This was supposed to be the biggest free agency summer ever, and so far it looks to have lived up to expectations. We now have a power trio down in Miami that everyone is sounding off on, including yesteryear's stars, and four of the six big-name free agents changed teams (LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Carlos Boozer).
With all that saved up money flying around, it was only a matter of time before some smart GM's landed under-the-radar gems on the cheap and some bad GM's chased fringe talent with upper-echelon money (Thank you David Kahn and never-ending-joke Darko Milicic for providing some of that comic relief this year). Lucky for fans, there are still plenty of free agents left for teams to make or break their banks and reputations on, most notably long-time veterans Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Tracy McGrady.
Here are some of the best and worst contracts handed out so far this summer. Keep in mind that the average NBA player makes around $5.5 million per season.
CJ Watson, PG, Chicago Bulls
Contract: 3 years, $10 million
This young speedster has shown streaks of being an alright shooter, putting together enough drives and threes to hit the 50% eFG% mark (league average) each of the past two years. He's posted a phenomenal A-TO rate off the bench of 2.7-1.1 (2.3) during the same time frame, plus he picked up 1.6 steals this past season in only 28 minutes per. He's a passable shooter and a very good distributor and defender; now the Bulls don't have to be concerned when Derrick Rose rests, and the cost per year isn't that bad.
Anthony Morrow, SG, New Jersey Nets
Contract: 3 years, $12 million
Morrow is the best three-point shooter in the NBA; that alone should justify this contract. After leading the league with a 47% mark from deep as a rookie two years ago, he increased his amount of long-range attempts in his sophomore season from 2.7 to 4.4 per game, which bumped his scoring from 10 to 13 ppg, and his percentage remained great at 46%. Morrow's 57% eFG% was fractionally behind Steve Nash's as the best in the league of all non-centers. His so-so defense improved last year, and he's not particularly good at any other skill, but a shooter of Morrow's caliber will definitely open things up inside for Brook Lopez, and it will certainly improve the team's near-NBA-worst 4.6 triples a game and 32% mark downtown.
Ronnie Brewer, SG/SF, Chicago Bulls
Contract: 3 years, $12.5 million
It appears the Bulls just picked up their new starting SG for $4 million a season, which has to be one of the cheapest amounts in the league. Brewer is a tenacious defender who will stick any opposing wing, which is his top attribute. When you then throw in 52% career shooting (athletic finisher at the rim, not much from outside) and a 1.8-0.9 A-TO rate, you get a player who will take care of the ball and provide a great running mate for Rose.
Matt Barnes, F, Los Angeles Lakers
Contract: 2 years, $3.6 million
Considering the Cavaliers offered Barnes $7 million for the same two years, this definitely ranks as a bargain of the no-seriously-he-really-would-rather-have-a-ring-than-extra-millions variety, which is commendable. He's an energetic defender who can pester a variety of opponents, plus he's versatile enough of an inside-outside offensive player to post a 52% eFG% over the past four years. His career 1.7-1.2 A-TO rate isn't bad for a big man, either. His addition solidifies an awesome Laker frontline and ensures Kobe will never have to guard an opponents' top scorer for quite a while.
Jon Brockman, PF, Milwaukee Bucks
Contract: 3 years, $3 million
A second-round pick in 2009, Brockman isn't well known outside of Sacramento where he played 13 minutes per in his rookie season. Most fringe fans see a 6-7, 255-pound PF and cringe, but the hustle and feistiness he brings into the post will fit well with coach Scott Skiles' attitude. Like fellow second-round rookie DeJuan Blair, Brockman's strength and perseverance overcame his lack of height, resulting in some phenomenal rebounding rates and good shooting percentages. He averaged 4.1 rebounds in 12.6 minutes per (that's very good) and posted a Rebound% of 18.7, which would have ranked sixth in the league if he played more minutes, topping the Reb% of guys like Zach Randolph, Andrew Bogut, Chris Bosh, and Al Jefferson. He shot 53% in his rookie season, great considering he stays right around the rim and is 6-7. His defense and offensive polish need work, but at $1 million a year, he's a bargain.
It's really hard to pick the five worst because there are so many that already look too long and too rich for the return, but I'll do my best to pick the five most egregious.
Joe Johnson, SG, Atlanta Hawks
Contract: 6 years, $119 million
When an argument can be made that a player is the third-best on his team, a team that's yet to cross the Conference Semifinals threshold, he has no business getting a max contract. Johnson is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, which is nice, but he can get lost on the perimeter chucking up 3's, he doesn't pressure the defense by getting to the free throw line (3.6 FT attempts per), and his defense is good but not great. His career FG% is a bad 44%, and he shot a really poor 40% throughout the 2009 and 2010 playoffs, including scoring 10 or less points in three of his final five post-season games last year. Not exactly who you want to lock up your team's payroll for until just before his 35th birthday.
Rudy Gay, SF, Memphis Grizzlies
Contract: 5 years, $82 million
Gay has never played in an All-Star Game, never been named to an All-Defense Team, never shot 47% for a season, never topped 51% eFG%, averages 5.5 rpg for his career, and has a bad 1.7-2.2 A-TO rate, but the Grizzlies gave him a max contract. This is so ridiculous, even Gay couldn't believe it, especially since no other teams were offering figures in that neighborhood.
Richard Jefferson, SF, San Antonio Spurs
Contract: 4 years, $39 million
The Spurs picked up Jefferson last year to provide some serious scoring punch to an aging squad, but instead they found out he's on the down slope of his career (Surprise! He's 30!), averaging only 12 ppg on 47% shooting with a bad 32% from deep. His rebounding and defense have been down for a few years, and his passing is OK at best. Now may not be the best time to lock him up at $10 million a year for four years. This might be the first really bad decision of GM R.C. Buford's career.
Travis Outlaw, SF, New Jersey Nets
Contract: 5 years, $35 million
Yes, Outlaw is really athletic, but we're not running obstacle courses to win games in the NBA. He hasn't shot over 45% in five years, he's started only 32 games in seven years, he's not a rebounder and only an occasional defender, not a good passer, and he always kinda felt like he should be a team's main scoring option, but he could realistically end up the Nets' fifth (behind Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and Anthony Morrow). With that much money locked up in Outlaw (he's their second-highest paid player), they'll have to play him, which only takes away from Terrence Williams' growth and Favors' touches.
Darko Milicic, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Contract: 4 years, $20 million
Milicic's name has long been its own punchline simply because he was drafted right before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade in the 2003 Draft, and he hasn't exactly worked out. At all. His career 46% shooting is bad for a big man, and he's not a good rebounder. For someone to earn a salary around the league average, he better be doing something at an NBA-level. In steps Minnesota GM David Kahn to explain that Darko is “manna from heaven” whose passing ability is similar to that of Vlade Divac, one of the greatest passing big men of all-time. Of course the statistics and working vision of fans everywhere disagree, but we're talking about Kahn here. On top of that, the GM compared Darko's slowly progressing career to Chris Webber's (Webber won the 1994 Rookie of the Year award by averaging 18 and 9). Don't forget that Milicic is always injured. Kahn is an absolute idiot, and this contract is absolutely idiotic. The real kicker is that the T'wolves have tons of money sitting around to actually pay good players, and instead they do this.