This offseason, several NBA teams took poleaxes to their rosters and reformed their first and second units. Some stripped them bare, others refurnished. Some simply maintained. Jason Kidd attempted yet another power move against the hierarchy of the Brooklyn Nets franchise and was promptly fired, yet he popped up with a new head-coaching gig in the same motion.
Last week, I looked at the best talent that went for the lowest price in the NBA’s free agency bargain bin. This week, I’m looking at the alternative: The marginal producers who received relatively lucrative contracts.
I excluded training camp non-guaranteed deals (Chris Singleton, Earl Clark, Kalin Lucas, etc.), undrafted rookies (Alex Kirk, Shayne Wittington, Luke Hancock, etc.), and traded players (Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley, etc.), but did take extensions, restructured deals and player options into consideration (Dwyane Wade, Zach Randolph, Tim Duncan, etc.)
Win Shares Per 48 Minutes is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player in 48 minutes. It doesn’t chart a particular facet of a player’s game, nor does it describe what makes a player “talented,” but it’s perhaps the most palatable and one-dimensional way to exhibit a player slipping or improving from year to year. Kevin Durant, last year’s MVP, led the league in WS/48 and LeBron James finished third, so it’s not like the metric is grasping for merit or unfounded.
Using WS/48, I’m assessing which teams overpaid for a player during the offseason, at least if they’re considering that player in terms of improvement brought to the franchise.
In no particular order, here are five substantially overpaid players for the 2014-15 season:
Avery Bradley | Point Guard | Boston Celtics | $7.19 million | 2014-15 WS/48 projection: 0.041
Bradley is 23. He’s raking in an exorbitant amount of cash to play backup point guard for the Celtics, which doesn’t make sense for a multitude of reasons: Boston has an all-star point guard in Rajon Rondo (when he’s healthy, which I suppose hasn’t been for a while, but this wasn’t known at the time of the signing) and just drafted Marcus Smart, who has run a considerable portion of the team’s offense in the preseason. In four seasons of NBA experience, Bradley has yet to eclipse 1,860 minutes or start more than 60 games in a season. He shot 32 percent from 10 to 16 feet last season and 39 percent from beyond the arc, which, given that he only shoots 5.5 three-point attempts per 100 possessions, is remarkably ordinary. Bradley will make $10,000 less than Isaiah Thomas (a much better facilitator), nearly $2 million more than Shaun Livingston (a more comprehensive defender) and more than $2.3 million more than Darren Collison (a more dynamic scorer). All of them are more versatile and efficient than Bradley.
Rudy Gay | Small Forward | Sacramento Kings | $19.3 million | 2014-15 WS/48 projection: 0.089
One week after the NBA Finals wrapped up, Gay exercised his absurd contract option for the 2014-15 season, tabling extension talks. He’s scored more than 1,200 points in six of his eight seasons in the league and has averaged 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 45.1 percent shooting per 36 minutes during his career. But his salary is $1.3 million shy of what James will make next season, is more than double that of Dirk Nowitzki and nearly double that of Tim Duncan. In short, much more than deserved.
Ben Gordon | Shooting Guard | Orlando Magic | $4.5 million | 2014-15 WS/48 projection: -0.025
This just reeks of a Rip Hamilton situation. Gordon had the lowest projected WS/48 number of anyone moved during free agency. The former sharpshooter also hasn’t started more than 27 games in a season since 2008-09.
Marvin Williams | Small Forward | Charlotte Hornets | $7 million | 2014-15 WS/48 projection: 0.089
Williams has always been hampered by something he couldn’t control: Being taken second overall in the 2005 NBA draft. Chris Paul, David Lee and Deron Williams were all taken after him and it has permanently yet somewhat unjustly affixed expectancies to his game that were fairly difficult to exceed.
He just left a Utah Jazz team that couldn’t score (29th in points per game) and was a sieve defensively (18th in points allowed per game), with Williams not fully supplying either demand. And although he’s a serviceable defender and is in a much better situation now in Charlotte, his skill-set has yet to produce a season averaging more than 14 points, 7.2 rebounds or 1.7 assists per 36 minutes since 2008-09. For $7 million, these numbers are bleak.
Gordon Hayward | Shooting Guard | Utah Jazz | $14.7 million | 2014-15 WS/48 projection: 0.091
Hayward plays League of Legends too much to be paid $14.7 million. He regressed last season and tossed up mounds of turnovers. One of the main problems is that Hayward — a scorer who shoots 43 percent from the field and yields 2.7 turnovers per 36 minutes — shouldn’t be governing an offense or a franchise. But he’s paid he like he’s both of those things.
Josh Planos has had his work featured at the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Rivals, Denver Post, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. He currently writes for Wall Street Journal Sports, the ESPN TrueHoop Network and The Cauldron. He loves interacting with readers via Twitter (@JPlanos).