There was a flurry of deals on the first two days of the NBA season. Some players that are keys to their team’s success got new contracts before the signing deadline for these players. Six players were noteworthy signings near the deadline, with some coming down to the midnight eastern deadline. There are three players of note that did not get extensions prior to the deadline and will be free agents at the end of the season. Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings and Jeff Teague. But, let’s look at the players that did sign and how their deals may work out for those GM’s that signed them.
1. James Harden – 5 years $80 million
6’5″ 220, 23 years old
First 2013 game – 37 points, 6 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 steals, 1 block, 4 turnovers, 2 fouls
Career Averages – 12.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1 steal, 0.27 blocks, 1.6 turnovers, 2.5 fouls
James Harden was by far the biggest signing of the off-season as a whole, let alone the two days leading up the the start of the season. I already laid out the trade and it’s effects in a post last week. The Rockets and GM Daryl Morey did the expected after trading for Haden, they signed him to a max contract of 5 years, $80 million. Harden has shown he can be a more than capable scorer and won the 2012 6th Man of the Year. In Houston, he will be relied upon to be the #1 option. Harden’s career averages aren’t going to help much in projecting his production in Houston because he was third banana to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. However, if Harden’s first game in Houston is any indication, this trade and contract is going to be a slam dunk for the Houston Rockets. He shouldered the scoring load effectively and facilitated the offense with 12 assists. One can only imagine things will get better as the season goes on and they learn to play with each other.
2. DeMar DeRozan – 4 years $40 million
6’7″ 217, 23 years old
First 2013 game – 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 steals, 1 block, 0 turnovers, 1 fouls
Career Averages – 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, .3 blocks, 1.5 turnovers, 2.5 fouls
DeMar DeRozan is one of the most athletic SG’s in the league and has the ability to jump out of the stadium. The problem has been that he hasn’t been able to shoulder the load offensively for the Toronto Raptors. I have no doubt that DeRozan could be a fantastic #3 or possibly #2 option on a team, but until he can show that he can shoot as well as drive the basket, his usefulness is limited. Based on output, this contract is the most risky of the six outlined in this post, but if DeRozan can learn to shoot the three with consistency, he could out play the contract. Bryan Colangelo has taken a risk, that I could see being a contract that he wishes he didn’t offer in a few years.
3. Stephen Curry – 4 years $44 million
6’3″ 185, 24 years old
First 2013 game – 5 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 4 turnovers, 3 fouls
Career Averages – 17.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.3 blocks, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls
If DeMar DeRozan’s contract was the riskiest based on output, Stephen Curry’s contract is the riskiest based on injury history. Curry has shown that he can be a great shooter and capable assist man, he has averaged 17.5 points and almost 6 assists for his career. The problem is that Curry has been shown to be somewhat brittle, especially after being limited to 23 games in 2012. The ankle injury that took him out of action was especially problematic, but it was a nagging injury that he seemed unable to shake. The ankle seemed brittle and questions still remain whether or not it will be the same going forward. I thought that Golden State’s Bob Myers would wait till the end of the season, when Curry would have been a restricted free agent, before signing him to see how his health shakes out. This is a high upside contract that could be well worth it for a shooter that can light up the scoreboard night to night.
4. Jrue Holiday – 4 years $41 million
6’4″ 180, 22 years old
First 2013 game – 14 points, 6 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls
Career Averages – 11.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, 2.2 turnovers, 2.3 fouls
At 22 years old, Jrue Holiday is still just tapping into his potential as a starting PG in the NBA. Philadelphia has a great young player on their hands and it is tough to believe he is already going into his 4th year. Holiday doesn’t excel in any particular area, but he is above average in almost all areas. He has some size, at 6’4″, against some of the smaller PG’s in the NBA but he could add some bulk onto his slight 180 lbs. frame. Holiday should benefit greatly from the Andrew Bynum trade if Bynum can find a way to stay healthy and be the franchise C that the 76ers Tony DiLeo traded for this summer. This deal is probably the second safest, behind Ty Lawson’s deal, to pan out as a solid next 4 years. It is certainly possible that Holiday doesn’t QUITE live up to the contract, but I think that it will be close enough that it won’t be a major issue.
5. Ty Lawson – 4 years $48 million
5’11” 195, 24 years old
First 2013 game – 16 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 0 blocks, 0 turnovers, 4 fouls
Career Averages – 12 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1 steal, 1.5 blocks, 1.8 turnovers, 1.5 fouls
We’ve all heard it ever since he came into the NBA, “Ty Lawson is the fastest player in the league.” I’m not going to dispute that, Lawson has blazing speed and great handles. He finds a way to use his shorter stature to his advantage, at time losing the big guys in the lane. I’m not so sure that Ty Lawson would have deserved this contract on any team except George Karl’s new look speed game. Karl must have been chomping at the bit to use a more up tempo game after years of letting Carmelo Anthony dribble out the shot clock and take an 18 footer. But, in this offense, this contract should come out to be a steal for the Nuggets and Masai Ujiri. Lawson will never average 20 points a game for a season, and he probably won’t break 10 assists a game for a season, but what Lawson offers this team is the perfect floor general to run this offense that doesn’t want to be pinned down to a single start player. Denver is one of the most exciting offenses in the league, and Ty Lawson is the main reason for that. This team has aspirations to make a deep run in the playoffs, and as the contract shows, Denver is hanging their hopes on the speedster Lawson.
6. Taj Gibson – 4 years $38 million
6’9″ 225, 27 years old
First 2013 game – 4 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, 4 blocks, 0 turnovers, 1 foul
Career Averages – 7.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.3 blocks, 1.1 turnovers, 2.7 fouls
The enigmatic Taj Gibson. Taking a look at his career averages doesn’t do Taj’s impact for the Chicago Bulls justice. He is not a dynamic offensive big man in the post, he doesn’t have the range of a euro big man, and he doesn’t have the passing ability of his teammate Joakim Noah. So why on earth did Gar Forman sign a player like that to a 4 year $38 million extension? The answer is that Taj is the type of player you have to watch, preferably in person, to truly see his impact. This is a 6th Man of the Year contender for 2013. He picks up the second unit, and steps into the starting 5 when needed, and plays with more heart than almost anyone on the floor. Taj is not a player you will often see relaxed anywhere on the court. If the ball is in the air, Taj is generally working to either box out or get an offensive rebound. He does a lot of dirty work for the Bulls that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Taj will probably never be more than a 6th man off the bench, he lacks the offensive ability to stick in the starting five unless most other positions have a scoring punch. But, he plays great on-ball defense and works as hard as anyone. Gar Forman did the right thing playing hard ball with Taj. He refused to offer anymore and Gibson gave indications he would not accept the contract. But after the first game on Wednesday, he accepted the contract prior to the signing deadline and now the Bulls have their 6th man behind Boozer at PF and Nikola Mirotic when he arrives from Europe.