David Rosenthal, CBS Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The NBA’s salary cap rose drastically this summer, and some of the resulting free-agent deals we have seen so far are real head-scratchers.
Here are some of the most-puzzling signings this off-season.
Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls: 2 years, $47.5 million
This was a massive surprise for most NBA fans.
Wade leaving the Miami Heat was almost unthinkable, but the impossible has happened.
Heat owner Micky Arison apparently did not want to open up the bank for Wade, who has taken pay cuts to accommodate other free-agent contracts in the past, and let him walk.
Reports are surfacing that Heat GM Pat Riley did not even call Wade once!
The Heat were outbid by the Nuggets, possibly the Bucks, and the Bulls, and despite his attachment to the city, Wade certainly felt betrayed by the Heat’s front office.
Relationships are important people!
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) July 4, 2016
Don’t believe me? Just look at the first post he favorited on Twitter after the announcement he would be joining the Bulls.
Rajon Rondo, Chicago Bulls: 2 years, $28 million
After a rebound year last season with the Sacramento Kings, the once-elite Rondo hit the free agency market and ultimately signed with the Bulls for two years.
The Bulls traded former franchise cornerstone Derrick Rose to the Knicks, and while I like Rondo as a player, I do not like the fit with Chicago.
Rondo, paired with newly signed Wade, could be one of the worst-shooting back courts in NBA history.
With Wade and Rondo in their back court, the Bulls might have one of the worst-shooting back courts in the NBA pic.twitter.com/qZtpXctrXe
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 7, 2016
Timofey Mozgov, Los Angeles Lakers: 4 years, $64 million
This was one of the most bizarre moves in this year’s free agency, and the timing of it was definitely head-scratching.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak reportedly called Mozgov at 9:01 p.m. PT July 1, making him their first call.
This center, who scored 15 points in the entire 2016 NBA playoffs, will now make $16 million a year for the Lakers.
I understand the Lakers needed a big man and needed a veteran, but did you have to throw the checkbook at the 29-year old Mozgov literally ONE MINUTE after free agency began?
The Warriors ended up having to trade away Andrew Bogut, which would have been a better and more affordable move.
Bismack Biyombo, 23, signed an extremely similar deal (4 years, $72 million) with the Orlando Magic.
Why were the Lakers so aggressive with Mozgov? Only time will tell.
Technically, the Lakers upgraded from Roy Hibbert (76th/76th in real +/-) with Mozgov (75th/76th in real +/-)
By Offensive Real-Plus Minus, Lakers upgrade from Roy Hibbert (76th out of 76 centers) to Timofey Mozgov (75th)… pic.twitter.com/2Q2XsQXYC3
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) July 1, 2016
Dwight Howard, Atlanta Hawks: 3 years, $70.5 million
Howard, or as I like to call him, “The Destroyer of Franchises,” is headed to the Hawks.
The former Magic, Lakers and Rockets big man has left a trail of coaches in his wake.
1st Magic coach: Johnny Davis — FIRED
2nd Magic coach: Brian Hill — FIRED
3rd Magic coach: Stan Van Gundy — FIRED
1st Lakers coach: Mike Brown — FIRED
2nd Lakers coach: Mike D’Antoni — FIRED
1st Rockets coach: Kevin McHale — FIRED
1st Hawks coach: Mike Budenholzer — To Be Determined
(This does not include interim head coaches)
I hate the move for the Hawks, who have installed a system similar to the Spurs, courtesy of head coach Budenholzer.
If anyone can get the Popovich disciple Budenholzer fired, it’s Howard.
Jeff Green, Orlando Magic: 1 year, $15 million
While I admire Green’s skill set and think he is a very solid addition to any NBA team, I simply do not understand the fit in Orlando.
Prior to free agency, the Magic traded guard Victor Oladipo to the Thunder in exchange for forward Serge Ibaka.
The team also added center Bismack Biyombo from the Raptors, and also resigned center Dewayne Dedmon.
The teams’ top draft pick from two seasons ago, forward Aaron Gordon, had a breakout year last season.
The Magic also re-signed swingman Evan Fournier to a five-year deal, and also have last year’s top draft pick, guard-forward Mario Hezonja.
The team certainly has a lot of depth but is also going to struggle to find minutes for all these 6-9-and-above players.
Good luck to newly hired head coach Frank Vogel on trying to balance out minutes for three positions among Vucevic, Gordon, Ibaka, Biyombo, Dedmon, Green, Hezonja and Fournier.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies: 5 years, $153 million
Conley is without a doubt an extremely talented point guard, but in no universe should he be the recipient of the richest contract in NBA history.
The Grizzlies offered their franchise player more than any other team could in order to keep him with the team, and that’s exactly what happened.
Conley averaged 15.3 PPG, and 6.1 APG during an injury-shortened season last year, and averages 13.6 PPG and 5.6 for his career.
The Ohio State product barely cracks the top 10 point guards in the NBA.
This contract is completely market-driven, but that does not change that fact that Conley will take up at least 25 percent of the team’s salary cap for years to come.
However, Conley’s reign as the highest-paid player in NBA history will almost certainly come to an end next season when Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and possibly LeBron James all sign long-term deals when the salary cap expands again next season.
Joakim Noah, New York Knicks: 4 years, $72 million
Yet another puzzling move of this off-season was the Knicks offering former Bulls big man Noah a four year, $72 million deal.
This is not the same Noah that made the all-star team in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons.
This is the Noah who has not played a full season since then and has averaged 4.3 PPG and 7.2 PPG in the past two seasons.
Noah has battled injuries the past two seasons, as he was only able to play in 29 games last season and 67 the year before.
The 31-year old Noah certainly isn’t getting younger, but I guess the Knicks have confidence he can remain on the floor and be the defensive stalwart he once was with Chicago.
The Knicks traded away Robin Lopez in order to acquire Rose, so Noah looks to fill their void of rim protector in 2016-2017.
This is on par with the Mozgov signing, as it gives you the instant reaction of “Huh?”
Phil Jackson apparently believes in Noah, so best not to question the Zen Master until at least midway through next year.