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GRADING THE 2017 NBA DRAFT’S MAX CONTRACTS

@TheWillBaldwin

Jayson Tatum

Contract Grade: A+ 

2019-20 Stats:

SeasonAgeTmLgPosGGSMPFGFGAFG%3P3PA3P%2P2PA2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2019-2021BOSNBAPF666634.38.418.6.4502.97.1.4035.511.5.480.5273.84.7.8121.06.07.03.01.40.92.32.123.4

How it’s been so far:

After a disappointing 2018-19 season, Jayson Tatum had the type of year this past one we all thought was possible after the flashes he’d shown as a rookie. Tatum moved away from long twos for the three-ball and proceeded to shoot 40.3 per cent from distance, many of which were shots created by himself off the dribble. There was no doubt by the end of the season that this was only the beginning for him as even despite an All-NBA and All-Star appearance this year, Tatum is just scratching the surface. His scoring has translated as expected from Duke and he’s continued to refine and improve that jumper to the point where he’s now an elite NBA shot-creator at just 22 years old. What’s maybe surprised most is his defence which now seems destined to land him on an All-Defence team at some point soon. Simply put, Tatum is everything you could want in a star forward. After the leap he took this past season, the sky feels like the limit, Boston got someone special. 

What’s next: 

Superstardom. In 2019-20 he became an All-Star and All-NBA player, now it’s time for him to become the best player on a title team good. He certainly has the potential, what he needs to continue to refine is his scoring ability. As much as he improved, he still needs to continue to add to his in-between game and ability to get to the rim and finish. As those became more of a threat, that’ll open up his three-point step back and sidestep which is probably his favourite move. I’d also love to see him continue to improve as a playmaker. He flashed real skill in 2019-20 as a passer in the pick and roll and if that improves, my god good luck defending him. Tatum has all the talent in the world, the ideal size and frame and clearly has a work ethic. He controls whatever happens next for him. 

Bam Adebayo

Contract Grade: A

2019-20 Stats:

SeasonAgeTmLgPosGGSMPFGFGAFG%3P3PA3P%2P2PA2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2019-2022MIANBAPF727233.66.111.0.5570.00.2.1436.110.8.564.5583.75.3.6912.47.810.25.11.11.32.82.515.9

How it’s been so far:

After being mostly a rim-running lob threat at Kentucky, Bam Adebayo has expanded his game more than anyone since Giannis. This season he became a key ball-handler and passer for the Heat which seems impossible if you watch his Kentucky film and, he also showed major potential as a scorer. His scoring largely came from his incredible basketball IQ and not necessarily skillset so there’s definitely major room for growth there. If you told me Bam got a max coming into this season I would’ve laughed you out of the room and that’s why he only gets an A. His potential is as high as anyone because apparently based on what he’s added already, it’s limitless. The only slight concern is he’s only done it for one year so if I have to nitpick, that would be the only reason why. Otherwise, Miami found a special, potentially franchise-altering guy and that’s someone you always max. 

What’s next:

Good lord who knows. I’m ready for anything with Bam at this point and I mean it. When I tell you the playmaking and ballhandling this year came from nowhere, I mean NOWHERE. So if he starts taking Steph Curry pullups from half-court next year then I don’t see why not because apparently he just has the ability to pull skills from thin air like a 2K mycareer player who bought 50,000 VC. Jokes aside, Bam’s potential feels limitless after what he did last year. He’s already an elite defender and the type of playmaker and screener you can run your offence through like Jokic. If he can add a jumper like the Serbian’s, I wish the rest of the NBA luck. Adebayo clearly has an all-time work ethic with the skills he’s added already so I wouldn’t put anything past him. What’s next for him can only be known by Bam and his team and that has to terrify the rest of the NBA. 

Donovan Mitchell

Contract Grade: B+

2019-20 Stats:

SeasonAgeTmLgPosGGSMPFGFGAFG%3P3PA3P%2P2PA2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2019-2023UTANBASG696934.38.719.4.4492.56.9.3666.212.6.494.5134.04.7.8630.83.64.44.31.00.22.72.524.0

How it’s been so far:

Donovan Mitchell has been special since essentially the moment he walked into the NBA. He was the first offensive option on a playoff team as a rookie and has continued to add to his game every season. The only real drawback with Mitchell and why he isn’t in the A category with Bam and Tatum is his lack of size worries me in terms of how much is left to get to his ceiling. When you’re under about 6’6 in this already extremely difficult league, it’s an extra level of brutal. Mitchell has certainly shown flashes of being the first option on a title contender but until he adds a couple of layers to his game, the size will remain a concern. It’s extremely difficult to be his size and shoot 36 per cent from three and be the main guy competing for a title. Regardless of that, his max is more than deserved and his spot in the all-star game feels like a perennial lock. What his ceiling is is an interesting question but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that today he’s a special player. 

What’s next:

For Donovan, I want to see him add two things to his game to push that ceiling I referenced above higher. The first one is I just need a better three-point shot. 36 per cent is good but for a number one option of his size, I need that in the 38 per cent area minimum to maximize his abilities. With his athleticism and burst, getting to the rim has never been a problem so adding an elite three-pointer to his game would make him unguardable. Similarly, I need to see him continue to improve his playmaking. Like Tatum, he’s shown flashes but until he unlocks it fully, four assists a game is a difficult number for the main ball handler in 2020. The best news about Mitchell is he’s improved his game in essentially every way every new season. What he showed us in the playoffs flashed the type of ceiling I didn’t even think he had as a massive fan. That series he shot it from deep at an unbelievable level and guess what it unlocked? If he can find that consistent stroke, what’s next for him is probably a hall of fame career.

De’Aaron Fox

Contract Grade: C+

2019-20 Stats:

SeasonAgeTmLgPosGGSMPFGFGAFG%3P3PA3P%2P2PA2P%eFG%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS
2019-2022SACNBAPG514932.07.716.0.4801.13.6.2926.612.4.535.5134.76.7.7050.73.23.86.81.50.53.12.821.1

How it’s been so far:

One of these four players is not like the others. While Tatum, Adebayo and Mitchell have all made All-Star games, De’Aaron Fox hasn’t really come all that close. Part of that is the western conference, part of that is playing on Kings teams with little talent but the fact is a fact for a reason. Fox has been good but $163 million is a ton for a non-All-Star. He has absolutely shown the potential to get there and may well this season, that isn’t the problem. From the King’s perspective, I too would’ve probably done this deal. It’s just, $30 plus million a season for a guy who hasn’t fully proven he’s there yet has so much potential to not work out. I’ve already seen the other guys in this class make that leap and play at All-Star, All-NBA levels and until Fox does the same, this contract will remain a question mark. 

What’s next: 

Fox has a ton of potential and with the drafting of Tyrese Haliburton, I actually really like where the Kings could be going. The first thing Fox needs to fix in order to help lead the Kings to the promise land is his jump shot. Much like John Wall before him, this speedster out of Kentucky is held back in the pros by his jumper. If I’m saying Mitchell needs to improve at 36 per cent, you best believe I’m going to say the same thing about Fox at 29 per cent. In 2018-19, he shot 37 per cent from three on pretty similar attempts so this season Fox will show us which year was the outlier. If it’s 2020 and the jumper is good, with his playmaking ability, pick and roll skillset and unique athleticism, this contract will never be questioned. But, if 2019 was the outlier and he continues to struggle, Sacramento may, unfortunately, regret this contract. Time will tell, it’s up to De’Aaron to prove his doubters wrong. 

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