NBA

3 NBA Free Agent Deals That Teams Will Regret

Gordon Hayward (20) of the Boston Celtics reacts as the Denver Nuggets pull away during the second half of the Nuggets' 115-107 win on Monday, November 5, 2018. Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets had a game and career high 48 points
Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post

The beginning of the NBA free agency period saw a flurry of big contracts with a lot of players finding new homes around the league. Some teams have found great value while others have doled out big deals that may prove costly in the future. Here are 3 NBA free agency contracts that teams will regret down the road.

Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward (20) of the Boston Celtics drives as Aron Baynes (46) sets a pick on Malik Beasley (25) of the Denver Nuggets during the first half on Monday, November 5, 2018. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Boston Celtics at the Pepsi Center
Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post

Hayward finds himself at the top of this list after Hornets owner Michael Jordan threw 120 million at the former Celtic to come join him down in Charlotte. While it is one of the three worst free agency deals thus far, there are also some upsides to Hayward. 

A one-time All-Star, Hayward enjoyed a successful, seven-year stint with the Utah Jazz before signing with the Celtics in 2017. The four year, 127.8 million dollar deal was enough to entice Hayward to Boston after a career year in points per game the year before. However, just one game into that contract, Hayward suffered that gruesome, season-ending injury against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since that injury, Hayward has never been the same.

In the last two seasons with the Celtics, Hayward averaged 14 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He shot 35.7% from three on 3.7 attempts and 84.3% from the free-throw line. Those are solid numbers, but they certainly did not live up to the 31 million dollars a year the Celtics were paying him.

Downside to Hayward

It is fair to say that Hayward will be a serviceable player for the Hornets from this point forward. However, for 30 million dollars a year, just serviceable is unacceptable. The odds are that Hayward will never return to the career numbers he achieved in Utah, the numbers that the Celtics thought they would be getting when they gave him the big-money contract in 2017. Yet the Hornets gave Hayward almost the exact same amount per year, with the only difference being Hayward is now three years older. 

Hayward will be 33 by the end of his latest contract. He is yet to play a full 82 game season in his career, and that trend only gets harder to break as his age goes up. He has dealt with various ailments separate from his dislocated ankles, including knee, foot, and calf injuries. While he will get ample opportunity to live up to his contract on the Hornets, it is difficult to see him doing that at this point in his career.

Hayward’s deal felt like a deal to fill up the cap space rather than improve the team. The franchise should be more focused on giving time to the younger players like P.J Washington and Malik Monk. The front office should have learned their lesson on overpaying wings over the long term after the Nicolas Batum fiasco. However, all signs point to them having made the same mistake with Hayward.

Marcus Morris

Marcus Morris Sr. of New York Knicks warms up prior to NBA match between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York, United States on January 22, 2020.
Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency

The Clippers have made significant adjustments to the prior season’s roster that resulted in the disappointing exit at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. The two most notable departures have been shooting guard Landry Shamet (traded to the Nets) and center Montrez Harrell (signed with the Lakers). However, one of the players that they decided to retain was small forward, Marcus Morris. Morris signed a four year, 64 million dollar contract with the team in the early stages of the free agency period. 

This was a shocking amount of money for Morris, who has been a solid bench contributor for most of his career. The Knicks signed Morris to a one year, 15 million dollar contract in the past offseason. In 43 games with the Knicks, he played some of the best basketball of his career. He averaged 19.6 points per game on 43.9% shooting from 3, both career-high numbers. 

Shortly before the trade deadline, Morris was included in a three-team deal that saw him traded to the Clippers. The value appeared to be a great one for the Clippers, who needed a wing who played tough defense and could shoot. While the New York Knicks version of Morris was precisely that, Morris struggled to regain his form after the trade.

Reason for Morris’s Dip in Production

In 19 games with the Clippers, Morris’s points per game regressed to 10.1 and his 3 point percentage to a below-average 31%. The main difference between his time with the Knicks and Clippers was his volume. With the Knicks, Morris’s usage percentage was 24.4. With the Clippers, that number was 15.8. Morris had a lot more freedom on offense in New York, which led to inflated numbers. When he came to the Clippers and became not even a top-three scoring option, his efficiency and production began to tank. 

Morris put up better numbers in the playoffs, shooting an outstanding 47.5% from 3. However, it remains to be seen whether that production in a mere 13 games warranted one of the largest free-agent deals so far this offseason. Morris will enter his 10th season at age 31. By the end of this deal, the Clippers may be looking for ways to move the journeyman Morris onto his next team.

De’Anthony Melton

USC guard DeAnthony Melton (22) brings the ball up the court during an NCAA basketball game between the SMU Mustangs and the USC Trojans on November 25, 2016, at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, CA.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

With the final contract, the Grizzlies gave shooting guard De’Anthony Melton a four year, 35 million dollar deal. At roughly 8.75 million per year, the deal is not as consequential as the first two contracts. However, Melton’s career numbers thus far make the contract a questionable one.

The Houston Rockets drafted Melton in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Suns one month later and played the 2018 season there. Despite playing roughly 19 minutes per game, Melton struggled, averaging 5 points per game on just 39% shooting from the field. In the summer after his rookie season with the Suns, he was traded to Memphis. Melton’s numbers improved marginally, averaging 7.6 points per game with the Grizzlies. 

While his offensive numbers are meager, Melton’s best trait is his defense. At 6’2, 200 pounds, Melton is a stout defender at the shooting guard position. The two-man combination of Melton and Tyus Jones, a similarly defensive-minded guard, had the highest net points per 100 possessions for the Grizzlies last season. 

The issue is Melton’s defensive capabilities are the only thing that makes Melton relevant. As seen above, his shooting percentages and averages are sub-par. As the pick and roll ball handler, Melton’s averaged 0.59 points per possession, which ranked 13th worst out of all eligible players in the NBA according to NBA Stats.

Cheaper Alternatives

There is no denying Melton is a capable defender and can be a contributor defensively for an ascending Memphis team. With that being said, the Grizzlies could have saved a lot of money and gotten comparable production out of other free agents who were on the market.

The Suns signed guard Jevon Carter to a three year, 11.5 million dollar deal this offseason. Carter was a restricted free agent this offseason, but his deal was only for less than 4 million dollars per year. The Grizzlies could have offered Carter a contract and waited to see if the Suns would match their offer. The Miami Heat also signed former Lakers guard Avery Bradley to a two year, 11 million dollar contract. Bradley shot better from 3 and also plays solid defense at the shooting guard position. 

Offering Bradley a contract before renewing Melton for four years would have been a more cost-effective move. Melton’s defensive prowess makes him valuable to a team, but a shorter-term deal may have been a smarter move given the market value for comparable players.

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