If you have perused NBA Focus you understand how strongly I hate the majority of big NBA contracts. If you make more than $6 or $7 million bucks a year you better be a hell of a player. If you make eight figures a year you better be superb. And if you make $15 million plus a year? You better always be making the All-Star team.
So with that said, I dislike talking about free agency. It always irritates me to see teams just throwing away their money and destroying their long-term chances of becoming excellent teams. My general advice in regards to signing "marquee" free agents who want expensive, long-term contracts? Just say no. Focus on the draft and making intelligent trades instead.
Free agency in the NBA is usually fool's gold. Teams get into bidding wars, and end up paying far too much money for players who can't possibly live up to their astronomical salaries. Please understand - free agency is a risky, risky way of conducting business. You are so likely to overpay for players. Let's run through some notable contract agreements and trades that have happened since July 1st:
- We should start by going over the general situation in Brooklyn, because it stands out to me in is recklessness. The Nets are overjoyed to have a 5 year, $100 million (all salary numbers here are approximate) commitment from Deron Williams. Williams is a hell of a player, but he wasn't worth $20 million annually the last few years. When you make that much money, you want to be consistently great, and as good as Williams has been, he has not been consistently great. However his huge deal looks abundantly sane compared to what else the Nets have in the works.
Billy King has ineply decided to trade for Joe Johnson's crazy 4 year, $90 million dollar contract, in an attempt to help seal the deal with (an overpaid) Williams. This trade will cripple the Nets' franchise in all likelihood, unless they can somehow still find a way to get Dwight Howard. Johnson is currently paid about twice what he is worth, and the proportions of his worth versus cost are just going to get worse. This is an unforgiveable and incredibly stupid trade by King.
King also managed to sign Gerald Wallace to a 4 year, $40 million extension, another foolish deal given Wallace's injury history. It is debatable whether Wallace commands eight figures even if he is healthy - he probably shouldn't. In short, the Nets seemingly have guaranteed themselves an adequate and displeasing next half decade with all their horrible spending over the last ten days. I hope they enjoy going 45-37 next year. It is possible they can somehow still get Howard (how, realistically??), but I am competely disgusted with how the Nets have managed their roster over the last few weeks.
- Roy Hibbert agreed to a 4 year, $58 max offer sheet with Portland, which Indiana might match. Hibbert is good, but this is too much money, even in a center-depleted league. Hibbert had his best season this year, and still was only a borderline All-Star in the East. With an almost $15 million annual salary you want more from a player, and it seems unlikely Hibbert can supply more. If he can stay healthy, and play at the level he played in 2012, this is not a terrible contract - but regardless the Pacers would be wise to let Portland have him.
- Eric Gordon agreed to essentially the same terms as Hibbert, only with Phoenix; New Orleans might match it. This is a lousy move by the Suns. Like Hibbert, Gordon is at best a borderline all-star. But Gordon does not play center, and he looks highly injury prone. His signing will probably not take the Suns or Hornets where they think it will. On top of that, the Suns also probably overpaid Goran Dragic with his long-term deal. With all the phenomenal point guards in the league, Dragic in reality is just an average starting PG.
- Nicolas Batum will sign a maddening 4 year, $45 offer sheet with Minnesota, that Portland stupidly will probably match. Batum is the kind of player you like having for $4 or $5 million, but is vastly, vastly overpaid at this price. There are plenty of players nearly as valuable as Batum available for a few million dollars a year.
- Jeff Green's rumored 4 year, $40 million deal with the Celtics is perhaps the most mind-numbingly stupid long-term deal yet, and makes Batum's deal appear highly responsible. Green missed all of last year. And on top of that he has never been good! His highest PER in a season was 13.9 - he could considerably improve and still never make an All-Star game. This is an incredibly poor move by the Celtics if it ends up happening.
- Meanwhile, Boston managed to sign its heart and soul, Kevin Garnett, for reportedly less money than Green. Both Garnett and Steve Nash's new deals look quite reasonable, especially when put in this year's free agency framework.
Nash and Garnett are amazing chemistry guys, and seem to have at least a year or two of near all-star level play left. Their contracts (expensive, but not wildly so) are obviously risky, but worthwhile for contending teams like the Celtics and Lakers. These two deals are the kind of aggressive free agent signings worth making, and should pay immediate dividends for both teams. The one issue for Los Angeles is that they gave away a lot draft picks to snag Nash, but I find that understandable given the circumstances.
- Houston gave a 3 year, $25 million offer sheet to Omer Asik, and a 4 year, $29 million offer to Jeremy Lin. Each offer has a "poison pill" third year, but both Chicago and New York can still match.
The Asik deal is typical Daryl Morey - he recognizes that Asik is a fantastic defender and underrated, so he decides he is a good pick up. The problem is that unless Asik doubles his minutes and production this deal is excessive. I doubt Asik gets that much better than what he is; in my opinion this is once again Morey thinking too much about something that, in the overall picture, is not that important.
I am a supporter of the Lin deal. Unfortunately for Houston, the Knicks are bound to match it. Besides the obvious marketing potential (which I am not factoring in here), Lin has shown enough signs and upside to be worth a three year gamble (the fourth year of his deal is reportedly a team option.) At best he becomes an All-Star, and as long as he stays healthy he probably will be at least as good as a player like Dragic.
- Finally, Houston also decided to trade Kyle Lowry to Toronto for a future lottery pick and Gary Forbes. Lowry supposedly had issues with Kevin McHale, and Houston decided it was worthwhile to go in a different direction. Their compensation seems fair, and Toronto is happy because they just picked up a very good point guard who is only owed $12 million over the next two years. This reported deal was one of the few this past week that seemed completely rational.
You see, in early July it is possible to make sound moves, you just gotta focus on the big picture and not get overwhelmed with all the funny money being tossed around.