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2017 Offseason Possibilities Part Four: Extending Boogie
What’s the old saying, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? What does that even mean, and who is choosing between domestic birds and those living in bushes? Well, I have no idea where it comes from, but I have heard it enough times to understand the point of the saying. The possibility of more is always intriguing, but with it comes the possibility that you end up with nothing because of your greed. Take what is right in front of you and ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Or something like that.
The Pelicans could be have a bird in the hand this offseason with regard to Boogie Cousins. They have the opportunity, if they are creative, to extend him for several years and ensure that he and AD get a chance to build a foundation together. When put that way, it sounds like a no brainer, but there is of course a cost. In order to do this with Boogie, the Pelicans will have to significantly cut into their cap space this summer, threatening a ton of flexibility. So, if you extend Boogie, you have the bird in the hand, but the possibility of adding a significant fourth piece (part 1 of this series) or even a couple of solid pieces (part 2) is essentially out of the question.
Let’s take a look at why, and what realistic options the Pelicans could have if they choose this route.
Extending Mr. Cousins and the Aftermath
The NBA rules make extending DeMarcus Cousins somewhat difficult, but still very possible. The reason it is difficult is because the rules state that you have to extend a player based off of his current salary, and Boogie’s salary is well below the current max. Next year, Cousins is slated to make a shade over $18 million. Current CBA rules state that you can add a three year extension to a player’s contract, but the max that can start at is 120% of his existing salary. Long story short, the Pelicans can add three years onto the existing one, but those three years would only total about $69 million; Making it a 4 year, $87 million dollar extension for Cousins. Great money for you and me, but FAR below his market value, when you consider he could get 5 years and nearly $180 million if he just waited and hit free agency in the summer, re-signing with the Pelicans at that point. Bottom line, it just wouldn’t happen this way.
What the Pelicans could do, however, is exactly what the Thunder did with Russell Westbrook. They could use cap room this summer to bump his salary up to the max, and then sign an extension based off of that number. Now, Boogie would make approximately $27 million this year (a $9 million bump instantly), and then he can add three years onto that, which will make the next four years of his contract significantly higher than if he just played out this year and then signed that massive five year deal this summer. It also allows him to hit free agency again at the age of 30, instead of 32. Big picture, he would make more money over the course of his career if he took this path.
So, it’s something that Boogie and his representatives would probably go for. Maybe they would ask to make his fourth year a player option so that he could bolt if Anthony Davis chooses to that same summer. But, it is something they would likely say yes to regardless. It comes down to whether or not the Pelicans would want to do that. As I stated before, they lose a lot of flexibility by going this path. For starters, any time you use cap room, you lose a bunch of exceptions. No more MLE, no more TPE, no more BAE. That is three rotation players you are essentially doing away with right there. You also likely won’t have any cap room to do uneven trades or to sign somebody significant. All you will have is the room exception and some minimum contracts to throw around.
You will likely be able to keep Jrue’s cap hold, and perhaps Cunningham’s as well, so you can go over the cap to sign them. Basically, you are looking at bringing back the same team, minus maybe Montiejunas and you can make minor additions via the room exception and trades where you send out future picks. Let’s say for example, you throw Ajinca and Pondexter’s contracts to the Nets along with a first round pick for Jeremy Lin. Then, you use the room exception to add Ian Clark, Jodie Meeks, or Joe Ingles. You end up with a roster looking something like this:
With the rest filled out by minimum guys.
Should They Do It?
Is that ideal? Not at all, but now you have AD, Jrue, and Cousins all locked up for several years. You have a foundation that you can start to build a team around. You likely won’t be a free agent player for years, and you have given away another future pick, but you can be an above the cap team next summer and get a quality guy with the MLE. Maybe Hill improves; Maybe Jrue plays much better with another ball handler to take the load off him. Maybe Diallo becomes an elite third big, and can even play with AD and Cousins from time to time because of the ability for all of them to hit the J and provide solid perimeter D.
You can be risky and try to swing big this offseason, hitting a double or triple, while putting Boogie’s new contract off for another year. But what if things go wrong next season, and as a result, Boogie gets frustrated and just bolts? Then, you end up with neither a bird in your hand or any of the bush variety. By extending Boogie this summer, you lose flexibility but you raise the potential floor for your team moving forward. You know that you will have those three foundation pieces for several years, and so you can go through the process patiently with them. You won’t have to worry about making some splashy trade or coaching hire to appease Cousins. You can just settle down and do it the right way for once.
It’s an unlikely move, as it is always tempting to make a minor gamble when it could possibly pay off big down the road. The Pelicans probably thing they will re-sign Cousins in the summer of 2018, so why sacrifice flexibility this year just to accomplish that a year early. And they are probably right. But if an unforeseen sequence of events were to take place, and Boogie were to bolt in 2018, the Pelicans would likely regret not locking up this bird when they had a chance.