I love to get paid just as much as the next guy. But when it comes to figuring out a budget and where to spend your money, I think some GM’s are lost. The absurdity of big-dollar contracts in the NBA has made me think a lot since last offseason. With another off-season just around the corner, I would like to dive into last year’s contracts that were handed out, what players did and didn’t deserve them, and then I would like to focus on this year’s contracts and who should and shouldn’t get a big deal. This might turn into a three or four-part series. Here is Part I today. If I was ever lucky to be GM of an NBA team I might get the jitters and start handing out big contracts to every player. But not every player, or do most players, deserve the amounts they are getting paid. When I am looking to sign or re-sign a player I like to look at a few things.
First, I want to know if the player “worked” for his contract or if it was just to his good fortune that he had a nice playoff run in the previous postseason (Rashard Lewis). There is a difference between working for the contract and benefiting from a “once-in-a-lifetime” postseason.
Second, I want to know how durable the player is. This is a baseball example, but the Minnesota Twins signed catcher Joe Mauer to a nine-year $180-plus million dollar contract in 2010. What happened all of last season? He was hurt. Before the contract, he had been hurt too. But I guess baseball is a bad example and with there being no salary cap, sometimes teams can afford to spend extra money. Plus, there are few good catchers in baseball. Like I said, bad example. But here is a good example: Bryant Reeves. Sure this is way back in time, but do you remember when the then-Vancouver Grizzlies paid Reeves $11.5 million a year, for six years. He was one of the highest paid players back then! He never played a full 82-game season and little production when he was healthy. He played for six seasons and missed 97 games due to injury. Not to mention, he was the 6th overall pick and his best season 16 points and eight rebounds per game. Another example would be Penny Hardaway. I hate having to do this to Hardaway because I liked him a lot as a player, but in 15 seasons, he played in only 704 games (an average of almost 47 games per season) and was paid a total of $120,469,142. That’s almost felon-status for robbing a Federal Reserve Bank, because when he was healthy he was worth some of the money he made.
The third thing I look for in a player is value. Is this player a dime-a-dozen? Or do I think he is the only player of his kind, out there for the foreseeable future? Because if he is a dime-a-dozen, then I don’t need to pay him. I can go get another player. But if I think he is rare, then I should pay him the amount of years until I think another one, like him, will pop-up.
Fourth, and I think last, is production. Was he giving the team solid production, helping us win, and being a good teammate? If he is putting up numbers, but we aren’t winning (Kevin Love; although I think Love is starting make his teammates better), then why should I keep him around, much less pay him an eight-figure contract? I want players who know their role, treat themselves and teammates with respect, and give positive (winning) production.
You might not agree with my criteria, but that’s OK. Feel free to leave a comment below.
With that being said, let’s get to some of the bad contracts that were signed last off-season.
Bad: Arron Afflalo, Denver Nuggets, (five years: $43 million) - This deal doesn’t make sense to me. I love what the Nuggets organization did when they traded Carmelo Anthony for the entire New York Knicks roster, but then they go sign Afflalo to a deal that averages out to $8.6 million a year? Why? I know the way the Nuggets play and it’s based-off of ball movement, finding the open man, and whole-team production. Afflalo averaged 12.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, and 2.4 apg. He didn’t average one steal per game and missed 13 games due to injury. The injury part doesn’t worry me, but what worries me is that they paid $43 to a player who shoots a high-percentage from three, but doesn’t give you much else production. He isn’t a lock-down defensive player and in a game with some pretty elite two-guards (Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Manu Ginobili), why wouldn’t they offer him less money to bring in a post player who can make up for their lack of size on the front line? It would have helped against Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and the Los Angeles Lakers. And in the post-season, he averaged 10.9 ppg and shot 40.7% from the field.
Bad: DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers, (four years: $43 million) - Donald Sterling was real foolish for this one. Guys like Jordan come around every draft. Don’t tell about his athleticism and shot-blocking ability because I simply don’t want to hear it! The boy barely played in the 4th quarter in the playoffs. Reggie Evans played more than he did! Give me a break! This dude is getting more than $10 million a year and he is the following: a hack (three fouls per game), offensive liability (made two baskets OUTSIDE the paint in his four year career), horrendous free-throw shooter (44% for his career), and an average shot-blocker (1.5 blocks per game for his career; two blkpg last season). I mean come on. I know the league isn’t filled with great centers, but how the hell is this man going to get that kind of money when his career numbers are six and six? It’s beyond me.
Bad: Kwame Brown, Golden State Warriors/Milwaukee Bucks, (one year: $7 million) - We already know all we need to know about Brown. Brown has and will be one of the biggest busts in the 2000 era and an overall bad basketball player. Yet, much to my demise, he was awarded a one-year, $7 million contract by the Golden State Warriors back in December of 2011. He played in a total of nine games this season, not bad considering that both the Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks didn’t let him suit-up for 57 of those games. I don’t mean to be harsh on any NBA player, but I hope he is out of the league after this year. But I know someone will be dumb enough to give him another contract. It’s an absolute joke. He shouldn’t even get a pay-check! His money should go straight to charity! That way, he’d be doing all of us a favor and contributing to society.
Bad: Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons, (four years: 27 million) - I can’t believe they paid Prince this much money. This team is going nowhere, and fast. He is 31 years old and well-past his prime, but he will be collecting roughly $6.7 million over the next four, well now three, years. Maybe if it was 2003, I would give him this kind of deal. Oh wait; he would only be a rookie. OK, maybe 2006, when the Pistons were still trying to win.
Bad: Marcus Thornton, Sacramento Kings, (four years: $33 million) - What are you doing? Thornton had one good season (2011) and the Kings reward him $8.25 million over the next four years? They already have a two-guard (Tyreke Evans) and Thornton doesn’t give you much else as a basketball player, except scoring. He played 35 minutes per game in 2011-2012 and averaged three rebounds two assists per game. He shot 44% from the field and 34.5% from three. The Kings could have signed two players for his salary, adding depth to their team and probably making it better in the process. Instead, they are stuck with him. They could have had a shot to over-pay Eric Gordon this off-season!