Head to Head: Who’s Poised to Be Overpaid?

Which NBA free agents are poised to be overpaid this summer? Basketball Insiders’ writers discuss.

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This offseason, many players will enter free agency and try to secure a lucrative new contract. Who are some individuals who are poised to be overpaid? Moke Hamilton, Alex Kennedy and Jessica Camerato share their thoughts.

Enes Kanter

Raef LaFrentz, Erick Dampier and Jerome James may each be a “poster child” for one of the best known facts about being a free agent in the National Basketball Association: big men get paid handsomely.

From Brook Lopez to Roy Hibbert to even Nikola Pekovic, if you can walk and chew gum and stand at or near seven feet tall, you will cash in. That is exactly why Enes Kanter of the Oklahoma City Thunder will get a lucrative contract this summer.

Since being drafted by the Utah Jazz with the third overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Kanter has been somewhat polarizing. There are those who have believed in him and his skills from day one, while there are many others who felt that he was inconsistent and would ultimately go down as “just another” foreign-born big man who couldn’t cut it at the NBA level. The biggest criticisms of Kanter come on the defensive end, where he really struggles at times.

To this point, we do not know for certain what Kanter can do over the course of a full 82-game season wherein he and his tendencies have been the focal point of the opposition’s scouting reports, but what we do know is that he formed a dynamic duo with Russell Westbrook – at least in spurts.

Westbrook was the primary catalyst for the Thunder and their playoff push, but without Kanter’s 18.7 points, 11 rebounds and 57 percent shooting from the field, we would not have had to wait until the final game of the regular season to see the Thunder eliminated from contention.

For Kanter, being traded to the Thunder was an absolute windfall. He played 26 games with Westbrook and had an opportunity to show his full array of skills. His career averages of 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game saw incredible spikes and it was largely due to the opportunity to play off of an All-NBA performer and the simple fact that his usage rate increased out of necessity.

Now, after playing professionally for four years, though we still have no idea how good Kanter can be for a full season, he does have a solid 26 game sample size that he and his agent can use to sell teams on this offseason. The fact that Kanter will turn just 23 years old this May means that he is nowhere near his physical peak, and that fact will make any and every talent evaluator drool.

For the most part, big men with promise do not hit the free agent market. Although the Thunder certainly have incentive to re-sign Kanter to a long-term deal, there are no guarantees. By rule, the Thunder may re-sign Kanter to a new contract without him actually becoming a restricted free agent, but odds are, a promising 23-year-old who has played himself into a fairly high market value will look to do the prudent thing for his pocketbook and test the free agency market by opting to not immediately re-sign with Sam Presti’s club.

The Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks will both have a lot of cap space and desperately need an infusion of talent. The Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, in theory, could also emerge as suitors that make sense.

And yes, of course, Presti may need to ensure the re-signing of Kanter to give Kevin Durant a fighting chance of winning a championship next season.

All signs point to Kanter cashing in this summer, big time. For the most part, it will be based on a 26-game sample.

It must be nice.

– Moke Hamilton

Rajon Rondo

Wait, don’t stop reading. I know, I know, it seems crazy to see Rajon Rondo on this list after everything that went wrong during his stint with the Dallas Mavericks.

However, I guarantee that some team will give him a contract larger than what he deserves when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. While he has played himself out of the max deal he was hoping to sign, he’s still poised to be overpaid this offseason for a number of reasons.

First of all, a number of teams will likely be willing to look past Rondo’s struggles in Dallas, believing that he didn’t fit their system or have the right pieces around him to be successful. While I disagree with this assessment, many executives and coaches around the NBA tend to believe that they can get the most out of a player. Some teams will look at Rondo as an interesting reclamation project.

Rondo’s previous accomplishments will really help him this summer. It’s easier to overlook what occurred in Dallas when his resume includes a championship, four All-Star appearances, four All-Defensive Team selections and two times leading the NBA in assists.

Remember, it was just two years ago that he averaged 13.7 points, 11.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals with the Boston Celtics. At his best, Rondo was a nightly triple-double threat who could make an impact on both ends of the floor.

There are teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks that desperately want to add at least one star this summer, and they will likely be willing to take a risk on Rondo in hopes that he returns to form. While injuries have limited him and it’s clear he needs the right teammates and system to be successful, the possibility of him returning to form will get him paid.

And that pay day will likely be larger than expected, mainly because of the NBA’s new television deal. Contracts that are signed this summer will soon look like bargain deals once the salary cap skyrockets in 2016. That makes it much easier for a front office to talk themselves into throwing money at Rondo.

It’ll be very interesting to see what kind of interest and offers Rondo receives on the open market this summer, but don’t be surprised if he gets paid more than anticipated.

– Alex Kennedy

Kevin Garnett

It may only be for a short stint, but if Kevin Garnett returns to the Minnesota Timberwolves, expect the future Hall of Famer to receive a contract that will pay him for more than just his production on the floor.

Garnett, who turns 39 next month, has not given a decision on whether or not he will play in his 21st NBA season. After being away from the Timberwolves since 2007, the organization was thrilled re-acquire him in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets in February. While he appeared in only five games and hasn’t played since early March, his veteran presence alone was of value to the young team. Having him on the roster is, in many ways, more significant than having him on the floor.

By bringing back one of the brightest minds in basketball, he can mentor and push the current players, as he has done so many times throughout his career. Garnett’s words and intensity resonate with teammates, many reflecting on his lessons years after playing with him. Given that Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine were born the same year he made his NBA debut, Garnett could literally impart a lifetime of wisdom.

Garnett has amassed well over $300 million in salary over his career, including $12 million this season. He doesn’t have to play another season nor is the game about money at this point. But the Timberwolves hold Garnett with such high regard they will most likely offer him a larger contract than teams without previous ties would. This isn’t a situation for the veteran minimum, not when Garnett gives his maximum dedication even if he’s not in the game.

– Jessica Camerato

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