As we all just witnessed a couple short weeks ago, you can indeed win a championship through free agency. The Thunder ironically enough were built the old fashioned way through the draft, cultivating young talent and molding it. The Heat of course were created in a laboratory by doctors. Seeing Miami win one championship, and poised to compete for several more will only raise the free agency stakes in the NBA. With big pocket billionaires, do not look for the spending sprees to stop despite what happened this past off season. Let’s recap.
This past NBA season was shortened to 66 games due to there being a lockout. The NBA owners on the heels of the now infamous “decision” and a summer filled with a free agent bonanza that saw 100 million dollar contracts handed out like Halloween candy, decided enough was enough, and shut down the NBA in name of economic reform. The owners thought spending was out of control and ran to the press and anyone else who would listen by claiming the future of the league was in peril if spending continued at this rate.
So after all of the bickering back and forth, meaningless posturing, and David Stern insulting the intelligence of the very members that make up the league he represents, an agreement was reached.
What followed, was in this writer’s opinion, the best season in the post Michael Jordan era, that culminated with the best player in the world, Lebron James, winning his first NBA championship over Kevin Durant, who is sure to challenge for more.
Last week we had the draft and this past Saturday night at midnight NBA free agency began. One would think coming off of a shortened seasone, where home game and preseason game revenue was lost, television revenue was condensed and a new financial climate, that the impoverished billionaire owners would be scrooges right?
Not at all. The money is flying around aimlessly like it’s Pacman Jones’s bar mitvah. Omer Asik, back up center for the Chicago Bulls, I swear you know who he is, was offered a 3 year $25 million contract over the weekend. If the reports are true (and we all know twitter never lies) Asik is set to make right around the $14 million dollar mark in the final year of his deal with the Houston Rockets. This is for a guy who averaged 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game last season.
Roy Hibbert, the steadily improving center for the Indiana Pacers, who played in his first all star game this past season, was offered a max deal of 4 years $58 million by the Portland Trailblazers. Hibbert is a nice player but you are talking about a little over $16 million per year! That is a lot of money for a non franchise changing player.
An all star center in today’s NBA is like being a tall midget. Yes you achieved an accomplishment of being acknowledged by your peers around the league, but there are only 3 legit centers in the league. One is a diva, then there’s Dwight Howard, and Gasol’s brother. The rest are overrated.
To the list: (yes I realize that technically some of these free agent deals are trades. But not really. They are trades forced by a player leaving in free agency and him wanting the max dollars, and the team he is leaving wanted to salvage something from in most cases losing their best player)
1. Joe Johnson: Contract: Six years, $119 million
In the summer of 2010, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire were all free agents. None of them signed for as much money as Joe Johnson. Let that sink in for a moment. What made this deal so hideous for the Atlanta Hawks is they were bidding against themselves. No one in their right mind would have given a very good, but never going to be a superstar player that type of guaranteed money. Deals like this should have scared owners more so than Lebron exercising his free will to be a free agent. Somewhere Mitch Richmond, Clyde Drexler, Bernard King and Sidney Moncreif were having a group vigil thinking about all for the money they missed out on for being born to early. Amazingly the
New Jersey Brooklyn Nets just traded for this iceberg of a contract. But when your owner reportedly makes $40 million in one DAY, what does a luxury tax really mean?
2. Rashard Lewis: six years $118 million
Another all star caliber player making elite type money. Look, I don’t begrude anyone getting paid as much as possible. This country is allegedly about capitalism, no? He’s a damn good player. He can turn the tide on any team that doesn’t have a forward combination worth mentioning, defensively. When he’s aggressive, Lewis can truly change the flow of the game, and he’s grown as a defender. Hardly matters. People who own six-year, $118 million contracts are expected to be all-world types, not players who average 17.7 points and 5.7 rebounds on 44 percent shooting. It’s not Rashard’s fault. He was the same player before he signed the deal.
3. Kenyon Martin:
The Nuggets, were well below the salary cap in the summer of ’04, and foolishly traded three first round picks to the Nets for the rights to one Kenyon Martin. Kenyon was an effective player in the fast break offense of the Nets, filling the wing for future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd. But in a more conventional system he struggles. None of that stopped Denver from offering him a 7 year $91 million contract. Once again a team pays star money for a role player. You can compete for a ring if K mart is your third or fourth best player. However, you don’t give your fourth best player 90 mill. Period.
He is good for at least two really stupid fouls a game. You know like the ones where the other team has two seconds on the shot clock and he swipes down and fouls a guy on an impossible fade away jumper. Or the classic reach in, in the other teams backcourt 75 feet from the basket. Lack of skill or a go to move have left Kenyon to try to be a tough guy in this era of the NBA buddy system. I would love to see K mart play in a different era of real NBA enforcers. Guys like Charles Oakley and Rick Mahorn would snack on this dude in between quarters like the oranges soccer moms bring to games. All those tough looks and tats would get him a couple elbows from Barkley and a quick evening icing his ego down on the bench in foul trouble.
If I was David Stern, and trust me I would love to be that little dictator for a day, I would make a rule that the Nuggets (or any team he is on) is addressed a technical foul at the start of every game, just for K-Mart having some damn lips on his neck. It’s like a bad hicky on steroids. Bright red at that. If he ever committed a murder that would lead to the shortest First 48 episode of all time. “I didn’t see his face officer, but he had these bright red lips on his neck. I’m positive.”
4. Andrei Kirilenko: six year $86 million
This was baffling to me. Yes he was an all star player but he had neither the demeanor or the skill level to ever be an elite player. AK was a great third option on a championship caliber team. In a small mormon market would you really pay your third option that type of money? He did have the whole open marriage thing in Utah going for him that I am sure endeared him to the local community in a way Karl Malone never did, but this contract was a huge mistake.
5. Eric Dampier: seven years $73 million
Once again size wins out. To be 7ft tall in the NBA, a left handed pitcher in Major League baseball, or a busty Blonde getting a speeding ticket, late for work, or a sideline reporter for ESPN, you will always be overpaid. Dampier had no signature skill. I bet if you asked him what he brought to a team, he would struggle to answer. He may be the only NBA player I ever remember without a “prime.” His career makes Kwame Brown blush. He is the original black Darko Steal-a-check.
6. Peja Stojakovic five years, $64 million
Most respect Peja’s ability to spread the floor and destroy defenses from all angles, and he had just turned 28 by the time New Orleans signed him to a five-year, $64 million contract, but age and back woes left him barely a fringe starter in the third year of his deal, and that’s after he missed nearly all of his first season with the Hornets.
7. Ben Wallace: four years, $60 million.
It seemed an awfully curious move at the start. Chicago was coming off a season that saw them ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency, so with a huge gob of cap space, the team’s decision to sign the 32-year-old Wallace (a defensive firebrand) felt a bit off. As a Piston fan I was releived when the Bulls made this ridiculous offer. Coming off of a great run of 7 straight eastern conference finals including a championship in 2004, I thought for sure Joe Dumars was going to overpay to keep Ben Wallace, the single worst offensive player to ever sniff the Hall of Fame in NBA history. But with the bulls offering $15/year the Pistons couldn’t match it, and the fanbase even understood why they had to let Ben go.
Wallace was of course disappointing in a Bulls uniform as his body was in steep decline from years of being an undersized center. He was traded 3 more time before ultimately ending up back in Detroit.
8. Larry Hughes: five years, $70 million.
You can carp about how Hughes may have been playing for a contract in 2004-05, but there doesn’t appear to be a good explanation for the way the St. Louis product seemed to completely fall apart soon after signing a five-year deal worth around $14 million a year in 2005. Not only did his shooting touch (always suspect) completely leave him, but he embarked on a series of low-percentage looks as a member of the Cavaliers, Bulls, and Knicks, enraging fans of each team as he continues to pull up for that 19-footer in transition. Keep in mind people, these contracts are guaranteed.
9. Jerome James: five years, $30 million.
If you have spent any moticam of time on this website then you know how enourmous of an Isiah Thomas fan I am. In fact he is the damn reason we do top 11 lists and not top 10′s. But having said that, the facts are the facts. And while he actually wasn’t that bad of a head coach in Indiana, he was an atrocious team president for the Knicks. Amongst his collage of horrific moves signing Jerome James just may have been the worst. It’s not so much the dollar amount as it is the amount of production he had that didn’t warrant anything remotely close to a 5 year deal.
He was 29 years old, coming off a season that saw him average just 4.9 points and three rebounds in 16.6 minutes a game (with 76 personal fouls for every 36 minutes he played), and Thomas somehow saw him as some sort of diamond in the rough. He did average 17.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and more than two blocks a game against the Kings in the first round of the 2005 playoffs.
10. Vin Baker: seven years, $86 million
As a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, Vin Baker was stellar. He was an all-star in three of his first four years, averaged a double double during those all-star years and was being mentioned as one of the top power forwards in the league. The Sonics gave the chunky and overweight Shawn Kemp the boot in order to get their hands on Baker. He was an all-star in Seattle during his first season with the Sonics but after that it was all down hill. His life on the court plummeted and that was due to the fact that the once devout religious man began wavering in his faith. He put on weight and not bulk from working out, but from excesively drinking. I would never make fun of another man’s addiction, but let’s just say at the end of his Sonic run I’d take Anita Baker over Vin.
11. Elton Brand: 5 Years $79.795 Million
As a Bull and a Clipper, Brand was a walking double double. He went down with a separated shoulder in 2007 and missed 74 games. But the Sixers weren’t concerned about the shoulder. They signed him to a five-year, $80 million deal. What they got back was just dreadful. He sat out 53 games in his first year as a Sixer and watched the team go 40-40 as they made the playoffs in the #7 slot. When Brand played 76 games in this season, he averaged a measly 13 points and 6 rebounds while the Sixers went an abysmal 27-53. Thanks Elton!
Carlos Boozer: Chicago Bulls
Carlos Boozer is a chronic playoff underachiever who plays little to no defense and has had the good fortune of playing with Lebron James, Deron Williams, and now Derrick Rose. Not to mention he regularly applies shoe polish to his balding dome. I wouldn’t trust this guy in a keep moment with my life on the line. The Bulls have drafted very well, but they insist on signing other people’s big guys trying to finish the championship puzzle. This past season T Gibson, a former 2nd round pick was finishing playoff games with Boozer on the bench.
It was close between Carlos and fellow Duke Devil Grant Hill, the difference being when Grant was a free agent and leaving my Pistons, every team in the league would have signed him. That and Grant never looked like he dove head first into an oil spill.
Allan Houston: New York Knicks
Houston was a pure shooter. In fact I bet he is in some gym right now shooting the lights out. He had star qualities but the Knicks gave him a Superstar contract. He lacked the explosive first step to ever be great, but he could have definitely played Pippen to a legit superstar. The plan was for him to be the 2nd piece that Patrick Ewing never truly had. That was the hope anyway when the Knicks’ made nine-figure commitment to Allan, which left the team hamstrung in its ability to make roster moves. Houston’s knees began to betray him in Year 3 of the deal, and he was never the same player again. He played his last game on Dec. 10, 2004, although the entire amount of his contract was guaranteed. He remained the second-highest-paid player in the NBA, behind only Kevin Garnett, more than two years after his last game. Houston flirted with comebacks in 2007 and ’08. But prior to the 2008 campaign, the team waived him and offered him a position in the team’s front office that he smartly accepted.
Who did I miss?