Every year in free agency, teams will hand out big money to players who flash signs of greatness – only to regret it a year or two after. Examples of this include giving Derrick Rose a maximum contract after his MVP season in 2011, the Pistons signing Josh Smith to a big deal back in 2013, and giving Joe Johnson more money than anybody, LeBron James and Kevin Durant included, back in the historic free agency class of 2010.
Then there are also the great value deals. Signing Hassan Whiteside for under 1 million dollars. Signing Stephen Curry to a deal that came out to sub-10 million dollars annually, and getting Dirk Nowitzki on a 25 million dollar deal for three years. It is hard to get this kind of value any more with all of these ginormous contracts going around, but they are still there. Here are the best and worst deals of free agency 2016.
Jordan Clarkson – four years, 50 million dollars with Lakers
There was reason to be concerned that a desperate team like the Lakers would overpay Clarkson, a young player who was one of the few bright spots on the team last season. Instead, they overpaid Timofey Mozgov to come to Hollywood, but Clarkson was signed to a very modest contract. Clarkson led the Lakers in points (averaged 15.5 per game) last season, and he was second in steals per game (1.1) and three point percentage (34.7.) Clarkson did this at the bright age of 23, and playing alongside a very inefficient Kobe Bryant.
Clarkson’s defense still needs some work, but he has the physical tools at 6’5″ and 185 pounds to be a good defender at the guard position. Relative to similar players – young guards with a knack for scoring semi-efficiently, Clarkson came at a discount. Evan Fournier (five years, 85 million dollars,) and Bradley Beal (five years, 128 million dollars) both were considerably more expensive.
Trevor Booker – two years, 18 million dollars with Nets
Trevor Booker is the kind of player that every good team has. He is undersized at his position, but one wouldn’t know because of his physically dominant and aggressive play. Booker’s career averages of 6.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game don’t scream value, but his efficiency does. Booker is a career 51.5% from the field, has career offensive and defensive ratings of 111 and 104, and averaged .121 win shares per 48 minutes.
This season will be interesting for Booker, as it will likely be his first as a lock for a spot in the starting five. Given his hustle and physicality, he should be an excellent fit next to the finesse Brook Lopez. He will also be a great role model for Brooklyn’s younger players like Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who also project to start. For a starter in today’s NBA, nine million dollars annually for a 28 year old starter level player is excellent value. Similar hustling-type players like Joakim Noah (four years, 72 million dollars) and Kent Bazemore (four years, 70 million dollars) went for way more money.
Dewayne Dedmon – two years, 6 million dollars with Spurs
Not many fans know about Dewayne Dedmon, but he is a very, very athletic seven footer with great mobility and a high vertical. Since his rookie season in 2013-2014, Dedmon has slowly gotten better each year in his efficiency even though his role hasn’t reflected it. Dedmon’s per 36 minute averages include 13.0 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 1.1 steals on 55.9% shooting. He’s managed to overcome having little to nothing of an offensive game to have a PER of 17.0, and an offensive rating of 117. Paired with his defensive rating of 102 and his .162 win shares per 48 minutes on a poor Orlando team, Dedmon is an analytical gem.
That is why it isn’t so surprising that the Spurs picked him up. Getting a freak athlete like Dedmon to play with a hall of fame seven footers like Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, and/or a hall of fame coach like Gregg Popovich will be excellent for Dedmon’s development. If Duncan does retire, and Boban Marjonovic signs his 23 million dollar offer sheet with Detroit, then that just means Dedmon will be able to play that much more of a role for the Spurs at a great value with 3 million dollars annually. Similar shot blockers like Bismack Biyombo (four years, 70 million dollars) and Dwight Powell (four years, 37 million dollars) went for much more money.
Jamal Crawford – three years, 42 million dollars with Clippers
Doc Rivers continues to make roster moves that make one question his managing skills despite his impressive coaching ones. It should be common sense not to sign an aging, defensively liable guard to big long term money. Yet Rivers did anyways. Crawford has gotten worse each of the past two seasons, and he will be 36 this season. Why the Clippers decided to give him big money after shooting 40.0% from the field over the past two seasons and Austin Rivers primed and ready to take his place is beyond me.
Last year should have been a sign of Crawford’s decline. It was the first he had a below average PER (14.0) and win share rate (.076 per 48 minutes) since joining Los Angeles, and it was the first season Crawford had a negative offensive box plus/minus (-0.2) since his rookie season way back in 2000-2001. For a team that already has Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Austin Rivers, and C.J. Wilcox at the guard positions, and plenty of other cheaper and/or younger options still on the market, the Crawford signing was a definite head-scratcher.
Chandler Parsons – four years, 94 million dollars with Grizzlies
Chandler Parsons was over valued when he was last a free agent, and he was over valued this time around as well. Chandler Parsons is not a 17 point per game scorer. He couldn’t even reach that amount playing for two of the fastest teams in the NBA like Houston and Dallas. Parsons only averaged 13.7 points per game last season as a starter most nights. There is this idea that he is a reliable 2nd scorer. Even if that was the case, which it isn’t, Parsons is primed to be the 4th option offensively behind Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph.
4th options, even in today’s NBA, should not be making over 20 million dollars annually, period. Especially a defensively mediocre player like Parsons. He shot the ball well from the field last year at 49.2% and 41.4% from three, but that was as a spot up shooter for the most part. Even the fit in terms of mentality is a question here. Parsons has gotten away with playing soft defense alongside the notoriously bad defender James Harden, and later a Dallas Mavericks team that had its fair share of flaws defensively. Memphis, however, is home to tough defenders like Conley, Tony Allen, and Gasol. His defensive rating of 108 needs to go down.
Mike Conley – five years, 153 million dollars with Grizzlies
There was a time when Mike Conley was an underrated floor general for a scrappy Memphis Grizzlies team. Those days are forever behind him, as he just became not the highest paid Grizzly, not the highest paid player today, but the highest paid player ever in the history of the NBA. Conley is by all means a large part of the Grizzlies success, but he has never even been an all-star! There was a time – not too long ago – when averaging 15.3 points and 6.1 assists per game for a small market team didn’t even get one 10 million dollars annually, but Conley will now receiver 30.6 million dollars annually.
Conley was far and away the best point guard in this free agent class, but the Grizzlies went way over board by paying him this much, when in reality he should have received a contract worth half of this. There is nothing wrong with Conley’s game as an NBA player, he is one of the better two-way point guards in the game, but he is absolutely not worth this money.