The Knicks also have No. 7 pick Emmanuel Mudiay on their roster, having acquired him in a trade from the Denver Nuggets at the deadline last February. With his career totals of minus-2.0 win shares and a value over replacement player of minus-2.7? Not exactly an extension candidate.
Brooklyn made a selection in the first round in 2015, taking Syracuse forward Chris McCullough with the 29th overall pick after the Atlanta Hawks exercised their option to swap picks with the Nets as part of the Joe Johnson trade.
McCullough is currently out of the NBA, having been waived by the Detroit Pistons on Oct. 7. The Nets traded him to Washington in the Bojan Bogdanovic deal in February 2017 and the Wizards declined his fourth-year option last fall.
Washington also declined to tender a qualifying offer and the only deal McCullough could find as an unrestricted free agent was a camp deal with Detroit which he signed on Sept. 24.
It’s entirely possible that Russell or Hollis-Jefferson — or both — will prove to be integral parts of the Brooklyn rebuild and will be locked up quickly as restricted free agents next July.
But neither has shown enough for Marks and the Nets to sacrifice the valuable salary cap flexibility they have for next year in the process of locking up either or both players now rather than later.