Thabo Sefolosha to the Atlanta Hawks: Three years, $12 million
Avery Bradley to the Boston Celtics: Four years, $32 million
Shaun Livington to the Golden State Warriors: Three years, $16 million
You want a guard with defined—but perhaps declining—defensive skill, but a somehow magically disappearing shot? Sure, why not grab him for $4 million a year. You want an even better defensive stopper who’s just 23 with an emerging scoring repertoire…but has had three major surgeries in the past year? Sure, throw him $8 mil per and see what happens. Or maybe you want a point guard who’s just a year and a half removed from being waived in the middle of the season by a future lottery team, but has somehow recovered into being a valuable fringe starter? Sure, give him something close to the full mid-level exception contract and call it a day.
Three guards have signed new contracts in the past day, and despite some real red flags on their resumes have cashed in big time. Some have said this is just a function of the looming NBA television deal, which will push up the salary cap significantly and render these seemingly bloated deals into reasonable ones in just two years. In other words, $4-8 million dollars is going to look closer to $2-6 million soon, so why not start now?
The question is if some of these guys are worth the deflated prices. Bradley’s case is seemingly the easiest to make, even with all the question marks surrounding him. He’s had serious surgeries on both shoulders as well as his ankle, which have cost him over 50 games the past two seasons. Offensively, Bradley is a spot-up shooter, plain and simple. He’s not much of a slasher and isn’t going to create a lot of ruckus in the lane while getting to the free throw line, so he’s been largely relegated to long range sniping. Bradley finished the year with a flurry of three pointers, bringing his average all the way to 39%, though for most of the year he languished at around 30%. He’s streaky to say the least, though most GMs are going to believe in what is possible rather than the worst case scenario.
Though that’s all important information, the C’s guard’s calling card is clearly his all-world defense. If healthy, there shouldn’t be a reason Bradley is left off the All-D team each and every year. He’s an absolute pest as an on-ball defender and his athleticism and strength keep him as an invaluable perimeter locker-downer. The Celtics are paying largely for his defense here, and heavily at that. They’re gambling that his health issues are behind him and that his offensive game will continue to flourish, which isn’t the craziest thought considering he’s still 23 years old.
Let’s fast forward seven years, and BAM, you have Thabo Sefolosha. The Swiss Swingman was once a version of what Bradley is now: a defensive destroyer and a streaky, but sometimes deadly sniper from long. But that was seven years ago. Sefolosha still has the defensive chops (though he’s on the wrong side of 30), but found his offensive game all but leave him this past season: .316 from long range, where nearly half his shots came from. This was a huge dip in production from his previous two seasons, where he hit .437 and .419 from 3, respectively. Without an efficient shot in his front pocket, Sefolosha became almost unplayable for an OKC Thunder team starving for offense in the playoffs.
The thought in Atlanta has to be that this was merely a one-year aberration from a player who had been one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. In that vein, it’s not a horribly damning contract. However, for a defense-first guard who just turned 30, it’s not the most encouraging sign that he couldn’t merit playing time over a 39 year-old Derek Fisher. I certainly wouldn’t have doled out the deal, but with Lou Williams shipped off to Toronto last week, the Hawks certainly needed another guard to support Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver (who could be moved to the small forward position to make room in the starting line-up).
On one hand, I love Livingston’s deal from a human interest point of view: the guy came back from one of the most horrific knee injuries in league history to become a starter for an Eastern Conference playoff team. He still can handle the ball with the best of them, can create havoc in the lane and create shots for others. Livingston is a gigantic PG who is really difficult for opposing guards to handle, but at the same time, isn’t exactly the most spry defender. I like his addition for the Warriors in terms of his fit, but not in terms of his injury history when put next to Stephen Curry’s ankles and Andrew Bogut’s everything.
All three of these deals don’t look great on the surface, but do have their upsides. I don’t particularly care for the Sefolosha deal, as I feel like his production may have completely fallen off of a cliff, rather than just a one year aberration. Bradley’s and Livingston’s contracts may pay dividends, but again, their injury situations may hamper their value.
Ben Gordon to the Detroit Pistons: Two years, $9 million
And then there’s this deal. Let’s just put it out there: I think it’s a downright horrible contract. Ben Gordon has dogged it for years, first with the Pistons and last season with the Bobcats. He’s a decent offensive streak shooter who doesn’t necessarily care about defense, at best. At worst, he’s a wasted spot on the roster.
Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors Four years, $48 million
As I wrote in my latest Lakers post, Kyle Lowry was a primary cog in Plan B-ish. If the Lakers weren’t going to land Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James or Chris Bosh, then perhaps they’d want to use a good chunk of their future cap room dollars on a young-ish building block that could—in addition to a hopefully budding star in Julius Randle—could help bring another star to Los Angeles in 2015 or 2016.
The Toronto Raptors kept their near-All-Star point guard, who proved every bit of his potential this past season. With 17.9 ppg, 7.4 apg and solid defense, Lowry is—in my estimation—worth every penny of this $48 million. He’s just 28 years old, in the midst of his prime and coming off his best season ever. I wouldn’t say this contract is a steal, but it’s not an overpay either. I don’t see any downside here, except that he’s not a Los Angeles Laker.
Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards: Five years, $60 million
On one hand, signing the Polish Hammer seems like a no-brainer for the Wiz. With averages of 13/9 and 1.5 blocks, not to mention being the team’s most reliable scoring option down low, bringing back Gortat was almost academic.
However, a five year deal? Seems a little steep for a big man who, despite his block totals, isn’t a lock-down paint protector and will turn 31 in the middle of next season. In terms of fit and need, this is a great deal for Washington. However, I’m just worried about what the last two years of this contract looks like.