What a fun and wild free agency it was, and with players, agents and teams all knowing they had money to spend without abandon, the dollars came flowing for seemingly everyone who was able to get out of their contract this offseason — that is, everyone except J.R. Smith.
The upcoming cap boom has given the green light for teams to overpay second and third-tier players this offseason, knowing that the salary cap will be making a substantial jump in the coming years. That bump up in cap room will make the contracts that seem cringeworthy this offseason somewhat palatable long term.
While the extra cap space will minimize the negative effect of overpaying some of these guys, the fact of the matter is still that a handful of second and third-rate players are now receiving max salaries or close to it. Players with huge question marks are being paid like superstars.
These contracts may not be that bad in a few years, and there’s always a possibility some of these players develop into a high-level contributor and makes good on the huge figures on their checks. Until then, here I present the 2015 NBA Free Agency’s All-Overpaid Team, starting with a few honorable mentions.
Rondo, Williams and Williams get a nice honorable mention despite all being on one or two-year deals for reasonable money. The problem is that they stink, and everybody knows they stink. They don’t really qualify because of the nature of their short-term contracts, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t overpaid.
Love and Dragic fall into different categories. They definitely don’t stink, but I’m not sure they’re definitely elite. Love obviously had a higher value before coming to Cleveland. There was never a doubt he would get a max contract, but after the Cavaliers succeeded without him in the playoffs, his reputation took a hit.
Dragic flashed his immense talent in Phoenix, but after forcing his way out to Miami, who subsequently lost Chris Bosh for the season, things changed. He wasn’t the run-and-gun attacker we’d seen previously with the Suns. Great for him that he got a huge contract anyway, but the money lost its luster.
And Smith hasn’t gotten paid yet, but when he does, let’s just assume it’ll be way too much. But without further adieu, your All-Overpaid Team.
Point Guard – Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons
“People talk about me getting $80 million, now you got people getting $85 million that haven’t made the All-Star (Game) or anything like that. I guess they came in at the right time. That new CBA kicked in and they’re good now. Reggie Jackson gets five years, $80 million. I’m getting the same as Reggie Jackson.”
When Wall puts it that way, the contract certainly sounds awful.
Jackson struggled in his final days with the Thunder, tanking his value before being traded. He put up some big numbers in Detroit, but there are questions about whether he can keep that up. He’s now one of the highest-paid players at his position, and the burden of all that cash could catch up with him fast and hard.
Shooting Guard – Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks
Originally, Matthews’s four-year deal worth around $52 million seemed like a risk, but one that could possibly could’ve been worth it given the circumstances. Before the injury he’d have easily been worth that on the open market, and likely would’ve gotten the max based on his combination of defense and three-point shooting.
Post injury, the $13 million annually was definitely more of a risk. An Achilles injury will rob him of some of the explosion and athleticism that made him such a tremendous weapon in Portland. Many, including me, are skeptical about his chances of returning to form.
After the DeAndre Jordan emoji saga, the Mavericks had some extra cash to work with and bumped up Matthews to $70 million over four years. I don’t care how much the cap increases, if Matthews is limping around at half the speed he did last year, it’ll be a very long and very expensive four years in Dallas.
Small Forward – DeMarre Carroll, Toronto Raptors
Another 3-and-D star who’s now being paid like a top option is Carroll, who leaves the Hawks and the masterful spacing of Mike Budenholzer’s offense. In Toronto, he should fit in well along the perimeter with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
At four years and $60 million, his deal is a little less outrageous than the rest of the players in this starting five. Part of that is because the 3 is the spot where he had the least competition, but part is what similar players were paid. Danny Green is underpaid in San Antonio, but it’s still hard to think that Carroll is a better player. Toronto knew it had to overpay to bring him in, where the Spurs have the luxury and history of winning to get Green on a team-friendly deal.
The difference between Carroll and a similarly overpaid player like Tobias Harris, who makes the All-Overpaid Team’s bench, is that the 28-year-old Carroll is more of a known commodity in the NBA. Harris at least has the upside to develop his game to meet his contract, even if it’s a risk as well.
Power Forward – Enes Kanter
Kanter has to be the team captain, with his max contract in Oklahoma City paying him $70 million over four years. While he’s been an offensive threat, his defense has been so atrocious he’s still probably considered a minus overall player. Playing with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will only make this problem more evident, as they carry the offense and will require a defensive presence behind them.
The way the Jazz were aching to get rid of him before the trade deadline last year, I don’t think they would’ve been thrilled to keep him around at a max contract. Portland must have thought it was worth taking a chance on him after losing LaMarcus Aldridge, but the Thunder better hope he’s able to improve his game defensively enough to stay on the court and that he doesn’t become an extremely expensive cheerleader in crunch time.
Center – Greg Monroe
A big deal was made over Monroe spurning the Lakers and Knicks, but my first thought was how lucky those teams were to get out of paying him like a superstar center. Even with the cap bump, Monroe is a minus defender in the post, providing little rim protection for a player his size.
A more polished offensive player than Andre Drummond, with a decent short jumper, good hands and smart passing from the post, there’s a reason the Pistons didn’t fight to keep him. In Drummond they had the rim protection and beef in the middle Monroe wasn’t providing. They’re betting that Drummond can continue to develop as a pick-and-roll threat rather than muck up the spacing by keeping both players. This is the team that gave Jackson a five-year deal for $80 million, so it isn’t like they’re afraid to spend money.
The Bucks aren’t in the woods after a three-year max commitment of $51 million, especially since he’s joining an intriguing young roster in Milwaukee, but they spent a lot of money on a second-tier big man who hasn’t proven to have the ability to anchor a defense.
The difference between the bench and the starters is basically upside. Unless Matthews gets right back to his pre-injury self, the starting five seems to have a pretty defined ceiling. It’s difficult to imagine that group taking their games to a huge jump during their next contracts.
The same thing can be said about Millsap, but at least we know he’ll be solid to good, which is more than I expect from Kanter.
For me, Knight is a better player than Jackson at a slightly better price. Harris has a certain upside Carroll doesn’t, and I actually would’ve considered him a 4 more than a 3, which would’ve pitted him against Kanter. I guess I could’ve dropped Kanter to the 5 and given Monroe relief, but I wasn’t desperate to get Harris in the starting five. He’s 23 years old and could wind up being underpaid if things break right. Same goes with Middleton. He and Harris might be getting paid more than they’ve proven on the court, but the potential warranted those deals. They might be overpaid, but I still like the risk on both those contracts.
Shumpert has the smallest contract of anyone on this list, and that saves him from the starting five. I’ve seen enough of him in New York and Cleveland to know he isn’t on the precipice of taking his game to the next level. Speaking of Cleveland, Tristan Thompson hasn’t signed his contract yet, but let’s just assume he’s going to get overpaid. Still, he can contribute at a high level with rebounding and versatility on defense, so even maxing him out wouldn’t be enough to unseat Kanter at the 4. He’ll be closer to the Harris and Middleton version of overpaid than the Kanter/Jackson type of deal.
Regardless of how these contracts look in a year or two, it seems like every team will have cap space coming to them, and none of these guys will turn into Rashard Lewis or Gilbert Arenas or Amar’e Stoudemire. Still, the fans will look at those huge salaries and no one will be able to blame them for being disappointed in the player who comes attached to them.