NBA

Advantages and disadvantages of Nassir Little extension

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The Portland Trail Blazers selected Nassir Little with the 24th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft after the North Carolina product allegedly slipped on everyone’s boards. Since then, he has played 138 (or 65%) of a possible 228 games, largely due to a random string of injuries, hampering what is still considered a rare athletic talent.

But despite his obstacles, the 22-year-old has always been able to show very obvious glimpses of the player he can be. While career averages of 5.8 points on 31% shooting, 3.4 rebounds, 0.7 assists don’t sound too impressive, he has shown his ability to take on serious scoring responsibilities and crucial defensive duties. .

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I think everyone remembers Little’s performance in a road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in February 2021, where he had 30 points on 71% three-point shooting, 6 rebounds, 1 assist , 1 steal and 2 blocks. In January, he showed up against the Atlanta Hawks at Moda Center with the Blazer prevailing on a 22-point performance, recording 80% on three, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. On defense, he notably and impressively put down Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan in the closing stages of a home win for the Blazers last November.

Ideally for Little, he’s currently the only true small forward on the Blazers’ roster, standing between 6’6 and 6’7 and seemingly bulkier than what we’ve seen in previous years. The Blazers seem to have very little choice starting Little at three, hoping his body is able to withstand the rigors of a prolonged workload throughout a full NBA season. Quite a big ask for someone who has barely been able to stay on the pitch and therefore in the rotation.

Contract status

If Little is able to string together a full season this season, he enters 2023 in restricted free agency in demand, if only for the fact that he is in a position of need in the modern NBA. Obviously, the Blazers can match any offer made on the wing, but those numbers might be north of anything they might be willing to pay to continue building that roster around Damian Lillard.

Alternatively, Little could succumb to injury again this season, finding his services much less attractive and consequently lowering his price. If he can show some kind of consistency, I have no doubt the Blazers would like to keep him, but another season in rehab could seriously jeopardize his future NBA prospects.

Extension

The discussion of a small extension was brought up last week by Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report last week. The question currently arises as to whether the Blazers and Little’s agent Adam Pensack can reach an agreement that benefits both parties. Of course, securing Little’s long-term financial security at an acceptable price for present and future Blazers would be great for the franchise.

Easier said than done.

Few need to know that he gets paid for the performance he is able to provide while the Blazers need to protect themselves from any long-term injury.

Four years, with a team option or partial/unguaranteed fourth is probably the best place to start. This gives the Blazers the option to retire early or provide a trade partner with a sweetener if Little is moved, whether or not he is able to play.

For Little to agree to a deal, you have to imagine he takes no less than $10 million a year, and realistically no less than $12 million. “Why?” I hear you ask. Well, while injury and illness have hampered his contribution, his advantages and those little contribution glimpses discussed above still make him an attractive option.

We also have to remember that the cap will increase over the next few years, so a contract of around $12.5 million might actually be lower than future mid-level exceptions. If Little is able to keep fit, he’s almost certain to top that and if not, it’s still reasonable salary ballast in future trades.

So let’s assume that if a deal is done, it’s in the four-year, $50 million range, with a team option in the final year.

Supply of poison pills

As a reminder, this provision occurs if a team extends a player’s rookie ladder contract and then trades before the extension takes effect. The player’s incoming value for the receiving team is the average of his salary for the current year and the annual salary for each year of his extension. Conversely, his current team simply treats his current year salary as the outgoing number for matching purposes.

So if the Blazers extended Little this summer, the provision would apply if he was dealt by next year’s trade deadline. That means any delay deal involving Little would see the Blazers send his current salary to $4.1 million. However, the team receiving him would take just under $11 million, assuming a four-year $50 million extension.

It’s something GM Joe Cronin will no doubt be aware of as he continues to build this team through the year and into February.

Advantages

The benefits of Little’s extension are pretty obvious. The Blazers are locking in a potential starting-level player who, if fit, will outperform a contract, which is likely to stay below the mid-level exception before it expires.

This also benefits Little. For a young man who has yet to spend consistent time in the field, at least $37.5 million in guaranteed money sounds pretty appealing, especially if he spends the next three years in the hands of the doctor and on the bench. If Little tops the deal, he can negotiate a new extension or a new, more lucrative contract at 25 or 26, just as he enters his prime.

Disadvantages

The Blazers haven’t been given much to believe Little can play a full season. They’ve also just secured the services of Shaedon Sharpe, a young man who could hopefully – you see, I’m not committing to anything – be able to play in a similar position and at a higher level.

Some might say it wouldn’t be particularly prudent for the franchise to commit to two young wings for four to five years when neither has shown any real ability to contribute to the level the team needs. Little may never be healthy, and while $12.5 million a year isn’t farcical, it puts the Blazers in a lot of shackles if he doesn’t actually play.

There is also a downside for Little. As stated above, if he manages to stay healthy and reach the potential we all hoped he would achieve, not only will he surpass his contract, but the Blazers will walk away with a steal of the highest. magnitude. Of course, he can renegotiate in a few years, but a breakout in 2022-23 prevents him from earning an income equal to his contribution for a while.

Conclusion

I don’t know what’s being discussed between the Blazers and Little’s representation, but you have to imagine that all of the above will factor into a final decision. Right now, Little is almost certain to start as a small forward for the Blazers, simply because he’s the only real small forward on the roster.

If Little wants to bet on himself, he could attract a lot of attention and a lot of money in July 2023. But, if his body fails him again, future contracts could be minimal or, perhaps, even non-existent . Of course, the latter is probably an exaggeration, but that might be reason enough for him to put pen to paper this summer.

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