Building the All-Overpaid 2014 NBA Free-Agency Team
Trips to the bank are more comical for some than they are for others.
Take certain NBA free agents, who are no doubt laughing all the way to their local counting house.
Plenty of, shall we say, questionable contracts were handed out this summer. We're not here to debate that. We're not even here to rank the severity of such overpays.
We're here to turn price-gouging pacts into an actual basketball team!
(Pauses until riotous cheers of anticipation subside.)
Building such an expensive convocation isn't about pinpointing the worst contracts of the 2014 free-agency period. Some members will be owners of the absolute worst contracts; others won't.
This is about assembling poorly priced deals by position, and then taking into account their length and value.
For fans of financially prudent teams, this will be entertaining practice. Those who support spendthrift franchises, meanwhile, are urged to take a deep breath and distance themselves from sharp objects that can double as painful weapons.
To begin, here's a look at how the remaining six of the 12 roster spots—most of the bench, save for sixth man—would look.
Consider this one of those situations where riding the pine is kind of, sort of flattering...but not really.
Backup PG: Brian Roberts, Charlotte Hornets
It says a whole lot about the NBA's point guard depth that Brian Roberts is here. But hey, every team, imaginary or not, needs a backup point man.
His two-year, $5.5 million deal isn't atrocious by any means, but for a team that's now housing Kemba Walker, Gary Neal, Lance Stephenson and Jannero Pargo, and for a guy still so unproven, it's a (very) slight overpay.
Backup SG/SF: P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns
This is one of those deals that flew under the radar.
Three years and $16.5 million is a lot for P.J. Tucker. A whole lot. He'll grab rebounds and play some defense, but his shooting and scoring are not guaranteed.
Backup SG: Ben Gordon, Orlando Magic
That any team, let alone a rebuilding squad like the Magic, is still paying Ben Gordon to play basketball should come as astonishing.
That the Magic thought he was worth two years and $9 million is somewhat sickening.
Backup SF: Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
If it had been the Hornets who landed Gordon Hayward, he would be in the starting lineup. The Jazz get some leeway here because they're one of a few teams that must overpay to retain sound talent.
Really, they had no choice other than to pay him $63 million over the next four years. But that doesn't mean Hayward, at this moment, is worth it. Because he's not.
Backup PF: Trevor Booker, Utah Jazz
It doesn't matter that the second year of Trevor Booker's two-year, $10 million deal isn't guaranteed. It doesn't matter that the Jazz have to overpay for most talent.
Booker will be earning more than double his 2013-14 salary (just under $2.4 million), and he will also be the fourth-highest paid player on Utah's roster, even though he's their fourth-best big at best.
That is not OK.
Backup C: Jordan Hill, Los Angeles Lakers
Although the Lakers hold a team option for the second year of Jordan Hill's two-year, $18 million contract, his deal looks less nothing-to-see-here knowing they also have Carlos Boozer, Julius Randle and Ed Davis. That this is basically an expiring contract helps, but only a little bit.
Hill is, without question, being overpaid.
Starting Point Guard: Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings
2013-14 Stats: 11.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 46.7 percent shooting, 16.2 PER
Contract: Three years, $16 million
The Sacramento Kings must really like Darren Collison. Or they must really hate Isaiah Thomas. Whatever their motives here, Collison wins; the Kings themselves do not.
There was no reason—avoiding luxury taxes included—for the Kings to replace Thomas with Collison. Not at this price.
Collison has never truly excelled as a starting point guard. He lost playing time to Mike James in 2012-13 while with the Dallas Mavericks, and the Indiana Pacers ranked 22nd and ninth in offensive efficiency during his two years running the show. He won't come in and help reinvent Sacramento's offense.
Re-signing Thomas would have cost the Kings about $2.5 million more in 2014-15, not including any possible taxes. With the way Thomas' deal in Phoenix is structured—declining annual salaries—that difference falls to $1.9 million in 2015-16.
And then $1.3 million in 2016-17.
So, yes, Collison's deal is erroneous in this context. At a deep position, replacing a more potent version of himself, he should have cost the Kings less.
Instead, he's running point for our inexplicably hundy-stick-saturated organization.
Starting Shooting Guard: Jodie Meeks, Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Stats: 15.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 46.3 percent shooting, 14.7 PER
Contract: Three years, $19.5 million
You're welcome, Avery Bradley.
There is no denying the Detroit Pistons needed shooting; they ranked 29th in deep-ball marksmanship last season. But Jodie Meeks is not a definitive solution to their offensive range conundrum.
"Detroit did exactly what it needed to do by acquiring one marksman after another," Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal wrote. "It just had to add a bunch of questionable—and that's being nice in some cases—contracts to the books in order to do so."
Meeks is one of those questionable additions. Last season's showing was an outlier. He averaged a career high in points and three-point percentage (40.1) for a 27-win Lakers team that ranked second in possessions used per 48 minutes (pace), but 21st in offensive efficiency.
Last year was only the second time Meeks registered double-figure point totals, too. Neither team—the first of which was the 2010-11 Philadelphia 76ers—finished with a record above .500 or in the top half of offensive efficiency.
Up until now Meeks has been a player capable of gaining offensive distinction on bad-to-mediocre teams. If the Pistons are looking to be something more than that, paying Meeks $6 million next season—which is more than he's made for his career ($5.3 million)—isn't the way to go.
Not to mention the Greg Monroe situation isn't helping. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today says Monroe will sign his qualifying offer rather than accept a new contract from the Pistons, meaning he will earn more than $500,000 less than Meeks.
While that's his choice, it still feels weird. And wrong.
Starting Small Forward: Chandler Parsons, Dallas Mavericks
2013-14: 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 47.2 percent shooting, 15.9 PER
Contract: Three years, $46 million
Chandler Parsons may eventually reveal himself to be worthy of such an expensive pact, but for now he's one of the most overpaid players in the NBA.
The spirit of this raise isn't outrageous. Parsons earned less than $1 million last season while joining Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and LeBron James—all of whom took home at least $14.7 million—as the only four players to maintain per-game benchmarks of 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and 37 percent shooting from deep.
Somewhat ironically, Parsons will make approximately $14.7 million in 2014-15, which is what Love earned last season. But Love is an established superstar with three All-Star appearances to his credit, while Parsons has yet to prove he can be anything more than a No. 3 option on a fringe contender.
Deferring to two other superstars isn't an option in Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis may be featured more than him, but the Mavericks don't have a superstar in his prime. Their offense will be a success or failure by committee, its strength and effectiveness predicated on players such as Parsons and Ellis performing like No. 1 options.
Can Parsons be that guy for the Mavs? For a playoff team in the loaded Western Conference?
Mark Cuban's Mavericks are hoping he can be after investing almost as much in him next season as they're paying Nowitzki and Ellis combined ($16.3 million).
Starting Power Forward: Chris Bosh
2013-14 Stats: 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 51.6 percent shooting, 19.0 PER
Contract: Five years, $118.7 million
Look, Chris Bosh is still a star; the Miami Heat just don't know what kind of star. And while he may spend most of his time at center, he gets the power forward nod here because, frankly, there were a glutton of pricey frontcourt pacts signed this summer.
Bosh hasn't been the focal point of an offense or headlined a team in four years. The last club he anchored, the Toronto Raptors, tasted playoff basketball twice in seven years, never making it out of the first round.
Things should, in theory, be different with the Heat. Luol Deng and Dwyane Wade are top-flight sidekicks Bosh never had in Toronto; Erik Spoelstra is the coach he never had, too. But after four years of playing third fiddle to James and Wade, Bosh's value is unclear, as ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh (subscription required) expertly discloses:
Still, it'll be fascinating to see how his role change will affect his ranking here. The Heat are banking on the fact Bosh was marginalized somewhat in his role as a floor-spacing big man and will hope to see his value go up once he becomes a No. 1 option. Bosh has shown he can be a 24-and-10 player in the NBA, but it's uncertain whether he can anchor a top-10 defense while doing it. If he can pull it off, he'll be worth a max contract. But based on last season, he has a lot to prove as he enters his 30s.
That Bosh's ability to make good on this deal is even up for discussion means it's too expensive.
Max contracts aren't handed to players who might be worth it; they're given to obvious superstars who, if all things go according to plan, live up to the expectations their price tags set.
This deal was offered to Bosh out of jutting necessity. The Heat lost James to the Cleveland Cavaliers and weren't about to lose Bosh, whose absence would leave them to rebuild around Wade's paper knees.
"I'll be damned if I was going to let him walk out the door," Heat president Pat Riley said of Bosh, per our own Ethan Skolnick.
Maybe so. The thing with Bosh is Riley and the Heat may eventually find out they're damned for wedging said door shut.
Starting Center: Marcin Gortat
2013-14 Stats: 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.5 blocks, 54.2 percent shooting, 17.6 PER
Contract: Five years, $60 million
Polish Hammers sure are expensive these days.
There isn't a realistic scenario in which Marcin Gortat will be worth $60 million over the next five years. Even if he were to maintain last season's level of production throughout—unlikely—this is still an overpay.
The question we should all be asking: Why?
Why did the Washington Wizards give him this much money? Other teams may have been interested, but a player like Monroe cannot even find an offer sheet worth signing; what organization is dangling five years and $60 million in front of 30-year-old Gortat?
Big men aren't known for staying productive well into their 30s. The fact that Gortat's salary only increases as he ages doesn't help, either. He'll be earning almost $13.6 million in 2018-19...when he's 35.
For a Wizards team still paying Nene, on the verge of handsomely compensating Bradley Beal and with Kevin Durant aspirations in 2016, per The Washington Post's Michael Lee, Gortat's deal won't make sense after two seasons.
Then again, overpriced, long-term contracts that aren't the result of overt bidding wars rarely make any sense at all.
Sixth Man: Channing Frye, Orlando Magic
2013-14 Stats: 11.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, 43.2 percent shooting, 13.2 PER
Contract: Four years, $32 million
So. Many. Questions.
First, when did Channing Frye get so old? Seems like only yesterday the New York Knicks were on the brink of ruining his potential as a floor-spacing big man.
Second, Gordon? And Frye? What in the sweet name of Penny Hardaway is going on in Orlando?
Not even Canis Hoopus' Kyleratke knows, though not for want of trying:
The Magic have overpaid Ben Gordon and Channing Frye this offseason. I’m not real sure what’s going on down there. I’ve heard they want to make sure they are over the cap minimum, but if that’s the case, that still isn’t an excuse to give Frye a four-year deal.
What the Magic have apparently done is overpay Frye—who is now the most expensive player on their roster—to come off the bench. And if he doesn't come off the bench, well, that just means he's taking even more minutes away from youngsters Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Kyle O'Quinn and Andrew Nicholson.
Where's the sense in that?
Buried within a haze of Frye's increased shot totals? Hidden behind the Magic's secret obsession with aging players taller than 6'10" who can hoist threes?
Orlando is in the midst of an extensive rebuild. There's plenty of talent—especially up front—for it to evaluate. If the Magic wanted to find an offensively savvy big man, fine. Do it. Bring in some veteran leadership.
Just don't flagrantly overpay for said guidance, to the point where it makes no sense and curbs spending power for almost a half-decade.
All salary and contract information courtesy of ShamSports.