For most of free agency, the Cavaliers and Collin Sexton have been locked in a staring contest.
The Cavs handed Sexton a $7.2 million qualifying offer nearly a month ago.
The qualifying offer was, at least initially, more procedural than anything; the Cavs extend the offer, send Sexton to restricted free agency, and then the Cavs get a chance to match any other contract offered to Sexton.
Except, there hasn’t been “any other contract” sent Sexton’s way by another team.
But we do know Sexton has two offers on the table: both from the Cavs.
Where We Stand
First, there’s that qualifying offer.
And on Sunday, cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor reported that the Cavs offered Sexton a three-year, $40 million contract.
It’s a far cry from the $20 million-plus deal Sexton sought at the dawn of free agency.
In fact, the $13.3 million-per-season deal would make Sexton the 28th-highest paid point guard in basketball.
A few names making more than that $13.3 million: Derrick Rose, Tyus Jones, Markelle Fultz, Derrick White, and Mike Conley.
None of those guards are starters.
And that’s because $13.3 million isn’t starting point guard money.
Five years, $193 million ($38.6 million/year) is starting point guard money.
Unfortunately for Sexton, that contract went to Darius Garland, not Collin Sexton.
That’s because Garland’s 2021-22 season showed more than just flashes of potential; it was a sustained level of success that led to Garland’s first All-Star selection.
So far into his career, Sexton hasn’t shown much more than flashes.
I'm not the biggest Collin Sexton fan but 3 years, $40-million is insulting.
I get the ACL tear but 20+ point scorers don't grow on trees:
Y1: 17-3-3 on 44-40-84 (82 games)
Y2: 21-3-3 on 47-38-85 (65)
Y3: 24-3-4 on 48-37-82 (60)
Y4: 16-3-2 on 45-24-74 (11)
Bet on yourself 💪 pic.twitter.com/D7rbWGNIBB
— The Front Office (@NBASkoolOfThort) July 24, 2022
His scoring is undeniable — a career 20 points per game.
And as a secondary playmaker, his 3.3 career assists aren’t far from Jalen Brunson’s 3.7 career helps.
But his fit alongside Garland is questionable; it’s rare that two undersized, defensively-challenged guards succeed in the same backcourt.
So what happens now with these two offers on the table.
A few things.
First, Sexton almost surely isn’t getting that $20 million contract.
The Cavs would be unwise to spend that much money when there simply isn’t any market for the player.
Second, Sexton will evaluate which contract is best for him.
The multi-year deal is more money, but it means staying locked in for three years at a price that is in the ballpark of what several NBA execs assessed a month ago.
The qualifying offer is a short-term sting with potentially limitless reward, however.
That’s because on the back end of the qualifying offer is unrestricted free agency next summer.
So if Sexton goes out and crushes this season, he can potentially earn a max contract next summer, perhaps even more than the $20 million he wanted this summer.
Third, this might not be the last contract the Cavs offer Sexton.
If Cleveland is truly intent on bringing him back and locking him down for several seasons, upping the deal to something near $14 million might be the next step.
Again, they’re only competing with themselves, and in an ideal world, only paying him $7.2 million this season would be great.
But with extensions for Isaac Okoro and Evan Mobley coming down the pike, the Cavs probably can’t afford Sexton if he takes the qualifying offer and then earns a huge contract.
There’s a fun twist in all of these negotiations: the looming specter of LeBron James.
That’s because the same agency that represents James, Klutch Sports, also represents Sexton.
So this isn’t either side’s first rodeo with one another.
And Klutch Sports brings a reputation of getting the best deals done for their clients, even if it means holding out.
Report: Cleveland has offered Collin Sexton “a three-year deal worth around $40 million.”
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) July 24, 2022
Ben Simmons, another Klutch client, requested a trade from the Philadelphia Sixers last summer and proceeded to wait things out until the trade deadline when he was moved to the Brooklyn Nets.
The situations aren’t the same (Simmons was disgruntled), but the case goes to show the lengths Klutch Sports will go to make its clients happy.
Unfortunately, there are only two teams left that could pay Sexton the contract he wants: the Spurs and Pacers.
And with the Spurs rebuilding and Pacers set with Buddy Hield, Tyrese Haliburton, and Bennedict Mathurin, both teams are out on paying big bucks to Sexton.
This leaves Sexton, the Cavs, and Klutch Sports right back where we started.
A staring contest.