By Matt Citak
Every offseason, there are a few contracts handed out to free agents that truly make you question the logic and reasoning of some of the NBA’s general managers. With the first game of the 2017-2018 NBA season still about three months away, it is too early to tell which of this summer’s signings will come back to haunt which teams. However there were a couple of deals that certainly made people scratch their heads and wonder “Why?” Here are a few of this offseason’s most questionable contracts.
Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat (Four years, $50 million)
Olynyk was solid off the bench for the Celtics last season, averaging 9.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game. While his field goal percentage rose to a career-high 51.2 percent, the Canadian big man saw his three-point percentage drop over five percentage points from the previous season to 35.4 percent. Olynyk is a decent stretch option out of the frontcourt, and fits the mold of the league’s emerging trend of big men that can help space the floor. While the contract itself is appropriate, it’s the fit with the Heat that is puzzling. In addition to Olynyk, Miami will pay Dion Waiters $13 million and James Johnson $15 million for the next four years, not to mention the $44.3 million still owed to Tyler Johnson over the next three seasons. That is a significant chunk of the team’s salary cap tied up between four mid-level players, especially considering two of the four will be coming off the bench. Olynyk is sure to get a reasonable amount of playing time this season, but with James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside ahead of him on the depth chart, paying $12.5 million for a back-up big is a little tough to swallow.
Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks (Four years, $71 million)
New York’s signing of Hardaway serves as a homecoming of sorts, as the Knicks drafted the shooting guard in the first round of the NBA draft back in 2013. The 25-year old is coming off a career year with Atlanta in which he averaged 14.5 points on 45.5 percent shooting, along with 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists (all career-highs). With that said, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the Knicks organization that thinks this was a smart decision. Although he had a good season, Hardaway contributed only 2.43 wins above replacement, which is worth about $7.5 million on the open market (according to The Washington Post). The Hawks, the team that helped develop the shooting guard over the last two seasons and know him best, reportedly did not want to pay any more than $48 million to retain his services. Hardaway himself admitted to USA Today that the Knicks told him he has to improve significantly on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court. One year after handing Joakim Noah what turned out to be one of the worst contracts of last year’s offseason, the Knicks look like they are headed down the same path this summer.
George Hill, Sacramento Kings (Three years, $57 million)
Appearing in 49 games for the Jazz last season, Hill had one of his strongest years since entering the league. The nine-year NBA veteran averaged a career-best 16.9 points per game while shooting 47.7 percent from the field, just 0.01 off his career-high. Hill finished the year with a three-point percentage over 40 percent (40.3 percent) for the second consecutive season, and added 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds in his 31.5 minutes per game. Hill is a very solid point guard in today’s NBA, but Sacramento’s decision to sign him to this three-year deal is slightly confusing. The Kings just selected their point guard of the future in fifth overall pick De’Aaron Fox, a player that everyone around the league is raving about. At only 19-years old, Fox will certainly benefit from the presence of a veteran point guard on the roster. But for three years? The Kings better hope it does not take Fox that long to take the reigns at point guard. And while Hill is capable of playing shooting guard as well, the Kings have last year’s sixth overall pick Buddy Hield slotted at the two. Sacramento’s plan is for Fox and Hield to develop into one of the league’s most lethal backcourts, but the addition of Hill will likely take away some close-game, high-leverage minutes from the two youngsters, situations that help young players learn.
Otto Porter, Washington Wizards (Four years, $106.5 million)
Porter was the closest to getting left off this list due to his great play last season. The 6-foot-8 forward finished the year with career-highs in points (13.4), rebounds (6.4), steals (1.5), field goal percentage (51.6 percent), three-point percentage (43.4 percent), and free throw percentage (83.2). Porter’s defense took a big step up as well, as the 24-year old emerged as one of the league’s better three-and-D players. There is no question Porter is a very talented wing that deserved to get paid, and a player that Washington could not afford to lose (especially for nothing). But at the same time, it is important to remember that Porter is Washington’s third scoring option behind John Wall and Bradley Beal, yet will be the highest-paid player on the team next season. The Wizards have put themselves in a position where they will be faced with some very difficult decisions down the road. As it stands, Wall is set to become a free agent in 2019. With the final year of his deal being a player option, Porter can choose to become a free agent in 2020, which he likely will do if he continues to play well. Finally, after signing a large extension last year, Beal is lined up to hit the open market in 2021. This means that Washington might have to dish out three huge max contracts in three consecutive offseasons in order to keep their core together.
Danilo Gallinari, Los Angeles Clippers (Three years, $65 million)
With the departures of Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, the Clippers had to find a way to replace their three-point shooting. Enter Gallinari. The Italy-native shot 38.9 percent from downtown last season, his highest percentage from the three-point line since his rookie season, and wound up averaging 18.2 points in 33.9 minutes per game. At 6-foot-10, Gallinari has without a doubt one of the best shots among big men throughout the league. But one of the things that makes Gallinari so valuable is his shooting ability while lining up at power forward. The problem with that is Los Angeles already has their star power forward in Blake Griffin. The Clippers just gave Griffin a $173 million contract to play power forward for the next five seasons, and clearly plan on giving him majority of the minutes at the four. Putting the position overlap aside, Los Angeles already has to deal with Griffin’s proneness to injury. Unfortunately for them, Gallinari is a much bigger injury-risk than Griffin. In his eight seasons in the NBA, Gallinari has played in over 63 games only twice (2009-10 and 2012-13), and has dealt with numerous back, knee, and ankle injuries. The talent is there, but staying on the court could prove to be Gallinari’s toughest challenge.