By Matt Citak
Throughout the first two weeks of this summer’s edition of NBA free agency, we have seen some serious money get tossed around. Steph Curry became the first NBA star to sign a supermax contract, crossing the $200 million threshold for the first time in league history. Blake Griffin agreed to stay in Los Angeles, inking a deal with the Clippers that will net him $173 million over the next five years. Even Otto Porter, Washington’s third-leading scorer, received a max deal, and is now set to earn $104 million through the next four seasons.
It is way too early to tell which of the contracts signed in the last 13 days will leave teams regretting their decisions in the near future. Some of these deals will end up looking like absolute bargains, while others will surely go down as abysmal decisions made by desperate front offices. While only time will tell which of this year’s contracts will go which way, what we can do is take a look at some of last summer’s deals and see which teams are already feeling remorseful about their free agent signings.
Luol Deng (four years, $72 million)
Even last summer, this contract raised a lot of eyebrows around the league. A year later, those raised eyebrows have turned into “I told you so’s.” After inking a deal with the Lakers that would pay him an average of $18 million for each of the next four years, Deng endured what was by far the worst season of his career. The veteran small forward averaged career-lows in points (7.6), assists (1.3), and minutes (26.5), while shooting a career-worst 38.7 percent from the field and 73 percent from the free-throw line. While Deng did provide good defense and some veteran leadership to an otherwise very young Lakers team, his offensive game was essentially nonexistent. Prior to last season, Deng’s lowest points per game was 11.7, and that was during his rookie year in 2004-2005. It got so bad that just a few weeks ago, rumors swirled that the Lakers were dangling a future unprotected first round pick for someone to take the 32-year old forward off their hands.
Chandler Parsons (four years, $94.4 million)
Many questioned the Grizzlies for dishing out over $94 million to Parsons, who had his previous two seasons cut short due to season-ending knee surgeries. Fast-forward one year and Memphis could not be regretting this contract more. Parsons was atrocious, averaging career-lows in almost every offensive statistic. The small forward appeared in just 34 games, and in those games, averaged under 20 minutes on the court. The 28-year old shot 33.8 percent from the field, over 11 percentage points lower than his next-worst shooting percentage (45.2 percent during his rookie season), and saw his three-point percentage drop to 26.9 percent. After averaging at least 13.7 points in each of the previous four seasons, Parsons managed to score just 6.2 points per game with Memphis. To add insult to injury, Parsons season ended in the middle of March when he was forced to undergo his third consecutive season-ending knee surgery.
Bismack Biyombo (four years, $72 million)
The Magic’s offseason last year should serve as a cautionary tale: Just because you have cap space does not mean it is necessarily wise to use it. Former Magic general manager Rob Hennigan gave out three lucrative long-term contracts, but none worse than the one given to Biyombo. The big man was coming off a solid year with the Raptors, where he excelled as a rim-running big on a team filled with shooters. But in Orlando, on a roster lacking much talent, Biyombo struggled and saw his numbers drop. His efficiency out of the pick-and-roll, which came in at the 84th percentile the previous year, dropped to the 40th percentile this past season. Biyombo saw his rebounds fall to 7.0 per game, while he tied a career-low with 1.1 blocks per game. The only somewhat redeeming quality about this contract is that at only 24-years old, Biyombo still has plenty of time to turn it around.
Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million)
When the Lakers first announced their agreement with Mozgov, this contract looked bad. The center had fallen off the previous season, averaging just 6.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in 17.4 minutes with the Cavaliers. One year later, the Russian-native has made it look even worse. Mozgov played in only 54 games with Los Angeles last season, averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds. The 30-year old played only 20.4 minutes per game, and considering how young and inexperienced last year’s Lakers roster was, that is concerning. Unlike the other players on this list, Mozgov has already seen the team that signed him to this deal dump him. The Lakers were able to hand Mozgov and the three years, $48 million remaining on his contract to the Brooklyn Nets. However it cost them D’Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the 2015 draft. That is a hefty price to pay just to get Mozgov off the books. If you want even more proof that the Lakers regret this contract, look no further than the fact that Mitch Kupchak, the man responsible for signing both Mozgov and Deng last season, has since been relieved of his duties as general manager.
Joakim Noah (four years, $72.6 million)
The only free agent that was coming off a worse season than Mozgov, and yet somehow received more money last summer, was Joakim Noah. During the 2015-2016 season, Noah appeared in 29 games (only two starts) for the Bulls and averaged 4.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in just 21.9 minutes per game. He shot a career-worst 38.3 percent from the field, while his free-throw percentage dropped to 48.9 percent. Yet even though Noah’s numbers had been declining over the last few seasons, Phil Jackson still believed it would be wise to reward the veteran center with this contract, a deal that will pay the big man over $19 million during the final year when he will be 35 years old. Of course, Noah did not come close to living up to his salary last season. Dealing with injuries throughout the year, the 32-year old played in only 46 games, finishing the season averaging 5.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in 22.1 minutes per game. What makes this contract even harder to swallow for the Knicks is the emergence of Willy Hernangomez. Between Hernangomez and Porzingis, New York has their big men of the future, thus making Noah expendable. The problem for the Knicks is Noah’s contract is as close to immovable as an NBA contract can get.