NBA PM: Free Agents Hitting The Market Injured


Can These Injured Free Agents Maximize Their Earnings This Summer?

Free agency is an exciting time for fans, but also for most players since it is a time to fully cash in on years and years of hard work in the gym. However, every year there are more than a few free agents who will head into the summer months injured and facing the prospect of toiling long hours in rehab attempting to regain their form.

Franchises face a huge risk opening up their wallet for an injured player. In past years, these teams would be insulated by market forces and a salary cap that increased a slight percentage. But this summer, the salary cap is expected rise in the neighborhood of $90 million and nearly half of the league is projected to have significant cap space to potentially become free agency players. Put simply, there will be plenty of money flowing and with a salary cap floor of $82 million, these injured guys may still get paid.

Let’s take a look at some free agents who will head into the market this summer recovering from an injury:

Hassan Whiteside, Miami HEAT
2015-16 Salary:
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Whiteside is expected to be the premier big man on the market this summer, but the talented center suffered a strained MCL in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, which essentially shut him down for the season. According to reports, Whiteside won’t have to undergo surgery for his latest ailment but teams may be wary because of his history of nagging (but not major) lower extremity injuries.

Miami is expected to put all of their efforts into locking up Whiteside long-term, but there will be plenty of suitors in the market who won’t have to get creative with how they work the cap in order to do so.

Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
2015-16 Salary:
$13.4 million
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Noah embodies the heart, soul and will to persevere – all of which are characteristics that fans gravitate toward. But how much does the big man have left in the tank after undergoing shoulder surgery in January? This surgery sidelined him for the rest of the season and signing him to a long-term contract is a risk any potential suitor will have to make a calculated assessment on this summer. Noah’s phone will undoubtedly be busy in early July as he is a former two-time All-Star, Defensive Player of the Year and once finished third in league Most Valuable Player voting. When he’s on top of his game, he has always been a difference maker. But can the 31-year-old ever get back to the top of his game?

Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans
2015-16 Salary:
$15.5 million
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Gordon underwent successful season-ending surgery back in March to repair a fractured right ring finger. It marked the second time this year that Gordon required surgery for a fracture on the same finger. Gordon’s latest setback likely signals the end of his time in New Orleans, where in his first three seasons with the franchise he missed 115 games due to an assortment of ailments.

Gordon was once considered one of the better up-and-coming shooting guards in the league, but injuries have derailed his momentum. There’s no question he has game, but how long can he stay healthy? That’s the big question every team will have this summer.

Mario Chalmers, Memphis Grizzlies
2015-16 Salary:
$4 million
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

In what looked to be a cold-blooded move, the Grizzlies waived Chalmers after the veteran ruptured his Achilles. But Memphis was facing a rash of injuries up and down the rotation and needed to free a roster spot. After being traded to Memphis early in the campaign, Chalmers established himself as an instant scorer off the bench for the offensively challenged Grizzlies and a strong spot starter when Mike Conley went down to injury.

There will be a market for Chalmers, a starter on two championship teams during his stint with the Miami HEAT, but he might not be able to fully maximize his earning potential.

O.J. Mayo, Milwaukee Bucks
2015-16 Salary:
$8 million
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

The Bucks entered the season with high expectations after reaching the playoffs in 2015, but ultimately fell flat. Mayo played in just 41 games, averaging a career low 7.8 points per contest, and was shut down for the season in March after suffering a leg fracture. While Mayo has never developed into the phenomenon some predicted after a stellar prep career, the veteran guard has been a serviceable pro in stops with Memphis, Dallas and Milwaukee.


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About Lang Greene

Lang Greene

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last eight seasons

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