2014 NBA Free Agency: Rating the Latest Free-Agent Signings
Tuesday marked the beginning of NBA free agency—an annual period that makes players, executives and fans giddy in anticipation. It is the time where a team’s landscape can change, whether by making that extra push forward toward becoming a contender (see: Miami Heat 2010 free agency) or through the collection of draft picks and assets for the future (see: Utah Jazz 2013 free agency).
And the first day did not disappoint. Kyrie Irving, Marcin Gortat and Shaun Livingston have all agreed to or already signed new contracts. Each signing carries huge implications for the teams going forward.
Keep in mind that the true impact of these new contracts cannot fairly be measured until a few seasons later. But who has time for that?
Instead, in typical media fashion, I’ll be making way-too-early judgment calls on the new signings, rating the contracts as either being overvalued (overpaid), fair value or undervalued (underpaid). I will use the past performance of the player as well as how he can fit into the team to help with my rating.
Without further ado, here are the latest 2014 NBA free-agency signings.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Within days of drafting the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers agreed to a max-contract extension with Kyrie Irving.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Irving will receive at least $90 million in the five years following next season. That’s around $18 million per year, which is easily franchise-player money.
But is he really a franchise player?
Since being drafted as the first overall pick in 2011, he has been in two All-Star games. He has been a high-scoring, exciting player who has also made hilariously entertaining commercials.
But he also has some very real issues.
His well-publicized feud with Dion Waiters has made people question his maturity and leadership. His struggles to stay in front of his man on defense have also been well-documented. His per-game stats have plateaued or have gotten worse every season. And most importantly, his inability to stay healthy over each of his three seasons has potentially earned him the label of being injury-prone.
Yet, the Cavs also have to consider how important he is to the team. Even with the addition of the highly touted Wiggins, the Cavs only have one true source of offense, one player who is dynamic enough to create shots for himself as well as for his teammates.
Just imagine next season without him. Not only would the Cavs’ already below-average offense sputter, but the franchise and fanbase would lose the one player who has kept them afloat with hope in the post-LeBron years. By taking some of the offensive burden, Irving can also help Wiggins—who is not polished enough to carry a team by himself—develop into a star.
Ninety million dollars is a lot of money to commit to a player with a shaky history, but it is an investment that the Cavs had to make.
Verdict: Fair Value
Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards
Fresh off making it to the second round of the playoffs, the Washington Wizards have retained the services of The Polish Hammer that anchored the team down low.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Gortat has agreed to a five-year, $60 million contract extension.
The same guy who did this.
In all seriousness, he is a solid player who can contribute on both sides of the court, averaging 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game last season. And as his 31-point, 16-rebound outburst in Game 5 versus the Indian Pacers showed, he is capable of high-level play during the playoffs.
But despite how capable and generally awesome he is, he does not deserve this huge payday.
The rationale behind the Wizards’ move must have been a mandate to keep winning by retaining the key players vital to their success last season. And by surrendering a first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns to even get him in the first place, the Wizards must have felt very strongly about re-signing him.
Although it’s true that centers are often overpaid since they are such a commodity in recent years, this signing is still questionable at best. At $12 million per year, the 30-year old will be tied up with the Wizards until he is 35.
Already past his prime, it’s almost certain that his stats will decline year by year. Indeed, it may even be a question of whether he would have been worth $12 million last season.
Perhaps if he signed for a shorter term and/or at less money per year (perhaps four years, $40 million), this contract would make more sense. As it stands now, the Wizards have made a dubious move that carries implications of how they will approach free agency; they might be willing to overpay fellow Wizard Trevor Ariza as well.
Shaun Livingston, Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have inked point guard Shaun Livingston to a deal. Adrian Wojnarowski reported the details, stating that the contract will be "three years, $16 million."
First of all, it’s fantastic to see how he has recovered so nicely after his gruesome knee injury in 2007. Although his ceiling is no longer as high now as it was then, he emerged as a steady contributor who was vital for the second-half push by the Brooklyn Nets last year.
And now, he can do the same for the Warriors.
For all intents and purposes, this Livingston signing seems like an excellent fit for Golden State. For a team that struggled to find a playmaker off the bench with whiffed trades for Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake last season, the Warriors have struck gold. With Deron Williams struggling for the entirety of the 2013-2014 season, Livingston was able to prove his ability to set up his Brooklyn teammates.
Coming off the bench, he will not only be able to lead the second unit that Harrison Barnes has shown to be uncomfortable with but also allow All-Star Stephen Curry to play off the ball more, replicating the role of Jarrett Jack of the 2012-2013 season that made the Warriors so deadly on offense.
Although he struggles to shoot outside the arc (16.7 percent three-point percentage), Livingston has also shown a knack to finish inside, averaging 8.3 points last season on an astounding 48.3 percent field-goal percentage.
Even better, none of this will come at the expense of the Warriors’ top-three defense, as he is a very solid defender who utilizes his long arms.
With the ability to maximize the potential of the Warriors’ surprisingly average offense, Livingston is a crucial and much-needed piece who is worth the money.
Verdict: Fair Value