Game Time: For Sale -- NBA Two Guard, 30 Y/O, Excellent Condition, Trades Accepted
My favorite comment probably came from "Chris" who said: "I've never met a Tracy fanboy in person. Then again, I've never been to China."
Indeed, I thought China was the only area in the world that hadn't caught up to Tracy's act yet, but apparently a few of you here in Houston are good with T-MEC (Tracy McGrady's Expiring Contract, as he will now be known) as well. To each his or her own.
That Tracy is the highest paid player in basketball is but one pimple on the pizza face that is the NBA's fiscal landscape, however it is indicative of a theme I pointed out yesterday:
*You've heard skeptical, jaded former boat owners espouse the old saying that "the two happiest days of a boat owner's life are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it."
In many respects, you could say the same thing about NBA players. The day that a signing is executed always feels good because inherently you feel like you've filled some sort of need; otherwise, why would you have done the deal?
At the time I typed that it was more just something that felt accurate than a statement I could back up with actual data (uh huh, I'm part of the problem), but yesterday during our show, John Harris and I were messing around with ESPN's Trade Machine, which by the way is the greatest time waster this side of sporcle.com.
Specifically, I was looking at the Sixers and the Rockets trade of Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert to the Rockets for T-MEC. On the Trade Machine, they show each team's entire roster, complete with contract information (cap figure and years remaining on deal) for every player. With the "boat owner" theory in mind, I looked at which players on these two teams have more than three years remaining after this season (so fairly recent long-term signings) and an annual cap figure at or above the mid-level exception ($5.854 million for 2009-2010).
The result -- Elton Brand ($14,858,472 cap figure, contract through 2013), Andre Iguodala ($12,200,000 cap figure, contract through 2014), and Trevor Ariza ($5,854,00 cap figure, contract through 2013 according to the Trade Machine, although I thought it was a five-year deal...whatever).
Three players on whom the buyer's remorse ranges from simmering (Ariza, although it's early) to increasingly apparent (Iguodala) to soul-crushing (Brand). Whatever your assessment, it's safe to say that neither team feels great about the investments they've made thus far when you compare productivity to dollars earned (although to be fair, the book on Ariza may get written next year when he's back in a supporting role).
With that in mind, I started going down all of the teams in the NBA and taking a look at their most recent big-dollar, long-term investments to see if this immediate regret over these excessive deals was a common theme. I'll keep score of my opinion along the way, but go ahead and view the rest of this blog post as your Guide to NBA Drunken Spending. Here we go (2010 salary and final year of contract in parentheses)....
Josh Smith, Forward ($10,800,000 -- 2013)
Marvin Williams, Forward ($7,500,000 -- player option for 2013-14)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs up on both.
Atlanta is one of the teams that actually should feel pretty good about it's long-term investments. Smith is a borderline All-Star who contributes at both ends of the floor, and Williams is a serviceable swingman and "4th or 5th banana" who is only 23 years old.
Rajon Rondo, Guard ($2,623,326 this season but five-year extension starting
at $9,000,000 kicks in next season)
ASSESSMENT: Too early to tell.
Rondo is an All-Star this season and appears to be on the verge of making the leap to elite player, but so do most guys who get eight-figure deals. Let's see how this plays out once the
checks go up fivefold.
Gerald Wallace, Forward ($9,075,00 -- player option for 2012-13)
Stephen Jackson, Guard ($7,650,000 -- 2013)
DeSagana Diop, Center ($6,031,800 -- player option for 2012-13)
ASSESSMENT: 1 Yes, 1 No, and 1 Neutral until he pulls a gun on someone.
Wallace had excessive boat-anchor contract written all over him until out of nowhere he took his game to another level this season. Jackson can almost never be classified as a "thumbs up" because he could spontaneously combust at any minute. Diop wasn't a Charlotte signing, but his contract ($6M for less than 10 minutes a game) is their problem now.
Luol Deng, Forward ($10,370,425 -- 2014)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs down.
Deng is the quintessential third scorer on a decent team who, for a wing player, has trouble getting his offense in a variety of ways. He's mostly a jump-shooter, and his deal tops out at over $14 million per year. And this assessment doesn't even take into account that the Bulls have been trying to move Kirk Heinrich pretty much since the first year after they extended him.
Mo Williams, Guard ($8,860,000 -- player option for 2012-2013)
Anderson Varajeo, Forward-Center ($6,300,000 -- 2014)
ASSESSMENT: Neutral until after LeBron decides where he's going.
If LeBron sticks around then you have a perfect complementary scorer and an energy guy off the bench on a good team. If LeBron leaves, you're left with a guy who is at best a decent undersized hybrid point/two guard and a spaz with no offensive moves and a Sideshow Bob haircut.
Shawn Marion, Forward ($6,635,068 -- tops out at $9.3M in 2014)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs down.
This contract is probably fine for now, but soon enough the Mavericks will be paying a mid-30something player who relies almost solely on athleticism over $8 million per year.
Most of the Nuggets core players have contracts that expire before 2012, and their most important player (Carmelo Anthony) has a player option for 2011-2012. All in all, they're not really hamstrung by any terrible deals.
Richard Hamilton, Guard ($11,625,00 -- 2013)
Ben Gordon, Guard ($10,000,000 -- player option for $13.2M for 2013-14)
Charlie Villanueva, Forward ($6,500,000 -- player option for $8.58M for
ASSESSMENT: Holy hell, a circus of thumbs down.
The only party that stands to benefit from these three deals is whomever took over fundraising
at the University of Connecticut after my dad left that role in 2007. All three Husky alums are one-dimensional players who, if they are one of your top two players, then you're probably in the lottery. They can all score, I'll give them that. Not Joe Dumars finest hour when he handed all these deals out.