The Worst Signings of Free Agency
NBA free agency 2015 officially started July 1st with Anthony Davis agreeing to sign an extension with the incumbent, New Orleans Pelicans, for $145 million over five years. That is not a typo, $145 MILLION. When that extension was announced one minute into the free agency period, the NBA world was put on notice. Within the first two days of the week long moratorium, $1.67 BILLION worth of contracts were agreed upon. If the crazy money didn’t make you want to tune in, you unfortunately missed the greatest day in NBA Twitter history on July 8th when DeAndre Jordan decided that his heart was still with the Los Angeles Clippers after, agreeing to sign with the Dallas Mavericks. Party foul.
With the salary cap set to rise at the start of the 2016 – 17 season, many teams channeled their inner Oprah Winfrey and were more than willing to hand out big money contracts this season in order to maximize value. But just like every offseason, there are signings that will turn out fantastic, and others that will turn out not so fantastic. Now, in trying to predict which contracts will be terrible, I hope I am incorrect on all of these, and all contracts are mutually beneficial for both players and their organizations. However, the reality is that there will be signings on both sides of the fence. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the worst contracts handed out up to this point.
G Reggie Jackson – Detroit Pistons
Five years – $80 million – average annual value of $16 million.
The Detroit Pistons locked up Reggie Jackson with a lucrative extension that lasts until the end of the 2019 – 20 season. This is primarily a deal based on the potential that Jackson could be one of the top 10 point guards in the league. If that happens, this could be one of the steals of free agency when compared to possible deals many of the top point guards will sign beginning next season.
With Brandon Jennings’ future uncertain after an Achilles rupture, Detroit had to make this move if they want to be a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference. Jackson became a full time starter after being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Pistons during the 2014 – 15 season. In 27 starts with Detroit, Jackson averaged an impressive 17.6 points and 9.2 assists in 10 wins and 17 losses. However the increase in minutes, ball handling responsibility and shooting volume hurt his assist-to-turnover ratio and brought down his shooting efficiency.
Five years, $80 million may turn out to be a great contract for Detroit if Jackson develops into a top tier guard, but I don’t see it happening. With proven commodities like Stephen Curry, Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley and Jeff Teague making less next season, Detroit could have gone in another direction via the draft or future free agency when it comes to finding a long term answer at point guard.
C Enes Kanter – Oklahoma City Thunder/Portland Trailblazers
Four years – $70 million – average annual value of $17.5 million.
As a restricted free agent, Enes Kanter signed a max offer sheet with the Portland Trailblazers worth $70 million over four seasons. Oklahoma City will now have the opportunity to match that contract if they want to bring Kanter back into the fold. Either way, Kanter will earn $70 million.
Kanter was traded to OKC from the Utah Jazz midway through the 2014 – 15 season and played well for the Thunder. In 26 games with OKC, Kanter averaged 18.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and shot 56.6 percent from the field. He is a great scorer in the low post, but Kanter is terrible on defense with a career defensive rating of 108. He’s also not much of a passer out of the low post with only 29 assists in those 26 games wearing 34 for OKC.
With Kevin Durant set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, OKC needs to prove that they are committed to winning in both the short and long term. Matching Kanter’s offer may cost OKC in their bottom line, but would be worth it if they win a championship next season or if Kevin Durant re-signs with the Thunder. If Oklahoma City decides not to match, then the Trailblazers are locked into the deal with Kanter which would be a terrible signing for Portland because he does not keep them in the playoff race. In the end, Kanter may not be worth $70 million, but keeping Durant happy and keeping together a championship caliber roster is.
C Aron Baynes – Detroit Pistons
Three years – $20 million – average annual value of $6.6 million.
Aron Baynes was brought in by the Detroit Pistons to serve as the backup center to Andre Drummond. This past season with the San Antonio Spurs, Baynes averaged 6.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, shot 56.6 percent from the field and 86.5 percent from the free throw line in 16 minutes per game. But with Detroit willing to dish out $20 million for a backup big man, there were others on the market who got similar deals and are better players.
Ed Davis signed for three years, $20 million with Portland this offseason. With the Los Angeles Lakers this past season, Davis averaged 8.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, shot 60.1 percent from the field and blocked 1.2 shots in 23.3 minutes a game. While Baynes is a better scorer per 36 minutes, Davis provides defense and rebounding as a backup big and would have been a better signing for the Pistons.
Brandan Wright, the best backup big in this group, signed for $18 million over three seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies. Wright spent time with three different teams this past season but was a monster with the Dallas Mavericks off the bench. Wright shot an incredible 74.8 percent from the field on his way to averaging 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks with Dallas in just 18.7 minutes per game.
Baynes’ contract won’t handicap Detroit, but with other quality backups receiving similar deals, the Pistons would’ve been better off spending less, or elsewhere.
G Wes Matthews – Dallas Mavericks
Four years – $70 million – average annual value of $17.5 million.
This is my ultimate selfish pick. Wes Matthews is one of my favorite players in the league. Great defender, great three-point shooter, great three-point celebration, had a great interview on “¿Highly Questionable?” and had a great goodbye to Portland. I am happy he got a max deal after his incredible play last season. He was on his way to getting big money when a ruptured Achilles prematurely ended his season with Portland.
However, it’s a risky deal for Dallas because of the injury. Even with the possible addition of Deron Williams, Dallas does not have the makings of a playoff team in a loaded Western Conference. Matthews made the correct decision in taking the money, but it’ll be a shame not being able to see him defend the best perimeter players in the Western Conference Playoffs.