Free Agent Frenzy: The NBA Underpaid and Overpaid

The Overpaid: 5 Poor Value Contracts

Timofey Mozgov (Lakers, $64 million, 4 years. High: $17 million, 2019-20)

I’ll always remember Mozgov as the guy Blake Griffin dunked on in 2010, mostly because I was inside Staples Center at the time.  The Russian center has improved since then, but not enough to justify $64 million over 4 years.  Other big men with similar skill sets were available at cheaper rates than he commanded.  Laker fans won’t miss Roy Hibbert, but they could regret Mitch Kupchak handing out the Mozgov contract.  After all, Festus Ezeli went to Portland comparatively cheaply.

Solomon Hill (Pelicans, $48  million, 4 years. High: $13 million, 2019-20)

Averaging 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds is apparently enough to get you a substantial raise in this league.  The Pelicans gave the small forward $48 million over 4 years largely based on improved performance in the playoffs.  The Pacers could have kept him for just $2.3 million by picking up his option back in November.  He was so disappointing to that point that Indiana balked.  Instead, Hill is headed to the bayou and getting paid about the same as the reigning MVP largely based on potential.  Incentives in his contract can make it grow even further to a maximum of about $52 million.

Evan Turner (Trailblazers, $70 million, 4 years. High: $18 million, 2019-20)

Portland handed Turner $70 million for the next four seasons.  Of course, the Blazers already have an excellent guard tandem in C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard.  On top of that, they still kept key reserve Allen Crabbe.  Turner is not a superlative shooter.  Maybe the strategy here is to keep the top dogs from wearing down, but the Blazers’ biggest need is frontcourt contributors.  He can provide defense and potentially slide to small forward, but I call this cap mismanagement.

Allen Crabbe (Trailblazers, $75 million, 4 years. High: $19 million, 2017-18)

Just how much money is floating around the league right now?  Not only did the Nets sign Crabbe to an offer sheet worth $75 million over 4 years, Portland ended up matching it.  That led to a “RIP CITY!” tweet from the former Cal standout after learning he would return to the Pacific Northwest.  Crabbe benefited from a strong playoff run that included 9-17 three-point shooting against Golden State.  He also shot 39.4% from distance in the regular season.  However, he doesn’t bring much else to the table and 2015-16 was the first season in which he averaged more than 14 minutes.

Rajon Rondo (Bulls, $30 million, 2 years, opt-out after year one)

Vlade Divac was smart enough to let Rondo leave Sacramento.  On the other hand, the Bulls have been in desperation mode all offseason.  They lucked out by landing Dwyane Wade, but I can’t endorse giving Rondo $30 million over two years.  Rondo is still a good passer, but he’s hardly a steady locker room presence and has also been prone to injuries.  While he improved his three-point shooting on the Kings, Rondo is still a poor transition scorer and has slipped defensively.  Retaining E’Twaun Moore would have been a superior move, but he is now a Pelican.

The Underpaid: 5 Excellent Value Contracts

Seth Curry (Mavericks, $6 million, 2 years. High: $3 million, 2017-18)

Maybe it’s too early to call it a bargain for Dallas, but I have a hunch this deal will work out.  No, Seth isn’t a transcendent talent like his brother Steph.  Even so, the younger Curry ended 2015-16 with a bang and the Mavericks were able to get him for just $6 million over the next two seasons.  Curry scored in double figures in every game last April, including a win over Oklahoma City during which he went 6-10 from behind the arc.  He’s not a great defender, but this was a worthy risk for Mark Cuban’s organization.

Jordan Clarkson (Lakers, $50 million, 4 years. High: $13 million, 2019-20)

Clarkson was a restricted free agent and the maximum offer other teams could give him was capped.  Nevertheless, $50 million over four years is a favorable deal for the Lakers even if Clarkson has a few off nights.  He has shown good shooting range and I think it can get better especially if he improves on corner threes.  The guard is already coming off a season in which he nearly tripled the three-point makes he had as a rookie.  Clarkson is reportedly looking forward to the tutelage of incoming head coach Luke Walton, who will appreciate his off-the-dribble game.

Kevin Durant (Warriors, $54 million, 2 years, year two opt-out)

There have been plenty of articles lately speculating about how much LeBron James would make in a truly open market with no salary cap or maximum annual salaries.  $100 million per season might not be an unrealistic number.  For the same reason, Durant is an excellent value at $54.3 million over two seasons.  Durant signed for two years in order to maximize his earning potential thereafter, and Golden State is the beneficiary.  Durant was the single biggest obstacle in the Western Conference as far as Golden State was concerned.  Now, Warriors fans may not have to wait long to erase the bad taste of this year’s Finals.

Marvin Williams (Hornets, $54 million, 4 years, year four opt-out) 

Williams enjoyed a career renaissance in Charlotte, and maybe that’s why the Hornets were able to keep him for $54.5 million over four years.  Williams admitted that his relationships with teammates made him want to stay, and he also played at UNC prior to being drafted.  He is an excellent perimeter shooter who also has good touch around the hoop.  Last year, Williams posted his best career Player Efficiency Rating (16.90).  The Hornets should feel comfortable about their chances for a postseason berth.

Marreese Speights (Clippers, $1.4 million, 1 year)

Speights signed a one-year deal with the Clippers for the veteran’s minimum which should amount to $1.4 million or so.  The forward has good range off the bench and can give Blake Griffin a breather on those pesky back-to-back road trip games.  He proved he can make the most of limited playing time with the Warriors, scoring 7.1 points in 11.6 minutes last season.  Speights hit 24 threes last year, which was more than he had made in his entire career combined.  It can’t hurt for Doc Rivers to import a guy with a ring.


photo via llananba