When it comes to the offseason, there may be no better time period than free agency. And when it comes to the NBA, it’s typically the most hectic and entertaining time in all of sports.
It isn’t uncommon to see big names swap teams. Remember when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade down in South Beach? What about this past offseason, when Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder to sign with the Golden State Warriors or the aforementioned Wade going home to Chicago?
Those moves all paid off in various ways. But there are also times when free agent signings don’t go the way the team who cut the check planned.
Joakim Noah signed a four-year, $72 million pact with the New York Knicks this past offseason and it already looks like a disaster. LaMarcus Aldridge inked a three-year max deal with the San Antonio Spurs and looks like a worse fit as each day passes. Enes Kanter, J.R. Smith, Timofey Mozgov, and Omer Asik also belong on this list.
This offseason will be no different, as there will be players that switch sides for the good and the bad. But who will they be? Let’s take a look at the eight players who will be overpaid in 2017 and eight players who will be underpaid.
16 Overpaid: Andre Roberson
A majority of teams in the NBA can use a player like Andre Roberson. He has experience on championship level teams, as he’s played for the Oklahoma City Thunder since entering the league in 2013. He’s a willing defender that can guard multiple positions. He’s also someone who’s not afraid to make the extra pass on offense.
Unfortunately, however, Roberson is also a liability on offense. While he does possess the ability to get to the rim, he’s a poor shooter both at the free throw line and from three-point range — and while there’s a chance he can improve in those categories, he’s yet to do so thus far. Roberson deserves a nice contract for his defensive play and team-first mentality but there will be an organization that gives him more than he’ll be able to justify.
15 Bargain: Dion Waiters
When suiting up for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder, Dion Waiters was seen as someone who could light up the scoreboard with ease but could also shoot a team into a slump and be lackadaisical on the defensive end. Because of this, the Miami Heat were able to sign him to a modest one-year, $2.9 million pact last offseason.
In one season, however, Waiters managed to turn his career around, as he not only had his most efficient campaign but also became a willing passer. Because of his past history, it seems like teams will be bullish on dumping a truckload of money onto the guard’s front lawn. But if Waiters can play at the level he did in 2016, there’s a strong chance that he’ll outperform the contract he signs.
14 Overpaid: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Entering his fourth NBA season at just 23 years of age, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was expected to take his next leap to stardom for the Detroit Pistons. Despite having a strong core of KCP, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and Tobias Harris, the team underwhelmed — and Caldwell-Pope was one of the reasons behind their downfall.
Despite being noted as a volume scorer, the guard averaged less than 14 points per game, which was hard to justify his shortcomings in categories such as rebounds and assists. As a restricted free agent, there will be an organization that’s willing to give Caldwell-Pope a lot of money, thanks in large part to his youth and potential. But thus far, he’s yet to resemble the player the Pistons believed he could be, thus making a long-term pact worth a lot of money a risky move.
13 Bargain: P.J. Tucker
Throughout his time in the NBA, veteran PJ Tucker has gone from an afterthought to an elite perimeter defender that has the ability to guard four positions if need be. In addition to his strong defensive game, Tucker has also developed a quality three-point shot, making him valuable to whatever team he plays for in more ways than one.
Despite giving up a good amount to acquire Tucker at the trade deadline, the Toronto Raptors also have Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka as impending free agents. Because of this, it wouldn’t be a shock if there’s a bidding war surrounding the 32-year-old. Tucker is the perfect player for a franchise that feels they’re one piece away from a championship — and although his toughness and intangibles will be something that gets overlooked when discussing a contract, it will be on display each time he’s on the court.
12 Overpaid: Danilo Gallinari
He may not get the recognition because he plays in a lesser-known market but Denver Nuggets small forward Danilo Gallinari has blossomed into an above-average NBA player. After flashing his potential with the New York Knicks, Gallinari has been a successful scorer and willing defender since being a part of the Carmelo Anthony trade.
One of his biggest problems, however, has been his ability to stay on the court, as Gallinari has played in 60 or more games in just four of his nine NBA seasons. While he stayed relatively healthy last season (63 games) and averaged 18 points and five boards, that could be attributed to him being in a contract year. Gallinari is a great hand to have but his durability issues are his biggest detriment. He’s not a number one scorer but someone will pay him like one.
11 Bargain: Andre Iguodala
There are 30 teams in today’s NBA. It’s safe to say every single team would be interested in Andre Iguodala. Throughout his career, he’s proven to be able to score, pass, rebound, steal, block, and defend, and he’s also cut his chops as a leader. In addition, he’s a proven winner, as evidenced by his presence on the Golden State Warriors and in the Olympics for Team USA.
At 33 years old, his stats have taken a step back. But that doesn’t change the fact that Iguodala can do a little bit of everything for whichever team that signs him, as he continues to stay in great shape. Iguodala will have a number of suitors during free agency and will be highly-sought after. He won’t receive a contract that he could have five years ago but will be a great and underrated asset for whoever he plays for next season.
10 Overpaid: Rudy Gay
Throughout his game, Rudy Gay has been seen as someone that’s LeBron James-lite. He has elite size at small forward (6’8”), has consistently averaged between 18 and 20 points throughout his NBA career, and can be a go-to player down the stretch. Unfortunately, however, he ruptured his Achilles tendon and it’s hard to predict how a player will return from that kind of injury.
Because of his history alone, Gay will be a highly sought after commodity on the free agent market. In addition, Wesley Matthews received a lucrative deal after suffering the same injury, which bodes well for Gay even further. But at the same time, he’s currently 31 years old, making it that much harder for him to return. There will be a team out there that is willing to give Gay a big-time contract but there’s a good chance it backfires.
9 Bargain: Jrue Holiday
There are a number of big-time free agent point guards available this summer, including Chris Paul, Steph Curry, and Kyle Lowry. Jrue Holiday isn’t as fancy as the aforementioned threesome but he’s someone who can bring close to equal value, especially compared to someone like Lowry.
In 2016, Holiday averaged over 15 points and seven rebounds per game while playing quality defense as well. A true two-way point guard, he has the ability to come in and turn a fringe playoff contender into a high-powered threat. He’s also used to working next to true number one players, as he dished the ball to both Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins last season. At 26 years old, there is still upside, too, and it’s possible that he outperforms the contract he signs.
8 Overpaid: Serge Ibaka
Before the Toronto Raptors pulled the trigger on the P.J. Tucker trade, they also went out and acquired Serge Ibaka with the hopes that they could compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs. Unfortunately, however, the Cavs defeated the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals — and to make it worse, Ibaka is now a free agent.
Ibaka has been a quality player with the Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Orlando Magic, but his game has transformed — and he may be better off reverting to his old ways. Instead of playing with his back towards the basket, he’s now more of a three-point shooter than everything else, which takes away his chances of being an above-average offensive rebounder. While Ibaka brings a lot to the table and will get paid accordingly, his new game makes him less valuable.
7 Bargain: Paul Millsap
Is there a more underrated player in the NBA than Paul Millsap. Ever since taking his talents to the Atlanta Hawks, the forward has developed into one of the most consistent players in the NBA and has turned into a double-double machine. Not only does he play like a true power forward, he also has great range, as he can shoot from all over the place.
He’s done a great job at bringing the Hawks to the next level, but unfortunately, the team was never able to capitalize on their regular season success. Because of this, it appears as though Millsap — who has long been a trade candidate — will be on the move this summer. He always works hard, puts his head down, and gets the job done — and although he probably won’t be paid like a superstar, he will be able to exceed expectations from the get-go.
6 Overpaid: Derrick Rose
When Derrick Rose was traded to the New York Knicks, many saw this as an opportunity for him to blossom in a change of scenery and potentially revert back to his MVP form just in time for free agency. Unfortunately, however, there weren’t a lot of positives surrounding the Phil Jackson-led Knickerbockers last season — Rose notwithstanding.
While the point guard continued to amaze with his quickness and ability to get to the basket, going AWOL and being a lead guard with limited vision was also on display. He did, however, show enough to get the attention of a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are coached by Rose’s former leader Tom Thibodeau. There will be a franchise out there that commits multiple years and a good chunk of money to Rose, but that looks like a bad decision.
5 Bargain: Gordon Hayward
Gordan Hayward has slowly climbed towards stardom throughout his career, and in 2016, it appears as though he’s taken the leap to becoming a franchise player. As the go-to guy for the Utah Jazz, the organization was able to reach the fourth seed in the tough Western Conference and look like a young, budding franchise that will be a threat for years to come.
But the Jazz will be in a tough position, as Hayward is now a free agent. Noted for his three-point shot, the 27-year-old can now score from anywhere on the court — and with his age, there’s a solid chance his best years are still ahead of him. Hayward will be a rich man starting next season, but because he played in a small market, he may get overlooked a bit. Either way, he’s going to be a top option no matter who he suits up for.
4 Overpaid: Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry is a floor general that any team would want to have as he’s the definition of a pit bull on the court. For the Toronto Raptors, he was super aggressive, did a little bit of everything on the court, and has been the true heartbeat of the organization ever since he came to town.
Although he’s blossomed into a top-flight point guard with the Raptors, Lowry has also gone through some troubling issues as well. Unfortunately for the point guard, one of the biggest knocks against him have been his unsuccessful quests in the playoffs, and that continued this past season. With the chance to receive a max contract of five years and $200 million, it’s likely he will receive it. But Lowry is also 31 years old and has had his shortcomings. It could be difficult for him to eventually justify the deal.
3 Bargain: Dwyane Wade
When Dwyane Wade left the Miami Heat for the Chicago Bulls, not only were people surprised but some believed he was on his last legs. While Wade has struggled with some injuries over the last number of seasons, he was still a very good player for the Bulls as he averaged 18 points, four rebounds, and four assists in 60 games.
By placing Wade on this list, it doesn’t mean teams will sour on him this offseason. But because of his age, he may be willing to take a short-term contract for less money to win another championship. After all, would anyone be shocked if he ended up on the Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason? To do so, he’d have to take less money than every before — and that alone will make him underpaid for what he’ll provide for the organization.
2 Overpaid: Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin has one of the most confusing superstars in recent memory. He’s consistently gotten better over his time in the NBA, as he’s gone from an athletic freak that throws down dunks to a legitimate scorer with range growing by the year. But he’s also struggled to bring the Los Angeles Clippers from the promised land, something the team was expected to do.
There’s no denying that Griffin will get paid as much as possible this offseason, as age is still on his side. But he’s also had a long track record of injuries as well and that’s something that could affect him as he gets older. It remains to be seen if the Clippers will pony up the money of if it will be another club — but either way, it may be hard for Griffin to live up to it.
1 Bargain: Steph Curry
I know what you’re asking: “How could Steph Curry get underpaid? He’s an MVP that’s certainly going to get a max contract!” Yes, we all know Steph Curry will get the most money that he can receive, and it will be worth it for the Golden State Warriors, who will presumably re-sign him. After all, Curry is a perennial MVP candidate who makes his team better each time he’s on the court.
But Curry does so much more than hit three point shots and make insane passes to his teammates. Curry is also a tremendous ambassador for the NBA and he also is a great character and role model off the court. In today’s world of sports, having good guys on your roster are invaluable — and that’s exactly what Curry brings to the table. No matter how much money he makes, he’ll still be underpaid for everything he’ll do for the organization.
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