On September 18 Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that Mason Plumlee has re-signed with the Denver Nuggets. Will Alex Len follow suit? Or not? What will happen if Len does not sign?
Per Woj’s report, the Denver Nuggets opted to skip the qualifying offer and sign him to a three-year deal worth $41M to get back. For Suns fans, the question is, is a similar deal what Alex Len had been looking for with the Phoenix Suns?
Some of the other contracts NBA big men have signed this offseason have each been relative to Plumlee’s new deal:
- Kelly Olynk signed a four-year, $50 million dollar deal with the Miami Heat
- Dewayne Dedmon penned a two-year, $14 million dollar deal with the Atlanta Hawks
- Cristiano Felicio agreed to a four-year, $32 million dollar deal with the Chicago Bulls
Add Mason Plumlee’s deal to those three and you have a pretty good sample size as to the going rate of NBA centers in the current market. Plumlee is getting just over $13M/year, Olynk is earning $12.5M/year, Dedmon will be averaging $7M/year and Felicio will be making $8M/year.
Does Alex Len deserve this type of deal?
Well, let’s examine a couple of key stats as we try to determine his ‘NBA worth.’
First, out of these five NBA players’ career Personal Efficiency Ratings, Alex Len’s has the lowest, at 13.2. Second, looking at the Total Win Shares contributed by each of these five players, Alex Len’s is, again, sitting at the bottom of the group, at 3.0 WS among players who played more than 80% of games last season.
While Len’s numbers are not terrible, it seems pretty clear that for the Suns to realistically re-sign him he would need to be willing to accept less than the approximate $10M/year deal that these other four highlighted centers are averaging. It seems like the rest of NBA, and the Suns, agree with this given the fact that Len has not been offered a single contract, outside of the $4.2M qualifying offer (QO) that the Suns extended to him over a month ago.
So, what if Len does not want to re-sign with the Phoenix Suns at all?
It would be an extremely strange case, but not entirely without precedent. In many sports, restricted free agents hold out every year, hoping for a better offer.
If we examine the case of WNBA superstar Elena Delle Donne, we will find a similar situation to the one in which Alex Len currently finds himself. Della Donne was on track to become a RFA after the 2016 season. She made it clear that she would be willing to sit out some, or all, of the following year if she did not receive an offer that matched her expectations. Ultimately, the WNBA superstar was traded to Washington, and the issue was moot.
How does this information impact Len’s situation? Well, according to Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ, if he decides not to accept the QO that the Suns currently have on the table for him by the September 30th deadline – which is less than two weeks away – he could potentially force a situation in which he will sit out a chunk of the upcoming NBA season, at least portions of the period of time when players come back to Phoenix to begin working out together and bond before training camp.
Once the QO expires, he will remain a restricted free agent and under the control of the Suns. At that point, though, the Suns could actually offer him less money if they wanted, and if no other team offers him a contract, then in order to continue his NBA career, he would have to accept Phoenix’s offer. (One would expect that the Suns would offer him at minimum the amount of the QO if nothing else than to be fair, but who knows.)
At the same time, another team could still offer Len a contract which the Suns would still have the right to match. It just seems that barring some terrible injury to a center somewhere, as an offer hasn’t happened yet, it does not seem likely to happen later.
There is always the possibility that Len could go play overseas for a year if he can earn more money than the Suns are offering, while in the meantime Phoenix continues to hold onto his rights. Should he return at any point he would still be a restricted free agent, and we could repeat this entire process all over again next year.
In terms of trade options, the only way for the Suns to trade Alex Len would be to work out some sort of sign-and-trade deal. Unlike other sports, in the NBA a player’s rights cannot be traded without the player already under contract, so Len would have to actually sign, something that he seems averse to do, before a deal like this could happen.
Well, then. What have we learned? We know that unless Alex Len chooses to sign that QO he will remain a restricted free agent, although the Suns could hypothetically then offer him less than the $4.SM currently on the table, and until he signs he will not be able to participate in the upcoming NBA season. We also know that if he chooses to play overseas, the Phoenix Suns will still retain his rights. Finally, this whole mess is extremely complicated and would be best solved by Len simply signing a fair one year contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.
So what do you say, Alex? How does 4.2 million dollars sound?