The Case for an Ingram Extension

Published: October 20, 2019

The number of options the New Orleans Pelicans have before them is part of what makes them so exciting. This cuts both ways, however. Every choice is a point where, when things are examined in hindsight, one can point directly to it and say, “This . . . this right here . . . this is the domino that started it all.” And that can be good or bad.

The biggest one of those in the coming months is very likely handling Brandon Ingram’s contract. A talented young player at a position of need throughout the league, Ingram is eligible to be extended until the end of the offseason, or, Monday. Ingram currently is on the final season of his rookie scale contract.

If an extension is not agreed to at this time, the most likely option is Ingram entering into restricted free agency, so it’s not as if this is a do-or-die scenario or anything close to that. In restricted free agency, the market will be a factor in setting Ingram’s price, as will his performance and health this season. Additionally, it’s possible he won’t even be in New Orleans on July 1.

Nevertheless, I think there is a case to be made for an extension to be signed prior to the season. Here are the pros and cons for each side, with the fall back option being restricted free agency. We can assume that the deal on the table can not be the max possible deal. It’s also foolish to assume that the deal would be for less than $20m in the first season given his performance and draft position (this tends to affect second contracts, like it or not).

  • Pros for Pelicans
    • Add certainty
    • Reinforce message that players want to be in New Orleans
  • Cons for Pelicans
    • Risk of injury, health issues turning contract in dead weight
    • Potentially less room next season
  • Pros for Ingram
    • Lock in a deal before wading into an uncertain market
      • Few teams with $20m+ projected space
      • China situation could affect cap, willingness to spend
    • Adds certainty
  • Cons for Ingram
    • Takes max off the table (maybe)

In the end, it comes down to the details of the deal and risk tolerance for both sides, but the risk at this moment is a little more than normal. As noted, there is concern with Ingram’s health despite all indications things are likely fine. The market for Ingram may be artificially depressed, and he may not get a real max offer. Additionally, the China situation has the potential to add significant uncertainty to the period of time when Ingram’s contract will kick in and just after. That means decisions now are being affected.

His max deal is about $29m in the starting season with raises of about $2.3m per season for 5 seasons. As noted, I do not feel a deal starting at under $20m starting gets you to the table. In free agency, the starting salary is the same, but the raises are about $1.5m and 4 years is the max.

I can see an agreeable deal worth about $25m per season, with raises of about $2m per season. I’d let Ingram pick a 3+1 or a 4, I’d include a trade kicker, and I’d include some incentives. The kicker would take a $25m deal and put it right back into max territory, and the raises would keep it there. This gives Ingram a “market effect” and perhaps get a max contract on another team he would might not have gotten on the open market. He’d also have a chance to get some incentives that could get him closer to a max if the team performs well or he does. Again, the size of the contract means incentives can be deemed likely or unlikely and still get him near the max. He would also not be eligible to be traded this season, but would be eligible next summer, which is not the case if he waited. So, this may be his only path to a max, if the starting salary is cleverly chosen.

I see the benefit for each party here, and I hope these are the kinds of discussions that can be had as the negotiation window closes. I’d really like to see a player commit to something less than the maximum, especially a talent like Ingram, and one that spent significant time with the Lakers. There are, after all, a couple battles being fought at all times, and not all are on the court.

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