Contract options are all over the NBA these days. Most star players can command the flexibility of a player option for their final season of the contract -- Kawhi Leonard did so with the Clippers this offseason, for example -- while teams like to add their own options for certain contracts to allow them to cut bait if things don't work out.
The decision of whether a player should pick up an option is always tricky, with plenty of factors involved, but things have grown even more complicated with the NBA coronavirus hiatus and the economic fallout that will likely follow. At this juncture it's impossible to know how the league will cope with lost revenue and the effects it will have on the salary cap next season and beyond. Our Sam Quinn , and specifically discussed how it will impact players with options:
No matter how you slice it, there are players and teams that are going to be hurt by this lost revenue. The most obvious group is 2020 free agents. As it stood before the stoppage, only six teams figured to have meaningful cap space this summer: The Hawks, Knicks, Pistons, Hornets, Suns and Heat. Five of those teams are rebuilding. Veterans looking to cash in were going to have a hard time this summer to begin with. Now, if some of the very limited cap space is off of the table? Things will be even harder. Expect almost any player with an option for next season to pick it up and try his luck in 2021.
As we've seen over the years, however, these options are never cut and dry. We've had players opt out of lucrative options in search of a longer-term deal with less annual value. We've seen players opt into contracts that seem below market value because of their satisfaction with their current situation and faith in their organization. In awith a lot of teams lacking cap space, could we actually see teams get more aggressive with their offers if they feel a player is the perfect fit, rather than saving money for next offseason when there will be much more competition?
With all of this in mind, here is a look at five of the most intriguing player options for the 2020-21 season.
Player option: $31.9M
Before the season it seemed like a no-brainer that Hayward would opt into his $32 million extension, but he's had a bounce-back year and has shown flashes of the player he was in Utah before his serious leg injury. Odds are Hayward still opts in, but if one of those rebuilding teams with cap space (Suns, Hawks, Hornets) feels it can take the next step with Hayward, he could command a huge deal as one of the top free agents in a dry market this offseason. How much that max deal is worth, however, remains to be seen. Hayward could also choose to opt out and sign a long-term deal with Boston, but it could be much lower than what he could get elsewhere. This will be one to keep an eye on.
Player option: $27.8M
Heading into the season, this may have been the most intriguing player option decision. A significant drop in the salary cap, however, might force DeRozan to opt in. Despite his consistent productivity, DeRozan wouldn't really make sense for any of the teams with significant cap room, and he'd almost certainly have to take a pay cut given the current climate and his lack of 3-point shooting from the wing. Unless DeRozan seriously wants to leave San Antonio, it's hard to imagine him opting out of this deal.
Player option: $25.4M
Drummond is a conundrum of a case. His numbers dictate that he should command a huge, if not max contract from someone. However, we got a telling glimpse at his value when the Pistons traded him to Cleveland for the modest haul of a future second-round pick and salary filler. That price indicates that Drummond will not get close to the $25.4M figure with his next contract, but again, this is a very thin free-agent class. Does he want to cash in his option and try the market next season, or will he look for a long-term deal for less money with Cleveland or elsewhere?
Player option: $17.7M
When Hardaway was traded to the Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis deal, he was widely viewed as negative salary. However, a strong season as the third scorer behind Porzingis and Luka Doncic in Dallas may have gotten the attention of some teams around the league, and now declining that near-$18 million option doesn't look as unthinkable. Chances are he still opts in, but the fact that we have to think about it is a testament to how well Hardaway has played this season, and the current climate of the league.
Player option: $17M
Fournier has one skill that every team needs: He can shoot. In a weak class, he could decide to opt out of the $17 million option and secure a longer-term deal for himself. He has upped his scoring average this season while hitting 40 percent of his 3-pointers, so he'll have plenty of suitors. We'll just have to see what the price tag is like in the offseason NBA economy.