When I listed a whole bunch of really ugly looking free agency signings from the last two summers yesterday, I was making the point that he vast majority of these signings are less than helpful for the teams in the long run. Part of me, looking at the list, wondered if NBA teams might not just possibly learn from experience and eschew overpaying ridiculously, just this once. Silly me.
The early reports on Free Agency 2010 indicate that the madness continues, and has even escalated.
- Joe Johnson - 6/$119M with the
- Rudy Gay - 5/$82M with the
- John Salmons - 5/$39M with the
- Amir Johnson - 5/$34M with the Raptors
- Drew Gooden -5/$32M with the Bucks
- Darko Milicic - 4/$20M with the Wolves
But if they reports turn out to be accurate, I have two reactions:
Because let's face it, this is nuts. There's not a deal on that list that won't be viewed as a complete disaster before it's done. Write it down and check back in three years - probably two.
And why? Memphis may have fallen into the 'Let's prove we're not cheap' trap in locking up Gay right away. So now instead of looking cheap, they just look stupid. The team that was so desperate to rid themselves of Pau Gasol's contract that they took back a package of Kwame Brown and a bunch of spare parts will now have two starting forwards making MORE than Pau ever made in Memphis. And no, neither Zach Randolph nor Rudy Gay are the player Pau Gasol is.
Joe Johnson, $119M? Are they kidding? The same Joe Johnson who was booed in his last game in Atlanta and said he couldn't care less about the fans? I can't wait to see what the fans think of him when he's making $25M at the age of 35.
It's a good new/bad news scenario for the Clippers. Several of the supposed options that most scared me are off the table, so that's good. Why did they scare me? Well, for the very reason that it seemed like the hype machine was going to create max contracts for them, and sure enough it did. These are not max players, and there is no question in my mind that Memphis and Atlanta will come to rue these deals in the not too distant future. I feared that it might be the Clippers hamstrung by such deals, and I'm happy it's not. I'm even happy to see Salmons off the table - he was theoretically an option at LAC's position of need, but he wouldn't be a good fit with them. So there's another bullet dodged.
The bad news is that these crazy deals will set the crazy deal market. Drew Gooden gets the full mid-level exception? Really? It's been reported that Channing Frye rejected a 5/$25M deal because he too wants the mid-level exception. (You could certainly argue that Frye deserves the MLE more than Gooden, but do either of them?) If Gooden gets the MLE and Gay gets the max, what does Josh Childress get? What does Ronnie Brewer get? Some players may be bargains relatively speaking, but there's stupid money being thrown around out there, that much is certain. Amir Johnson, a player with career averages of 4.7 points and 4.2 rebounds, will re-sign for a little more than the MLE. I guess Toronto didn't learn from Jose Calderon or Andrea Bargnani or Hedo Turkoglu. Or maybe they're trying to be the first team in league history with an entire starting lineup of terrible long term contracts. They just need a shooting guard. J.J. Redick for 5/$50M?
The day one free agency results will undoubtedly have an inflationary affect. We went over the supply and demand a few days ago, and concluded that there were 11 max (or near max) contract slots and fewer than 11 players to fill them. But Atlanta and Memphis, by re-signing their free agents, have taken two more names off the supply side, without reducing demand. The other big spender on day one, Milwaukee, has a lot of money to spend to be sure, but wasn't even in my original list. Furthermore, the Nets have traded Yi Jianlin since that post. So off the top of my head, there are now a dozen slots for maximum players available, but probably only six players anywhere close to worth such a salary (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudemire and David Lee - this assume that Nowitzki will re-sign in Dallas and Pierce will re-sign in Boston).
Here's a fun thought. Imagine if James, Wade and Bosh really do end up in Miami together. That would mercifully close the book on max players for the Clippers, which is an eventuality we've already more or less accepted around here. But it would leave the Knick, Nets and Bulls, each with more or less two max contract slots, fighting over Stoudemire, Boozer and Lee. Hmmm, that's good schadenfreude.
Meanwhile, the Clippers are in Cleveland in anticipation of their meeting with Team LeBron tomorrow. The best news of the day is that LeBron has said that he hopes to make a decision by Monday at the latest, so hopefully this phase of the insanity will be over by then.