The NBA’s salary cap doesn’t work

What’s happening this summer in the NBA free agency market makes no sense.  Teams are “maxing” guys who are not elite players, and overspending on guys in the middle market.

First the Bucks jump out on day one and sign journeyman forward Drew Gooden to a five year $32 million.  Good thing they did otherwise he was close to signing with… wait, who else was bidding?  I don’t understand why the Bucks were so eager and so generous.  Then they did the same with Salmons under what appeared to be similar non-competitive conditions.  And why did they feel the need to go so long term with each player?  It makes no sense.

But the largest idiocy of the summer is the maximum contract signings.  In theory, maximum contracts should be reserved for the best of the best.  But that’s not how it works in practice.  In practice, when a team is bidding on a player they want, the maximum contract price actually acts as a sort of “desire” barometer.  Any offer less than the maximum is taken as a sign of “disrespect” or “frugality”.  Its bizarre.

Thus players that I refer to as “Tier 2″ stars get max offers.  Players like Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudamire.  Why?  Because there doesn’t seem to be that “three quarter” market.  When teams bid on free agents either the incentive, apparently, is to offer really good, but not great, players maximum deals.  So you run into situations where the New York Knickerbockers overspend on Amare Stoudamire and the Atlanta Hawks do the same on Joe Johnson. 

Over the past two seasons, I have Johnson producing winning percentages of .799 and .821.  Pretty damn good, but far short of “elite”.  Same with Stoudamire.   Over the past two seasons, I mark him as producing winning percentages of .802% and .791%.   Again, very nice, but maximum dollar worthy?

And I don’t even want to get into the sheer lunacy of “maxing” Rudy Gay, a player I see as — at best — slightly above bench level. 

Something has to be done.  Or I guess my fear is that something will be done.  Its called a “lockout”.  Its called “No Basketball”.  That’s gonna suck.

5 Responses to “The NBA’s salary cap doesn’t work”

  1. D Says:

    A lockout would be terrible. Especially since the Bucks are on the upswing and we’re still talking about them on July 6th as a playoff team next season. That would kindof be a momentum killer. But yeah, I don’t think Johnson and Stoudamire are worth $100+ million. They’re good, but not MVP material like Lebron and Kobe are.

  2. brgulker Says:

    Apparently, the Hawks are shopping Josh Smith if they can sign O’Neal. How crazy is that?

    • palamida Says:

      not only is that crazy, I don’t even get the reasoning behind it.
      I mean, whatever it is – it’s obv wrong… but what is it?
      Horford and Zaza play Center, Smith does not. what does signing Shaq for a year, around MLE deal has to do with J. Smith?
      BTW, Shaq claims he wants to go to a contender and make it a “real contender”. Not that ATL is really contending now, but without Smith…
      just sick.
      Rudy Gay – so long Memphis.

  3. Blake Says:

    Once all the ‘stars’ were gone other teams are going to be overspending to fill out their roster with quality players. Look at the other big men available in free agency, other teams were going to start bidding heavily on Gooden considering he was one of few quality free agent PF/C’s on the market. That’s why we overspent.

    • tywill33 Says:

      You’re right, but a rational market would work the opposite way! But NBA teams are so sensitive to the public’s pressure to just “do something” that they will, as you suggest, throw good money at bad players. (As an example of irrational public pressure, I heard some radio personality yesterday criticize Drew Gooden’s game in one breath, and then in the next say “but hey, its good to see the Bucks so aggressive this offseason”)

      That’s what drives this tomfoolery. Once the stars are gone, the dregs ought to be paid dreg wages, but as you suggest, it wont work that way at all!!

      Every team will make a mad grab to overpay one of the remaining stiffs “and may the devil take the hindmost”. Because no team dares get caught with an empty trick-or-treat basket during free agent season… oh no, that would be horrible! That’d be like telling your fans “we’re not trying next season!” (please recognize my sarcasm)

      That’s why I somewhat respect Packers GM Ted Thompson. He has the courage NOT to spend. But he’s paid the price for that practice. No successful GM in Packers history has ever been so unpopular (and he’s been one of the Packers most successful GMs of all time). People want money spent, no matter how unwisely. Of course if the guy turns out to be a stiff, you’ll never hear the end of it.

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