2014 NBA Free Agents: 10 Players Who Will Overvalue Themselves
In such a star-driven league, it's only human nature for NBA players to occasionally value themselves a bit generously. Particularly in the younger tier of free agents coming off rookie-scale contracts, there is generally a desire to seek that major payday to secure financial stability early on.
We see it every summer. Whether it be the younger guys, players who have put up stellar numbers on putrid teams or those who just enjoyed the famous contract-year surge. It's far from uncommon, and NBA front offices have begun to catch on to such tales.
The following players are in no need of a self-esteem boost, but they should be sure to grasp reality by the time July rolls around.
Not long ago, Danny Granger was recognized as a star on the Indiana Pacers. Before Paul George burst onto the Indianapolis scene, Granger was the focal point of Indy's game plan, and for good reason. He averaged at least 19.6 points every year from 2008 to 2011, and he was a 38 percent shooter from three-point range over his Pacers career.
Though it's also notable that Indiana managed to win just a single playoff game from 2008-11, and after injuries have altered each of his past two seasons, 2014 free agency shouldn't be very fruitful for the 31-year-old forward.
He was traded at the deadline by Indiana last February to Philadelphia, who promptly waived him, because, you know, tanking. The Los Angeles Clippers picked him up to help bolster their bench before the postseason, but they were surely disappointed with the results. Granger shot below his career average from the field at 43 percent in only 16 minutes per game, and he made only 27.5 percent of his attempts in the playoffs.
Hitting the open market for the first summer of his career, Granger may be seeking deals comparable to ones he could've received before his injury troubles, clinging to the hope of a comeback in a new situation. Though one optimistic general manager may end up overpaying for past performance, Granger realistically shouldn't count on garnering much more than a couple million bucks over a year or two.
After suiting up for his third team over the last three seasons, Mo Williams is set to hit free agency once again after opting out of his contract with the Portland Trailblazers. Next year would've paid the reserve guard $2.7 million.
It's hard to imagine the 31-year-old Williams netting much more than that, annually, this summer. In terms of his PER at 11.8, he suffered through the worst year of his career since his rookie year with the Utah Jazz in 2004. Over 25 minutes per game, he averaged 9.7 points (on 9.1 shots) and four assists on 41 percent shooting.
Teams typically line up for the services of a veteran reserve point guard, but if Williams believes he'll see anything significantly greater than the $2.7 million he opted out of, he's in for a disappointment. The last we saw of Mo was in the playoffs, where he averaged 7.4 points on 7.4 shots, shot under 30 percent from deep and posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 1-to-1.
Williams will have value to some teams, but nobody will feel the need to overpay for him at this stage of his career.
Hitting restricted free agency this summer after failing to agree on an extension with the Boston Celtics, Avery Bradley's value is an interesting talking point.
He's been regarded as one of Boston's building blocks for the future and one of the league's most promising young guards, especially on the defensive end. But at 23, as he enters the fifth year of his career, Bradley still hasn't performed consistently enough to label him worthy of a lucrative deal.
Ideally, teams shell out contracts based on projected future performance, which is why this is a debate in the first place. Because going by what we've seen thus far (just take a peek at Basketball-Reference's similarity scores), there's not much that screams "potential NBA stud."
Last season, as one of the tanking Celtics' focal points, he averaged 15 points and four boards on 44 percent shooting. But, as was the case in 2012-13, Bradley struggled to stay on the court. After suiting up for just 50 games the year before, he wound up missing 22 games due to injury this past season.
His true impact seems to lie on the defensive side of the floor, where 82games.com says he held his opponents around a league average PER but over 23 points per game. Even if you accept Bradley's status as a defensive stopper in the future, it's hard to justify shelling out a future-star salary to a player who hasn't shown overwhelming promise through four years.
Bradley is a sound all-around player who could very well blossom into a winning team's glue guy, or even more. But the timing of his free agency won't work to his advantage.
Glen Davis was one of the Los Angeles Clippers' several midseason, veteran additions made in the frontcourt to address a need off the bench. The fit seemed to be a good one, rejoining Doc Rivers, the coach he played under for the Celtics to begin his career. In a limited role behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, LA seemed like a place where "Big Baby" could revamp his career.
As it turned out, Davis produced about the same as he had the last few seasons with the Orlando Magic. Including the playoffs, the Clips went 24-12 with Davis in the lineup, though Rivers limited his role to roughly 13 minutes per game as a reserve. The team was 15 points per 100 possessions better with him off the floor.
Now an unrestricted free agent, Davis will attempted to rack in a deal of similar value to the one he recently completed—the one that paid him about $6.4 million yearly. Several teams need scoring and size, but counting on Davis to log heavy minutes as a starter isn't wise—just ask the Orlando Magic.
The 28-year-old is a net-negative for his career, and a chance with a title-contending team didn't do much to help resurrect his league-wide value. There was even a publicized disagreement between Baby and Rivers that led to the coach sending Davis from the bench to the locker room in the middle of a game.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis was sent back to the team’s locker room by coach Doc Rivers with 10:21 left in the second quarter and missed the rest of Saturday night’s game for disciplinary issues. …
Davis exchanged words with Rivers and was told to sit down. Clippers assistant coach Alvin Gentry attempted to talk to Davis, but Rivers apparently had seen and heard enough and told team security to escort Davis back to the locker room. …
“He was emotional tonight, and we told him to go sit down,” Rivers said. “I just thought he was a distraction, and when guys are a distraction, I don’t think they should be on the bench. If you’re a distraction for anybody on the bench that should be paying attention to the game, then go sit in the back so our guys can watch the game.”
One of the league's better coaches feeling the need to publicly discipline his 28-year-old reserve center shouldn't sit too well with prospective suitors this summer.
Off the top of your head, you probably remember Darren Collison's Game 4 outburst in the fourth quarter that pushed the Clips to a tie with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference's second round. He dropped 12 points in the quarter and sparked an epic comeback run to knock off OKC before ultimately losing the series in six games.
After opting out of the final $1.9 million of his deal, it appears that Collison is hoping that recency bias clouds NBA front offices' visions. Indiana and Dallas had both previously passed Collison along after underwhelming stints at point, and not too long ago, the Clippers were seemingly ready to move on, too.
This past trade deadline, according to Yahoo Sports, Collison was close to being sent to the New York Knicks in a deal for Iman Shumpert. It would've marked yet another time that a competent basketball organization would've willingly passed Collison on to another roster.
Over 20 minutes per game in the playoffs, Collison shot below 40 percent and made just one of his 12 threes. He's still young enough to get a potential look as a team's starter, which is presumably what he's looking for this summer. He just hasn't shown any hint of the consistency necessary to land a large contract.
The 2013-14 NBA season was handed the ultimate plot twist when Jordan Crawford—"Steezus Christ" himself—began to resemble a difference-making NBA player. After stops with the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards, Crawford took on a prominent, hilarious role with the inept Boston Celtics. And it was glorious.
He averaged 14 points and six assists over 30 minutes per game with Boston as a starter, before being dealt to the Golden State Warriors near the season's midpoint. In a much more limited role there, he began to look more and more like the Jordan Crawford the league has known since 2010. But for a brief moment, there was hope.
As he enters free agency, Crawford is certainly hoping that teams remember his Celtics days fondly and take a chance on him with a multiyear deal. Coming off his rookie-scale contract, he's surely hoping at least one GM will take the leap of faith and throw Crawford into the mix on a legitimate deal.
But this is the part where we remember that we're talking about Jordan Crawford, who has shot 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from deep over his four NBA years, pulling all sorts of foolish nonsense along the way.
Think about this. Would you feel comfortable giving Jordan Crawford your money?
As a starter on a two-time champion Miami Heat team, Mario Chalmers has reason to overhype himself a bit heading into unrestricted free agency. Clearly, while playing with three All-Star teammates over the last four years, it's hard to value Chalmers' contributions too highly. But the success he's been associated with could be grounds enough for the 28-year-old to suspect a big payout this summer.
He's never posted a usage percentage higher than 17.4, which makes it hard to gauge how effective he'd truly be as a big-money-type contributor. He is, though, coming off season highs in assists and field-goal percentage, and he is always a viable threat from deep. He seems to have the makings of someone who can contribute on any team, but the unique Heat roster of recent years doesn't make Chalmers' situation easy to project.
Even if there were teams considering making Chalmers their starting point guard moving forward, his line of suitors certainly dissipated after his putrid NBA Finals performance. In the five games against the San Antonio Spurs, Chalmers shot just 33 percent, making just a single three-pointer, and turning the ball over twice a game in just 23 minutes.
He's not a top-level point guard by any stretch, but Chalmers has shown that he can fill a role well and can be relied on for spot scoring. The question remains: Can he do anything more? Nobody really knows, and while he may expect to be paid like a starter on a back-to-back champion, Chalmers' payout probably shouldn't be far greater than the $4 million he's received in each of the last three years.
Andray Blatche has worked to partially repair his reputation around the league as a complete failure, and he has produced fairly well with the Brooklyn Nets over the last two seasons. So in Blatche's mind, he's surely at the top of most teams' list of targets this summer.
His return to Brooklyn may or may not be a long shot at this point, after the 27-year-old posted a parting shot to his Instagram account (warning: NSFW language) but then claimed he was hacked and said he hopes to return next year.
Regardless of the destination, teams should proceed with caution when it comes to inking Blatche—an underachieving 6'11" big—for major cash. NBC Sports' Brett Pollakoff surmises that he could garner offers around the MLE this summer, most likely from another team.
It’s more than likely that Blatche will be able to get a better deal elsewhere than what the Nets would be willing to offer, considering there’s a logjam of sorts in the frontcourt with Brook Lopez, Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee all locked in for next year — and that’s before we even add Kevin Garnett to the mix in the event he chooses to return for a 20th NBA season.
Blatche will easily command a multi-year deal on the open market for the mid-level exception or more.
NBA GMs must remember that Blatche is always gonna be Blatche, and the last time the Syracuse native was handed a large sum of cash, the Wizards needed an amnesty-clause bailout to save them.
The Nick Young Lakers Experience of 2013-14 was one of the greater happenings in all of sports this past year. With no Kobe Bryant, and Mike D'Antoni running the show, the 2014 Lakers were a glorious trainwreck made for Hollywood, and "Swaggy P" was the star. See that picture up above? That was during a missed shot. It was truly perfect. But with the curtain closing and Young opting out of his $1.2 million next year, the show may be coming to an unfortunate end.
Young's opt-out makes sense, though. He is coming off a career year, of sorts, in which he logged 28 minutes per game and connected on 43.5 percent of his attempts—the second-highest mark of his career. He says he's open to a hometown discount with the Lakers this summer, but with D'Antoni out the door and Bryant expected to be back next season, the circumstances will certainly be different.
If there's any NBA player who can't get enough of Swaggy P, it's Swaggy P. He's capable of simultaneously bringing out the best and worst of himself on a nightly basis. In Young's world, there is no Kobe. There are no coaches, no opponents—the game may as well be Young shooting against air in a sold-out Staples Center. It's hard to imagine a world where Nick Young wouldn't overvalue Nick Young.
In reality, there will likely be a few teams interested in Young this offseason. In a right situation, he could contribute off the bench as an offensive spark or a reliable spot-up guy. But if you think that's what Young has in mind, then you must've never seen Swaggy hoop before.
There will almost undoubtedly be one NBA team willing to overpay for Lance Stephenson. After a breakout campaign, the volatile guard emerged as a potential All-Star when he's locked in, and with good timing as he's set to hit unrestricted free agency this July.
Stephenson will eventually get the contract he wants. He had too good of a season last year, and there are too many short-sighted front offices in the league. But overpaying for Stephenson will, in all likelihood, be a mistake.
This past season, at a $1 million salary, Stephenson had incredible value. Oftentimes, he was great and displayed the type of skill that you usually find in star playmakers. But as the season grew older, and the Pacers began to self-destruct, and the rumors began to mount, the other side of Stephenson slowly reared its ugly head.
After averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists this past season, it's easy to say that Stephenson deserves a payday. To a point, he does. He's certainly in for a dramatic raise from the $3.4 million he's made over the last four seasons. But, even though Stephenson may one day grow into a star, he isn't somebody you can pay like a star right now. Not at 23, and not with just two years of legitimate NBA playing time under his belt.
HoopsHabit's Evan Massey explained why Stephenson's upcoming situation is one of the more interesting ones this summer:
Multiple teams will be showing interest in signing Stephenson this offseason, but the biggest issue is not knowing how he will fit within a new locker room and system. The coaching staff and team in Indiana has helped stabilize him and help him mature in a big way, but changing that type of culture could be a very bad thing for him. That being said, his talent does speak for itself and that is why a lot of teams will end up reluctantly making him nice contract offers.
After his wildly successful 2013-14 campaign, he's certainly looking to cash out and take advantage while he can. But for GMs, the chances of a fat Stephenson contract hampering their team are much more likely than it leading it to the promised land.