Middle class getting rich in free agency

The Lakers brought back Jordan Hill (left) and Nick Young for a combined

The Lakers brought back Jordan Hill (left) and Nick Young (right) for a combined $39.5 million

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Early into this free-agency period there was hand-wringing over the alleged travesty that superstars commanding the highest salaries were being prodded to take less money for the good of the team.

And certainly under the current salary-cap structure of the collective bargaining agreement, if highly paid players want to band together, but also expect to have funds available to sign quality role players, the price (as dictated by the current salary-cap structure) is settling for less than market value.

James Harden didn’t want to settle so Oklahoma City traded him to Houston. In Miami over the last two weeks, we saw how steep of a cut each of the Big Three (and really Chris Bosh and Dywane Wade) were in for if the group was to stay together and have a legitimate shot at signing a difference-making-type player such as Kyle Lowry or Marcin Gortat.

If superstars opt not to form super powers and the top-tier talent spreads to more teams (the goal of ownership in this CBA) than they can all collect their max money. LeBron James is expected to get his max deal, roughly $21 million next season by leaving Miami for Cleveland. Bosh’s loyalty to the Heat (aided by not having to pay James) was rewarded with a maximum $118 million over five years and Carmelo Anthony will accept a deal close to the max, reportedly about $120 million over five years, from the New York Knicks.

The next tier of talent has also done quite well this summer. Lowry re-upped with Toronto for $48 million over four years, almost doubling last season’s take. Gortat re-signed with Washington for $60 million over five years. He made $7.7 million last season and is 30 years old. Not bad if you can get it.

The Utah Jazz on Saturday matched Charlotte’s aggressive offer sheet of four-years and $63 million for 24-year-old small forward Gordon Hayward. He’ll earn more next season, about $14.7 million, than he did in his previous three seasons combined ($11 million). The Dallas Mavericks have made Chandler Parsons, 25, a rich man with their three-year, $45 million offer sheet that Houston has until Sunday night to match or pass. Neither player has ever been an All-Star, yet both will get paid like one.

It’s theme of the summer. Players at every level of the talent hierarchy are cashing in big. Why? It’s simple: The big fish, as long as they swim their separate ways, are going to get paid, while this league-wide run for cap space has greatly inflated salaries for a widening middle class. It’s produced eye-opening contracts such as these: Jodie Meeks (Detroit), three years and $19 million; Jordan Hill (L.A. Lakers), two years and $18 million; Darren Collison (Sacramento), three years and $16 million; Nick Young (L.A. Lakers), four years and $21.5 million; Chris Kaman (Portland), two years and $9.8 million; C.J. Miles (Indiana), four years and $18 million; Ben Gordon (Orlando), two years and $9.8 million.

The CBA hammered out during the lockout of 2011 placed a premium on cap space. Harsher luxury tax penalties and tighter controls designed to restrict roster flexibility for tax teams has created a much larger pool of teams than ever before that strategically plan to create maximum cap space each summer to dive into free agency and chase max-level free agents.

Only there aren’t that many big fish, far fewer than there are now teams ready to pay team. It leaves an overload of cap space around the league that must be spent and this summer role players — the league’s middle class — are reaping the benefits.

Any player it seems who has been in the league a handful of years can turn his nose at any offer starting at less than $4 million. Thirty-seven-year-old Vince Carter wanted to return to Dallas, which was offering $2.73 million for next season. So he took the $4 million ($12.2 million over three seasons) Memphis showed him.

And then there’s free-agent shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha coming off an awful year shooting and who twice fell out of the Thunder’s rotation during the playoffs. He secured a raise from Atlanta — three years and $12 million.


  1. Fefe (Nets) says:

    Like Lee said above: I feel bad for Atlanta!!! They have a good team, a great coaching staff & leaders in Horford & Millsap.. Teague will continue to improve, they have solid players like Korver, Scott, Carrol. Good prospects like Schroeder…and Atlanta is indeed a good city! They have cap space but still didn’t land any big fish – they only got Sefolosha which is a good signing in my opinion – regardless of what happened in OKC last year – but i’m very surprised that no top-tier/second-tier free agent has given them a strong look! They’re 1/2 pcs away from being contenders in my view.

    Hope that they’ll struck luck sooner rather than later.

  2. Atlanta has been making strides as they continue to build through signing the right type of players while looking to draft well and develop from within. Adrien Payne, Walter Tavares, Dennis Schroeder are all good starts. A coach who has a system built around shooting and defense that doesn’t take elite players to execute. The Denver Nuggets way, not needing a star to be competitive but looking to the draft to find what they could not sign. With Al Horford back and Teague off the great playoff run, Millsap off an all-star year they could be looking to get back to that middle of the playoffs position they have held for a long time.

  3. vinsanefan says:

    Question: Why in the world are the Lakers paying Jordan Hill 9 million a year?! How does he deserve 9 million a year when Nick Young is going to be making just over 5 million per year!? There are some contracts I really don’t understand.

  4. vinsanefan says:

    Wow Vince is keeping it going. The three year deal means he’s going to be playing until he’s at least 40. Considering how he played against the Spurs in last year’s playoffs that might be a good thing for the Grizzlies though. It also means he’s going to continue to climb the NBA’s all-time scoring leaders chart.

  5. cheflola says:

    Ball Game???? There is no more love for the game. It’s only about who gets the best business deal. Naive…I am naive. I am a Heat fan. Ok..Ok..not a good day for us. But I believe we can get up there again. We were up there once before the DECISION…
    This time of the year is exciting and at the same time…sad.Is when you are forced to detach from players that you learned to like or when you have to face that…it’s not personal…it’s business…:(

  6. NBA says:

    Go Lakers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. lee says:

    i feel bad for atlanta no one wants to play their them and chicago both keep getting left at the alter im suprised paul went to chicago i hope the trade gibson and some draft pics for a good sf or 2 gaurd so the can compete this year the still dont have much outside shooting and that fwd from spain dont even know why their trying to pay that guy he cant even put up great stats in his own country which plays faster then the us and doesnt have as much talent the shouldve went for k love and deng or bosh i like gasol but the need a defense sf who can shoot 3s like the guy the got rid of last year who is prob going to the heat now atlant cculdve got a good center if the wouldve traded for asik and prob culdve got arize or deng if the wouldve been more aggresvive if the couldve pulled those off the prob couldve added a guy like paul pearce to the mix and went far into the playoffs this year speeking of hope the bulls grab him

    • Because if they didn’t get Jordan Hill they might end up with Greg Steimsma.

      Though a max contract to Greg Monroe may be a better move, he is at least worth the Gordon Hayward contract. Then again, a mobile 6’11 skilled big man who rebounds and scores to the likes of 15 and 9 and is only 24yrs old may be a far better longterm investment. Monroe is the type of big man that can go unnoticed until placed on a winning team, much like Zach Randolph and Al Jefferson they show their value as match up nightmares that can put a team over the edge.