Less Is Not More for These 3 Free Agents

Who is not performing up to their contract level? Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Bradley Beal. Let’s take a look at the struggling with their game free agent summer class.

Pau Gasol ($31 million/2 years): Pau Gasol has been playing basketball a very long time. The 3rd pick in the 2001 draft was traded on draft night from Atlanta to Memphis. He has been active in the league ever since. Gasol has been an All-Star, a two-time NBA champion, an Olympic silver medalist and skilled big man. The Spurs are probably his last team and his $15 million dollar per year salary means they are expecting his offensive skill set to provide much needed scoring around the rim. But there is no getting around Gasol’s mileage. He has played 37,000 minutes of tough basketball. How much really is left in the tank? When he has to guard younger, more explosive athletes, what is his ceiling?

The 36 year old is posting career lows in offensive rebounding and total rebounding. His defensive rebounding is the lowest it’s been since 2004-05.  He is also posting career lows in assists, steals and points, only 9.3 points per game. He is playing similar minutes that Tim Duncan played last year and having a similar year but Duncan was 40 years old and Gasol is not.

Points FG% Rebounds PER
Pau Gasol, 2016-17 9.3 47.4% 6.7 17.3
Tim Duncan 2015-16 8.6 48.8% 7.3 16.9

Gasol has had one double digit game this season, at Miami. He scored two points against the quick Warriors and 8 points each against the young front court of the Jazz, in both meetings. Last night against the Clippers and DeAndre Jordan, Gasol had 11 points and 4 rebounds.


Joakim Noah ($72 million/4 years): This was a bad idea on paper, another Phil Jackson living in the past moment but here we are with Noah. He is rebounding the ball and moving it well but the part of his game that includes scoring, well he is getting an F, 4.8 points a game.  Noah is 6-11 and he’s shooting 50.0%. Just in case everyone forgot who Noah used to be, once upon a time he used to average double figures. In 5 games, he has dropped 24 points. Against the Rockets and D’Antoni ball, Noah had 1 offensive rebound and 1 defensive rebound in 18 minutes, totally out played and out-athleticized by Clint Capela. Of course, the Knicks lost by 19. He bounced back against the Bulls and his former stomping ground, 16 points and 9 rebounds, more points than in the previous games combined. Was this the Noah that Phil Jackson envisioned? Or was this some latent nostalgia that will disappear within three games?

That Was Then, This Is Now Joakim Noah Points FG% Rebounds PER
2013-14 (Bulls) 12.6 47.5% 11.3 20.0
2016-17 (Knicks) 4.8 50.0% 7.8 15.5

Noah’s plummet from 2013-14 is an indicator his career has hit the ugly part: too old to do much but still wants money. The Knicks have entered into bad contracts before but this makes Andrea Bargnani and Allan Houston look like bargains. The Knicks are on the hook for three more years which means three more years of $18 million a year as Noah continues his decline. Whoever thought Timofey Mozgov, the former Knick, would have a higher points per game (7.6) than Noah.


Bradley Beal ($128 million/5 years): Bradley Beal thinks he is the best shooting guard in the NBA. Better than and let’s count: 1. Klay Thompson. 2. DeMar DeRozan. 3. Jimmy Butler. 4. C.J. McCollum. Not to break Beal’s bubble but 17 points, 37.3%, 29.6% from three doesn’t vault you to the top of the class nor does it endear you in the district when you have won only one game and your chemistry with John Wall is suspect.

2016-17 Points FG% 3-Point% PER
Bradley Beal 17.0 37.3% 29.6% 12.3
Jimmy Butler 21.2 48.1% 47.6% 23.4
DeMar DeRozan 35.8 55.1% 12.5% 34.0

Wizards fans who are watching in horror at this sleepwalking disaster on defense has never seen Beal react in this offensively mediocre way. 13 points against the Hawks. 14 points in Memphis. 15 points against the Raptors and Magic. 28 points against the Hawks which looked like the Bradley Beal who is making $25 million. A few nights ago, Beal was humiliated by DeMar DeRozan who dropped 40 on him when he couldn’t even manage 20. What’s wrong with Bradley Beal?

There is a new coach and a new system and a more irritated John Wall and the pressure of that contract and having to live up to it. Furthermore, Beal’s game seems to be the same, not inclusive of any new wrinkles or adjustments, just the usual three point shooting and drives to the rim. His start is very slow when the Wiz need the opposite since they haven’t exactly wowed anyone with their offensive or defensive game.  There is still time to prove he is a $25 million dollar player.


photo via llananba