NBA free agency is the best opportunity for teams to improve their squads, whether it be going out and getting someone, or retaining players that you believe are either improving and/or valuable to the team. Some teams can find a bargain while others overpay for production that does not warrant the price tag or match the price tag.
2016 was the perfect example of this, as it was the summer where everyone in the NBA was getting way more than deserved. Some guys, like Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng, and Solomon Hill were getting money that used to be reserved for second-tier All-Stars. But since then, combined with the restructured CBA, player salaries are skyrocketing, and the most average of NBA players are getting paid like crucial cogs.
This has carried into 2018’s NBA free agency, which was headlined by LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Paul George. While they got their ‘star money,” other players were getting amounts that raised a few eyebrows. Here are some of the worst contracts signed thus far:
*If someone signs Capela for the $100 million he wants, that deal would make this list.
Zach LaVine, G, Chicago Bulls- Four Years/$78 million
This one is a real head-scratcher. LaVine is talented no doubt, which made him the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler trade. He was performing well for Minnesota in his third season, before tearing his ACL and getting shipped to the Windy City. And when he came back, he looked rusty as you can get.
His efficiency was dreadful. He shot 38.3% from the field and 34.1% from three, both well below his career averages. And his 44.2 effective field goal percentage was well below the NBA-average. Most of this has to do with rust, but that rust in large part due to a serious lower-body injury.
Rust is different if it’s from missing time from a lesser injury, but he tore his ACL and missed 93 games over the last two years. LaVine is a guy whose game is predicated on his elite athleticism. But the surgery took something out of him. He lost a step and did not have the same bounce pre-injury. And with him on the court, the Bulls were 13.2 points worse than the opposition.
Banking on him to recover fully is asking for a lot. And it’s easy to argue that the Bulls had to play the former Bruin because he was the main guy, at the time, they got for Jimmy Butler, But that does not prevent it from being a bad deal for Chicago.
Derrick Favors, C/PF, Utah Jazz- Two Years/ $36 million
Dante Exum, G, Utah Jazz- Three- Years/$33 million
These were head-scratchers, notably Dante Exum’s deal. Exum has played in just 162 of the 328 possible games in his first four seasons, starting only 67 of them. Injuries have hampered him from realizing his potential, and with Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio on board, he has settled into a reserve.
A reserve that cannot shoot, stay healthy, nor crack the 20 minute-per-game barrier. For his career, he is averaging 5.7 points and 2.2 assists on less than 40% from the field. And for a guy that cannot stay healthy, per-36 numbers do not mean much because his body can hardly handle 20 minutes per game. Yet, he is getting paid like a starter.
Favors’ contract is not as bad, but still too much. Before this past season, he had a problem staying healthy from 2015-2017. His role has diminished over the years, in turn, his numbers have taken a hit. And in an age where big men must be able to shoot, he is shooting 40.5% between 10-16 feet and 41.3 between 3-10 fee, while being a non-factor from distance.
He is a floor-clogger, non-spacer, and the Jazz already have that in center Rudy Gobert. He has a career average of 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds while playing out of position due to Rudy Gobert. A change of scenery would have been best for him, but it’s hard to turn $18 million/year down/
The Jazz have no cap flexibility this year but will have a little over $20 million available next summer. However, Ricky Rubio and Alec Burks are free agents, and if the Jazz want to retain them, all that flexibility will be gone, along with not being able to tackle the loaded free agent class next summer.
Paul George, SF, Oklahoma City- Four Years- $137 million
Yes, George is a star, but even stars get overpaid. He was bound to get a massive deal; it was just a matter of who was going to give it to him. You cannot fault OKC for paying him because they needed to retain him no matter what. But, with the deal, they are officially cash-strapped and have no financial flexibility to get any better.
Virtually, this contract assured the Thunder of being an expensive first-round, second-round at best, exit each year. This is not a title team, yet they have the payroll of one.
But that is not the only reason. George is not a superstar, yet many view him as such. He is not a top-level NBA player, more in the range of 12-15. He historically struggles in the playoffs, and you never want to see your best players’ production dip when it matters most.
Just look at last year, when Joe Ingles outplayed him, got under his skin, and rendered George useless. And in Game 6 against the Jazz, an elimination game for OKC, George shot just 2-16 and was a ghost the entire game. The best players do not do this. He is a second-tier star getting paid like a first-tier one.