Playing for a payday

A look at five players trying to cash in after their rookie contracts are up

Updated: March 7, 2013, 6:10 PM ET
By Amin Elhassan | ESPN Insider
Brandon JenningsJeff Hanisch/US PresswireBrandon Jennings knows this season will likely determine his contract in October, so he's playing like it.

When a rookie scale player does not receive an extension prior to the deadline (usually Oct. 31 prior to the start of his fourth season), he becomes a restricted free agent after his contract expires. Last summer, 21 of the 30 players drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft were eligible to receive rookie-scale extensions; the remaining nine had either delayed starts to their NBA careers (like Ricky Rubio) or were victims of a declined team option (like Hasheem Thabeet). Of those 21 players, just seven actually received an extension: Blake Griffin, James Harden, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Taj Gibson.

An extension signifies a vote of confidence and relieves a huge burden from a player; not receiving one creates a mixed situation. On one hand, you're a step closer to testing a league-wide market. On the other, in a sense you're still playing for a form of approval from the team that should know your skills best, and the broader market can see that.

Last summer, six rookie scale restricted free agents received contracts with annual averages of more than $10 million per year, including three (Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez, and Roy Hibbert) who received maximum allowable extensions.

Below are a handful of players hoping to cash in this summer. These players are using the remainder of the season to convince their teams they're worth a big payday. The question is simple: Will their teams think they're worth a big reward?

Let's take a look.

Brandon Jennings | PG | Milwaukee Bucks

Jennings

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