Every year, there are free agency deals that don’t make a whole lot of sense. But with the kind of money being thrown around this year, the wild offers have been even more unbelievable than usual. Here’s a look at some of the most baffling offers we’ve seen in free agency so far:
Rajon Rondo, Chicago Bulls (two years, $30 million) – On the one hand, the Bulls really needed a starting point guard in the wake of the Derrick Rose trade, and when Rondo met with Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg during the free agency courting process, they watched enough film for both of them to believe he’d be a strong fit in the team’s up-tempo push offense. There could not have been a ton of interest for the beleaguered point guard elsewhere, so to have a respected NBA team like the Chicago Bulls make an offer had to have been a relief for Rondo, even if only the first year of the deal is sure to play out.
All that said, this is a move that makes no sense for a Bulls team that said after trading Rose they were hoping to get younger and more athletic, and Rondo is neither of those things. He also is someone who will take the ball out of Jimmy Butler’s hands, which is something Butler cannot be all that happy about. Plus, if the team was concerned about Butler’s on-court chemistry with Rose, they’re going to be even more unhappy with watching him try to share the ball with Rondo, who shoots even worse than the Bulls’ old point guard did.
Worst of all, the Bulls have at the very least always prided themselves on bringing in good locker room guys, and Rondo absolutely is not that. He probably will only be a Bull for a single season (as the second year is only partially guaranteed), but that’s more than enough time to frustrate the team’s lone star and stunt the growth of some of the team’s younger players.
Roy Hibbert, Charlotte Hornets (one year, $5 million) – Hibbert put up some of the worst numbers of his career last season, averaging only 5.9 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Los Angeles Lakers despite starting all but one game. But for all the money being thrown around this offseason, a middling nine-digit number for a player who’s still not even 30 years old shows not only just how far Hibbert has apparently slipped in the eyes of executives, but also how little the league thinks of his skill set now that teams are having so much more success with stretch bigs.
It’s not completely surprising that Hibbert will take $10 million paycut next season, but it is a little baffling that with all the money floating around right now he couldn’t have earned more.
Tyler Johnson, Brooklyn Nets (four years, $50 million) – It’s obvious what Brooklyn is doing this summer, signing as many young (or youngish) players to big deals as possible, treating these big money contracts like draft picks in the hopes that one or two of them will pop. Without actual high draft picks the next few years, this is the only way they’re ever going to get any better.
Still, Johnson has only 68 professional games under his belt, with averages of 8.7 points, three rebounds and 2.2 assists as a reserve last season, and while he did shoot 38 percent from deep, that still wouldn’t seem to justify this kind of contract, particularly considering the “poison pill” approach to the contract Brooklyn took in putting it together. He’ll make $18.8 million in the third year of the deal, and $19.6 million in the fourth year. While contracts are about to get much bigger in coming years, a $19.6 million contract would have made Johnson the 12th highest-paid player in the league last year, ahead of Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler.
He won’t be in that kind of company four years from now, but the comparison is still pretty staggering for a guy who still has so far to go in terms of proving himself.
Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks (four years, $94 million) – We’ve been having arguments about whether Barnes deserves the max for quite some time, but when these numbers really started to get bandied about and there was a real chance that Golden State would make the talented swingman their highest-paid player, it became a little obvious that any sort of max contract for Barnes would lean a little toward the ridiculous.
He can defend and shoot threes, which is what swingmen are asked to do in the modern NBA – and he’s also a great teammate, incredibly athletic and a hard worker. But despite all of that, this deal from Dallas reeks more of desperation to land anybody significant in free agency than to satisfy any sort of specific team need, as Barnes is a pretty limited player and can’t create offense for himself the way max players typically can. He only averaged 11.7 points last season and is likely to get even worse looks on offense now that he’s away from the Splash Brothers. The move isn’t baffling in theory, but now that it actually looks done, the reality of it is confounding.
Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic (four years, $72 million) – The money isn’t ridiculous, as this sort of contract has proven to be the norm for upper-tier big men this summer, but the fit in Orlando was a bit of a head-scratcher with the team having just traded for Serge Ibaka to perfectly complement Nik Vucevic in a frontcourt rotation that also features burgeoning big man Aaron Gordon. Muddying up that frontcourt even more with Biyombo immediately led to our own Alex Kennedy tweeting that it would not be surprising to see Orlando shop Vucevic now, but that would be counterproductive considering how good he and Ibaka looked on paper as a starting frontcourt.
Biyombo and Ibaka are going to protect the bejesus out of the lane, but at the expense of Gordon’s minutes or Vucevic even being on the team? There were better fits for Biyombo, and better ways for Orlando to spend their money.
Joakim Noah, New York Knicks (four years, $72 million) – There had been a lot of excitement about the Kristaps Porzingis “Stretch Five” experiment set to place in New York this year, but Phil Jackson put the kibosh on that by bringing in Noah at $18 million a year despite the fact that he’s had an incredibly hard time staying on the floor in the last year-and-a-half.
Even with Noah’s arrival stealing away Porzingis’ minutes at center, Noah is, in theory, a nice fit for the Knicks. He is a good passing center and should do well no matter what sort of offense Jeff Hornacek runs, but the question is how long will he be able to contribute at a high level considering his age (31) and injury history (extensive)? Two years would have made sense, perhaps with a third-year player option, but he may be hurt a lot throughout this contract, and that’s a lot of money to play someone who’s only likely to actually earn about 60 percent of it.
With plenty of money left to spend and nowhere near enough quality free agents to spend it on, expect plenty more silliness in the days to come. For now, though, these are the most confounding free agent signings of the summer.
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