How Terry Rozier’s New Contract Highlights the 2022 NBA Free Agency
Scary Terry’s four-year contract to stay with the Hornets makes complete sense, considering the lack of talent hitting the market next season.
You’d be excused if your response to the report that Terry Rozier had signed a four-year, $97 million contract extension sounded something like, “What the fuck?” I mean, $97 million is three away from $100 million. At first, the idea that Scary Terry — neither the Hornets best all-around, overall player (Gordon Hayward) or top guard (LaMelo Ball), and a veteran at the same exact position where it just spent a draft pick (James Bouknight) — is a $97 million player seems incredibly difficult to fathom.
The Hornets threw every penny they could at Rozier — four more seasons, beginning at 120 percent of his 2021–22 salary with an 8 percent increase after the first season, the most lucrative extension they were able to offer him under the collective bargaining agreement — for multiple reasons. One major reason: The 2022 free agent market is starting to become an absolute dumpster fire.
A plethora of names that would’ve headlined the 2022 market — Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and Jimmy Butler on the unrestricted and player option side of things; Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the restricted side of things — have already inked extensions this summer. Two more notable players, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, are highly expected to rejoin Durant in Brooklyn that will seal Brooklyn’s fate as both next season’s title favorite and the most expensive team the NBA has ever seen.
However, locking up all that talent wouldn’t leave the market complete empty. Most notably, there’s still Bradley Beal, if he decides to opt out of the $37.3 million he’s owed in pursuit of another long-term deal, whether with the Wizards or another title contender. There’s Zach Lavine, right off his All-Star nod and Olympic gold medal, who’s currently entering the final season of his contract with the Bulls and appears to strike gold next summer. Many intriguing players approaching the conclusion of their rookie-scale deals — Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges with the Suns, Michael Porter Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr., Collin Sexton, Kevin Huerter — could end up jumping up on the market, granted they don’t reach agreements on contract extensions before the start of the season in October, but restricted free agency is a risky business, and one that certainly favors high-market teams.
Therefore, with that being said, outside of Bradley Beal and Zach Lavine, the list of notable players who may be available next summer could be limited to names such as Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Aaron Gordon, Goran Dragic, and Dennis Schroder — solid role players, but few appear likely to drastically alter an organization’s title chances in free agency. And it appears that the slim chances of landing a big-time player has already impacted teams’ decisions.
The Bulls spent tons money in hopes of creating a squad good enough to convince Lavine to re-sign on a long-term extension next summer. The Knicks similarly used their abundance of cap space to add talent now rather than wait for next summer. The Celtics signed Marcus Smart to a four-year, $77 million extension, wanting to retain their longtime lucky charm rather than attempting to replace him in a summer without a bunch of players like Smart.
And now, a Hornets squad that will similarly not see much reason to keep its powder dry — the only notable player the Hornets have signed recently is Gordon Hayward, who arrived with a seriously numbered medical history and still required a max contract extension that had me exclaiming, “What the fuck?” — has decided to retain Scary Terry, Smart’s former teammate, on a deal that actually makes sense once you recover from the initial shock.
As exciting as the statistics are, the contract Terry Rozier just signed slides in as the 19th-largest contract among guards in the NBA. Phrased another way: “Terry Rozier’s is making $97 million.” sounds much crazier and less arguable than “Terry Rozier is making slightly less than C.J. McCollum, and slightly more than Buddy Hield.” Certainly when you consider, as quiet as it’s been, Scary Terry has produced with the Hornets at a level comparable with the new contract.
Scary Terry is one of 24 players to average at least 19 points, four rebounds, and four assists per game over the past two seasons — a figure that puts Rozier in the company of MVP-caliber players and All-NBA starters on the high end of things, and players such as Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Julius Randle, and Zach Lavine on the low end of things. That’s not too bad for a guy whose immediate three-year, $58 million contract appeared at the time to be a horrendous contract for a Hornets organization desperate to avoid losing Kemba Walker for next-to-nothing.
Rozier has emerged in that company in large part by becoming one of the NBA’s most lethal 3-point shooting players. He ranks seventh in the NBA in made 3-pointers over the past two years; he’s tied in 10th in shooting accuracy, nailing 39.6 percent of his 3-point attempts. He’s become an amazing top-energy spot-up threat, great at working off the ball to trick his defender, burst off a screen, and put himself in position to catch and shoot on the move; he’s shooting an incredible 44.3 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s during his time with the Hornets. Therefore, that makes Rozier a perfect backcourt buddy alongside two-way wing playmakers such as LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward.
Resigning Scary Terry helps create a sense of continuity for Charlotte, who lost Devonte Graham, Cody Zeller, and Malik Monk this summer. Furthermore, it enables head coach James Borrego not to have to depend on extreme contributions from rookie James Bouknight immediately, and locks in the offensive core of a team that was in fourth place in the Eastern Conference before Hayward joined LaMelo on the injured list last season. Perhaps a Hayward, Ball, Rozier lineup, strengthened by extensions for Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington, isn’t enough to be a contender in the East with some incredibly talented organizations at the top. However, the lineup will at least provide a way to being competitive and fun to watch.
In my opinion, Terry Rozier is a borderline top-50 player in the NBA. Factor in the Hornets purchasing the cost certainty of keeping him from hitting the market next offseason, the concept that comes with keeping one of its own players rather than letting another talented player leave, the flexibility his larger contract may provide in the upcoming summer in terms of trading, and the idea that in a league where there’s certainly no contract you can’t come back from — and perhaps Terry Rozier inking the 43rd-largest deal in the NBA isn’t super scary, after all.