Apr 14, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) drives in against Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Counterpoint: Why Ricky Rubio might deserve a near-max contract

Our Jack Jameson made an argument against a potential maximum contract for Ricky Rubio. The following is a counterpoint that will show why Rubio may indeed be worth the five-year, designated player extension.

There are a number of things to consider when evaluating a player that is due for an extension. Teams and agents will look at everything from per-game statistics, to games and/or minutes played, to age, and so on and so forth. One of the key factors that is studied by both sides of a negotiation such as as Rubio’s is market value.

What kind of contracts have comparable players signed in recent years? I’m glad you asked.

(in millions of $)
Chris Paul*L.A. Clippers5$107July 2013
Kyrie IrvingCleveland5$90July 2014
John WallWashington5$80July 2013
Russell WestbrookOklahoma City5$79January 2012
Derrick RoseChicago5$75July 2010
Deron WilliamsBrooklyn4$63July 2008
Rajon RondoBoston5$52November 2009
Tony Parker*San Antonio4$50October 2010
Ty LawsonDenver4$48October 2012
Stephen CurryGolden State4$44October 2012
Tyreke EvansNew Orleans4$44July 2013
Jrue HolidayNew Orleans4$41October 2012
George HillIndiana5$40July 2012
Mike ConleyMemphis5$40November 2010
Jeff TeagueAtlanta4$32July 2013
Goran DragicPhoenix4$30July 2012
Jeremy Lin*Houston3$25July 2012
Brandon JenningsDetroit3$24July 2013
Raymond FeltonNew York4$15July 2012

Players with asterisks next to their name are relevant because of position and as a general guideline, but the contract listed isn’t their first extension coming off of a first-round guaranteed rookie salary. Also keep in mind that the maximum contract number shifts, and that some of these contracts were signed prior to the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Clearly, Rubio is not yet in the class of Paul, Westbrook, Rose, or Parker. That quartet, along with Stephen Curry, make up Tier 1 of NBA point guards. We can toss out the contracts of the aforementioned four, but Curry’s ridiculously team-friendly contract will surely be a point of emphasis from the Timberwolves’ side of the table.

Ty Lawson (four-years, $48 million) and Curry (four-years, $44 million) are two of the more relevant contracts for players that are a bit more established and overall better players than Rubio, and Flip Saunders will key in on those particular deals. Another pair of similar extensions include Jrue Holiday (four-years, $41 million) and Goran Dragic (four-years, $30 million).

Some of the overpays on the list include Deron Williams, John Wall, and Kyrie Irving. As it stands today, Rubio is every bit as good, if not better, than all three of those maxed-out point guards.

So we’ll key in on Lawson, Curry, Holiday, and Dragic. These are the best baselines for Rubio. Let’s compare some key statistical measures between the five point guards, using 2012-13 for Holiday since he missed the majority of last season due to injury. (RAPM from stats-for-the-nba.appspot.com, WP48 from boxscoregeeks.com, WS/48 from basketball-reference.com)

Total RAPM

RAPM is an adjusted form of plus-minus that factors in number of possessions and is generally one of the better indicators of defensive effectiveness. (Andre Iguodala had the best dRAPM in the league last year at +5.5.) Wins Produced and Win Shares are both all-encompassing statistics that should not be used as absolute truth or even really to stand alone, but combing the three metrics paints an accurate picture of overall production of players.

The above table clearly shows that Holiday is the least-productive of the five players. Curry is the best, followed by Dragic. Lawson and Rubio are similar in overall effectiveness.

Therefore, Rubio would slot in above Holiday’s four-years, $41 million deal. Dragic’s four-year, $30 million is an obvious bargain. And the same with Curry’s four-years, $44 million. Obviously, Curry is worth more than $11 million per season, and $12 million per year seems about right for Lawson.

The “news” that Rubio’s agent, Dan Fegan, is opening negotiations looking for a maximum contract is really non-news. Why wouldn’t he look for the best for his client, and open negotiations with those intentions in mind? A four-year max will be somewhere north of $65 million, and the designated five-year deal would land Rubio nearly $85 million under the current CBA.

Is there an argument to be made that Rubio deserves a max contract? Not really. Could he become a max-player fairly quickly? Absolutely. The issue for Saunders will be Kyrie Irving’s five-year max deal that was just signed, and John Wall’s recent five-year deal that was inked last summer. Rubio is absolutely a better player than Kyrie Irving (total 2013-14 RAPM of -1.3, WP48 of .097, WS/48 of .128) as it stands right now, and is on the same level as Wall.

Fegan will push for something near those contracts, and Flip will counter with the slew of deals in the low-$40 million range. They’ll likely settle somewhere in between, something like four-years, $50 million, which works out to $12.5 million per season. I would be surprised if Saunders caves on the full, five-year max, which would preclude him from offering that same deal to any other player in the near-future.

Keep in mind that Nikola Pekovic is already being paid $60 million over five-years, and the Wolves would be tying up a great deal of money in two yet-to-be-All-Star players. Saunders will not likely be too keen on doing that. Still, the four-year, $65 million max contract remains a possibility. It would be comparable in per-year salary to Irving and Wall, so the case could absolutely be made from Rubio’s side.

All things considered, if the current market is the main factor in negotiations, Saunders will focus on Lawson and Curry, and Fegan will key in on Irving and Wall. This leads me to believe that Rubio’s deal will land squarely in the middle of the group, although a case could absolutely be made for max-money.

Obviously, this is a quick-and-dirty analysis that only scratches the surface of the case that Fegan will make to the Timberwolves front office. But if I were Saunders, I would counter the max-contract idea with a four-year, $48 million offer and continue negotiations from that point.

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Tags: John Wall Kyrie Irving Minnesota Timberwolves NBA News Ricky Rubio Stephen Curry Ty Lawson

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