Continuing on with brief analysis of some of the larger deals of the last few weeks:
- Blake Griffin's 5 year, $95 million extension (all salary numbers, as always, are approximate) came at an odd time - and then he proceeded to need surgery only a few days after his huge extension was announced.
I just don't understand the urgency of signing future restricted free agents to extensions so early in the process - even if they are superstars. This is a topic worth thinking about. I guess when you don't immediately early extend great players like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose or Griffin you risk alienating them, and hypothetically affecting their play during the following season. But they are restricted, and even superstars should understand that there is no need for a team to give any restricted player an extension a whole season before he hits restricted free agency.
I personally don't think the three aformentioned players would be too offended if their team respectfully explained to them that they would have to wait a little longer to get an extension, and that it was nothing personal, just team policy. It seems only the Spurs have consistently had success in having their stars wait in signing extensions.
Griffin, like Rose before him, is hurt before his massive extension even kicks in. Griffin had minor knee problems in college, and then missed all of his first year in the league. Now he is having surgery again. I unfortunately have my doubts whether he will be able to stay relatively healthy over the next half decade. I definitely prefer Kevin Love's contract to his.
- The Jeremy Lin/Knicks breakup is getting a lot of hype, and like many people I think it was dumb that the Knicks did not match Houston's offer. The main reason New York seems so stupid in not matching is the obvious business incentive Lin brings a franchise. But like I stated before, from just a pure basketball standpoint, Lin is still a pretty good gamble. Even with an increased third year salary of $15 million, Lin has shown enough upside to be worth the financial stake - especially for a young, athletic team like the Rockets, whose cap hit for him will be about $8 million each of the next three years.
- The Nets seemed determined to act even more foolishly than the Knicks. Brooklyn signed Brook Lopez to a four year, $61 million deal and Kris Humphries to a two year, $24 million contract. Lopez played only five games last year, making him a huge future injury risk, and he is probably not worth that kind of money even if he is totally healthy the next four years. Offensively Lopez is a fine player, but defensively he is relatively weak for a center. I would prefer to have an overpaid Roy Hibbert - but really I would choose neither at that price.
Humphries is pretty decent, but there is no way he is worth $12 million annually. Players almost as good as him are always available for far less a salary.
- Tim Duncan, meanwhile, like Kevin Garnett and Steve Nash before him, has agreed to a completely palatable contract - a 3 year, $30 million deal with the Spurs (San Antonio, like I just mentioned, are masters at reasonably extending their own stars.) It is amazing that these veteran icons, who are still fantastic and probably the best three leaders in the game, all become free agents and no team overpays them. Apparently aging All-Stars aren't as enticing as overrated restricted free agents like Lopez, Hibbert or Eric Gordon.
- Ryan Anderson agreed to a sign and trade with New Orleans, which will pay him $36 million over the next four years. The Hornets had to trade Gustavo Ayon to Orlando to complete the deal. I really like Anderson, and he has played like an All-Star the past couple of seasons next to Dwight Howard. The question is how he will play without Howard. If he is almost as good as he has been, and can play 30+ minutes a game, this is a very good signing by New Orleans. I think it will help Anderson to play next to Anthony Davis - that's not a bad downgrade from Howard. But if Anderson falls back to simply being good, and not great, then Ayon is almost as valuable for far less of a salary. Personally, I think New Orleans is taking a worthwhile risk, but obviously it could backfire.
- Ersan Ilyasova is another player I have always liked who signed a big extension - at least a 4 year, guaranteed $32 million commitment from Milwaukee. Unlike Anderson, Iyasova only showed flashes of brilliance up until this year, in which he was consistently excellent. This deal is an obvious gamble by the Bucks. $8 million a year for a good but not great player is not a terrible investment, but it's one I would rather not make. Hopefully for Milwaukee, Ilyasove stays superb and healthy, but I have a feeling he will make that dip back down in averageness sooner than later.
- The entire amnesty provision has kind of been a mockery - in general it seems like teams end up amnestying an overpaid player just to overpay someone else. The CBA probably should have just allowed a one time amnesty per team before the beginning of the 2011-12 season. Either you cut your guy then, or you are stuck with him counting towards the cap for the remainder of his bad contract. To give teams the flexibility as to when they can amnesty someone over the next few years is just silly.
Look at team like Dallas - they rather smartly signed Chris Kaman to a one year deal worth $8 million, and O.J. Mayo to a two year, $8 million deal. Often the length of a contract is just as bad as an excessive annual salary, so these two deals were pretty good because they were only short term investments for productive players. But to make those signings happen the Mavericks amnestyed Brendan Haywood, and will still owe him $20+ million over the next three years (it's just that money won't count against the cap.) So really the Kaman and Mayo signings don't look that great when you think of all the money they just burned on Haywood. It's a typical Dallas move. And amnesty in general seems to be this way: a profligate attitude towards salaries and payroll. God, how I wish the new CBA imposed a hard cap, then wasteful teams would actually have to think about how they spend...
- The Nuggets extended the enigmatic JaVale McGee for 4 years and $44 million. I like this deal more than Hibbert's and Lopez's, but I probably would not have signed off on it. McGee has loads of talent, and has always put up pretty good raw numbers. The consistency of his promising statistics is impressive, but his on-court chemistry has always been poor - and often much worse than poor. In short, it is very unclear whether a team becomes substantially better with McGee on the court, numbers aside. The jury is still out, and McGee has plenty of time to grow, but right now he is not a $10+ million a year player.
-George Hill got overpaid by the Pacers to the tune of 5 years, $40 million. It's always worth mentioning long, expensive contracts for adequate players, because it reeks of foolishness and poor comprehension of how replaceable most players are over the long run. Hill's contract is not as bad as Jeff Green's, but it still is lousy.
Adequate starters and bench players are never worth fretting over, unless they are very young and have shown glimpses of an extreme upside (like Lin.) Hill has little upside. He is a lot more like Randy Foye, Delonte West and C.J. Watson (who all just signed short term deals for only a few million a year) than Steve Nash (who Hill is being paid like.) The Pacers should have just kept Darren Collison.
The future is not bright enough for most players to ever merit lavishing them with a big contract. Just because they want one doesn't mean you should give it to them. Let them walk if they don't want your money.