Comparing the worst NBA contracts in 2019 free agency to better value ones

It’s been a wild week in the wild wild west of basketball that we call free agency. This year in particular saw some marquee free agents move teams and conferences to really shake up the outlook for next season.

It’s all positive, right? Not necessarily. The positives outweigh the negatives, no doubt, but a heavy burden can be placed on a team with the wrong move.

It wasn’t the worst free agency in terms of bad contracts, but it wouldn’t be free agency without them.

Let’s take a look at some of the worst, and compare them to better valuable alternatives in the NBA.

1 – DeAndre Jordan 

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2018/2019 stats – 11 PPG, 13 RPG  and 2.3 APG

Team – Brooklyn Nets

Contract – 10m per year

Player comparison 

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Robin Lopez 

2018/2019 stats – 9.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 1.2 APG

Team – Milwaukee Bucks

Contract – 5m per year

Similar in age, Jordan and Lopez are both very experienced and tenured in the NBA. DeAndre’s contract is tied for 4 years, and many predict his regression will be steep quite soon. Statistically Jordan is a better rebounder as his career stats have solidly proven. If you look at Lopez stats this year per 30m (on comparison with Jordan’s average), Lopez is scoring and blocking the ball more.

Given Brooklyn have a young centre asset in Jarrett Allen, 10m a year for a bench big is expensive. Lopez could have provided a more valuable contract. Brooklyn may have had to take this deal to keep star players KD and Kyrie on the books, as it showed when they took less money to afford the Nets the ability to pay out the Jordan contract.

2 – Terry Rozier  

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2018/2019 stats – 9 PPG, 3.9 RPG  and 2.9 APG

Team – Charlotte Hornets

Contract – 19m per year

Player comparison 

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Spencer Dinwiddie

2018/2019 stats – 16.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG and 4.6 APG

Team – Brooklyn Nets

Contract – 10.5m per year

Some could say Spencer Diniwiddie is an over-evaluation, but her me out. Rozier has operated as mostly a bench scorer in Boston. His one chance to shine was during the 2017/2018 playoffs, in the absence of Kyrie Irving, where he was bolstered to the starting PG position. Dinwiddie primarily played from the bench this year in Brooklyn, often coming third fiddle to Russell and Levert. He too has had chances to shine when both men have been out injured.

Rozier is one year the younger, and hasn’t had as much starting minutes as Dinwiddie, but it proves the point of the risk Charlotte took this year. Dinwiddie is the prime example of what a player like Rozier should be payed, at the higher end of the spectrum. Rozier may have more upside as a starter, but 19m a year is most people’s worst move of the offseason.

3 – Khris Middleton  

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2018/2019 stats – 18.3 PPG, 6 RPG  and 4.3 APG

Team – Milwaukee Bucks

Contract – 30m per year

Player comparison 

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Danilo Gallinari

2018/2019 stats – 19.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG and 2.6 APG

Team – Oklahoma City Thunder

Contract – 22m per year

There’s no doubt that Khris Middleton is a very good basketball player. But is he a max-contract player? The Milwaukee Bucks were backed into a corner this offseason and had to pay up or risk losing the 1 time All-Star. Middleton has slotted in nicely with franchise man Antetokounmpo, and has had shades of big moments in the playoffs thus far.

Gallinari, on the other hand, is not far off Middleton’s trajectory. You’re talking about a highly dependable big wing scorer, who can be the man in the absence of a star player. Middleton’s stats show he’s much more defensively sound, but Gallinari makes up for it on the offensive end. It’s Middleton’s failure, in my opinion, to be the guy that makes him a below-max level guy, and 22m a year is not far off what he’s worth in my opinion.

4 – Bobby Portis 

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2018/2019 stats – 14.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG  and 1.4 APG

Team – Chicago Bulls

Contract – 15m per year

Player comparison 

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TJ Warren 

2018/2019 stats – 18 PPG, 4 RPG and 1.5 APG

Team – Indiana Pacers

Contract – 10m per year

The New York Knicks in ways characteristically threw the baby out with bath water with some of their contracts this year. They made Julius Randle their guy (instead of, I don’t know, Kevin Durant) and gave overblown contracts to average players. It’s not something new here in New York. Bobby Portis was always a wasted talent in Chicago, proving his worth in Washington after a mid-season trade.

But what do you expect from a 15m a year guy? Starting minutes, first of all, which I’m not sure Portis will get seen as they signed Randle to be the guy at the 4. TJ Warren is a guy who has started regularly for Phoenix, and recently signed to the Pacers. He’s the perfect example of a 10m a year guy, just about right for Portis. 15 is a bit steep, in my opinion.

5 – Harrison Barnes  

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2018/2019 stats – 16.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG  and 1.5 APG

Team – Sacramento Kings

Contract – 20m per year

Player comparison 

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Terrence Ross

2018/2019 stats – 15.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 1.7 APG

Team – Orlando Magic

Contract – 12.5m per year

Barnes ended up reworking his contract with Sacramento this offseason, ensuring his committal to the Kings for the long term. It’s a strange move from the Kings in my opinion, with younger core pieces in Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox. These guys will be due bigger contracts in the coming years and giving away 20+m in cap space to Harrison Barnes for the next 4 years isn’t going to help.

There’s no doubt that Barnes has a place on a starting lineup in the NBA, it’s just that his contract is overvalued. Terrence Ross is a good example of an offensive weapon of similar age at a decent value contract. Barnes often had to run the offense in Dallas, but this is a different system in Sacramento, and his lowest PPG total since 2015 proved that. This may come back to bite them, or at least, force a trade down the line.

 

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