Oftentimes, league general managers overpay in an attempt to pry restricted free agents away from their current squad (see: Nicolas Batum and Eric Gordon). Other times, they fail to compare one contract to another while fans and analysts point out how ridiculous the offer looks on paper.
Regardless of how teams get into that situation, there are certainly 2013 NBA free agents guaranteed to receive a hefty, nonsensical paycheck this summer.
There’s no question that Dwight Howard is going to get a max deal. Whether that’s a five-year option with the Los Angeles Lakers or a four-year contract elsewhere, the big man is going to get paid.
But is the All-Star center really worth max money?
At first glance the answer is, “Of course! What are you, an idiot?” But beneath the surface of Howard’s accolades—three-time Defensive Player of the Year, seven-time All-Star—there are some red flags.
In his first (and perhaps only) season with the Lakers, Howard regressed statistically following back surgery. A torn labrum in his shoulder simply exacerbated that problem. Now there’s reason to believe he isn’t the same player and perhaps never will be again.
In a May column, Grantland.com’s Bill Simmons delves into that exact issue:
From 2008 through 2011, Howard dragged a half-decent Magic team to a 219-102 record and one Finals appearance. These last two seasons, Howard’s Magic/Lakers teams finished 75-55. Huge, huge difference.
If you’re still skeptical, check out Howard’s stats from 2011 compared to those he posted in 2013:
2011: 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds, 59 percent field-goal shooting, 60 percent free-throw shooting, 227 dunks, 26.1 PER (2nd in the NBA).
2013: 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 58 percent field-goal shooting, 49 percent free-throw shooting, 187 dunks, 19.4 PER (36th in the NBA).
Howard’s only an honorable mention on this list because he still led the league in rebounding even though he was never 100 percent from a health standpoint, and he plays center, a premier position that only has a handful of elite guys at the moment.
Even so, he may have already peaked as an NBA player. If he never recuperates from the back surgery, he may not be worth huge money for much longer.
Update: According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Howard has agreed to a four-year, $88 million deal with the Houston Rockets.
Verdict: Accurately paid.
This could very easily shift to "overpaid" status if Howard doesn't return to his usual athletic form, but at least now he's in a situation he chose.
Tyler Hansbrough was originally set to be a restricted free agent this summer, but according to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Indiana Pacers have rescinded his qualifying offer, moving him to unrestricted status. This means teams no longer have to worry about making an offer Indiana won't match, but all the same, expect a desperate team to make an unnecessarily high offer to lock up the 27-year-old big.
"Psycho T" has carved a niche in the NBA as a rock-solid role player, and teams sometimes take a chance on such guys, hoping their production will increase with more playing time. But that’s all he is—a role player.
Hansbrough will always give his team 100 percent effort out on the court, ripping down respectable amounts of rebounds in limited minutes.
However, he gives you essentially nothing on the defensive end of the court. For his career, he’s averaging 0.6 steals and 0.2 blocks per game. As a 6’9” power forward, Hansbrough has the same career blocks-per-game average as sharpshooting guard Jamal Crawford.
That’s not pretty.
Even so, Hansbrough had a nice stint during March filling in for the injured David West. In six games from March 18 to 27, the former North Carolina Tar Heel notched four double-doubles. If one team’s front office looks too far into that small sample size, Hansbrough will benefit by way of an inflated contract.
Update: According to multiple sources (including Scooby Axson of Sports Illustrated), Hansbrough has agreed to a two-year deal with the Toronto Raptors. Financial terms, however, have not been disclosed.
Earl Clark had a breakout season with the Los Angeles Lakers when compared with the rest of his NBA career.
In January, the former Louisville Cardinal averaged 10.3 points and 8.4 rebounds and shot 49.6 percent from the field and a ridiculous 54.5 percent from three-point range. In February, he kept the streak going, but he lost his shooting range. He averaged 10.9 points and 7.8 rebounds and shot 45.4 percent from the field and a lowly 21.4 percent from three-point land.
From there, Clark’s role was diminished. He lost a ton of minutes and put up his usual pedestrian stats. Let’s just say there’s a reason he’s played for three NBA teams in four seasons.
You’d have Clark for a bargain if he continued on his 2012-13 salary of $1,240,000. If he’s getting paid $4-6 million per year or more, you’re better off signing a lanky swingman for cheap. The sample size with Clark was simply too small to justify a hearty contract.
Update: Clark has reportedly signed a two-year, $9 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
Verdict: Accurately paid.
Considering Clark's youth, athleticism and small amount of upside, the Cavs can't be criticized for paying him $5 million less than the injury-riddled, soon-to-be 36-year-old Manu Ginobili over the same two-year span.
Teams could do far worse than adding an interior presence with a good feel for the game who can rebound and score both at the rim and with an effective jumper. As a result, Paul Millsap will be a hot commodity this summer.
Even though he’s averaged at least 14 points and seven rebounds for the past three seasons, there are some factors that make him a prime candidate on the “guaranteed to be overpaid” list.
First off, his points-per-game numbers have declined in those three years. He went from 17.3 points per game in 2010-11 to 16.6 points the following year and 14.6 points last season.
Of course, his court time dipped by approximately two minutes per game during those three seasons, so we can write that off as not being a huge deal (though still noteworthy).
Second, Millsap is 28 years old. That’s not old, but it’s certainly not young. It’s fair to say that the second-round pick out of Louisiana Tech has reached his ceiling.
Finally, the seven-year veteran has always had the luxury of playing beside or behind elite frontcourt talents.
He played with Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur when they were at the height of their powers and then transitioned to playing with Al Jefferson—one of the league’s most underrated big men—for the last three years. The Utah Jazz have also had Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
Could Millsap thrive in a bigger role with less frontcourt talent around him? That remains to be seen.
In any case, he’s set for a big payday, one that an NBA team will regret down the road.
Update: According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, Millsap has agreed to a two-year, $19 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks.
Verdict: Accurately paid.
Considering that the Hawks let Josh Smith sign in Detroit for $56 million, the Millsap deal looks like even more of a bargain than it probably should. However, it's a great fit for Atlanta because Millsap can slide in next to Al Horford in the frontcourt. Overall, this is an appropriate amount of money for the former second-round pick. You could even talk me into him being underpaid. I'm open to it.
Manu Ginobili is one of the best international players ever to play in the NBA. He’s arguably the best second-round pick of all time. He’s an icon in San Antonio who helped the Spurs win three championships.
Despite all that, as Charles Barkley says in the embedded video, “He’s got Father Time on his back... The little yellow light is flicking.”
The Olympic gold medalist will turn 36 later this month, and the years certainly have not been kind to his body. Over the past two seasons alone, Ginobili has missed 54 regular-season games.
In 2010-11, he averaged 17.4 points per game. That dropped down to 12.9 points in 2011-12 and fell again to 11.8 points last season.
In three out of four losses to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the Argentine finished with the following shooting games: 2-of-6 (five points), 1-of-5 (five points) and 2-of-5 (nine points with eight turnovers).
The Spurs may decide to keep him around for loyalty’s sake, but if they intend to contend for a championship again next season, they should open up his minutes to the young guys.
Given his injury history and poor combined performance in the regular season and playoffs, he could certainly be considered overpaid later this summer if he doesn’t find the right fit.
Update: According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski via Twitter, Ginobili has agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal to stay with the Spurs.
Ginobili's $14 million deal is fully guaranteed according to reports. Given his injury history in recent years, fully guaranteeing the soon-to-be 36-year-old is an odd choice by the Spurs.
O.J. Mayo had a bit of a resurgent year with the Dallas Mavericks.
After predominantly coming off the bench for the Memphis Grizzlies during two straight seasons—a role in which he’s shown he can’t thrive—Mayo averaged 15.3 points per game and shot 40.7 percent from downtown.
However, he certainly falls into the "high maintenance" category.
He had some solid games, but he had more than his fair share of poor performances as well. In fact, according to a February article by Tim MacMahon of ESPN, Mayo’s ball-handling in crunch time was the worst in the NBA:
The painful facts, according to the NBA’s advanced stats: Mayo leads the league in turnovers when the score is within one possession in the final two minutes of games this season. And the final minute in such situations. And the final 30 seconds. And the final 10 seconds.
The young shooting guard’s poor decision-making in the clutch cost the Mavericks more than a few games.
Additionally, according to MacMahon, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle ripped into Mayo during a game against Memphis for his lackadaisical play. Carlisle called a timeout after Mayo committed two bad turnovers and a weak foul, then reportedly screamed, “I called that timeout just to get you out of the game!”
Mayo is very skilled, but he comes with a lot of baggage. He has to be given a starting role, but he also needs to work on some evident holes in his game.
If Mayo’s new contract is in the realm of Stephen Curry’s (four years, $44 million), he’ll be considered grossly overpaid.
Update: According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Mayo has agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Considering Mayo's late game fumbles and the fact that NBA All-Defensive first team member Tony Allen is set to make $20 million over the course of a four year extension, I'm ruling Mayo overpaid (though not grossly).
According to Tim Leighton of the Pioneer Press, Minnesota Timberwolves team president Flip Saunders “has said repeatedly that retaining (Nikola) Pekovic is an offseason priority.” As a result, another team looking to add Pek’s services will have to swoop in with an impressive offer to nab the restricted free agent.
If an NBA team aggressively targets Pekovic, reports hint that the T-Wolves won’t break the bank to keep the big man in Minnesota.
Dana Wessel of 1500ESPN, citing 1500ESPN’s Darren Wolfson, wrote, “a team source says the Wolves (smartly) won’t pay Pekovic if the price gets in the $12 million range.” The $12 million range refers to a potential yearly salary number.
It appears as if the only way another NBA team will be able to add Pek to its roster is to overpay him. Don’t be surprised if it happens.
If an NBA team extends Andrew Bynum a contract this summer and he delivers by actually finding the court, so be it.
There is no guarantee, however, that Bynum will play at all.
Throughout an eight-year career, Bynum has played in just 392 of a possible 640 regular-season games. He missed all of 2012-13 due to a knee injury that he aggravated while bowling, according to Brian Windhorst and Chris Broussard of ESPN.
Considering that Bynum only had one elite year with the Los Angeles Lakers (during the grueling, lockout-shortened year, no less), signing him is a huge gamble.
Bynum is still just 25 years old and potentially has 10 more solid years ahead of him. I’m just not sold that the big man’s health, maturity and skills will all combine for the length of his next contract.
Update: According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski via Twitter, Bynum has agreed to a two-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The first year of the deal is worth up to $12 million, but only $6 million is guaranteed. The second year is a team option worth $12.5 million.
Verdict: Appropriately paid.
The Cavs did a fantastic job limiting the overall risk with this contract. If Bynum doesn't see the court again due to injury, he only earns $6 million of the $12 million on his deal. Considering that the Phoenix Suns are paying Michael Beasley $6 million per season to actually play, that's not a bad deal at all.
The kicker here is that the second year of the deal is a team option. If the Cavaliers have any qualms about his health moving forward, they can simply decide not to bring him back. At the same time, he's a good bargaining chip for would-be free agents. A trio of Kyrie Irving, Bynum and free agent X is a solid core if healthy.
Here’s a list of Josh Smith’s career accolades in the NBA:
- 2005 NBA Slam Dunk champion
- 2005 NBA All-Rookie second team
- 2010 NBA All-Defensive second team
Despite a solid NBA career, Smith hasn’t made an All-Star team in nine seasons. Additionally, the Atlanta Hawks have won just two games in the second round of the playoffs in Smith’s tenure there.
Is Smith the victim of happenstance? Was he snubbed from one or multiple All-Star appearances over the years, or is Smith just a guy who puts up stats and doesn’t contribute to a winning culture?
I don’t think the NBA community knows the answer to that yet. But in any case, Smith isn't worth a max deal this summer (which he may get).
Can you win an NBA championship with him as your second- or third-best player? That remains to be seen.
Despite all the question marks, the Detroit Pistons reportedly sat down with the athletic forward at the start of free agency, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.
Convincing fans that Smith is a good fit with Detroit’s young core of players will be easier said than done, especially if he’s given an exorbitant amount of money.
Update: According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Smith has agreed to a four-year, $56 million contract with the Detroit Pistons.
I'm absolutely baffled by Smith's new contract. When diehard Atlanta Hawks fans are reacting to Smith's signing elsewhere like this, it's hard to call it a win for Detroit.
Of course, according to ESPN Stats and Information, Smith is one of four players since 2004-05 with at least 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 2,000 assists (joining LeBron James, Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett). That's elite company no matter how you slice it.
We won't know how Smith fits with the Pistons until the season starts, but as a small forward who can't stretch the floor with an outside shot, he may prove to be a poor fit.
Smith is certainly overpaid, but a small market like Detroit has little choice.
Considering that Tyreke Evans has reportedly already received a four-year, $44 million contract offer from the New Orleans Pelicans, according to Sam Amick of USA Today, it should come as no surprise that he’s guaranteed to be overpaid this summer.
Evans made a name for himself instantly in the NBA by winning the 2010 Rookie of the Year. He averaged a stunning 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game and appeared poised to be the next NBA star.
But the former Memphis standout has regressed statistically in three straight seasons since that phenomenal rookie campaign. In 2012-13, he averaged career lows in points (15.2), rebounds (4.4) and assists (3.5).
The Twitterverse had a field day with the offer. Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group tweeted, “Well, (Stephen) Curry and Tyreke are about even, right?”
NBA legend and TNT analyst Reggie Miller responded to the Pelicans’ offer by saying (via Twitter), “I need to get back in the gym……”
By offering that type of money to Evans, the Pelicans are hoping he’ll return to elite form. However, the offer doesn’t make much sense when you consider New Orleans already has Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez and Austin Rivers on the roster.
Update: According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Evans will be sent to the Pelicans in a three-team, sign-and-trade deal. He'll sign the four-year, $44 million contract as initially reported by Amick.
Unless Evans can return to his rookie form, seeing him earn as much as Stephen Curry is befuddling.