Revisiting NBA Free Agency – Summer 2016

The summer of 2016 was a fascinating time for the NBA. A loophole in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, due to the influx in cash from the latest television negotiations, led to a huge spike in the salary cap. Essentially, every team in the league had near max cap space to work with. Teams wasted little time and plenty of money filling out their rosters.

Honorable Mentions:

Jeremy Lin, Brooklyn Nets – 3 years, $36 million

Cole Aldrich, Minnesota Timberwolves –  3 years $22 million

Solomon Hill, New Orleans Pelicans – 4 years, $34 million 

Andrew Nicholson, Washington Wizards –  4 years, $26 million 

Chicago Bulls – Dwayne Wade – 2 years, $47 million

13 Teams Who Made Horrible Contract Decisions

13. Jon Leuer, Detroit Pistons 

Contract details: 4 years, $42 million

Current situation: Traded to Bucks on draft night for #30 pick and Tony Snell

When Leuer signed with the Pistons, he was a career 6 points per game scorer. He did average a career high 10.8 ppg in his first season with Detroit but in 2019 averaged just 3.8 ppg in less than 10 mpg.

12. Nic Batum and Marvin Williams, Hornets

Contract details: Batum – 5 years, $130 million; Williams – 4 years, $54 million

Current situation: Batum’s contract runs through the end of the 2020-21 season; Williams picked up his $18 million option for 2019-20

In the Hornets’ defense, coming off a playoff appearance in 2016 this seemed like the right move. The problem was always going to be the long term implications on the salary cap, and that’s the issue facing Hornets entering the 2019 offseason. All Star/franchise player Kemba Walker is a free agent. He is likely to return to Charlotte, but the issue is the Hornets’ resources to surround Walker with talent is limited and these two crazy contracts are part of the reason.

Batum’s numbers have decreased each year of his contract and are below his career averages. A guy who succeeded early on with his athleticism, has lost a lot of it.

Williams has been consistent and steady. The problem with Williams is his consistency (10 ppg, 5 rpg) is below average for an $18 million man. He’s a solid role player who is paid like he should be one of the top players on the team.

11. Darrell Arthur, Denver Nuggets

Contract details: 3 years $23 million

Current situation: Did not play in NBA in 2018-19

Arthur’s career average is 6.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, which was enough to earn him this contract I guess. He played 60 games over two years and was traded to the Nets last summer in a salary dump and immediately waived. He did not play in the NBA in 2018-19.

10. Dwight Howard and Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks

Contract details: Dwight Howard – 3 years/$70 million; Kent Bazemore – 4 years/$70.5 million

Current situation: Dwight Howard spent 2018-19 with the Wizards; Bazemore has one more year remaining on his contract and is still (for now) with the Hawks

Howard’s 3 year deal spanned four teams – he was a solid contributor for the Hawks in 2016 and was traded to the Hornets for nothing in 2017. He averaged 16.6 ppg in 2017, his highest since 2014. In 2018, he was traded to the Nets and immediately waived before signing with the Wizards. He played just 9 games in 2019.

Bazemore averaged 11.6 ppg in 2019 and is only a career 8.7 ppg scorer. He never has and likely never will justify the contract the Hawks gave him and is currently a role player on a rebuilding team, that is impacting their potential cap space.

9. Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside, Heat

Contract details: Johnson – 4 years, $50 million; Whiteside – 4 years, $98 million

Current situation: Heat traded Tyler Johnson in February to the Suns and he has one year left on his contract; Whiteside opted into his contract to remain with Heat for 2019-20

Blame the Nets for the inflated Johnson contract. Nets presented him with an absurd offer sheet and for some reason the Heat felt they just had to keep him at any cost. Johnson is not a bad player but the problem is the contract the Nets gave him was backloaded. Johnson made just $5 million each of the first two years, but made $19 million in 2018-19 and will make another $19 million in 2019-20.

Whiteside had a career resurgence in 2015-16, which was convenient timing for him to be eligible for free agency. That year, he averaged career highs in points (14.2 ppg), rebounds (11.8 rpg), and led the league in blocks (3.7 bpg), while also being the healthiest he has ever been, playing 73 games. He also averaged 12 ppg, 11 rpg in the playoffs that season. His numbers actually climbed to 17 ppg, 14 rpg in 2016-17 but have declined each of the last two years. In the 2017-18 playoffs, Whiteside averaged less than 20 minutes per game. His issue is his lack of athleticism and shooting ability.

8. Ian Mahimi, Wizards

Contract details: 4 years, $64 million

Current situation: 2019-20 will be the final year of his contract with the Wizards (pending a buyout this summer)

Ian Mahimi has started just 98 games in his 9 year career seasons, with career averages of 5.0 ppg and 4.3 rpg. He has maintained around those averages through three years in Washington, while playing less than 15 minutes per game the last two years. Mahimi is not just overpaid at $16 million per year, he is ruining the Wizards chances of finding outside improvements as a detriment to their cap sheet. Wizards might be best served buying him out via stretch provision to save some money and move on from this disaster.

7. Ryan Anderson, Houston Rockets

Contract Details: 4 years $80 million.

Current situation: Traded to the Suns at trade deadline

The Rockets tried to trade Anderson from the day he signed his contract and finally succeed in 2019, moving him to Phoenix. Anderson did average 17 ppg the year prior to signing this contract with the Pelicans, and the idea of having stretch four hitting threes off the bench for a team looking to run and shoot seemed like a good idea in theory.

6. Magic – Bismack Biyombo, Evan Fournier

Contract Details: Bismack Biyombo – 4 years, $72 million; Evan Fournier – 4 years, $85 million

Current situation: Both players are entering the final year of their contracts in 2019-20; Biyombo is currently on the Hornets; Fournier is still with the Magic

Magic are one of several teams on this list who made more than one terrible decision. Let’s start with Biyombo, who actually was coming off a very strong performance in the 2015-16 playoffs with the Raptors. But being a defensive rim stopper with minimal offensive ability is not worth anywhere near $18 million, especially in this era of the NBA. Even more especially, when you have Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic on the roster too.

Fournier is a quality player, who averaged 17 ppg each of the first two seasons and 15 ppg last season. I always viewed Fournier as a really solid contributor to a playoff team, which, finally, the Magic were again in 2018-19. Still, paying over $20 million to a role player, who can score and not do much else never seemed like a wise investment. Now that the Magic are on the upswing, their financial situation is complicated and the Fournier contract doesn’t help.

5. Joakim Noah, Knicks

Contract Details: 4 years, $72 million

Current situation: Was bought out before the 2018-19 season and spent the year with the Grizzlies. Will enter free agency in 2019

We excluded Courtney Lee (4 years, $50 million) from this list because he had been one of the Knicks best players over the last two and a half seasons.

Joakim Noah, on the other hand, was awful, if he ever played. His first season with the Knicks was injury-riddle. He started all 46 games he played, with averages dipping below his career numbers (5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 43% FT). Noah clashed with former coach Jeff Hornacek and played just 7 games in 2018, essentially being exiled for off-the-court issues, following a season opening drug suspension. Noah wasn’t welcomed back under new management in 2018-19 and ultimately bought out. He received every dollar, earning $74 million for 53 total games.

4. Bucks – Miles Plumlee, Matthew Dellavedova, Mirza Teletovic

Contract Details: Miles Plumlee – 4 years $52 million; Matthew Dellavedova – 4 years $38 million; Mirza Teletovic – 3 years, 31 million

Current situation:

Oy. Bucks didn’t do as poorly as the Lakers or other teams on this list, but none of these three players contributed to the Bucks playoff run in 2018 and all three are long gone by the time they finished 2019 with the best record.

Plumlee – traded in February 2017 to the Hornets and following the 2017 season traded to the Hawks, where he played 55 games this past season. Plumlee’s career averages of 5 ppg and 5 rpg made this contract a horrible decision from day one, but the Bucks felt like they could develop the young center and paid the price. Plumlee was initially acquired by the Bucks in 2015 as part of a deal that also included Michael Carter-Williams coming to the Bucks and Brandon Knight going to the Suns.

Dellavedova – coming off of a strong run with Cleveland, where he was considered a defensive specialist, and more of a nuisance to Steph Curry. “Delly” did average career highs in points (7.6 ppg) and assists (4.7) in 54 starts in 2016. But the emergence of 2016 rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon and 2017 trade acquiree Eric Bledsoe bumped Delly down the depth chart. He only started 3 games last season and played in just 38. He still has two years remaining on his contract.

Teletovic – waved this past March. His 34% three point shooting was down from the year prior, but not too off base from his career averages. His overall 37% shooting was bad and the lowest of his career, he averaged just 6 ppg, down from 12 ppg the previous season.

3. Chandler Parson, Grizzlies

Contract Details: 4 years, $94 million

Current situation: Parsons has one year remaining on his contract with Grizzlies

There should be a rule against giving Parsons max deals. Several teams have now done it (Rockets, Mavs) and more have tried it (Portland was in hot pursuit at the time).

Since signing the contract, Parsons total games played each season has been 34, 36, 25 – he is making $24 million a year. His scoring average has dipped to 7.2 ppg in Memphis and he has shot just 39%, numbers that are all well below his career totals. It’s sad that injuries have derailed his once promising career, but the Grizzlies knew his injury history and yet chose to overpay him anyway.

2. Blazers – Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Mo Harkless, Festus Ezeli

Contract Details: Allen Crabbe – 4 years $75 million; Evan Turner 4 years, $70 million; Meyers Leonard 4 years, $41 million; Mo Harkless 4 years, $40 million; Festus Ezeli 2 years, $15 million

Current situation: Crabbe, Turner, Leonard, Harkless all have one year remaining on their contracts; Crabbe was traded to the Nets after one year and enters 2019 on the Hawks; Turner, Leonard, Harkless remain with Portland, Ezeli hasn’t played since the 2015-16 season.

It’s amazing that the Blazers have finished in third place in the West each of the last two seasons, considering how high their cap sheet is, as a result of some highly questionable spending three years ago.

Before 2016, Crabbe had averaged 8.3 ppg and started 24 games. That earned him $18 million a year in a contract from the Nets. As a restricted free agent, the Blazers opted to match the contract but traded him to the Nets the next year for virtually nothing. While he’ll never be a team’s best player or (likely) even an All Star (most likely) he has performed well and showed promise as a role player.

Turner was largely considered a “bust” after being the second overall pick in the 2010 draft. Turner was reportedly the Blazers second option after Chandler Parsons took more money from the Grizzlies. You can almost call Turner a healthier Parsons. He has made some big plays here and there, but his career in Portland has been largely uneventful. Turner has played a big role off the bench, playing around 20 mpg. This description does not align with an $18 million player.

Leonard, a former first round pick, has seen his numbers remain consistent – he is a career 5.6 ppg scorer and has hauled in 3.7 rpg. Leonard has been so underwhelming that Portland acquired Jusef Nurkic last season and signed Enes Kanter this season, knowing that Leonard wasn’t going to elevate them.

Harkless fits the same exact description as Crabbe and Turner. A solid, nothing special player, who has been a good contibutor has been a decent role player for Portland. He averaged career highs in 2016-17 and played 77 games (starting 69). Harkless fits nicely with Lillard and McCollum and shot 41% from three in 2018. The Blazers need his outside shooting but they also need more all-around players.

After winning a championship and having a successful four year ollege career, Ezeli signed a big deal with the Blazers and never played a game for Portland due to injuries.

1. Lakers – Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, Jordan Clarkson

Contract details: Luol Deng – 4 years, $72 million; Timofey Mozgov – 4 years, $64 million; Jordan Clarkson – 4 years $50 million

Current situation: Deng was bought out before 2018-19 and played for Timberwolves, will be free agent in 2019; Mozgov did not play in 2018-19 Clarkson on Cavs

I thought about just making the caption here “LOL” and not going in depth, but it might actually be funnier to spell this out.

Deng – in his first year, he averaged a career low 7.6 ppg (first time ever under 11 ppg) and played just 56 games, his fewest since 2012. Year 2, Deng played ONE game! Not because of injury, but because the Lakers essentially deactivated him. He was finally released last summer and spent 2018-19 with the Wolves, where he only played 22 games.

Mozgov – the jokes write themselves and nothing I can say, hasn’t already been said. Coming off of winning an NBA title with the Cavs (he wasn’t the reason though), Mozgov got PAID and returned the favor to the Lakers, playing 54 games (starting 52), averaging 7.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg. He spent 2017-18 with the Nets following a trade and didn’t play in 2018-19.

Clarkson – the good news for Clarkson is he averaged a career-high 16.8 ppg in 2018-19. But he did so with the Cavs. At the 2018 trade deadline, LA sent Clarkson and Larry Nance to the Cavs for Isaiah Thomas. He played all but one game last year. Clarkson is a quality role player on a good team, which the Lakers weren’t at the time of this contract nor were the Cavs this past year.


Which contract given out in 2016 NBA free agency was the worst decision? Let us know on social media – twitter @msschneid or on instagram @mikedropsports

Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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