I’m going to sit back, roll my eyes, scream “arrrgggh” and throw my hands in the air when the first stupid signing goes down in the next month. The owners will try to rationalize it, talk about the market and how they’re so excited to be bringing in a player and how the team will suddenly turn it around. I’ll rationalize it by saying “Owners and general managers are stupid. They’ve always been stupid, and will continue to be stupid… lockout or no lockout.” It feels great doesn’t it? Knowing much of the lockout occurred because league executives said many players were making too much money. Awesome to know we missed out on two months of ball and countless games so that the owners could learn nothing. You know the ridiculous contracts are coming.
This month’s free agent class isn’t spectacular, and in a way that’ll make it worse. The pressure for teams to win never wavers, and without any truly great players available right now, GMs will panic and overpay. It will happen. Yesterday, we hit you with the list of the 20 best NBA free agents right now, and as all five of these players I’m about to name found their way onto that list, I’m not saying these guys here can’t play. Quite the opposite. But I believe someone is about to throw crazy money at them.
Here are the five most likely free agents who I think are on track to be overpaid before this 66-game season starts on Christmas.
J.J. Barea, Unrestricted Free Agent
Hear me out: I love Barea. Chilled in Puerto Rico with him this summer. Met his Miss Universe girl (who had me stumbling over words). Saw the love he gets from everyone down there. It’s not just his size that makes him seem normal. He gives off this vibe that the celebrity hasn’t quite gotten to him yet. And we all saw what he did during the playoffs against the Lakers and Heat. But I don’t think he’s an NBA starter. In fact, I think Dallas is the perfect spot for him: sparkplug off the bench, running high screen-n-rolls with Dirk Nowitzki.
People get caught up in the Mavs’ end-of-season run and forget Barea shot 44 percent from two and 35 from three all season long. He averaged 9.5 points and just below four dimes a night. Defensively, he’s a liability and the whole “pesky” label? He had 30 steals in 81 games last year.
There is a legion of teams that feel they need a point guard to jumpstart their offense. I just don’t think Barea is the man to do it. As a bench guy/sparkplug making $3-4 million, he’s great. But with his value at an all-time high, it’s now or never for Puerto Rico’s finest to secure a lucrative, long-term deal.
Jeff Green, Restricted Free Agent
Man… there’s not a player in the whole league who I want to see succeed more than this dude. He’s unselfish and always plays within the framework of the team.
He told CBSSports.com recently, “Yeah, man, you know a lot of people don’t know what I can really do. In Oklahoma, I was kind of overshadowed by Kevin (Durant) and the way Russell (Westbrook) picked up, but, excuse my language, I can really (expletive) play. I can really play this game, man.”
Jeff, I think I speak for everyone when I say we all know you can play. You’re like a forward version of Joe Johnson, except not quite as good: fluid, smooth, skillful and can make just about anything look easy. The problem is… dominating is not a part of your skillset.
I remember when Green was sent to Boston last season. I remember saying that it wouldn’t work, at least if New England was expecting Green to be some type of building block. I remember thinking as long as Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen were controlling the offensive touches, Green was going to end up floating around the perimeter, going entire games without scoring more than a bucket or two, and end up playing like an even more timid version of the combo forward we saw slowly get weeded out in Oklahoma City. That’s exactly what happened, averaging 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in green.
On a bad team without any real offensive leaders, Green might be able to justify someone signing him for $8 million. With a qualifying offer of $5.9 million, it’s very likely some team out there goes far above that in a bid to bring in the former lottery pick.
Kris Humphries, Unrestricted Free Agent
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: player balls out in a contract year, puts up numbers on a bad team, numbers that in fact dwarf the rest of his career, and he becomes somewhat of a basketball nerd celebrity (or flat-out celebrity like HumpDash made him).
Humphries is a lovable guy â€“ funny, witty, confident â€“ even though we’ve heard the bad stories about his attitude coming out of high school (he went on a recruiting trip to Kansas and basically told everyone there: “If I come here, I’ll run s—.”). On the floor, his special talent is rebounding (11 per 36 minutes in his career).
But I’m willing to guarantee wherever he ends up next year, his numbers will be closer to his career averages (5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds) than last season’s numbers (10 and 10). He hasn’t improved much throughout his career, and now we’re led to believe a light suddenly clicked on at 26 years old? The Nets know this too, and quietly they’re not expected to throw a lot of money his way. His history doesn’t bode well, and when you add in the off-court drama surrounding his “other affairs,” it’s not worth it to New Jersey. Why do you think their name pops up on the list of every available power forward?
Last year, he pulled in $3.2 million. But in the next month, someone is going to more than double that.
Nene, Unrestricted Free Agent
I’ve always loved the big Brazilian’s game. He’s tough, athletic, can score and defend. He does everything you’d want out of your center, and does it all quietly and without any off-court problems. If he wasn’t such a nice guy, then I’d say switch the style up. If they hate then let them hate and watch the money pile up. Give him the money and enjoy.
Of course, Nene is too nice of a guy to probably ever be an All-Star and despite that, he wants to test his value on the free agent market. Someone will come swooping in to throw bundles of cash his way. Right now, the suitors appear to be Golden State, New Jersey, Indiana, Miami, Dallas and Houston, and there’s already talk of maxing Nene out. Wait, I thought the point of the lockout was to protect owners from themselves? To get rid of some of the ridiculous contracts they hand out? A max deal for Nene wouldn’t be the same as giving, say, Travis Outlaw $35 million. But it would still be too much, even if the new CBA will probably mean a contract for $74 million (max) as opposed to what he could’ve gotten with the old one: $100 million.
Reports are indicating he’ll leave Denver, but I’m not so sure yet. We know the Rockets will go all out to get him, and we can assume the Nets will show a lot of interest. But he can make the most money by staying where he is (this is where a sign-n-trade could come in), and the majority of his suitors who have the cap space to offer without needing a sign-n-trade to make it happen don’t look ready to compete in the playoffs (neither do the Nuggets, but at least the money is there).
Thaddeus Young, Restricted Free Agent
As SI’s Chris Mannix tweeted earlier today: Hearing the Sixers are very nervous about someone swooping in with a big offer for Thaddeus Young. Young’s stock soared last season. Specifically, despite coming off the bench and playing the least amount of minutes since his rookie season, Young made the most of his time, scoring more per 36 minutes (17.6) than he ever has and doing it by shooting an incredible 54 percent from the field. He slimmed the fat off his game and became perhaps the Sixers’ most efficient offensive weapon.
Just by going off his per-minute averages, in starter minutes Young could average somewhere around 17 and seven with a combined three steals/blocks. He can run and play off the ball, and has no qualms about coming off the bench as he did this past year (nearly playing well enough to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award). But he has no range, can’t create off the dribble and still has the tweener label.
I’m not saying he won’t become a very good starter. Sometimes, as he did in Games 1,2 and 5 of Philly’s first round series with Miami, he looks like one. But then in Game 3 and 4, he combined for six points on 2-12 shooting. That’s how Young’s career has gone. Some team will jump the gun this offseason and throw the world at him. Last season he made $2.9 million in Philadelphia, and now sits at the edge of a big payday as a restricted free agent. The Sixers extended the $3.9 million qualifying offer to him, so they can match anything. But they need to be prepared. He’ll have a lot of suitors.
Who do you think will get overpaid? Would you overpay for a player if you thought he could make a huge difference this season?
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