At the start of the previous decade, the NBA had a lot to offer to its fans. The Decision saw the birth of the Heatles, Kobe Bryant teamed up with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard chasing the six rings, Derrick Rose was one of the most spectacular players in the league, the OKC Thunder had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, the Boston Celtics had their own Big 3, albeit an ageing one, the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks won their first title, and the Indiana Pacers were on the rise. Simply put, the league was in a great place.
So, when a new nine-year, $24 billion television deal with ESPN and TNT was announced in 2014, to enter into effect in the 2016-17 season, few heads were turned.
Its effects, however, would have a major impact not only on TV screens, but also on player movement.
What would follow was a salary cap spike from $70 million in 2015-16 to $94.1 million in 2016-17.
In the summer of 2016 And things were good for you if you were a free agent. Even a not-so-great, average, mediocre, or whichever way you want to put it.
Let’s check some of the crazy contracts handed to players that offseason.
What up everybody my name is Stefan and this is Heat Check. Let’s get into it.
Timofey Mozgov – Los Angeles Lakers – Four years – 64 million dollars
Despite his solid first year with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the previous season, 2014-2015, when Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak offered 16 million a season to the Russian centre, his agent’s first words must have been “Where do I sign?”. The franchise must have thought it would get rim protection and big-man presence, but the price was truly steep. This is not to degrade Mozgov, who had become an NBA champion several weeks before the start of free agency, despite averaging just 5 minutes per game in the epic series against the Golden State Warriors, but this was one of those contracts that many felt was bad even as it was being signed, especially considering the analytics era was driving players like him out of the league. Sure enough, Mozgov lasted one season, in Los Angeles, averaging just 7.4 points and 4.9 boards per game, before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets, where his performances dropped even further.
Allen Crabbe – Portland Trail Blazers (restricted) – Four years, 75 million dollars
Though the 2015/16 season wasn’t spectacular for Portland’s Allen Crabbe, with 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. But his age just 24 at the time, the fact that that production was reached in 26 minutes per game, and, perhaps most importantly, his 39.3% from deep on 3.5 attempts, the Brooklyn Nets became enamored with the restricted free agent. However, their fascination reached eye-popping levels when they decided to table a four-year, 75-million-dollar deal to lure him away from Oregon and pair him with Brook Lopez in an attempt to form an intriguing one-two punch. Not so fast, said Blazers GM, matching the offer, which surprised many around the league.
These doubts were proven to be right, when Crabbe failed to make almost any progress, averaging 10.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game the following season, almost the exact same numbers. He increased his 3-point percentage to 44.4% tho. In the end, he did join Brooklyn, but it was via trade in the summer of 2017. There, after a somewhat promising first year – 13.2 points, 4.3 boards, 1.6 assists per contest, to go with 37.8% from deep – his production fell and he faced injury problems.
Nicolas Batum – Charlotte Hornets – 5 years – 120 million
When Nicolas Batum averaged 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.8 assists, coupled with his stout defence and 34.8% from three, a big payday was more than expected. While everyone was aware at the time that 24 million a year represents overpaying, it was somewhat understandable for a small-market team with problems when it comes to attracting marquee free agents and with hopes that he would blossom into an All-Star. What is not understandable, however, is that since the end of Year 1 of the contract, in which he barely improved his stats – 15.1 points, 6.2 boards and 5.9 assists per contest, the Frenchman has been a shadow of his former self, with averages of 9.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.1 assists.
Ian Mahinmi – Washington Wizards – 4 years – 64 million
Ian Mahinmi’s contract year with the Indiana Pacers, in which he averaged career highs of 9.3 points and 7.1 rebounds in fewer than 26 minutes per game, was promising, that’s true. The Washington Wizards were in need of defence and rebounding, that’s true as well. But when the amount of money he was going to receive came out, many people’s initial reaction was that he was not going to live up to the deal. Unfortunately for Wizards management, that’s exactly what happened. In the four-year period, the French centre would average just 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds, while also battling injuries. Not quite the production you would want from a 16-million-a-year centre.