A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

NBA Free Agency Preview: Prepare for some shockingly high per year numbers

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If the NBA lockout is lifted by Thursday’s vote as expected, free agency will start on Friday, December 9th. The last time we had an NBA offseason, it kicked off with some WTF sized contracts to players like Drew Gooden, Travis Outlaw, Channing Frye, Darko Milicic, etc., and of course, the Joe Johnson max contract debacle. Teams couldn’t help themselves.

The biggest change in the NBA CBA in regards to free agency is limiting the length of contracts. Essentially teams can offer 5 years instead of 6 to their own players, 4 years to free agents they don’t have the rights to instead of 5, and 3 year MLE contracts instead of 5 years.

Here’s what concerns me. If someone has an eating problem, they’re not going to solve it by committing to eating 3 times a day instead of 4 or 5. They’ll just eat more during those 3 meals to make up for it.

In this case, I still believe NBA GMs will be predisposed to overpay players. The reasons for that hasn’t changed. Desperation, a need to appease stars before they hit free agency, an oversized market mixed with a limited supply of players, and an overall inability to help themselves does them in. They just can’t ink them for as many years. What I believe this means is that the annual size of contracts is going up. Shorter contracts reduces the risk that you’ll have an albatross for an excruciating long term, but that reduced risk could logically make GMs more bullish to pay players even more during that time period, until they’re larger annually by enough to become as dangerous to hold as the 5 and 6 year bad contracts were . If a general manager was willing to pay a player 60 million over 5 years in the old CBA, what’s to say he’s not willing to spend the same 60 million on a 4 year contract in this one? It’s the same financial commitment which may be all that matters. For that reason I believe that if you take what you’d expect a player to make in the old CBA in total salary and condense it into the shorter contracts, that may be the most accurate measure of what these players will get.

Here’s my predictions for landing spots for the major free agents this offseason:

Nene Hilario – The best spot for him is the New Jersey Nets if they don’t trade for Dwight Howard first. Deron Williams, Anthony Morrow, Nene and Brook Lopez combined a solid 10-13 million more in capspace could make the Nets this year’s version of the Chicago Bulls – a team who “lost” in free agency but turned around and put together a fantastic team anyways with a big FA signing and then a lot more depth.

But I have the Nets making the Howard deal for Brook Lopez. After this, I like the Indiana Pacers for Nene over the Houston Rockets because I believe he wants to play PF permanently. I believe Denver would willingly sign and trade Nene for an small asset from Indiana like a future 1st round pick or AJ Price

Verdict: 5 years, 80 million (S&T) to the Indiana Pacers


Marc Gasol – A restricted free agent, which should drive up his price. If teams want to snatch him from Memphis, they’ll have to offer him a BIG contract to push the Grizzlies away from matching. And the Grizzlies haven’t exactly hid that they’re likely matching any offer sheet for Marc Gasol. As they should after last year’s playoff run and Rudy Gay coming back, has caused many to claim them as the dark horse to contend for the NBA title next season.

Verdict: 5 years, 100 million maximum contract to the Memphis Grizzlies


Tyson Chandler – The key acquisition turning Dallas from a pretender into title winner last season and a perfect fit beside Dirk Nowitzki. Shockingly Marc Cuban says he’s likely not resigning Chandler. Chandler’s inconsistency in his career and injury concern makes him a tough gamble, but I just don’t buy Cuban’s bluff here. He’s never been shy to spend money and the Mavericks are a “It’s not broken, don’t fix it” mentality away from contending for another title. Cuban also seems like the type who’d love to bring back his entire championship team out of love. I could see him loving the 2011 Mavericks enough to retire Chandler, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and J.J. Barea’s numbers one day as easily as I could him letting such a key part of it in Chandler leave the following year

Verdict: 5 years, 80 million to the Dallas Mavericks


J.J. Barea – As with Tyson Chandler, I think Marc Cuban is too attached to the faces of his title team to let Barea go.

Verdict: 3 years, 15 million


Deandre Jordan – Everything’s lining up for Deandre to get a huge contract. He’s young and improving and he’s a hugely athletic defensive presence at C in a league where nobody can get valuable players at the position. He’s also a restricted free agent and there’s blood in the water because teams believe Donald Sterling is cheap enough to let Deandre go. If you’re a team like the Golden State Warriors or Minnesota Timberwolves, a young center is by far the biggest missing piece to complete the young core going forward. I could see a wild offer being made for Jordan.

This is where the “take what you expected for 5 years, shrink it to 4” corrolarly may come in. I could’ve definitely seen 70 million in the old CBA for Jordan over 5 years, so incredibly we might see a 4 year 70 million offer sheet.

Yet at the same time I see the Clippers matching any offer here. Deandre fits with their team both in style of player and chemistry and it looks like the Clips are finally headed to a better place. Sterling has proven he’s more willing to spend lately as shown by the Baron Davis and Chris Kaman contracts.

Verdict: 4 years, 70 million (offer sheet) by the Golden State Warriors. Clippers MATCH.


Samuel Dalembert  – Dalembert is sort of the older version of Deandre Jordan. Huge, block shots, plays a rare position, and has a questionable offensive IQ. There’s talk of Dalembert signing the MLE with Miami, but I see Miami’s offer being maybe half as big as the most he can get from another team – thus I’d be shocked if he accepted. While I like Houston and Golden State as destinations for him, I like Dalembert to follow the money – which in this case is most likely to be the Sacramento Kings. Despite the financial concerns of the Maloofs, the Kings are far under the salary floor of 49 million – Thus they save no money by not spending on Dalembert in this case, though they leave themselves vulnerable to be over the floor in future seasons.

Verdict: 5 years, 55 million to the Sacramento Kings


Marcus Thornton – Thornton lit it up at the end of last season, but I’m not sure if there’s room in the Kings lineup for him with Jimmer Fredette and Tyreke Evans taking the lions share of backcourt minutes. Also, assuming the Kings payroll will only go as high as the 49 million salary floor – both a Dalembert contract and a Marcus Thornton 6-8 million contract would take them above that limit.

A team I like for Thornton is the Minnesota Timberwolves if they don’t sign Deandre Jordan. They don’t have much going at the SG position other than an out of position Wes Johnson and could use Thornton’s scoring and shot creating. They’ll have to pay a steep price for Thornton as a RFA but we all know David Kahn likes ballsy moves

Verdict: 4 years, 40 million offer sheet by the Minnesota Timberwolves. King’s DON’T MATCH.


David West – West’s ACL tear last year certainly cost him financially. At 31 and with that injury history, signing him to big money is a risk. Yet he is still a solid PF and the Hornets will be offering him a nice salary with or without Chris Paul staying long term. The biggest dragon facing the Hornets going forward is how the hell to sell enough tickets to survive on a post Chris Paul bottomfeeder. David West is a familiar face and reasonable 1st option on a bad team. They also need to spend some money to mee the salary floor in the next few seasons. Other solid suitors for West include New Jersey if they miss out on both Howard and Nene, and Indiana if they miss out on the latter. With my projections of Howard going to New Jersey and Nene to the Pacers, I like West to resign with the Hornets at a high price

Verdict: 5 years, 65 million to the New Orleans Hornets


Aaron Afflalo – Afflalo is a highly sought after wing due to the value of SG who can hit 3s at great clip, defend and make smart decisions. I love Denver to match any offer for him here. They have the freed up salary to burn and desperately need to keep a player like Afflalo after seemingly losing Nene.

Verdict: 5 years, 50 million to the Denver Nuggets


Thaddeus Young – Young, alongside Afflalo should be one of the most sought after perimeters player on the board, as a young player with solid length and skill level and the ability to play as a long SF or a stretch PF. He’s also attainable because Philadelphia is bleeding financially and has Andre Igoudala and Evan Turner as athletic wings on the roster.

I also see a lot of interested suitors in him. The Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards could be spenders on Young. The name that jumps out at me there is the Houston Rockets. They don’t have a true starting SF (where I suspect Young wants to play full time) – and Daryl Morey’s reputation appears to have sway with players. I could see the Toronto Raptors offering the highest contract but Young opting to accept the Rockets’ offer sheet.

If Young opts for the Rockets bid, I can see a S&T being worked out between the Sixers and Rockets simply because the latter is simply made of sign-and-trade caliber assets like Chase Budinger, Terrence Williams, Courtney Lee, etc. I like Budinger for the Sixers in return for Young

Verdict: 5 years, 50 million (S&T) to the Houston Rockets


Jeff Green – Right behind Thaddeus Young as a young SF/PF, though Green’s horribly unconfident play with Boston and bad +/- statistics throughout his career likely diminish his value. Boston is likely looking to sign and trade Green for a player who’s a stronger fit on a win now veteran team. I could see Houston, Sacramento, Toronto and Washington being interested in Green as with Thaddeus Young. I like the idea of a Boston and Sacramento S&T with Dalembert going to Boston for a larger contract than the MLE they can presently offer him and Green heading to Sacramento. But I’ll go with the always happy to spend Toronto Raptors bidding for him. That gives them a solid starting SF to go in their young core and I like the idea of a young team out of the media spotlight for Green to ressurrect his career.

Could there be a S&T of players going back to Boston? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I like Boston taking a risk and picking up Andrea Bargnani to be their starting C and hoping for the best next year.

Verdict: 5 years, 50 million (S&T) to the Toronto Raptors


Nick  Young – He’s established himself in Washington and they have enough funds to pay him if they don’t sign a guy like Thaddeus Young or Jeff Green. I expect Young to stay where he is.

Verdict: 5 years, 40 million to the Washington Wizards


Rodney Stuckey – There isn’t a great market for a ball dominant combo guard like Stuckey – he’s essentially Tyreke Evans if he never changes his ways. I kind of like the “Rest in Peace” post Dwight Howard Orlando Magic or post Chris Paul New Orleans Hornets franchises to go out and get him to be their top scorer. The Hornets should be far under the salary floor after a Chris Paul deal and thus able to offer more.

Verdict: 4 years, 25 million to the New Orleans Hornets


Jamal Crawford– I have to think the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to snatch up a free agent for MLE money – Crawford seems like a nice fit, giving them a legitimate scorer at SG and moving the mediocore Thabo Sefolosha to backup SF and occasional defensive sub duties

Verdict: 3 years, 18 million to the Oklahoma City Thunder


Jason Richardson – The secretly important free agent question of this offseason is whether Jason Richardson takes the MLE to play with a contending team. How perfect would Richardson be in these spots, a) Filling the 3pt shooting SG need in Chicago, b) Backing up Ray Allen and Paul Pierce at SG/SF off the bench in Boston, c) Giving the Spurs a much needed extra scoring weapon, d) Taking the starting SG spot in Dallas, e) Giving the Oklahoma City Thunder a much needed veteran compliment.

I see him taking an MLE contract. He’s at the stage of his career where he will want to be in the championship window spotlight – and I don’t see a ton of interest from younger under the cap teams.

Verdict: 3 years, 18 million to the Chicago Bulls


Caron Butler – He’s been talking to the LA Clippers and I like it for both parties. Butler is an extra scoring option who can help them win 45 to 50 games next season.

Verdict: 3 years, 18 million to the LA Clippers


Shane Battier – The rumor is the Miami Heat for Battier if Samuel Dalembert is unavailable. I agree. He’s exactly what they need backing up Wade and Lebron.

Verdict: 3 years, 18 million to the Miami Heat


Kwame Brown – “Heat fans, introducing your starting lineup. At center, KWAMMMEEE BROWN!!!!”

Verdict: 1 year, veteran’s minimum to the Miami Heat


Vince Carter – You might not believe this, but I like Carter to go to the San Antonio Spurs. Yes, Carter just came out of a disastrous run in Orlando where the entire team seemed to suck up his ambivalence like a vampire. But in San Antonio he’d be playing a bench role with less responsibility and with stronger leadership figures like Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich around. The Spurs are desperate for any spark, that can lead to risks taken.

Verdict: 2 years, 12 million to the San Antonio Spurs


Tracy McGrady – From one team desperate to make a final run to another – the Celtics could use a SG/SF to back up Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and Tracy reportedly is in solid shape.

Verdict: 2 years, 12 million to the Boston Celtics.


And that’ll do it. NBA Christmas falls on December 9th this year. Hope for good presents.

Written by jr.

December 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Basketball

One Response

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  1. […] NBA Free Agency Preview: Prepare for some shockingly high per year numbers (asubstituteforwar.com) […]

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