Days before the start of training camp, several NBA teams have been working to finish up extensions for fourth-year players, allowing them to focus on basketball rather than contract negotiations once practice starts. On Tuesday, the Pacers announced a five-year maximum contract for wing Paul George, who received the extra year as their designated player. On Thursday night, as first reported by The Sacramento Bee, the Kings reached an agreement with center DeMarcus Cousins on a four-year deal that will pay him the maximum possible amount over that span.
From a certain, coldly logical perspective, neither of these deals makes any sense. When it comes to contract negotiations for players completing rookie seasons, teams have all the leverage because the players will otherwise become restricted free agents the following summer. If you consider worst-case outcomes from there, the most likely scenario is another team offers them a max deal -- the very same deal they're already getting.
In theory, a disgruntled player could take the qualifying offer and play out the season before leaving as an unrestricted free agent the next year. But there's theory, and there's reality. In practice that's never happened with a max-type free agent, only lesser players like Ben Gordon. So there's no upside to these deals, only downside.