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July 19, 2004

NBA off-season spending is puzzling and growing

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
Some Wizards fans may remember power forward and center Brian Cardinal from his half-year with Washington back in the 2002-2003 season. However, most wonít, seeing as how he played very sparingly, averaging 2.1 points and less than one rebound per game in only eight appearances. Not once did he ever block a shot.

Last season, Cardinal latched on with the Golden State following their trade of Antawn Jamison to Dallas. Cardinal played much better, staying in Oakland starting 11 games and playing 76. But his numbers werenít outrageously great, or even that good. The former Purdue forward scored 9.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, which is solid enough for a bench player on one of the worst teams in the West last season.

One might expect a good bench contributor to land a decent deal, but the Memphis Grizzlies surprised (and confused) many by signing him to a six-year, $39 million deal to bring him to the largest NBA city in the south not called Washington.

Even more surprising was the free spending by Utah, who had the most cap space coming into the summer frenzy. They inked Mehmet Okur to a $50 million deal over six years to get his 3.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in the playoffs. $50 million for that?!? Okur was so bad that he was taken out of Detroitís playoff rotation coming into the finals. Now heís making nearly $9 million per year.

A contract clause that was once seen as bad for players is now a major benefit to them - restricted free-agent status. If a team wants a player bad enough, such as Cardinal or Okur or Carlos Boozer (to Utah, six years/$68 million), they will tend to overpay to make sure the old team does not match that contract. Detroit has said they will not match Okur. NBA Free Agency has become a player auction, where if teams want something bad enough they overpay so nobody else wants it anymore.

The frenzy has been especially remarkable this year. Restricted offer sheet deals like Cardinalís, Hedo Turkogluís (to Orlando, 6 year/$39 million) and Etan Thomasí (Milwaukee, $6 year/$36.5 million) show players receiving long-term deals from the mid-level exception of about $5 million and then increasing in later years. In no other year did more than one player receive a mid-level deal of over four seasons. Last year, only Juwan Howard got more than four years at the exception, and he scored 17 points and had 11.8 rebounds, far higher numbers than Cardinal, Okur, Boozer, Turkoglu and Thomas, who are all getting paid more than him for next year.

But don't worry; big name players are also getting paid, and very well at that. Steve Nash signed for $65 million over five seasons with the Suns as an unrestricted free agent and Kenyon Martin got the maximum, seven years and over $90 million from the Nets before getting dealt in the NBAís distinct sign-and-trade to Denver for three future first-round picks.

Some other winners will be Rasheed Wallace and Erick Dampier, free agents without a team, who have seen big men with small numbers get huge paydays. They will rightfully ask to get more money for their talent, and could be looking at nearly $70 or $80 million deals.

This incredible free spending has been caused by NBA general managersí fear, who are paying huge this year more than ever to make sure other teams donít land players they want. Observers have accurately called almost every deal mentioned here a rip-off by the players and agents. But thatís the market that the NBA has surprisingly set for itself in one of the weakest free-agent pools in recent memory.



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  • dylan (View Email) on July 19, 2004
    Look man, you have no idea what your talking about.

    1. Cardinal- dont' get it, your right there.

    2. Memo. His name is RAsheed Wallace. Memo didn't play because he had one of the top PF's ahead of him. His numbers dropped because of lack of pt, and because he was a little out of shape at the time and couldn't defend the likes of Jermaine O'Neal and Kenyon Martin. Those two are too athletic for him. Its about potential. Memo's one of the most skilled big men in the league, he can hit the three, mid range j, and post up. His offensive talent is second to only Dirk Nowitzki as far as big men go. He also reboundse well. His d is improving. He's only 25, and has a good 7 years left until he starts to lose his legs. He is very worthy of 50 million.

    Turkoglu and Thomas are waaaaay better than Juwan. Juwan can't defend worth a lick, and his offensive production dropped. The reason he averaged 17/11 in Denver is because he was there one and only scoring option. He got a lot of post touch's. Turkoglu is a 6-10 smooth penetrator and capable shooter. Strong perimeter defender as well. He's worth the full MLE. Thomas is one of the better defenders in the league and converts on easy shots, and is a perfect match for Milwaukee's up tempo style, and will make them a lot better. He too is worth the full MLE.

    3.Rasheed is worth every penny of the deal he's getting. He brings world class offense, and defense. Not to mention gives Detroit a very, very high chance to not only repeat but three peat.

    4. Don't make stupid articles about stuff you dont know about. Being an NBA person, it really makes me mad to see uninformed people talk about the NBA in bad ways.
  • ar junior on July 19, 2004
    Did you just say that Emet Okur's offensive talent is "second to only Dirk Nowitzki as far as big men go?!?!?!?" How can you possibly say that, and then have the audacity to call yourself "an NBA person?" Are you trying to be funny or something?
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on July 19, 2004
    Little out of shape? Thats not an excuse. If I dont meet a deadline, its not because I was "a little tired." Youre using Okur's lack of skill as an excuse? That makes no sense. Okur cannot hit the three; he averaged a paltry 1 in every 3 games. How can Okur be teh second best offensive PF in the NBA? Duncan? Garnett? Even Odom or Webber or Boozer? There's no way that is even remotely correct.

    As for that PT garbage, you must earn PT. If he didnt stink, he would have had more playing time. He stunk, and was not even a backup at the end of the Playoffs.

    If you stink, are fat and cant play defense, thats not an excuse. Thats embarrassing. Why would someone pay 50 mil to a guy who can only be praised by use of lame excuses?

    Not arguing about Rasheed. Never was. Tell me where I was saying he wasnt worth it. Turns out he made a brilliant decision turning down 10 million per over four from Portland last winter.

    Juwan didnt play last year in Denver. He played in Orlando, with a scoring option named McGrady. May have heard of him. Dont you tell me I dont know what I'm talking about. At least I know who plays where and dont sound incredibly stupid when im wrong. Most of the time.

    I never compared Hedo and Etan to Juwan anyways. I just merely stated a fact. That said, no, I dont think that Etan, a backup big man, deserves 6 million dollars.

    Turkoglu didnt fit in San Antonio until nearly the end and tapered off his last year in Sac-to.

    By the way, what makes you an "NBA Person?" You may be a fan, but "NBA Person" means you are an expert. Experts know what theyre talking about, and you certainly dont.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on July 19, 2004
    Well I guess I did compare Howard to the others. But thats an important reference to the frenzy this year.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on July 19, 2004
    WHile I'm defending myself...how can you possibly be an NBA guy and say that Howard could have even been Denver's only option last year. My grandmother, who never watches basketball ever, knows that theres a guy named Carmelo on the Nuggets. Not to mention Jon Barry, Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, and the one name sensation; Nene. Some NBA guy you are, "Dylan."
  • IKG (View Email) on July 20, 2004
    I agree with Dylan.

    Okur is gonna be one of the best players in the NBA history.
    $50 Mil is not a lot of money.

    You wrote:
    "...a $50 million deal over six years to get his 3.7 points..."

    That's not correct. Not 3.7 but 9.7....
    Next year, he'll play with 20-25 pts. Wanna bet???
  • Kaan (View Email) on July 20, 2004
    "They inked Mehmet Okur to a $50 million deal over six years to get his 3.7 points and 2.8 rebounds. $50 million for that?!? Okur was so bad that he was taken out of Detroit's playoff rotation coming into the finals. Now he's making nearly $9 million per year. "

    I do not think you have watched NBA and particularly finals. Okur was most of the time sat on the bench after Rasheeed's transfer. He did his duty when he was given opportunity to play which was very short and few, though he was able to make pnts. Season's stats much better almost double-double for 22min. It is a very good move for Jazz. You can argue about the money to a certain extent but not by using the stats you are using, thats just not representative and not fair.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on July 21, 2004
    Yes, I failed to mention that the 3.6 or whatever it was was just for the postseason. That said, that's even worse, showing that he failed when it mattered most. Sure, Detroit won it all, but no thanks to him.

    Kaan, Okur's numbers were not a double double. THey were something like 9 and 6 per. That's not 50 million dollar material at all in my book. In reality, Brian Cardinal put up better numbers. So did Etan Thomas. Every real NBA writers agree that they overpaid for this white euro stiff.

    IKG, I will bet you everything I own that he will not average 20. Not even remotely close. Not playing with Kirlienko, Boozer, Arroyo and Harpring. And especially not in the Western Conference. No way; he was that bad in the East, wait until he's out west. He will be so lost it's not even funny.

    No backup should make 50 million dollars. Okur is servicable, but 9 million dollars a year? Give me a break! There is no way that a guy can make a million dollars for every PPG. That befuddles me.

    What my column was saying was how odd it is that GMs are now overpaying for these big men with the midlevel exception and beyond. Utah had big $$$ (over 31 million under the cap) to play with, and Kobe would never come there, despite all the white women he could ever want, so they threw it in the places they needed.

    What im saying is taht Utah is spending to add to a great young core, but they overpaid for a proven failure in the playoffs. It's in the numbers. You cant argue with that. I'm tired of the three stooges, "IKG, Kaan and Dylan," of using lousy excuses for a guy who had 6 double doubles all of last year.

    And you can look at his Game Logs; his PT did not drop much after the Feb. 23 deal with Atlanta for Wallace. His numbers however, come April and May, plummeted. You cant defend the indefensible without sounding uninformed.

    And ill take you up on that bet in a heartbeat. Anyone who knows anything about the NBA would.

  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on July 21, 2004
    "Okur is gonna be one of the best players in the NBA history."

    Yes, in 2021, when we celebrate the 75 best NBA players in 75 years, we will look back at those who changed the game: Kareem, Jordan, Bird, Magic, Russell, Shaq, Cousy, and Okur.

    Really? Mehmet Okur? One of the best of all time? Thats like calling Mark Madsen the next Patrick Ewing.
  • Jimmy on July 30, 2004
    I am extremely confused here. Are dylan, IKG and Kaan real people? Do they actually exist? Because there is no way ANY person, much less an NBA fan, could say that Okur deserves $50 million. He's a backup. I would have gone more with 4 yrs, $15 million. That's what his numbers deserve, and that's what his experience deserves. Look, you can say his numbers get better when expanded to 48 minutes. but Elden Campbell's numbers are suddenly amazing when expanded and the guy makes $4 million a year. Okur looked lost on the court during the playoffs. Let me get this straight: Okur is worth more than Corey Maggette, who average 20.7 and 5? This is embarassing. And every sports reporter knows it: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=1847456.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on August 1, 2004
    Amen, Jimmy. You hit the nail on the head.
  • Dan on November 8, 2004
    Michael Bushnell knows what he is talking about alright? I am a "NBA person", and I know that Okur is trash. ON detroit last year, he was like the 7th man on the team. How does he deserve 50 million? Really, what can Okur do? The only reason he even got some of those meager points was cause nobody even bothers to guard him. SEriously, Okur is trash, and it irritates me when people can't even see that and then call themselves NBA experts.

    What is the NBA coming to, paying big "trash" men so much money!
  • mark perkins (View Email) on January 25, 2005 at 4:12 PM
    Hmm-Okur now averaging 12.5 ppg and 2.8 rpg (not great for a big guy). Will willingly play like Jerry Sloan wants him to. In todays pro sports sounds like a bargain. To really have a reasonable critique of players, look at what they do under other peoples (i.e. coaches) system). Most role players under Jerry Sloan, Pat Riley and Phil "Zen-head" Jackson, do not do well in other settings. The reason? Other "coaches" try to get players to do things they are not capable of doing. The best coaches utilize players to their fullest and place them in positions where they can be successful in a team and individual setting. Because Rasheed scored more and rebounded better for Portland, does not mean his present numbers have less value for Detroit, if that is what coach Brown wants of him. -Mark
  • Bob dylan (View Email) on December 21, 2005 at 12:28 AM
    IKG :: ilhankubilaygeckil@yahoo.com :: 7/20/2004
    I agree with Dylan.

    Okur is gonna be one of the best players in the NBA history.
    $50 Mil is not a lot of money.

    You wrote:
    "...a $50 million deal over six years to get his 3.7 points..."

    That's not correct. Not 3.7 but 9.7....
    Next year, he'll play with 20-25 pts. Wanna bet???
    ============================================
    ru serious? lol i should have bet with you then since he only had 13 pts a game and is only averagin 18 this year
    dont worry im gonna save ur email so u can make some more sorry bets with me
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