Two weeks later, Joe's a guaranteed $5 million richer
There's not much drama in rookie contracts anymore, but I'm still happy to report that Joe Alexander is now officially under contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. With the Orlando summer league kicking off yesterday and the bigger Vegas league starting on Friday, expect all the big names to sign their guaranteed contracts (and lock in some cash) in short order. In fact, signing a first rounder is now so non-newsworthy that you might not even know Alexander officially signed unless you stumbled across the official NBA transactions list. The signing also means that the Bucks can't trade Alexander for 30 days and thereafter would have to count his rookie salary for trade purposes, as opposed to unsigned picks who count for zero in trades.
Assuming the Bucks agreed to give Alexander the maximum 120% of his rookie scale salary, Joe stands to earn $2.403 million this coming season. That raises the Bucks' current 08/09 salary figure to just over $65 million for just ten players. With the cap projected at $58.5 million and the luxury tax threshold at $71 million, the Bucks have only the MLE (projected at about $5.55 million) to work with this summer and are unlikely to even spend that much given the possibility of luxury tax issues starting next summer.
In 09/10 the Bucks are probably giving Bogut a hefty raise over his $6.3 million 08/09 salary, in addition to possibly re-signing Ramon Sessions for a few million per season. Desmond Mason's $5.4 million comes off the books and who knows where Charlie Villanueva (also entering restricted free agency next summer) will be, but in general the Bucks are likely to be closer to the tax when all is said and done. That's why Brett at the Bratwurst was speculating months ago about the possibility of a salary-dumping deal.
In the meantime, here are Alexander's projected salaries assuming the usual max end of the rookie scale:
08/09: $2.403 million
09/10: $2.583 million
10/11: $2.764 million (team option)
11/12: $3.515 million (team option)
Alexander will be eligible for an extension of his deal following his third season, which is the situation the Bucks are now in with Bogut. If Alexander doesn't agree to an extension before the end of his rookie deal, he'll become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2012, provided the Bucks make him the qualifying offer of $4.739 million (and it'd be a very bad sign for Alexander's career if they didn't). He could then re-sign with the Bucks, sign an offer sheet with another team that the Bucks could match, or just accept the QO and become an unrestricted free agent the following summer.
Since the current rookie contract structure went into effect, all the big name rookies have eventually signed extensions with the teams that drafted them, though this summer could prove interesting since so many of the top names from the class of 2004 turned down extensions last summer and are now restricted free agents: Luol Deng, Emeka Okafor, Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith, and Ben Gordon to name the most prominent.
As is custom in the NBA, the Bucks will likely wait until later in the summer before they sign second rounder Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. His deal will in all likelihood be for two years at the minimum, with the main variable being the amount of salary protection (ie guaranteed dollars) in the deal. Not all rookies sign for two years at the minimum of course, with Milwaukee native Carl Landry being the most prominent example from last year. Perhaps due to lingering concerns over Landry's surgically-repaired knee, the Rockets haggled over the terms of the deal until two days before training camp, when Landry finally agreed to a one-year minimum contract.
That appears to have backfired on the Rockets given that Landry was arguably the most productive rookie in the entire NBA last year. Instead of playing another year at the minimum, Landry is now a restricted free agent who could command something close to the MLE if another team thinks the Rockets are unwilling to shell out big dollars to retain his services. Given they also have Luis Scola as their starting PF, the Rockets might think twice about signing their backup PF to a big contract. In the meantime, the Rockets appear to be using some possibly underhanded tactics to scare off competing interest for the former Purdue star. Just another example of how restricted free agency can get ugly--just ask Charlie Bell.
Note: I just saw the JS is reporting Alexander's deal using just the 100% of rookie scale numbers. I'm not sure if this was actually confirmed with the team, but given historical precedent I'd guess his actual deal is for 120% of the quoted figures. If it isn't, then John Hammond is a pretty shrewd negotiator.