According to Matt Moore of CBS Sports and Hardwood Paroxysm, the Denver Nuggets and Gary Harris are very close on finalizing a contract extension.
Source close to situation says Nuggets are very close to extension with guard Gary Harris, expectation is it will get done before deadline.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) September 26, 2017
Matt is as closely connected with the Nuggets as any writer out there so his statements should be taken as very accurate. The Nuggets have been talking about signing Harris to an extension since April and Adrian Wojnarowski stated last week that now that the Mason Plumlee deal has been finalized, Harris’ extension was the next business matter to attend to.
Chris Haynes of ESPN reported yesterday that the Nuggets are working on an extension with Will Barton and naturally, given the fact that Barton and Harris play the same position, speculation started to rise that perhaps the Nuggets were not as bully about getting Harris signed long term as it appeared. Matt’s statement indicates that is not the case. The Nuggets have until October 16th, two days before they tip off the regular season against the Utah Jazz, to get a deal done with Harris. If they are unable to he will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season assuming the Nuggets offer him the qualifying offer which is a foregone conclusion.
The perhaps more difficult part of the extension is how the Nuggets will maintain cap flexibility to continue to be able to add talent via free agency and how they can avoid paying the luxury tax. With Paul Millsap and Plumlee occupying around 44% of the total salary cap, and with Nikola Jokic all but guaranteed to be making around $25 million starting next season, extensions for Harris and Barton make the cap situation fairly sticky. Denver has some options available to them in the form of trying to move other players salary via trade or allowing players to leave via free agency if they decline their player options, but one way or another longer term and higher priced veterans such as Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried will likely have to play for other teams in order for the Nuggets to maintain some sort of financial flexibility.
While CBA rules limit Barton from getting more than approximately $10 million per season, Harris will be eligible for a much more lucrative contract extension due to the fact that he is still playing under a rookie contract. The Nuggets likely want to avoid a situation like we saw with Otto Porter of the Washington Wizards last season where a strong performance led to a maximum offer from the Brooklyn Nets. Not wanting to let a talented young player go, the Wizards were forced to match Brooklyn’s offer even though giving a max deal to Porter is likely an overpay. If Denver can negotiate an extension now they get to do so on their own terms, which is obviously more amenable to them.
While a $25 million dollar a year contract like Porter got is not likely in the cards, its still reasonable to expect Harris to command a sizeable chunk of the Nuggets salary cap. J.J. Redick, albeit on a 1 year deal, was given $23 million per season by the Philadelphia 76ers, a benchmark that Harris’ agent will no doubt point to. However, the Nuggets will likely counter by referencing Dion Waiters’ deal which was only $13 million per season. Given Harris is only 23 years old, his upside will likely play a role in negotiations meaning he’s probably going to end up closer to Redick’s number than Waiters’. A fair bet is to anticipate the Nuggets offering something around 4 years, $80 million.
Denver continues to show they are willing to spend to keep their talent and Harris, a very talented young player who is also a member of coach Michael Malone’s newly formed leadership council and strong team advocate, is certainly someone they want to keep in the fold. As President of Basketball Operations Tim Connely said in April “(Harris) is going to be here for a long time.” This news should be re-assuring to Nuggets fans that the organization intends to spend what it takes to keep together the young and talented core they are building.