After pocketing a free-agent payday, these players must prove their worth

Will Chandler Parsons run with a new, All-Star, crowd this season?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You are what your salary says you are in the NBA.

There’s no way around it. All the stats, traditional and advanced, in the world won’t change that fact. An All-Star playing on a rookie contract is a bargain. That same player with a max contract, or something in that neighborhood, suddenly become overpaid and a burden on his team.

The expectations change when the compensation increases, even if the player’s game doesn’t change. With most of the dust settled from this summer’s free-agent frenzy, we can see a clear picture where the marquee players are concerned.

Guys like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were going to get max dollars wherever they decided to play. That was a given, just like the pressure that comes along with being at the top of the superstar food chain in the league.

It’s the other guys, those guys who are making the transition from bargains to paid handsomely for their services, who will be in the crosshairs as the 2014-15 season draws near.

Five free-agent pick ups who have to live up to the hype this season, now that they compensation and expectations have reached franchise-player levels:

Luol Deng, Miami Heat


VIDEO: Luol Deng talks with Heat.com about his goals in Miami

Chris Bosh got the No. 1 option money (five years, $118 million) from the Heat this summer, but it’s Deng who has the biggest shoes to fill. He’s the replacement in the starting line up for LeBron, an unenviable task if ever there was one. The Heat got Deng for a relative bargain (two years, $20 million), given the money that was flying around in free agency this summer. Deng, however, will not get a pass from anyone. Heat boss Pat Riley needs a player who can become an instant impact player and Heat fans, fair or not, are going to compare Deng’s immediate contributions to what James delivered the past four seasons. Deng has shown throughout his career that he’s more than capable of being a solid contributor, All-Star caliber even, on an elite team. So while Deng’s compensation hasn’t changed dramatically, the expectations have soared.

Marcin Gortat, Washington Wizards


VIDEO: Marcin Gortat put on a show in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals

Gortat was the first big-money free agent to agree to terms this summer, signing on for five years and $60 million to anchor the middle for an up-and-coming Wizards team. He’s facing the crucible of increased individual expectations as he’s on a team that enters 2014-15 with an entirely new set of expectations. The Wizards have all the pieces in place for a continued ascent in the Eastern Conference standings. They’ll need Gortat to play his part, though. He and Nene looked like a dynamic 1-2 big man punch in the 2014 playoffs. They’ll have to do it nightly with the Wizards’ dynamic backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal drawing tons of attention from opposing teams from now on. There can be no off nights for Gortat now that he’s being paid like the elite big man he appears to be.

Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz


VIDEO: Relive Gordon Hayward’s dominating performance against OKC last season

No player made a more surprising splash on the free-agent market this summer than Hayward, who cashed in with a four-year, $63 million offer sheet from the Charlotte Hornets that the Jazz matched without flinching. Hayward was solid last season for the Jazz, leading the team in scoring (16.2) and steals (1.4). But there is a quality debate to be had about whether or not he’ll be the best player at his position by the end of the 2014-15 season. Rookie Dante Exum is a dynamic talent who will push both Hayward and Alec Burks at shooting guard, when he’s not doing the same to Trey Burke at point guard. And let’s not ignore the obvious fact that Derrick Favors remains the most important player on the roster of a team desperate to rebuild as quickly as possible in a crowded Western Conference. Hayward clearly has the chops to be the face of a franchise (the Hornets wouldn’t have offered that monster deal otherwise). But seeing is believing in this case.

Chandler Parsons, Dallas Mavericks


VIDEO: Chandler Parsons was profiled on ‘Inside Stuff’ last season

Dirk Nowitzki is still the man in Dallas. Nothing will change that, not even the addition of a budding young talent like Parsons, acquired via that three-year, $46.1 million offer sheet the Houston Rockets decided not to match. Parsons is confident that he’s ready for bigger and better things than being the third or fourth option, the role he played in Houston. Mark Cuban and the Mavericks are paying him to play above and beyond what he’s used to and what we’ve grown accustomed to from the former second-round pick. Parsons landed in arguably the best predicament of any of the players on this list. He’ll have Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler to lean on, not to mention an elite coach in Rick Carlisle. Throughout his career, Carlisle has shown a consistent knack for putting the right players in the right positions. Parsons will have a clearly defined role within the Mavericks’ system. External expectations could pose the biggest challenge for him, though, as he’ll be paid like an All-Star — but can he play like one?

Lance Stephenson, Charlotte Hornets


VIDEO: The Starters discuss Lance Stephenson’s move from Indiana to Charlotte

Given what’s transpired in recent weeks for the Indiana Pacers (Paul George‘s injury), you know the Pacers would have been glad to pay Stephenson whatever it took to keep him in the fold. Instead, Stephenson opted for the fresh start (and three years and $27.4 million contract) that the Charlotte Hornets offered. While his new compensation probably isn’t what he expected or planned on, it’s a significant boost from what he earned last season. And the expectations for him in Charlotte, where Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker are already entrenched as leaders, couldn’t be greater. Larry Bird was an unabashed advocate for Stephenson, championing his talent and potential from the start while others chose the wait-and-see approach about enigmatic Stephenson. You wonder if Hornets owner Michael Jordan will be as vocal and adamant in his support of Stephenson. In Hornets coach Steve Clifford, Stephenson will certainly have someone willing to keep him on track at all times, in an effort to get the very best from one of the league’s most physically talented players at any position. The rest, of course, is up to Stephenson.

20 Comments

  1. Clint says:

    I keep warning people that not because Lebron is gone means that they will just tumble. Listen to me: a healthy Dwayne Wade, a healthy Danny Granger, Bosh hopefully playing his real position, Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts.. Listen to me: Miami will play better as a team because if you look at when James was there, when he gets the ball, everything stop until he move.. Miami need a better coach that know how to use it’s players..

  2. tan thuan kee says:

    chandler parsons now has the additional pressure of being the next kardashian family nba toy boy, hope it doesn’t ruin his game. I like his potential though, I actually bought a parson’s 1 of 1 rookie card printing plate. A good chance to learn from one of the very best forwards in nba history-dirk in dallas

  3. lixuan says:

    Reading captain Murthy is hardcore C Lo fans, but the team worship C Lo’s certainly more than he was a man, otherwise, he exchanged jerseys and C Lo will be in the locker room on how to disappear without a trace? “If I know who stole, I want to break his legs.” Murthy vent channel.

    And Reading’s game, C Lo scored a goal during stoppage time to help Manchester United to seal the victory 2-0.

    For his part, this is a special game, because he’s already equaled the total number of goals last season 23, is about to create a new record.

    Such significance of the game, how can we not leave points memorial. C Lo did not expect what way, Murthy has hands. The final whistle, Reading captain before first rushed C Luo, swapped shirts with him. This witness history jersey, it’s that became Murthy booty, he happily returned to the locker room, but the shirt in his hands stayed only a few minutes.

    Murthy said he was found in the bath jersey gone. “I went to punch the bath, and then disappeared jersey, it does appear in the locker room too.” Murthy said, “It’s not easy to get the jersey. Ago, I and C Lo also played ball, but this time I was his nearest opponent, so I told him, and he wanted to exchange jerseys. ”

    Throw away jersey Murthy rage. He believes that the thief must be dry. “Someone stole it, if I find out who is, there will be bloodshed.” Reading captain threatened, “the thief may be the player, it could be an apprentice, or the staff of the club, if I caught live, I will break his legs to warn steal jersey: my hands already have a list of suspects. ”

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  4. lixuan says:

    NBA preseason game is currently in full swing, NBA players signed jersey charity auction to be held this weekend, May 16 and 17 in the youth department is still off hQ Dazhongsi store, NBA fans will certainly attract many loving friends and the community enthusiasm participate.

    Participating in the show were Yao Ming jersey auction, James, Bosh, Wade’s signature jersey, the charity auction will feature no reserve starting, all live to the audience may participate in the auction, the auction proceeds will be donated to funds charity.

    At 9:00 on the 16th began, Yao Ming, James, Bosh, Wade signed jerseys on display at the event, at 11:00 on the 17th, the auction will be held on-site ceremony. It is reported that the movie industry will come to the event Jie, temporary guest auctioneer, in addition to the enthusiasm with the fans, the site also fancy shooting, table football and other interactive games to interact with the audience, so that the audience High in the end.

    It is still off hQ department person in charge: “It is because there is traffic department hQ still off the crowd, we decided to hold the event, then I believe the event will have a lot of fans directed at NBA players signed jerseys come, but the mall more importantly, in terms of the activities by charities can also make a contribution.

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  5. MrNBA says:

    Parsons needed to get paid more but $46 million/3 years? I’m not so sure. He disappeared in the playoffs last year against the Blazers. I hope he does better.
    On a different note, it’s refreshing not to read a bunch of ridiculous and absurd comments from Heat fans who thought everyone (from KD to CP to Love to Griffin, yes ridiculous) will team up in Miami.

  6. eryery says:

    how about JODIE MEEKS!

    • The Truth says:

      Who is Jody Meeks?

      I love it when SA fans have to speak up for their team, cuz even after winning millions of championships, they still get zero attention.

  7. Kevin says:

    That guy on the right certainly does have a lot to prove.

    • The Truth says:

      looks like a couch potoato, he probably won a chip eating contest to get a pic with some NBA players.

  8. harriethehawk says:

    I see Lance Stephenson maturing and coming out an even better player w the Charlotte Hornets. Go Lance.

    • lbj says:

      Lance will not win any championships in Charlotte even if he’s playing for the greatest of all time in Michel Jordan. He needs to play with the true king of basketball and blow on Lebron’s ear at Cleveland!

      We at Cleveland will gladly give Charlotte the super sophomore and soon to be greatest-number-one-pick-of-all-time, Anthony Bennett, for Sir Lancelot and future draft picks!

      Cleveland, City of Champions 2015!

  9. I see Chandler Parsons in that Kahwi Leonard group of good players who look even better when playing with stars. Things to take notice of is that neither were ever their team’s first or second scoring option or had plays called for them. If either guys were thrown onto a team like Milwaukee and asked to be the man and elevate a team from obscurity to playoffs and contention, I think we’d sing a different tune.

    Next summers free agency will be quite interesting considering the depth of quality players. It won’t be as star heavy but teams like LA and New York know with the right acquisitions they can thrust themselves back into that elite level again.

  10. OKC45 says:

    Don’t underestimate Miami this season. They won a lot of big games when James was not playing. Luol Deng is a god player, Bosh will step up and Wade, when he is playing usually does well. I think the Heat could be Top 4 in the East with a good maintenance plan for Wade and no injuries.

    • The Truth says:

      When a Heat Fan learns how to spell and form a proper sentance, then I’ll consider taking them seriously.

  11. HaKO says:

    what about ariza

    • Meeron says:

      Ariza got his ring too early. lazy ball player

      • theCHI2014 says:

        i don’t understand the high praise Ariza gets. Look at the man’s numbers, nothing really special

      • nolo1 says:

        Ariza is a more solid and defensive minded player than parsons. And his stats are better. He will fit into Houstons system better. Defense is what Houston wanted. I don’t think they really intended to pay Parsons. Wit him gone…Harden & Howard don’t have to stand back and watch him shoot and miss important shots. He can shoot till his arm falls off in Dallas.