Contractually yours, with love. Analyzing last off-season’s contracts.

Last off-season was the most anticipated free agent class in the history of the NBA.
Almost the entire league dumped contracts in a hope of signing LeBron James, or one of the other talented players available. Well it definitely lived up to the hype. And with the season almost half-way through, nows a good time to look back at the bad, and not-so-bad, contracts signings that took place over the summer, and see what we can learn from them.

Bad contracts…

Joe Johnson – 6 years / $119 million
What we learnt: There needs to be a new CBA.
Superstars in the NBA are hard to come by (just ask Charlotte). And when you do get them, you’ll do anything not to lose them (just ask Cleveland/Toronto/Denver).
Unfortunately, Atlanta was stuck between a rock and a hard place. They could have let Johnson walk and sign a similar deal with the Knicks/Nets/Chicago, meaning they lose their best player for nothing. Or they grossly overpay him, keeping their franchise player but resigning themselves to 5 more years of 1st/2nd round playoff loses. This is up there with the Rashard Lewis signing, however unlike with the Magic, you cannot really blame the Hawks to much.

Al Harrington – 5 years / $33 million
What we learnt: Stay clear of ANY player on a contract year playing under Mike D’Antoni.

Want to know how you can tell it was a bad contract? The Nuggets are now insistent that any team which trades for perhaps their best player in franchise history MUST take Harrington. A guy they signed 6 months ago…

Josh Childress – 5 years / $33 million
Hedo Turkoglu (via trade) – 4 years – $42 million
Hakim Warrick – 4 years – $18 million
Channing Frye – 5 years – $30 million
What we learnt: Perhaps Steve Kerr wasn’t all that bad.

$123 million. That’s the total they invested in 3 swingmen and a 7ft shooting guard. You know else they could have got for 123 million?? AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE!!! And they still would have had $23 million to play with.
The Suns really screwed this off-season up. They claim $100 million was too much to risk on Stoudemire, and then go ahead and do the following:
– Agreed to take on $40 million for an overweight and aging Turkoglu
– Give $33 million to a guy who hasn’t played in the NBA for 2 years
– Sign Hakin Warrick for $15 million more then they could have re-signed Louis Amundson for, who is an exact clone.
– Pay a ‘centre’ $30 million, even though he averages more 3 point attempts per game then rebounds.
It’s going to be a long time before we see the Suns having the kind of success they had in the mid-2000s.

Al Jefferson (via trade) – 3 years / $43 million
What we learnt: Doing nothing is sometime the best course of action. And David Kahn is still an idiot.

It wouldn’t be a NBA off-season without a dumb David Kahn move. This season we were treated to 2 (See Milicic, Darko). Jefferson and Kevin Love were never going to work, and it was inevitable that one of them was going to have to go. And the Wolves were right in picking Jefferson. But don’t just give him away!! I’m sure if they held off for a while they could have gotten something more then a 2nd round pick. Hell, I guarantee you at least one team would have offered at least first round pick.
As for Utah, they got what appeared to be a steal. However they didn’t take into account the fact that Jefferson is just a horrible match in Utah. He can’t play the pick-and-roll (a religion in any Jerry Sloan side), is a lousy defender, and does basically what Millsap does without adding anything. It’s one of those rare deals where both teams come out losers.

Brendan Haywood – 6 years / $55 million
What we learnt: Mark Cuban is desperate for a championship that he will overpay someone or take on a stupid contract at least once every year.

Literally a week after this deal happened, Tyson Chandler fell into their laps. They now need to re-sign Chandler, meaning they are paying Haywood $10 million a season for the next 5 just to sit on the bench.

Travis Outlaw – 5 years / $35 million
What we learnt: We have a new GM that will rival Cuban in the ‘I’ve-got-so-much-money-that-I’m-just-gonna-throw-$70-million-at-Erick Dampier” contest.

Awful, awful contract. Nets fans, get used to seeing contracts like this over the next decade.

John Salmons – 5 years / $40 million
Drew Gooden – 5 years / $32 million
What we learnt: When a guy has played for 8 teams in 8 years, there is usually a reason for it.

As for Salmons, he had a case of the classic ‘contract-year’ performances last year, and the Bucks fell for it. And its gonna cost them for a long time.
The main themes in all these contracts:
– Overpaying big men (Haywood, Fyre, Gooden, Jefferson)
– Overpaying a guy who used to be good 2-3 years ago and you think they are due for a ‘comeback’ season (Turkoglu, Childress, Harrington)
– Getting overly excited about young, athletic players (Outlaw, Warrick)

With all that in mind, the following players will be overpaid this off-season:
Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, JR Smith, Yao Ming, Rodney Stuckey, TJ Ford, Ronny Turiaf, Nick Young, Nene, Greg Oden

Not-so-bad contracts…

LeBron James – 6 years / $110 million
Chris Bosh – 6 years / $110 million
What we learnt: Pat Riley is the leagues best GM; The past 2 years of speculation has been a waste because this was already decided back in the 2008 Olympics. LeBron is a douchebag.
3-kingsNot much to say on this. LeBron James did what every other 25 year old boy would do: move to Miami to go play with his 2 best buddies.

Amar’e Stoudemire – 5 years / $100 million
What we learnt: When you get a chance to give $100 million to a guy coming off multiple surgeries to his knee and a detached retina which could lead to him losing his eye completely any game now, YOU DO IT!

This one doesn’t make any sense at all, but the NBA never does. At the moment it’s looking like the Knicks got themselves the 2nd best free agent last year. We’ll see what happens in 2-3 years time, but if Stoudemires health holds up, then the Knicks may finally have completed a smart free agent signing.

Rudy Gay – 5 years / $82 million.
What we learnt: Sometimes a bad contract is actually a good one.

The Grizzlies were in a similar position to the Hawks with Joe Johnson in that the had a star player who they know they are going to have to overpay to keep him. And they did.  Yet now, looking back at it, I’d say they do this deal 10 times out of 10. He might not be at the superstar level yet, but he’s the best player the Grizzlies are going to get. And $15 million for a efficient scorer who can defend the best players in the league, has a great work ethic, and actually WANTS to play in Memphis.
Good deal for all I say.

Rajon Rondo – 5 years / $55 million
What we learnt: If you have a young star coming off contract, don’t wait til he hits the free agent market and can start getting max offers from Mark Cuban.

I know this wasn’t done over the off-season, but it’s a great lesson for all teams. Had Rondo made it to the off-season as a free agent, I guarantee you someone offers him 5 years $80 million. Just look at the bad contracts that were handed out over the off-season.
Instead, he’ll now be making the list of ‘underpaid players’ in the league for the next 5 years. Kudos to Danny Ainge.

Tracy McGrady – 1 year / $1.3 million
What we learnt: When you have the chance to sign a future hall-of-famer under the age of 32 at the league minimum, then you do it.

He might not be the player he used to be, or even near to it, but he’s still a damn good player. You don’t just lose all that talent you once had overnight. I still cannot believe Detroit were basically the only one prepared to take a risk on this guy. If he was 35-36 years old, then I could understand. But he’s one year removed from his 30th birthday.

Dorell Wright – 3 years / $11 million
What we learnt: Every player in the league should sign a one-year deal with the Warriors, put up All-Star calibre numbers, and then earn themselves a huge multi-year contract the following year.

With all that in mind, the following players will be underpaid this off-season:
Jeff Green, David West, Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, Chuck Hayes, Tayshawn
Prince, Arron Afflalo, Kendrick Perkins

It’ll be interesting to look back as the off-season unfolds, and we’ll see who gets what.  I guess that’s all depending on the Sword of Damocles: the new CBA.