This was quite possibly the most eventful free agency in the history of the NBA. A moderate jump in the salary cap, roughly 40% of the NBA being a free agent, and ample teams with money to spend resulted in non stop action for several days. It was the craziest free agency since 2016, when the league had a severe jump in the salary cap following the new TV deal. The result of that free agency was a number of bloated contracts for mediocre players: think Evan Turner and Kent Bazemore. Many of those bad contracts are still hurting the teams that doled them out. At the same time, however, there were some steals. D.J. Augustin and Eric Gordon came at very cheap prices considering the other deals that were being signed. We’re going to be looking at the over/undervalued contracts of the only free agency period that usurps that 2016 one.
First, some conditions. Players that received massive max deals and would have received them anywhere else do not qualify for this. While the fact that Tobias Harris (at 5 years $180 million) is the highest paid player on the Sixers despite being barely their third best player is laughable, he would have received the four year max anywhere else. Philly had no choice. Also, deals that span two years or fewer don’t count. They’re too short to really kill a team. I mean, they’re a year away from being an expiring contract. No Taj Gibson in this article (oops just mentioned him).
The Magic’s Big Man
If you’re confused as to who the Magic‘s big man refers to, you are not alone. They have like a hundred. As of right now, the Magic have four power forwards and three centers. Almost half of their roster is reserved for those two positions. So who am I referring to? Conventional wisdom would lead you to Nikola Vucevic, Orlando’s only All-Star who re-signed to a four year $100 million deal. However, I am not referring to him. That contract is actually probably spot on value, and could even tip to undervalued if he even replicates his 2018-19 season. That’s right, I only named this section that so I could point out how many big men they truly have. I’m talking about Al-Farouq Aminu in this section. The Magic got him on a three year $29 million contract. After he was one of Portland‘s best defenders and showed a capable (regular season) jump shot. This is an incredible value for the Magic. Taj Gibson (oops, there he is again!) and Thaddeus Young will be making more annually than him! This is one of the best contracts from the offseason.
The Kings are…the Kings
The Kings gave three years $37 million to Cory Joseph. I could stop this section right here and my point would be made. Out of the point guard free agents, about seven of them were signed as the main backup point guard for their respective team. CoJo will be making a higher annual salary than all of them. He is arguably the worst out of all of them. Maybe he’s better than T.J. McConnell or Quinn Cook (and that is a strong maybe), but they are both on two year $6 million deals. Tell me which you would prefer. This is a ludicrous signing by the Kings and is honestly inexcusable considering the market for backup PGs. This deal gives me a headache.
The Rich get Richer (after getting poorer)
The Golden State Warriors. Everyone’s favorite team to hate (including yours truly). Their dynasty quite possibly came to an end this offseason with Kevin Durant signing with the Brooklyn Nets. To say they’re dead in the water would be an understatement, however. They still have two-time MVP Curry on the roster, and he has shown no signs of leaving his prime. They brought in D’Angelo Russell, who creates the most interesting (and one of the funnest) back courts in the league. Klay will be out for some time but if he comes back and they’re in the playoff race (they will be) this is still a formidable team. The team also got a key member of their roster for dirt cheap. Kevon Looney at three years $15 million. Holy hell is that a steal. There were rumors of Looney being worth a near max deal, let alone making his entire current salary annually. Looney is an integral part of the Warriors as the starting center and is still 23 years old. Jonas Valanciunas, who was signed to what pundits say is a reasonable deal, will be making $15 million a year. So, yeah.
The Nuggets Bet the Franchise
Okay, disclaimer time. This section is not meant as a knock on Jamal Murray. It is very obvious that he is a special offensive player and could very easily take the leap to stardom in the next year or two. I also understand that he fits quite well with Nikola Jokic and that is very important as well. Here are some other things about Jamal Murray. He’s always had a barely above average TOV%. He’s always had an average PER. Among starter-caliber players (games played at 40 games or more and minutes per game 25 minutes or more), Murray failed to crack the top 30 in effective field goal percentage, assist percentage, true shooting percentage, offensive rating, defensive rating, and net rating. His TS% and eFG% were much closer to the bottom than they were the average, as well. He also signed a five-year $170 million extension this offseason. The simple fact is that we haven’t seen enough to label Murray a star, and barely as an up-and-coming star. The Nuggets will be paying Murray an annual $34 million for five years banking on his potential. This could be a disastrous deal for them.
The Part Where I Talk About Jeremy Lamb
Shooting guard is the NBA’s wasteland. There are a couple superstars, very few regular stars, and a slew of players ranging from good to bad. While center may be the league’s most undervalued position right now, shooting guard is definitely the most understaffed. It is so hard for a team to get a good shooting guard that an above average three-and-d player is usually the most sought out to plug at SG. In comes Jeremy Lamb. He is at the top of those ‘good’ shooting guards and could push into ‘great’ territory with more volume. The thing is, the Pacers don’t need him to push into that territory. Play-wise or financially. He is making just over $30 million over the next three years. That’s bench player money. Is Lamb visually bland play-wise? Sure. But the stats speak for themselves. According to ESPN’s shooting guard rankings, Lamb ranked in the top five for rebound rate and turnover ratio (which is good). He also ranked in the top 10 for PER, estimated wins added, and value added. He helps his team win. That puts him towards the top of the non-star shooting guard pool, and he’s being payed like an average one.
The Bobcats are Back!
Oh, man would I not want to cover the Hornets for the next half decade. They are a dumpster fire, and will be one for the foreseeable future. Miles Bridges and James Borrego are the only saving graces of the franchise. As long as you have MJ (all respect to the GOAT!) and Mitch Kupchak (actual laughter erupts from me thinking about this hire) making player decisions, there’s going to be trouble. Nothing more shows that than in their free agency decisions. Terry $%#&@ Rozier. And let me be honest, I was a big fan of his game a year ago. And I still think he can be a talented point guard in this league. But the money. Sweet Jesus the money. Three years $58 million. Lets put this in perspective. There were five point guards from age 22 to 26 that signed deals that spanned three years or more. Out of those five players, he ranked last in PER and field goal percentage. He was second last in true shooting percentage, assist percentage, steal %, and win shares. He will be making more money than two of the players, the other two are D-Lo (an All-Star) and Brogdon (one of 11 NBA players in history to average 50/40/90). The other two are Delon Wright and Tyus Jones. You have to agree that at WORST. They are on par or will be better than him. Rozier’s contract is worth more than those two players contracts COMBINED. I rest my case.
That’s about all I have for you guys. As you can see, point guards (for some reason) came at a premium this offseason. And that left less money on the table for the other positions. The result: at least three overpaid point guards this offseason and an underpaid shooting guard, power forward, and center. Whether these predictions hold up, hell maybe Rozier is the next CP3 (what a world that would be), remains to be determined. As of right now, though, these deals look like steals or liabilities.