One thing the new CBA definitely did is make it so NBA teams do not sign "non-star" players to massive contracts - but it did nothing to hinder some teams from signing such players to long-term, relatively expensive deals. The deals for Jose Calderon (four years, $29 million), Jarret Jack (four years, $25
million), Kyle Korver (four years, $24 million), Kevin Martin (four years, $30 million), J.J. Redick (four years, $27 million), J.R. Smith (four years, $25 million) and Jeff Teague (4 years, $32 million) all fall along these lines. I like some of those players a lot, but do they really deserve such long deals?
In general, I don't believe in signing good - but not great - players to long-term deals. When you sign a player for three plus years there is always a lot of inherent risk involved, and it becomes more volatile the longer the non-star player is under contract. You want to feel confident the "supporting" player will be able to consistently give you substantial quality minutes over the life of the contract. J.J. Redick might look like a great signing now, but what happens if he can't even crack the regular rotation in a year or two? That said, these deals are safer than many of their precedents. Now let's look at some of the major deals that have occured in July, all contract numbers are approximate:
-Chris Paul re-signed with the Clippers for 5 years, $107 million. This was a no-brainer for L.A., and a relatively healthy Paul is worth every penny of his max extension. He is the best point guard in the game, one of the best ever, and this contract should cover some of his prime years. However, Paul has injury concerns that are real - he will probably miss significant time at some point over the next few years - but when a player is this good it doesn't matter. I am surprised the Clippers traded away Eric Bledsoe, who seemed an excellent running mate/backup for Paul over the next half decade. Regardless, L.A.'s future shines bright, and a healthy Paul/Blake Griffin star combo should make the Clippers perrenial contenders.
-Dwight Howard signed a 4 year, $88 million deal with Houston that was the biggest story of the free agency season. So much has been said about Howard's decision, but it comes down to this: If Howard is remotely healthy this is a great deal for the Rockets. Even last year, when Howard was far less than 100% and playing in a (largely self-created) terrible situation, he was one of the league's best centers. The only risk Houston runs with this deal is if Howard breaks down further, but at age 27 this concern strikes me as overblown. Howard does not need to be as great as he was a few years ago to still deserve this huge contract, and the chances are he has plenty of dominant years in front of him.
- Josh Smith signed a 4 year, $54 million contract with Detroit. On paper, this seems just about right. We found out a long time ago that Smith would probably never develop into the All-NBA star that his talents suggested possible - but he nonetheless has been a productive top-50 player for years. He also has been durable. Maybe it's because Smith has "disappointed" me as a player by not developing as fully as possible, but I don't love this deal for the Pistons. I endorse it, though. Smith can be the third best player on a championship caliber club, and that is a valuable asset for Detroit to have.
- Andre Iguodala signed a 4 year, $48 million deal with Golden State via a sign and trade. Iguodala's story seems similar to Smith's - an excellent player who never quite met high expectations, but nonetheless has had a superb career, and been very durable. However, I don't like this deal, especially when you factor in the multiple draft picks the Warriors gave up. Iguodala kind of disappeared after being traded to Denver last year, and I view that as a bad sign. If Golden State is smart they need to emphasize Iguodala as their second star behind Stephen Curry next season, if only to make certain that Iguodala does not get lost in the shuffle like he did in Denver. If Iguodala does not stand out for Golden State as a borderline All-Star the next few years - and I feel he won't - this is a bad deal for the Warriors.
- Al Jefferson signed a 3 year, $41 million deal with Charlotte. I like this deal, and not just because the Bobcats finally spent some money on a free agent who was worth it. We always hear the negatives before the positives with Jefferson - yes, his defense ranges from adequate to bad - but we are still talking about one of the top offensive big men in the NBA. Not many current NBA players have a career PER over 20, as Jefferson does. He can dominante a game offensively, and transform a team's offense with his refined skillset. That is a legit asset, and for three years at this price the risk is relatively low.
- David West re-signed with Indiana for 3 years, $36 million. West, in my opinion, was Indiana's best player last year, and it's obvious why the Pacers wanted to retain him. Still, I would not sign off on this deal for a soon to be 33 year old grinder. I am just too concerned about injury risk with West given his age and style of play. Of course, I was worried about West's health two years ago when he initially signed with the Pacers, and he proved the skeptics completely wrong. Here's hoping he does it again, but I have some doubts.
- Tyreke Evans signed with New Orleans, via a 3 team trade, for 4 years, $44 million. The Pelicans traded away Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez in the deal, and acquired Jeff Withey along with Evans. I am not a fan of what the Pelicans are doing, starting with their stunning draft night trade. Lopez and Vasquez were quality, reasonably priced players, and New Orleans seemed a little too keen to rid themselves of them. Evans is a total enigma; his rookie year was magnificent, but all the improvements he has made since then have been marginal. Especially factoring in what they gave away, I would not have signed off on this deal. It only becomes worthwhile if Evans (or Withey) becomes a fringe All-Star type player, which appears unlikely. I think I understand the Pelicans' logic of trying to get slightly better quickly, and I strongly disagree with it.
- Andrew Bynum agreed to a 2 year, $24 million deal with Cleveland, of which only $6 million is guaranteed. This is your basic low risk/high reward type deal, which we actually rarely see in the NBA. I have a feeling Bynum will not remain healthy, but I can agree with what the Cavs are doing here, and like it in theory. This does not make up for the fact they picked Anthony Bennett over Nerlens Noel and Victor Oladipo, though.
- Paul Millsap signed a two year, $19 million contract with Atlanta. This deal is stunning - many of us thought Millsap would get one of the richest contracts of free agency, and deservingly so. He has been a top-50 player for years, and is in his prime. I am still blown away by the low numbers in this deal, expecially when you compare it to the Iguodala and Smith contracts. Millsap is probably better than either of those guys. Just a superb deal for the Hawks.
- Tiago Splitter re-signed with San Antonio for reportedly 4 years, $36 million. The advanced stats make Splitter look a little better than he actually is, probably, but he has always produced, and this deal is fair market value for a big man with Splitter's skills. To make this contract worthwhile he needs to be on the floor more. Overall, it's a pretty vanilla deal, which are sometimes the best kind of deals to make, as the Spurs know well.