This morning, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo reported that Alec Burks has been signed to a 4 year, $42 million dollar extension, an amount that can grow to up to $45 million if Burks reaches certain incentive clauses. In related news, talks with Enes Kanter and his agent have broken off: the Jazz will not be reaching an extension with Kanter.
Yesterday on the Salt City Hoops radio show on ESPN700, Ben Dowsett and I play acted a negotiation between Alec Burks’s agent Andy Miller and Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey. In our fake negotiation, Burks was asking for 4 years, $50 million, and the Jazz wanted to pay just 4 years, $36 million. In this deal, the agent and team were able to meet right in the middle, clearly, both parties were motivated to get an extension done.
Still, there are compelling arguments on either side. Here are some of them:
Pro: Scarcity of skills/position
Some of the same arguments that applied to Gordon Hayward’s negotiations apply for Burks here. Kemba Walker, certainly not in the top 10 at his position in the league (could be argued he barely cracks the top 15), just got 4 years, $48 million at a much deeper/more replaceable position leaguewide. There’s almost no argument for Burks being outside the top 10 at his position, and once old shooting guard elite names like Wade, Ginobili, Korver, Johnson, Bryant decline further, Burks could be a top 5 player at a weak position.
Con: Burks’ questionable defense
We’re not really sure that Burks is all that good on defense. The stats generally show a below-average defensive player across the board. 15.5 OPER, -1.68 DRPM, few steals and blocks. He looks decent at times on tape, but also shows a tendency to die or take circuitous routes on screens. On the other hand, Synergy showed him amongst the top 20 in terms of isolation defense last year.
Pro: Rising salary cap
If the cap is expected to rise to ~$80 million by the 2nd year of his new contract due to the new TV deal, the math changes significantly. At an $80 million cap, a $12 million per year contract represents the same portion of the cap that a $9.5 million per year contract represents this year.
Con: Lack of secondary skills
Unlike Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons, DeMar DeRozan, Eric Bledsoe, or even Kemba Walker, Burks doesn’t add secondary skills (namely, rebounding, assists, blocks, or steals) that allow him to be a factor on the court off the ball.
While Eric Gordon and Klay Thompson also do not have secondary skills, their elite shooting means the defense has to stay closer to them 1, thus freeing up opportunities for others. Burks, on the other hand, does none of the above, and if he isn’t literally scoring, he doesn’t have an impact on many plays.
Ultimately, Ben and I came up with a few comparables for Burks’ contract:
Eric Gordon: Making nearly $15 million this year, over $15 million player option next year. Very similar in multiple areas – TS%, TOV%, assists, usage almost identical. Gordon better from 3, but Burks nearly double the free throw rate, better rebounder, better defender. Burks also 3 years younger.
Klay Thompson: Talks of guaranteed max extension next offseason. Thompson better 3-point shooter, but TS% still nearly identical notwithstanding. Burks is a better passer, better rebounder, better at basically every offensive element inside the 3 point line (and still shoots 35% 3’s, which is still above average). Burks gets to the line nearly triple as often per-minute. Burks has also shown his offensive game to be far less dependent on teammates and scheme, and is more adaptable.
Demar DeRozan: Making $10.1 million per year. Burks is a more efficient shooter from every location on the court. Similar per-minute stats elsewhere, DeRozan’s only major numerical advantage is FT% (82% to 74% last year); this all during a career year for DeRozan, who is 2 years older. DeRozan got to the line at a similar rate as Alec, but is also not as good of an overall defender. Also, one got to play an Eastern schedule and the other plays in the West.
Isaiah Thomas: 4 year, $27 million deal. Burks had approximately the same FG%, 3P%, RPG, and FTA/48. Thomas had a few more turnovers (but by less than you’d think, 3.1 vs. 2.4) and significantly more assists (6.3 vs 2.7). Thomas even used more possessions on offense. Burks is probably better regarded defensively, but I’m not sure. Thomas allowed a 15.5 opposing PER (Burks 15.3 OPER), had more steals than Burks, same DRPM (-1.62 Thomas vs. -1.68 Burks).
Lance Stephenson: 3 year, $27 million deal. Lance was a far better 2-point shooter than Burks, and about as good from 3P%. Far better secondary skills than Burks (7.3 RPG vs. 3.2, 4.6 APG to 2.7 APG). Didn’t go to the FT line as often, and turned the ball over more. That being said, was a far better defender than Burks: 11.4 OPER, 0.14 DRPM, on league-best defense. Like Burks, is young and still has room to grow.
Trevor Ariza: 4 year, $32 million deal. Exactly the same FG%, but much better 3P% and makes. Spaces an offense. Significantly better rebounder (one of the best rebounding wings), not as good at steals. Doesn’t get to the line as often. Exact same PER. Much better defender than Burks (significantly more steals, shut down Hayward/Burks last night, 14.9 OPER), 1.04 DRPM. Again, played for much better D.
It’s interesting, again, that Burks’ deal comes in between the above comparables. Burks is also younger than all of the above, which only helps his case. Still, there’s an argument to be made that 4 years, $42 million for Burks is an overpay. The Jazz’s cap structure is also starting to fill up, after spending years with no long-term contracts on the books. Utah now has three players committed through the next four seasons at 8-figure yearly payouts.
More analysis of this extension coming at Salt City Hoops.