Bryce Dejean-Jones has been a bright spot in a New Orleans Pelicans season sorely lacking them so far. BDJ has already logged 102 minutes and three emergency starts at shooting guard beside Norris Cole as Tyreke Evans continues to rest a balky right knee. Those 102 minutes are more than first round picks Sam Dekker (6), Delon Wright (36), Tyus Jones (98), Jarell Martin (9), or Kevon Looney (6) have played all season. All of these players but Wright are younger than Bryce Dejean-Jones, but all are also much better compensated as well.
The NBA CBA allows for two ten-day contracts for an individual player to one team. BDJ's second ten-day contract will expire on February 10th, at that point the Pelicans will need to offer him a contract for at least the remainder of the season or waive him. There are a number of options Dell Demps and the Pelicans could pursue with Bryce Dejean-Jones at this point. Here are three potential avenues.
The minimum exception can be extended for a maximum of two years. The first year for Bryce Dejean-Jones would be prorated for the remaining length of the season. There are 63 days remaining in the regular season on February 10th so Dejean-Jones could sign a contract worth roughly $195k for the remainder of the season and the minimum next season, $847,636. The amount for the 2016-17 season does not need to be guaranteed.
At the end of that contract the Pelicans would hold Early Bird Rights to Dejean-Jones and would hold the option to make him a restricted free agent. Early Bird Rights are not Bird Rights; the Pelicans could only exceed the salary cap to offer Dejean-Jones a contract around the league average. Other teams could only offer BDJ a contract in year one equal to the mid-level exception thanks to the Gilbert Arenas rule.
Yeah, we're diving deep into salary cap arcana at this point.
Laying dormant in the Pelicans warchest of assets is the Bi-Annual Exception (BAE). Still unused for this season the Pelicans could offer a contract larger than the minimum salary for both the remainder of this season and next season. For the remainder of this season on February 10th the BAE is worth up to roughly $1,749,000. The 2016-17 value of that contract could reach as high as $2,235,255; the original amount of the BAE plus 4.5%. As with the minimum exception the Pelicans would hold BDJ's restricted rights in the summer of 2017 along with his Early Bird Rights.
Is the full BAE necessary to get Dejean-Jones to sign on the dotted line? I seriously doubt it. The two year value of the maximum the Pelicans can offer him is equivalent to a low lottery pick. The more pressing concern is trying to get Dejean-Jones on a cheaper, longer contract.
Mid-Level Exception Leftovers
The Pelicans have already used quite a bit of the Mid-Level Exception this summer. Both Dante Cunningham ($2,850,000) and Alonzo Gee ($1,320,000) were signed with portions of this $5,464,000 exception allotted to teams who stay over the salary cap but under the luxury tax. Simple math says $1,294,000 of that exception remains, although the actual remaining amount is also pro-rated.
Perfect for a Sam Hinkie special. Here's Jake Fischer (no relation, and please spell the last name correctly already) defining this low-risk proposition.
The important factor to consider in this dilemma, is the contract type in question is only offered during negotiations between teams and players that were second-round picks, undrafted free agents and D-League or international players at the conclusion of their second 10-day contract with an NBA club. In those circumstances, agents truly have minimal leverage in negotiating much more than what the Sixers are offering.
"That’s sort of the the crime of it," said one agent who’s recently negotiated with the Sixers. "Certain guys, they don’t have a market to get a solid deal in the NBA elsewhere and they say, ‘We have to do this.’ I’d be prepared to sign this deal if we have to, it’s just a tough spot. It’s not really that fair to the kid."
Following (Chandler) Parsons, Robert Covington has become agents’ latest case study. On November 15, Covington signed a four-year, minimum contract with the Sixers—the first year being entirely guaranteed for the remainder of the 2014-15 season, but the final three seasons being completely non-guaranteed. "That deal sucks," one agent said. "He’s now worth way more than a million dollars for four years. It’s an amazing trade piece, it’s an amazing value for [Philadelphia]." At the same time, agents are quick to point out, if Covington were to suffer a season-ending injury during the 2015-16 campaign, Philadelphia could waive him with zero percussions.
Hinkie signed Covington to a four year deal at the minimum because the Sixers had the cap space to do so. Since the Pelicans would be using an exception they cannot sign Bryce Dejean-Jones to a similar four year deal under the minimum exception; but they could with the mid-level exception. Hinkie's old boss, Daryl Morey, used a portion of Houston's mid-level exception to extend a three year contract to their second round draft pick Montrezl Harrell. That contract is fully guaranteed with a total value of $3,135,000; just $720k more than a three year minimum contract. At the end of three years Harrell will be a restricted free agent but the Rockets will own far more valuable full bird rights.
Ideally Dell Demps will merge the approach of both Hinkie and Morey by offering Dejean-Jones a contract greater than the minimum for at least three years but with some of those years unguaranteed to mitigate the risk. The remainder of the MLE is the only path to offer a contract greater than two years to secure those valuable full bird rights.
Ten days of evaluation remain before the Pelicans need to make a call. As Oleh noted both Demps and BDJ's agents are already working on a long term contract. Here's hoping they can get the details worked out by February 10th.