It's that time of year again, except this time around most players will walk away with their wallets a little heavier than usual. NBA free agency 2016 has easily been the most memorable free agency period in the history of the league, as many big names have been involved and the salary cap has never been higher. After signing the new TV contract with ESPN and Turner Sports in 2014, the NBA took off financially like never before and now, as we sit here in 2016, we are beginning to finally understand the significance behind the new TV deals and what these financial factors really all mean for the NBA and its players. Now that almost a week has gone, we can finally take the time to reflect on some of the bigger winners and loser this year in NBA free agency.
Now, when compiling this list, we tried to stay away as best we could from players re-signing max deals with their home teams. Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan and Andre Drummond have all made headlines for either the right or wrong reasons, but these situations are all different. These teams are backed into a corner where they face the reality of losing an extremely valuable asset for nothing, or succumbing to the invisible hand of the market. These deals are easy to criticize on the surface, but really aren't as bad as fishing out $95 million for guys who may not even make it past January. These are the deals that we seek out to expose or on the flip-side, give some props to. Keep in mind also here, that the salary cap went up a whopping 34% ($70 million to $94 Million) from last season, so numbers will of naturally seem inflated. To solve that, we can apply what we like to call the 34% rule, in which you can take the players inflated contract value, multiply it by .34 and then subtract that number from the contract in order to find out what that player would be paid back down here, on planet earth.
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15 Best - Mirza Teletovic, Milwaukee Bucks (3 Years/$30 Million)
Want a 6-foot-9 European dude, with a screw-you attitude that can drain three balls and help spread the floor? For just $10 mil a year, in this market? YES. Teletovic is not a flashy name by any means and heading into just his fifth NBA season, the big man will be joining his third NBA franchise already. The Bucks sat in the lower tier of the league when it came to three point efficiency last season and dead last in attempts at just 15 a game. Teletovic is a career 37.5% three point shooter and is coming off of his highest scoring season with the Phoenix Suns in 2015-16, recording 12.2 points per-game and shooting at a rate of 39.3% from behind the three point arc. Solid pick-up for a good price.
14 Worst - Ryan Anderson, Houston Rockets (4 Years/$80 Million)
The Houston Rockets have lately been one of the circus acts of the NBA. After coming a few games away from the NBA Finals in 2014-15, the Rockets digressed significantly last season, barely making the playoffs and quickly being eliminated by the Warriors. With the team looking to remodel itself, Ryan Anderson is the perfect fit....on one end of the floor. Houston has lived and died by the three point shot the past few seasons and also possess arguably the best dribble penetration player in the league in James Harden. Harden's ability to get to the bucket and collapse the defense will make Ryan Anderson a massive threat on the wing, as he has been a 37.7% three point shooter over his career.
However, in losing Dwight Howard this off-season, the Rockets who were already a weak group defensively, now have no rim protection and will struggle immensely against good offenses to keep both Anderson and Harden on the floor together. It's a bit of a steep investment to wrap up $20 million a year in a defensive corpse and we're not sure this will put the Rockets where they want to be.
13 Best - Rajon Rondo, Chicago Bulls (2 Years/$28 Million)
Say what you want about Rajon Rondo. He is a bit of an odd character, has said some pretty outlandish things over the years and may or may not be the best guy to be around every single day. Regardless, Rondo is a GOOD point guard. In fact, he is one of the better pure point-guards in the NBA today (minus his ability to shoot the basketball, whoops). In all seriousness, Rondo will help out a team that was in desperate need of point guard play. Rondo led the league in assists last season with 11.7 per game and also averaged 11.9 points, marking the fourth time that the four time All Star has averaged a double-double throughout a full season.
Considering his predecessor in Derrick Rose is hitting up the New York Knicks for an annual cap-hit of around $20 million, the Bulls have found an adequate replacement in the mean-time. In fact, Rondo had more assists than Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler combined throughout the 2015-16 season.
12 Worst - Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic (4 Years/$72 Million)
Bismack Biyombo is a nice player and he sure turned a lot of heads this spring with a few dominant performances for the Raptors in the playoffs. We're just not sure why Orlando is dumping so much money into a back-up center with very little offensive upside, after trading away Victor Oladipo and friends for Serge Ibaka just a couple of weeks ago. Let's also not forget about Nicola Vucevic and the highly touted, athletically gifted Aaron Gordon also filling in primary front court roles. With Oladipo gone, the pickings are slim for the Magic at the guard positions outside of Elfrid Payton, a still unproven but promising young talent. Quite simply, there doesn't seem to be much production coming in through the back court. It will be interesting to see how the Magic play their chips down the stretch, but with the roster currently constructed as is, we're just not too sure of their identity going forward.
11 Best - Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets (5 Years/$120 Million)
Again, we have tried to stay away from hometown max deals, but this one is just really easy to appreciate. Many speculated as to whether Nic Batum really was a max level player. It's safe to say that after his performance in Charlotte last season, combined with the extreme raise in salary cap, Nic Batum deserves max dollars in today's NBA. He has quietly developed into one of the better 3-and-D guys in the league and is an excellent talent at both ends of the floor. He is reliable, skilled and known to be more of a glue-guy in the locker room. At 27 years of age, the Hornets are hoping that Batum is stepping into his finest years as an NBA talent and apparently are more than willing to take the risk to find out. Locking up Batum and Kemba Walker has allowed Charlotte to continue to build their identity and hopefully attract players in the future, restoring some of the basketball culture that had escaped Charlotte for so many years prior.
10 Worst - Evan Turner, Portland Trail Blazers (4 Years/$75 Million)
Evan Turner had a pretty solid season last year for an overachieving Celtics team, but he for the most part has underachieved to this point in his career. After being taken second overall in the 2010 NBA draft, Turner has been nothing more than an adequate role player in each season that he has played to this point. Throughout his career Turner has averaged a modest line of 10.7/5.2/3.8 in points, rebounds and assists, but lacks a reliable three-point shot that would at least help to rationalize this inordinate amount of money.
Although the fit in Portland does look like a mutually beneficial opportunity for both the Trail Blazers and Turner, it still seems as though the price tag is hard to justify. On the bright side for the Trail Blazers, they may find some success slotting Turner into a role at the three spot, to play with one of the best back courts in the league in Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum, or swap in at the two and allow one of them to rest. Turner does bring versatility, it just comes at a high, high price.
9 Best - Courtney Lee, New York Knicks (4 Years/$48 Million)
Courtney Lee is not a flashy player or name by any means, but he's a great fit for a New York Knicks team who looks to be trying to form the 2010 All Star team out of NBA silly-putty. Courtney Lee is a well-established two way player who has simply struggled to find a permanent home in the NBA. With high ball-demand players such as Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony on the floor at most times, the Knicks will not force Lee to reach outside of his comfort zone and will allow him to play his solid, athletic, off-ball game. Lee is a 38.4% shooter from behind the three point arc and will be an essential piece in terms of spacing the floor and providing a third or fourth offensive option. We definitely would not have thought that a signing by the Knicks would crack the best eight signings of free agency, but it appears that Courtney Lee is a magical human being.
8 Worst - Ian Mahinmi, Washington Wizards (4 Years/$64 Million)
We really have had trouble wrapping my head around this one. What do the Wizards think is so special about Ian Mahinmi? We understand they may need some depth in the front court, but it seems hard to believe that Mahinmi was in this much demand in 2016, where the role of the big man is slowly becoming more and more obsolete. Mahinmi, after quite the mediocre career up to this point, finds himself being the third highest player on the Washington Wizards payroll and will be making $4 million more than probable starter Marcin Gortat and just $1 million less than All Star point guard John Wall. Even if we were to apply the 34% rule, this still makes Mahinmi a $10 million plus player, which is unfathomable in so many ways. Yikes.
7 Best - Al Jefferson, Indiana Pacers (3 Years/$30 Million)
While every team began frantically withdrawing their chips, trying to meet the standards of the unparalleled free agency market of 2016, the Indiana Pacers calmly picked up the phone and made sure not to burn any holes in their pockets that may be too big to repair. The Pacers after making moves to acquire PG Jeff Teague from Atlanta and F Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn and have also added big man Al Jefferson for the conservative price of 3 Years/$30 million.
The Pacers know that the Al Jefferson now under contract is not the same Al Jefferson from 2009. This move is more-so to add depth up front, replacing the likes of Ian Mahinmi and Jordan Hill and to also allow the highly touted Myles Turner to thrive and develop under the wing of a great veteran such as Al Jefferson. Having a veteran big man who still may have an all-star caliber skill-set, fill in some key minutes and help develop your future stars at $10 million a year is a great move for the Pacers.
6 Worst - Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks (4 Years/$94 Million)
Championships really do pay the bills. Harrison Barnes is a very good player, don't get us wrong. It's just that if we ever constructed a team of dudes whose careers benefited the most from playing on an elite team or with an elite group of players, Harrison Barnes would probably get a spot in the starting lineup. Even in a system where there are an inordinate amount of max contracts given out, it still doesn't seem as though H-Barnes falls into this list. He is a solid defender, a long and athletic body and a good three point shooter, but lies well outside the category of elite NBA players.
It will be interesting to see if he can maintain his efficiency from beyond the arc and even just from 20-feet out without superstar players such as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson creating so much open space for him. Dallas may quickly learn that the Harrison Barnes they signed up for may need some more attention than they think, as they will really have to see what else they can do this off season to make him a better fit and hopefully make that money somewhat worth-while
5 Best - Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers (4 Years/$50 Million)
How the Lakers were able to hand Timofey Mozgof the money that they did (don’t worry, we’re getting there) and steal Jordan Clarkson for 4 Years/$50 Million is totally beyond us. Clarkson was the lone bright spot in Lakerland outside of Kobe’s charade throughout the 2015-16 campaign. Now that Kobe has finally retired, the attention will return back to the basketball court where Lakers fans don’t take kindly to losing.
Since Clarkson’s arrival in LA, he has been a primary option on offense and outside of Kobe (who doesn’t really count at this point) has been the team’s best scorer and even shot a modest 34.7% from the three point line last season. Clarkson showed an improvement in almost every single statistical category from his rookie to sophomore season and heading into his third season with the franchise, looks to take it to that next level. Clarkson could very well be an All Star caliber player in just a couple of seasons and for an annual cap-hit of roughly $12 million, the Lakers may have the biggest steal yet.
4 Worst - Chandler Parsons, Memphis Grizzlies (4 Years/$94.4 Million)
This is an extremely large investment for a guy who has digressed in games played over the past four straight season. Chandler Parsons is a flashy player and in more than one way. He has a smooth jumper and can hit from about anywhere, but he is also extremely inconsistent, partly due to injury and partly due to the fact that he is just not an elite player. Memphis brought back Mike Conley and look as though they are going to stay put with their front court of Mark Gasol and Zach Randolph as well. Year after year, the Grizzlies have played a style that revolves around everything but the three point shot, which is the niche aspect of Parsons game. Perhaps this might be the beginning of a change in philosophy for Memphis, but it doesn't exactly seem that way. Simply put, it looks as though the Grizzlies have vastly overpaid and taken a gamble on a guy who doesn't fit their system and can't even guarantee you that he will suit up for 60 games in a season. Time to put your money where your mouth is, Chandler.
3 Best - Al Horford, Boston Celtics (4 Years/$113.3 Million)
The price may seem steep, but if we use our patented 34% rule, we can see that the numbers work out to around $74.5 million on planet earth. For free agents such as Al Horford, everyone in the league knows that it is go big or go home, as there is no inbetween. So the Celtics paid up and landed themselves one of the best overall players in the league and an excellent teammate. The Celts have shown up early to their own party, landing the fifth seed in the Eastern conference with 48-wins last season. They are far ahead of schedule in terms of their rebuild and although it’s not believed that Horford can be the best player on a championship team, he has brought them a Shaq-sized step closer to becoming a serious title contender once again. The four-time All Star brings leadership, size, skill and great basketball IQ at both ends of the floor. He will go a long way in taking the weight off of Isaiah Thomas’s shoulders and making the Boston Celtics a better all-around team.
2 Worst - Timofey Mozgov, Los Angeles Lakers (4 Years/$64 Million)
If you win a championship (even from the bench), go talk to a desperate team who are feeling sorry for themselves and beginning to feel a shift in the NBA's tide. The Lakers were shaken coming into free agency, barely able to get meetings with many of the leagues top free agents. Kobe has shied free agents away from the LA market ever since the debacle with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and now that he is gone, the Lakers really have no selling point, as Kobe was a double edged sword.
Want to know why the penny got outdated in Canada? Well, because they were annoying, worth very little and clogged up your wallet when you had too many of them. That is essentially what the big man has become in today's NBA and the Lakers just spent $16 million a year on the league's greatest case study of this regression over the past couple of seasons. When Timofey Mozgov came to the Cavaliers two years ago, he was a large part of their formula and it failed miserably. This year, he was essentially non-existent throughout much of the season and the Cavs enjoyed great success, winning the NBA championship for the first time in their existence. Mozgov simply got run off of the floor and could never make it back on due to the evolution of the three point shot and the demand for athleticism in today's NBA. Good luck finding minutes for your $16 million dollar man Lakers, although you don't have much other choice we suppose.
1 Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors (2 Years/$54.3 Million)
Now, we're not sure that this is the best thing for the game itself, as many basketball purists are fully against a bunch of All Stars getting together in the name of a dynasty. On the surface, it is kind of lame. KD has put the slogan “if you can’t beat em, join em” into full-effect. This, however, is beside the point. The signing is #1 on the list for a variety of reasons. The Warriors. although arguably being the favourite, had to compete with other contenders such as OKC and the San Antonio Spurs in the process of landing Kevin Durant.
The term itself is pretty good when you consider that the Warriors let Harrison Barnes walk and he is now being paid just $4 million less than Durant over in Dallas. This is the first time ever that back-to-back MVPs have played on the same team and also may be the first time ever that four of the league’s top 12-15 players will all be on the same team. It is simply incredible. A 73 win team being able to immediately go out and sign another top three talent in the league is unprecedented. Whether you believe in the dynasty dream or not, what has happened here is absolutely historical and it will be exciting to see how this dream team pans out in November.
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