As the end of the lockout (hopefully) approaches, NBA free agents are preparing to see offers from potential suitors.
Many of the top players in the 2011-2012 free agent class have already signed extensions (such as Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah), leaving NBA teams with a lot of money to spend, and a comparatively limited amount of talent to choose.
Which NBA players will receive contracts in 2011 that will prove to be too large?
Brooks was a disappointment in Atlanta and Phoenix last season.
With Steve Nash looking at the last few years of his career (and possibly his last in Phoenix if he’s looking to sign with a contender in 2012), Phoenix looks to Aaron Brooks to be their point guard of the future.
Brooks will turn 27 in January and is approaching the peak of his career. His offensive efforts earned him the 2010 Most Improved Player award, in a season where he dropped nearly 20 points a game (on a Houston team bereft of capable scorers).
However, after the 2009-10 season, his production dropped off significantly, earning him a trade to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick (ouch).
Brooks is a restricted free agent, so look for Phoenix to match hefty offers in order to secure their future. Brooks will be a worthy starter on a few just-okay Phoenix teams, but don’t expect him to earn his paycheck.
Chandler proved to be essential in Dallas's Finals win over Miami.
There is a lot to be said about Tyson Chandler’s defensive abilities. After all, it was his defensive contribution that redefined the Dallas Mavericks’ system, pushing them over the top and to a championship.
While most NBA players would have nothing to worry about at his age (he just turned 29), Chandler’s lengthy injury history is concerning, and the 74 games he managed last season will, in all likelihood, be the most he will play in any season for the rest of his career.
On top of this, he is notorious for being incapable on the offensive end. Coming off a championship season in which Chandler was one of the key pieces, Dallas is expected to pay whatever the cost may be to keep him.
Chandler is a great piece on a competitor, and he brings a number of great things to the table. However, he will not justify the eight-digit salary he will undoubtedly make next season.
Richardson's offensive abilities are valuable, but are they worth what he will make in 2011-12?
Coming to Orlando in the Gortat-Turkoglu trade early last season, Richardson brought with him a hefty salary...over $14 million.
Richardson fit well with the Phoenix Suns, where he spent a good portion of his career. A deadly three-point shooter and versatile offensive weapon, he is naturally better suited with a “run and gun,” offense-first system.
However, on a team headlined by three-time defensive player of the year Dwight Howard, J. Rich became a defensive liability on the perimeter, putting Orlando at the mercy of sharp-shooting guards (especially when paired with fellow defensive scrub Gilbert Arenas...yikes).
Additionally, with an Orlando team stacked with capable three-point shooters (Anderson, Nelson, Redick, Turkoglu, Arenas, etc.), Richardson’s input in Orlando could best be described as “redundant.”
With Orlando (barring a trade) retaining all of their shooters for the 2011-12 season, don’t expect them to make a move to keep Richardson.
Expect an up-tempo team such as New York to offer him a hefty contract. The good news is that while Richardson will never live up to the huge salary he has coming, his talents won’t suffer hugely as he ages (he’ll turn 31 in January).
Don’t expect him to headline a team in three years, but he’ll be a good source of instant offense off the bench for years to come.
The newlywed Humphries with his wife, Kim Kardashian
Humphries, the latest NBA player to be named Mr. Kardashian, had a career year last year in New Jersey, registering career highs in points, rebounds, blocks, and FG%.
Humphries arrived on a Nets team absolutely devoid of rebounding ability. The only other capable force in the frontcourt, Brook Lopez (not an incredible rebounder to begin with), had a rebounding drop-off that could best be described as “horrific.”
This left the door open for Humphries to grab plenty of rebounds. It’s no coincidence that his rebounding totals were nowhere near as good in Dallas and Toronto. It’s also no coincidence that he shined brightest on his contract year.
If he re-signs in New Jersey, expect only a slight drop-off until better rebounding help arrives. If another team is foolish enough to try to outbid New Jersey (lots of cap space, plus Mikhail Prokhorov has deep pockets), expect an immediate decline in his production.
On a successful team, Humphries, at best, has a moderate bench role.
Barea was brilliant coming off the bench in the Playoffs for Dallas.
Jose Juan Barea is pretty much everything you could ask for in a backup point guard. He’s a capable passer, and he can score when needed.
He was a great source of instant offense for Dallas last season, and he unexpectedly came up in the clutch several times in the playoffs to help Dallas win the championship.
However, part of what made Barea so great was his salary: he made only $1.8 million last season, which is great for such a strong backup point guard.
With Jason Kidd nearing the last year of his contract (and in all likelihood, his career) Barea will the front runner for the starting spot.
Consequently, this offseason, he will get paid like a starter. Mark Cuban will be happy to spend as much money as he must in order to keep Barea.
However, it is questionable if the 6-foot-nothing guard has the talent to start on a contender. His size often makes him a defensive liability, and his scoring ability suffers when defenses aren’t focusing 90 percent of their efforts on stopping Dirk Nowitzki.
While Barea is a good player to keep around, his ability to lead a successful team (and earn the sizable paycheck he has coming) remains questionable.
Davis living up to his nickname
Glen Davis is a perfect example of a guy who plays it up on his contract year. Big Baby improved his production to a healthy 12 and 5, up from the 6 and 4 he put up the previous season.
His contributions on the court earned him mentions for Sixth Man of the Year honors (he finished fourth in voting). He performed admirably in 13 starts with the Celtics, filling in for an injured Kevin Garnett.
However, his playoff performance (5 and 4 in 21 minutes per game) was nothing short of miserable, and was a big reason for Boston’s disgraceful performance against Miami, a team they dominated in the regular season.
Davis has a history of being greatly emotionally affected on the court (hence the nickname) and can be a huge liability to morale when the team is suffering.
Although it hasn’t been critical as of yet, Big Baby’s weight could become a problem as he gets older (he turns 26 in November).
If he continues with where he left off last regular season, Davis could be a key bench player on a very good team, but if history is any indication, we might have already seen the best year of his career.
Crawford was the 2009-10 NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Crawford, above all, is a capable scorer. Earning the Sixth Man of the Year award in the 2009-10 season, he has been a cornerstone in Atlanta’s potent offense. Earning eight digits for the first time in his career last season, Crawford is up for what will surely be the last big contract of his career.
Atlanta, already spending too much, will look to move Josh Smith this offseason, and may make a move to re-sign Crawford. Expect Crawford to put out good offensive numbers for no longer than a couple of years.
Unfortunately, history has shown that besides those who are extremely talented (Jordan, Nash, Allen, etc.), shooters tend to play poorly into their 30s. Crawford should be no exception.
Another warning sign is his lack of defensive ability. Teams like Portland (in need of a backup PG while “projects” Nolan Smith and Armon Johnson develop) and Denver (lost J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler to China for the season, needs another capable shooter) will look to steal Crawford from Atlanta, and will most likely offer him a contract that will last longer than his staying power in the NBA.
West performed admirably last season before suffering an ACL injury
Chris Paul has a way of making so-so offensive players look like superstars (see: Tyson Chandler on the pick and roll with Paul vs. with Felton in Charlotte).
That’s not to say that David West is just a so-so offensive player, but he is not the borderline All-Star that he has appeared to be in New Orleans the past few years.
This offseason, New Orleans will do everything in its power to please Chris Paul, even if that means overpaying David West in order to keep him around.
West’s true side will come out when Paul inevitably leaves New Orleans, leaving the Hornets with an overpaid, undersized power forward, who, at best, could be the third-best player on a championship team.
To make matters worse, West’s season-ending ACL injury could spell the end of his days as a high-caliber player. Few players are able to fully recover from such injuries.
If his next contract looks anything like his last (he made $8.2 million in the last year of a front-loaded contract), West’s recovery will have to be nothing short of miraculous if he is to live up to his salary.