There is one theme that stands out early in the 2012-13 off-season…NBA GMs are spending a lot of money on guys who may end up as deadweight. Free agents are not able to sign with teams until July 11th, but the confirmed agreements have been rolling in already.
Middle-of-the-road teams are offering inflated contracts to restricted free agents who are tied to teams that lack salary cap space. Due to the new collective-bargaining agreement, the luxury tax raises to a point where it will cost owners a lot of money to go over. Players will still need to sign those offer sheets, but talent could find the money too difficult to resist.
Which players have already been overpaid this off-season? Here are the top ten most overpaid free agents so far this off-season.
Jeremy Lin: Knicks/Rockets – 4 years / $29 million
The Houston Rockets offered Lin this contract and the New York Knicks can match it. ESPN’s Marc Stein tweeted that the Knicks will match any deal he is offered. Darren Rovell would say that this contract is a bargain. The sheer merchandise sales should exceed $29 million dollars. I agree that the Asian market will support Lin, should the Rockets or Knicks be worried about giving this much money to a guy who had a nice three week run last season? If he doesn’t play well or gets injured, he won’t earn the team anything. Yao Ming was injured for most of the last three seasons he played and I doubt Houston got their money’s worth.
Omer Asik: Bulls/Rockets – 3 years / $25.1 million
The Rockets are really trying to piss off teams near the luxury tax. The Chicago Bulls aren’t in a position to match Houston’s offer of three years for $25.1 and shouldn’t. He played some key minutes for the Eastern Conference champions, but paying Asik $8 million a year for 3.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game is very steep. Rockets GM Daryl Morey is a smart guy, but he is making some questionable offers early this off-season.
Jeff Green: Boston Celtics – 4 years / $36 million
Green is coming back from major heart surgery. His health is a major concern, but he never meshed with the team when he came over in the Kendrick Perkins trade. He doesn’t have a set position, plays defense poorly, and doesn’t rebound well at any position. Boston is taking a huge gamble by giving him a four-year deal. I worry that this will be a regrettable contract by this time next year.
Michael Beasley: Phoenix Suns – 3 years / $18 million
At first glance, $18 million dollars isn’t much money for three years in the NBA. Beasley has had limited success in the league, but he has yet to live up to his college hype. He is undersized for his position with off the court issues. The Suns aren’t going anywhere as an organization and Beasley is known to disappear in games. I don’t see this signing working out for either party.
Nicolas Batum: Trail Blazers/Timberwolves – 4 years / $45 million
Before I go on a rant on how this contract is bad, I just want to add that this deal could be worth as much as $50 with bonuses. Batum has as much potential as any young free agent available this off-season. Minnesota is offering him ridiculous money knowing that there is a small chance that Portland will/can match it. Portland is currently in the hunt for Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert and can’t overspend to keep Batum. Minnesota’s offer for Batum assures they have little faith in former #2 overall Derrick Williams. They are currently trying to trade him, but has yet found a suitor. I hope Batum lives up to the deal, but he may never live up to this big deal.
Steve Nash: Los Angeles Lakers – 3 years / $27 million
The Lakers had to trade two first-round picks and two second-round picks for the opportunity to overpay the 38-year old Steve Nash. The lauded Suns training staff has resurrected the careers of Shaquille O’Neal, Great Hill and has kept Nash looking fresh. Unless the Lakers have another move in line, say a trade for Dwight Howard, I don’t get this contract. They played well with Ramon Sessions and they could have re-signed him for half of Nash’s contract and wouldn’t have needed to trade draft picks. It will be interesting to see how Kobe and Nash will handle the last five minutes of a close game. Both players need the ball in their hands to be effective.
Landry Fields: Toronto Raptors – 3 years / $20 million
The Raptors couldn’t sign Nash, so they made a hasty decision and offered Fields an inflated contract. If Nash broke up with them, Fields is their rebound. Fields was a second-round pick and exceeded expectations. $20 million is a lot of money to offer a guy who has yet to score more than 9.7 points per game and saw a drop in every major offensive category in 2011-12.
George Hill: Indiana Pacers – 5 years / $40 million
As a Pacers fan, writing Hill’s name in this column stings a little. I think Hill is a good player and believe that he deserves to be the starting point guard over Darren Collison, but this deal feels bad. He is a local Indianapolis product and even went to college at IUPUI (Indiana-Purdue Indianapolis), but he doesn’t put butts in the seats. The Pacers had the second-worst attendance in the NBA for a team who had the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference. If they lose Roy Hibbert to Portland, this money can’t be used to sign a marquee player to fill the hole in the frontcourt.
Gerald Wallace: Brooklyn Nets – 4 years / $40 million
The (then) New Jersey Nets got themselves in trouble by shipping a lottery pick to Portland for 20+ games with Gerald Wallace. If they didn’t re-sign him, the trade would have went down as one of the most lopsided deals this decade. He had all of the cards and the Nets had to overpay him in order to not look like fools. Money will be tight for Brooklyn since they also re-signed Deron Williams and acquired Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks in a trade.
O.J. Mayo: Unknown – Too Much Money
Mayo has yet to sign with a team and he has plenty of suitors. The Pacers, Bulls, Suns, and Celtics are among the favorites to land him. They will have to pay a premium price for a player who hasn’t lived up to his potential (see: Michael Beasley). NBA GMs believe that he has yet to be pushed and would respond positively. Mayo did improve his numbers last season, but if he were to go to, let’s say the Pacers, he would be coming off the bench. Paul George should be entrenched as the starting shooting guard. Mayo will be receiving starter’s money this off-season.
Others candidates rumored to be overpaid
I’m sure there will be other free agents signing outrageous contracts during the 2012-13 off-season. The GMs will slowly bankrupt teams with dumb contracts on teams whose amnesty clause has already been used. There is nothing the fans can do to stop them from spending the salary cap money so freely even though we’re the ones who pay for it in the end with higher ticket prices.