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Free Agency Bargains and Busts
Posted By Joel Brigham On July 4, 2012 @ 12:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Every free agent who’s agreed to sign a deal so far has elicited one of two responses from fans: 1.) “Yeah, okay,” or, 2.) “That’s entirely too much money for that guy.” The following article is pretty simple—it puts all the players that have agreed to sign deals into one camp or the other.
Are teams getting the most bang for their buck in free agency this year? Some are, and others aren’t, as you’ll soon see:
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets, 5 years, $98.8 million – The best free agent on the market deserves to get the best deal, and D-Will made the financially wise decision by staying in Brooklyn. He would’ve gotten one year and $26 million less to play in Dallas, not to mention whatever kickers he may have on endorsements to stay in Brooklyn, so this probably wasn’t as hard a decision as Williams will pretend it was. Either way, this is a max player who’s already proven he deserves every penny, and nobody’s going to argue with the deal he got from the Nets.
Eric Gordon, Phoenix Suns, 4 years, $58 million (offer sheet) – Even though Gordon has missed 103 games combined over the course of the last three seasons, he’s still on track to be one of (if not the) best shooting guards in the NBA in a few seasons. He should easily score over 20 points per game every season for the rest of his prime, and as long as he stays healthy, he’ll be worth every penny of that $58 million. The only question is whether he’ll be earning it from Phoenix or New Orleans.
Jason Terry, Boston Celtics, 3 years, $15.6 million – Terry is about thirteen months removed from winning an NBA championship, and even at 34 (he’ll be 35 in September) he’s still capable of scoring over 15 points per game. If Boston loses Ray Allen, Terry is an ideal replacement on a veteran team, and if Allen stays, Terry already has a Sixth Man of the Year Award under his belt and knows how to come off the bench. A little over $5 million a season for such a well-liked guy with that kind of talent seems like a reasonable amount.
Reggie Evans, Brooklyn Nets, 3 years, $5 million (sign-and-trade) – Evans didn’t play a lot for the Clippers last year, but he’s an excellent rebounder and tough as nails. He won’t be a starter, but he’ll bring muscle off the bench and can absolutely help enforce a little defensively when some muscle is called for in a competitive game. Anyway, they really couldn’t have paid him much less, so as far as getting the most out of not a lot of dough, this one’s a no-brainer.
George Hill, Indiana Pacers, 5 years, $40 million – If $5 million is the mid-level exception, then $8 million a season for a player like Hill isn’t unreasonable. He was Indiana’s starting point guard by the end of the season, but he’s skilled enough at both backcourt positions to shove over for a more traditional point guard should the team acquire one this summer or into the future. Indiana has a pretty balanced scoring attack, but Hill is capable of more than 9.3 points per game. This seems like a fair shake for an above-average player.
Andre Miller, Denver Nuggets, 3 years, $9 million – If you’re paying $3 million a season for a back-up point this good and this experienced, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. Miller averaged 9.7 points and 6.7 assists as a backup to Ty Lawson last season, and considering both those numbers are better than what George Hill (who will make $5 million more a season) produced as a starter, we have to say Denver got a decent deal here. If Hill is appropriately valued at $8 million a season, Miller is a steal at $3 million.
Landry Fields, Toronto Raptors, 3 years, $20 million (offer sheet) – Landry himself is not worth $20 million, but the Raptors are playing chess with the New York Knicks over Steve Nash, and this is a move that really cripples the Knicks’ chances of getting the future Hall-of-Fame point guard. New York can only acquire Nash via sign-and-trade, and Fields would’ve been one of the assets that could have made that happen. If Toronto ends up with him, New York loses that trade chip and probably Nash, too. If they keep him, they can no longer include Fields in the sign-and-trade for Nash, anyway. In either scenario, Toronto remains the frontrunner for the home-grown point guard they so covet, so as a “checkmate” to the Knicks, this hefty overpayment could actually be worth it for Toronto in tickets and Nash jersey sales alone.
Not Worth It
Roy Hibbert, Portland Trail Blazers, 4 years, $58 million (offer sheet) – Hibbert was a first-time All-Star this year for a Pacers team that has a lot of people excited right now, so I understand Portland’s excitement. He’s 7’2 and extremely skilled, and everybody knows there’s a premium in this league for size. All that said, Hibbert isn’t a max player. In four seasons, he’s never averaged double-digit rebounds (his 8.8 rebounds this past season was a career-high), and nobody is ever going to say that someone averaging 12.8 points needs to have the maximum amount of cash thrown his way. To be fair, there aren’t a lot of players his size with his skillset in the league, and Portland really wanted a center to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge, but this is just a little too steep for what Hibbert actually brings to the table. Something in the $10-12 million-per-season range would’ve been easier to swallow.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics, 3 years, $34 million – It was great to see Kevin Garnett come back to life this past year and surprise everyone with that huge burst of excellent play, particularly in the playoffs, but I’m not among the people who believes he can keep that up for three more seasons. Teammate Ray Allen, for example, is reportedly going to be offered $6 million a season from the Celtics to continue playing in Boston, and that’s more along the lines of what I’d have expected for Garnett. A deal in the $6-9 million per season range would’ve been more ideal, especially for the third year of that deal, but $11+ million seems like overpayment for a guy that has so many miles on him. I suppose big bucks was the only way to keep him from retiring though and if that’s the case, I understand the splurge.
Omer Asik, Houston Rockets, 3 years, $24.3 million (offer sheet) – Asik is one of the best defensive centers in the game, and could be an even more dominant rebounder given consistent minutes, but he’s also one of the most limited offensive players in the entire league, making an $8 million annual salary entirely too rich for him. The way this one is structured has him earning over $14 million in the final year of the deal, and at that point he’ll probably hold more value as an expiring contract than as a player. The $5-5.2 million he’ll make his first two seasons are probably closer to his actual value.
Gerald Wallace, Brooklyn Nets, 4 years, $40 million – Wallace is still a very versatile player, and the fact that he’s been in the league so long makes it easy for us to forget that he only turns 30 later this month. However, $10 million a season for 15.2 points and 6.8 rebounds is simply too much. I get that he was re-signed to help convince Deron Williams to stay, and in that regard you could say it was worth overpaying on some level. But players capable of putting up similar numbers are going to go for considerably less this offseason, and Wallace himself is probably more suited to the $7-8 million range.
Nicolas Batum, Minnesota Timberwolves, 4 years, $45-50 million (offer sheet) – There are few fan bases as devoted as those of the Portland Trail Blazers, but even they’ll tell you that, as much as they love Batum, he’s not worth $12 million a season. This is a young man who averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds last season, albeit in fewer minutes than he probably deserved, but that’s just not enough production to warrant this kind of financial faith from the Wolves. Obviously with restricted free agents you have to offer enough to make the home team balk, but Minnesota might have put a little too much into the pot for this particular hand of free agency poker. Worst of all is that they want him as their shooting guard of the future, but that’s not even his strongest position on the floor. Wolves GM David Kahn has done sillier things, but this one might end up looking like one of his costlier (literally) mistakes.
Mirza Teletovic, Brooklyn Nets, 3 years, $15 million – I’ll start by saying that Teletovic, one of the best players in Europe last season, is probably worth $5 million per season. In and of itself this contract is perfectly acceptable, but what it means for the potential acquisition of Dwight Howard is what gets it on the “not worth it” list. By using the full mid-level exception on Teletovic, the Nets are forced to adhere to a $74 million hard cap, and with all the players they’ve already signed (and have yet to sign), that makes it pretty much impossible for the team to trade for Howard. It was going to be hard in the first place, but this deal makes it basically impossible. Brooklyn could still convince Teletovic to take the mini-MLE for $3 million a season before the moratorium on deals ends July 11th, but if things stay as they are, I have to wonder if the potential rewards of this kid outweigh the shot Brooklyn still had at acquiring the best center in the game.
One trend I noticed in this list is the fact that many of the more outrageous contracts are coming as a result of restricted free agency, which forces new teams to come up with insane offer sheets so the original teams are too afraid to match them. Chicago can’t possibly pay that much to Asik, for example, nor would one expect Portland to pony up for Batum.
The better deals are coming from teams signing unrestricted guys outright, and that’s a trend I’d expect to continue throughout the remainder of free agency.
What about you? Which players on this list do you think are grossly overpaid? Are there any players above on the wrong lists? Hit up the comments with your responses, and feel free to weigh in on any new signings that occur after this article is published.
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