Free agency is in full swing in the NBA, and team owners are throwing cash around like it’s Monopoly money.
The first week of July is always a crazy time, but this year is even worse because the salary cap jumps up for next season.
Before we get into some of the ridiculously high salaries announced this week, let’s consider how this came about.
Basketball-loving Americans (and an increasing global market) have been watching more and more NBA games on TV. Because we are watching more games, advertisers want their products shown during games and are paying more and more money for the privilege.
Stop and think about that for a second. Because we the fans are being loyal to the NBA, the league got a fat new TV contract. And under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, owners have to share the wealth with the players, so the athletes and the owners alike are getting richer.
We the fans are responsible for all this happening, so what are we getting out of the deal?
Nothing. We get nothing.
No free cap or jersey. No free subscription to NBA TV. Not even a league-wide discount on ticket prices.
Look at what has happened with NBA team salaries the past three years.
In the 2013-14 season, the maximum salary for an entire team was $60.512 million (with some exceptions for going over).
That salary cap was roughly the same as it was in 2005-06.
Then came a slightly increase for 2014-15 to $64 million. Then it jumped to almost $71 million this past season.
And now? Get your trampoline because we are bouncing all the way to $94.143 million.
That’s right, each team in the league gets a cap bump of more than one-third this past season’s total. An extra $24 million.
So what are these teams doing, carefully adding salaries so as to keep some cap space for next year? Oh heck no. They are burning through that $24 million as fast as they can.
Four teams already are at or above the new salary cap before the new free agents can even be signed. According to Spotrac.com, 21 of the teams are expected to be above the salary cap once the exemptions are figured in — things like going over the cap to re-sign their own players, the mid-level exemption, the biannual exemption, etc.
That’s 21 teams that will be maxed out even with the extra $24 million.
That’s just crazy.
How crazy? Teams are throwing millions of dollars at bench players and throwing tens of millions at aging superstars who couldn’t possibly be expected to earn those big contracts at their advanced ages.
Dirk Nowitzki has had a Hall 0f Fame career. He’s made a ton of money, but considering what he’s done for the Dallas franchise, it could be argued that he’s been as worth the millions as any player in the league.
Still, he just turned 38 years old and will sign a contract in a couple of days that pays him $40 million for two years. That’s $20 million a year for an old-timer.
Dwyane Wade is 34 and has reportedly turned down that same amount from the Heat and wants $50 million for two years.
Pao Gasol just turned 36 on Wednesday and received a two-year, $30 million contract from the Spurs.
Deron Williams is 32 and signed a one-year deal for $10 million. Why only one year? Because the salary cap is expected to take another big leap in a year, so he thinks he can get even MORE money as a 33-year-old in 2017.
Jamal Crawford is 36 and has an offer for three years and $42 million from the Clippers. Do you really think a guard is going to be worth $14 million a season at 39 years old?
I’m naming this section after Jon Koncak, who in 1991 became the first benchwarmer to earn a $2 million salary. These are guys who can’t even score in double figures, but can sure rake in the dough.
Timofey Mozgov played 17.4 minutes a game for the Cavaliers this season. He scored less than seven points a game. In fact, in six years in the NBA he has averaged less than seven points overall. The Lakers just signed him to a four-year, $64 million deal. That’s $16 million a year.
Solomon Hill played 15 minutes a night for the Pacers and scored 4.2 points. The Pelicans are going to give him $48 million over four years, or $12 million a season.
Similarly, Jeremy Lin did well as the seventh man on the Hornets this year, and he was rewarded by the Nets with $36 million over three years, or $12 million on average.
Former Bobcat D.J. Augustin has bounced around to seven teams in the past four years. But, the backup PG just got a four-year deal for $29 million from Orlando. That averages to $7.25 million.
As one talk show pointed out, Darelle Revis is considered arguably the NFL’s savviest negotiator, yet he has about the same amount of guaranteed money in his contract as Matthew Dellavedova, the Cavaliers’ backup point guard.
Dellavedova averaged 7.5 points during the season (only 3.9 points in the playoffs), but somehow the Bucks are offering four years at $38.4 million, an average of $9.6 million.
Keep in mind that these are not the superstars in their prime. The contracts of those who actually are good have grown to even more ridiculous levels.
I wonder what would happen to those salaries if we all just turned off our televisions. Bye-bye TV contracts.
Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.