This NBA offseason saw the likes of players such as Gordon Hayward, who has no particular skill set, sign a 4-year contract worth $63 million, Jodie Meeks, mostly a spot-up shooter, sign a 3-year contract worth $19 million, a 31-year-old Channing Frye to a 4-year deal worth $32 million, and a 3-point shooting big man that hates the paint, named Chris Bosh, sign a 5-year contract worth $118 million.
Clearly, players are being over paid for. Sometimes it is because teams just need to spend money to fill up cap space with players on one-year deals. Other times it is because teams over value particular players because of one or two skill sets that the team needs. And other times it is because teams get desperate and are afraid that the free agent pool is going to dry up and they are going to have nothing to show for it. Over paying players happens all the time. Even Ben Gordon, who most people thought was retired, scored a two-year contract with the Orlando Magic for $9 million. When was the last time you even remember Ben Gordon playing a game?
Now, those are some of the worst free agent pick-ups of this offseason. What are some of the best? This is a list of some of the best bargains in the NBA. They came at fifty cents to the dollar and sometimes even cheaper than that. All the players vary with their amount of talent, but for the contracts that their teams gave them, it was nothing short of highway robbery.
10 Patty Mills - $13 Million (3 Years)
Despite losing Gary Neal to free agency last year, the San Antonio Spurs hardly skipped a beat with Patty Mills proving that he was a solid contributor off the bench. Patty earned the nickname “Fatty Patty” last year, but the Aussie was determined to lose weight in the offseason and crack the rotation as the 2nd string point guard behind Tony Parker. Not only did the offseason work pay dividends, but it really helped the San Antonio Spurs win the championship last year.
Mills was pesty on defense and nailed 3-pointers like they were free throws in the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat had no answers for him and the San Antonio Spurs were deathly afraid that someone was going to throw Jeff Teague money his way. However, Mills received shoulder surgery this offseason and his rehabilitation could take as long as 7 months. The injury was unfortunate for Mills, but very fortunate for the Spurs. With many teams unwilling to wait for Mills to recover, the Spurs were able to nab him with a huge hometown discount.
9 Vince Carter - $12.26 Million (3 Years)
Vince Carter resurrected his career in last year’s playoffs with the Dallas Mavericks. Even though Carter is a backup player at this point in his career, he has almost transformed himself into a Jamal Crawford type of player. He was easily the 3rd option behind Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki during the playoffs and he tormented the San Antonio Spurs with dagger after dagger from three-point land. He even hit a game winner from the corner three, a shot that he missed during his younger days in Toronto.
But for whatever reason, the Dallas Mavericks decided not to bring Vince Carter back to Dallas, and the Memphis Grizzlies scooped him up for only $4 million a year. The Grizzlies have one of the best front courts in the league, but they have never been able to optimize it to its full potential due to their lack of 3-point shooting and spacing. Last year, Vince shot a very respectable 39.4 % from three-point land and only missed one game over the grueling 82-game season.
With Mike Miller gone to chase another ring with LeBron in Cleveland, the Memphis Grizzlies had a major need for another 3-point shooter. And Vince Carter should fit seamlessly with the way that their offense works – a whole lot of half court offense that works from the inside out.
8 Boris Diaw - $22.5 Million (3 Years)
Fresh off his first NBA Championship, the 28-year-old power forward, center, point guard for the San Antonio Spurs became a free agent this summer, but the San Antonio Spurs made sure that their versatile big man was not going anywhere during his vacation. After inking Patty Mills to a 3-year deal, the Spurs put their attention to re-signing their other Frenchman.
Diaw was instrumental for the Spurs in the playoffs. He could guard Kevin Durant and LeBron James second best after Kawhi Leonard. Diaw may be a bit heavy footed, but his craftiness and basketball IQ more than makeup for the athleticism that he has lost over the years.
And the great thing about Diaw’s contract is that the 3rd year is only partially guaranteed, which means the Spurs may have gotten Diaw for even cheaper than the $22.5 million that he is supposed to get.
7 Lance Stephenson - $27 Million (3 Years)
Lance “Will Make You Dance” Stephenson had the most amount of triple doubles last season, but he was unable to earn the contract that he was looking for despite his versatility on offense and defense. The reason? Stephenson can be a bit of a headache. From blowing in the ear of LeBron James to unnecessarily trash talking with his opponents, Lance has left a bad impression with most general managers around the league, who are increasingly placing “high character” as a valuable commodity as opposed to just talent.
So, when the Indiana Pacers offered Lance a five-year deal worth $44 million, he balked at their low offer and mysteriously went to Charlotte on a three-year deal worth $27 million. Even though Lance is getting less with Charlotte in guaranteed money, he wanted to take the gamble of a 3-year deal in the hopes of getting a max contract in the future – a score for Charlotte.
6 Isaiah Thomas - $27 Million (4 Years)
I.T. averaged 20.3 points per game and 6.3 assists per game with a true field goal percentage of 57.4%. The only two players to have better points, assists, and a true shooting percentage were LeBron James and Stephen Curry. The players within the same vicinity as Thomas’s numbers make nearly triple what he makes, so snagging Thomas for this amount was highway robbery for the Phoenix Suns.
Thomas said that he did not feel wanted by the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns made him feel like he was an important piece of their missing puzzle. Last year, the Phoenix Suns nearly snuck into the playoffs, and this year, they are going to do everything that they can to make a grand entrance into the playoffs.
5 Dwyane Wade - $31.1 Million (2 Years)
Wade and the Big 3 opted out of their contracts with the hope of signing with the Heat for a bit less in order to stay together. But all that changed with the Decision 2.0. Wade was originally scheduled to make $40 million over 2-years, but since he opted out of his contract, the Miami Heat had full control and they offered him a $31 million over 2-year contract. In essence, Wade got screwed, but chances are because he was trying to give his “house” a discount. A big win for Miami, but a big loss for Wade. I hope that sacrifice was worth the 2nd round exit that the Heat are about to face in the playoffs.
4 Luol Deng – $20 Million (2 Years)
Pat Riley and the Miami Heat were the big losers of the offseason, but the mastermind behind the scenes is not ready to ride off into the sunset quite yet. After losing LeBron James in free agency, he was able to pick up Luol Deng as the new small forward. Deng is hardly James, but he is hardly a scrub either. Deng is one of the best two-way players in the game and he should get a mulligan for the brief stint that he had with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season.
Riley was also able to get Deng on a very cheap deal over just two years. It is hard to see why the market dried up so quickly on Deng, but if Deng is in the right system he can flourish again just like he did in Chicago.
3 Pau Gasol - $22 Million (3 Years)
The Chicago Bulls amnestied the $16.8 million contract of Carlos Boozer to make room for their new power forward – Pau Gasol. After losing out on the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, the Chicago Bulls gave their entire attention to recruiting Pau Gasol. Gasol was heavily recruited by several teams, but it ultimately came down to the San Antonio Spurs and the Chicago Bulls. Gasol loved the international diversity of the San Antonio Spurs, but he also knew that his role would be somewhat limited with the presence of Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and Boris Diaw. The Bulls, however, had a major role carved out for Gasol with the amnesty of Carlos Boozer and the legitimate chance to make it to the Finals in a very weak Eastern Conference.
In the end, Pau went with his gut feeling and chose the Chicago Bulls. They also offered him slightly more than the full mid-level contract, which is only what the San Antonio Spurs could offer him. Although Gasol has missed 55 games over the past two seasons and is largely more of a center than a power forward – something the Chicago Bulls are going to have to figure out with Joakim Noah’s inability to play power forward – he still averaged 17.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg, and 1.5 bpg last season. Gasol is hardly slowing down from a statistical standpoint. He and Derrick Rose just need to stay healthy for an entire season.
2 Dirk Nowtizki - $25 Million (3 Years)
To give you an idea of what kind of bargain the Dallas Mavericks are getting with Dirk Nowitzki, the Los Angeles Lakers were willing to give the big German a max contract. The only reason why the story did not gain more traction is because Dirk immediately turned down the offer. Instead, he gave Mark Cuban and the city of Dallas a major hometown discount. In fact, he gave them an even bigger discount than they were originally planning. The Mavs were planning on giving Dirk a 3-year contract that paid him $10 million annually, but Dirk took an even bigger pay cut so that they could sign the likes of Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler.
Granted, Dirk has made a whole lot of money throughout his career, but his loyalty to the Dallas Mavericks franchise should be applauded. There are very few players that would give up that much money for the sake of the team and the franchise.
1 LeBron James - $42.2 Million (2 Years)
LeBron James can finally say that he is getting paid more than anyone else on his team, something he has never been able to say his entire career. But even still, there are other players such as Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant that still make more than him, despite being the best basketball player in the world. However, LeBron is still getting paid a handsome amount and the Cleveland Cavaliers are the clear winners this free agency. Even though the Cavs cleared up every penny they could to sign LeBron James back, he is worth every penny. Think of it this way, if salary caps did not exist in the NBA like they do in Major League Baseball, LeBron would be worth at least $50 million per year. In fact, it would not be surprising if an organization like the New York Knicks paid him as much as $75 million per year.
LeBron does have a player option his second year, but it is hard to believe that he will leave Cleveland after just one year, especially after the impact that he will likely make upon the city of Cleveland when he returns. Additionally, the short 2-year contract allows LeBron to sign a more lucrative contract once the salary cap is raised in 2016. But regardless of how much LeBron gets in the future, his value will always be far more than what the salary cap allows him to make in the NBA.