You'd have a hard time believing the NBA has a salary cap after the last week of free-agent agreements.
Since news began trickling out on July 1, this summer has thus far shaped up to be a spending spree that sometimes leaves you scratching your head. The latest to benefit are forward Chandler Parsons and swingman Gordon Hayward.
Stein separately reports that, "The Charlotte Hornets and restricted free agent Gordon Hayward have agreed to a four-year offer sheet at the projected maximum of $63 million that Hayward signed Thursday."
Those kinds of deals will have the Rockets and Jazz double-checking their respective bank accounts.
Though both Parsons and Hayward are very good, they both have all the makings of well-rounded complementary players. It's unclear that either has a superstar ceiling—if by "superstar" we mean a team's leading scorer who presents unique added benefits. These are guys who will fill up the stat sheets but, on the face of it, seem to be worth something in the neighborhood of $10-12 million.
Or so we thought.
Keep in mind that a comparable wing player like Andre Iguodala will make just $12.3 million next season (and under $12 million in each of the two seasons after that). Tyreke Evans—whose per-minute numbers are on par with Parsons and Hayward—will make $11,265,416 next season, and that seemed like it might have been a slight overpayment at the time.
And while he plays a different position, point guard Rajon Rondo—who led the league in assists for the 2012-13 season—will make just $13 million next season, the last (and most expensive) of his current deal with the Boston Celtics.
Emergent superstar Stephen Curry will make just $10,629,213 next season.
Second-tier stars typically don't quite make first-tier money. Perhaps that's changing.
To be sure, Parsons and Hayward aren't alone. Spending trends across the league make it seem like the value of the American dollar has plummeted on account of hyperinflation.
Consider the latest report from Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, who writes, "Restricted free-agent guard Greivis Vasquez has agreed to a two-year, $13 million contract to return to the Toronto Raptors, league sources told Yahoo Sports."
@HPbasketball It is, but it's much more of an acceptable overpay for two years than four.— Mark Deeks (@MarkDeeksNBA) July 10, 2014
That's nearly $7 million a year for a solid, playmaking backup point guard.
Jodie Meeks will make $19 million over the next three seasons with the Detroit Pistons. Channing Frye agreed to a four-year, $32 million pact with the Orlando Magic. Josh McRoberts will sign for the full mid-level exception with the Miami Heat.
While none of those deals approximate what Parsons and Hayward will make, they signify a broader trend. Players are cashing in this summer—at least, the players reaching early agreements in what promises to be a wild but uneven market.
There are several small forwards who haven't reached agreements yet, but we're already getting some sense of what they could be worth in the wake of Parsons and Hayward coming to terms. Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza both have a number of suitors, and their pricing is likely to reflect that.
Deng is coming off a season in which he made $14.3 million, and it's hard to see him making any less than $10 million per season. His numbers have remained close to Parsons', and we know how he fared. Plus, Chicago offered Deng a three-year, $30 million extension last season, and he turned it down—so we know he's looking for a big deal.
Ariza might not be much more affordable.
Meanwhile, Trevor Ariza seems to be everyone's backup plan. Wizards want to re-sign him but SF $ is exploding & WAS won't go past $9M/yr.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 10, 2014
Though these figures come in at less than the money Parsons and Hayward will be making, there are important differences—both in terms of things like efficiency and the fact that Parsons and Hayward are younger and coming into their primes.
Differences aside, big money should remain a constant.
If not because of Parsons' and Hayward's deals, then because of a market in which there simply aren't enough above-average wing players to go around. Scarcity drives prices up, and there are a lot of teams looking for two-way swingmen who can shoot.
And that's a trend that probably isn't going anywhere, which should come as welcome news to the Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson.
As the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami notes, "Thompson’s market just exploded right before our eyes."
Kawakami writes, "Essentially, the Warriors' three-year veteran just became a $16-million-a-year value, in a flash of other people's contract agreements."
It's hard to argue with Kawakami's conclusion. Thompson averaged 18.4 points per game last season and made 41.7 percent of his three-point attempts. That's a recipe for big money, and there will be plenty of teams lining up to pay it—assuming the Warriors don't first lock Thompson up with an extension.
The exploding market could also have implications for more defensively minded young wing players like the San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard and the Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler—both set to become restricted free agents in 2015. Leonard's stock rose during an NBA Finals performance that saw him emerge as the series MVP.
Though Butler remains slightly less known, he's got a similar lockdown pedigree and could become indispensable for the Bulls.
At first glance, neither of these guys seems like a Paul George-caliber young superstar. But it might not make any difference when payday rolls around. They could still wind up with max deals or something close to them. Crazy as that might sound, who would have predicted that Hayward would get a max offer this summer?
Pricing talent isn't an exact science, and much depends on how the market shapes up. When there are multiple teams with cap room all pursuing the same targets, those targets will become very expensive.
In that regard, it could be that this summer has been a perfect storm of sorts. The stars have aligned in such a way that players are getting exactly what they want. But this summer will undoubtedly establish a precedent to which agents will point in the future.
If Parsons and Hayward got paid in a big way, then what's to stop future negotiations from demanding the same?
Then again, general managers may look back on this summer and wonder what everyone was thinking. Some deals just aren't judicious expenditures of money, regardless of what the market says someone is worth.
Whether this summer's signings are counted as wise moves or gratuitous splurges will be resolved in time. For now, all we can do is wonder who's next.
Salary information courtesy of Spotrac.