Game Time: For Sale -- NBA Two Guard, 30 Y/O, Excellent Condition, Trades Accepted

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First, I want to thank everyone for their reaction, positive or otherwise, to my post yesterday which chronicled the high points of the era of Tracy McGrady's Expiring Contract I seem to learn something with every new post that I generate here on Hair Balls, and yesterday I learned that there are still some fans who are willing to look past a player shitting on their hometown team, completely disrespecting the coach and general manager, and taking on a prima donna attitude (all while maintaining his status as "highest paid player in the league") mainly because at one time he could put the ball in the hole.

My favorite comment probably came from "Chris" who said: "I've never met a Tracy fanboy in person. Then again, I've never been to China."

Indeed, I thought China was the only area in the world that hadn't caught up to Tracy's act yet, but apparently a few of you here in Houston are good with T-MEC (Tracy McGrady's Expiring Contract, as he will now be known) as well. To each his or her own.

That Tracy is the highest paid player in basketball is but one pimple on the pizza face that is the NBA's fiscal landscape, however it is indicative of a theme I pointed out yesterday:

*You've heard skeptical, jaded former boat owners espouse the old saying that "the two happiest days of a boat owner's life are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it."

In many respects, you could say the same thing about NBA players. The day that a signing is executed always feels good because inherently you feel like you've filled some sort of need; otherwise, why would you have done the deal?

At the time I typed that it was more just something that felt accurate than a statement I could back up with actual data (uh huh, I'm part of the problem), but yesterday during our show, John Harris and I were messing around with ESPN's Trade Machine, which by the way is the greatest time waster this side of sporcle.com.

Specifically, I was looking at the Sixers and the Rockets trade of Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert to the Rockets for T-MEC. On the Trade Machine, they show each team's entire roster, complete with contract information (cap figure and years remaining on deal) for every player. With the "boat owner" theory in mind, I looked at which players on these two teams have more than three years remaining after this season (so fairly recent long-term signings) and an annual cap figure at or above the mid-level exception ($5.854 million for 2009-2010).

The result -- Elton Brand ($14,858,472 cap figure, contract through 2013), Andre Iguodala ($12,200,000 cap figure, contract through 2014), and Trevor Ariza ($5,854,00 cap figure, contract through 2013 according to the Trade Machine, although I thought it was a five-year deal...whatever).

Three players on whom the buyer's remorse ranges from simmering (Ariza, although it's early) to increasingly apparent (Iguodala) to soul-crushing (Brand). Whatever your assessment, it's safe to say that neither team feels great about the investments they've made thus far when you compare productivity to dollars earned (although to be fair, the book on Ariza may get written next year when he's back in a supporting role).

With that in mind, I started going down all of the teams in the NBA and taking a look at their most recent big-dollar, long-term investments to see if this immediate regret over these excessive deals was a common theme. I'll keep score of my opinion along the way, but go ahead and view the rest of this blog post as your Guide to NBA Drunken Spending. Here we go (2010 salary and final year of contract in parentheses)....

Josh Smith, Forward ($10,800,000 -- 2013)
Marvin Williams, Forward ($7,500,000 -- player option for 2013-14)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs up on both.
Atlanta is one of the teams that actually should feel pretty good about it's long-term investments. Smith is a borderline All-Star who contributes at both ends of the floor, and Williams is a serviceable swingman and "4th or 5th banana" who is only 23 years old.

Rajon Rondo, Guard ($2,623,326 this season but five-year extension starting
at $9,000,000 kicks in next season)
ASSESSMENT: Too early to tell.
Rondo is an All-Star this season and appears to be on the verge of making the leap to elite player, but so do most guys who get eight-figure deals. Let's see how this plays out once the
checks go up fivefold.

Gerald Wallace, Forward ($9,075,00 -- player option for 2012-13)
Stephen Jackson, Guard ($7,650,000 -- 2013)
DeSagana Diop, Center ($6,031,800 -- player option for 2012-13)
ASSESSMENT: 1 Yes, 1 No, and 1 Neutral until he pulls a gun on someone.
Wallace had excessive boat-anchor contract written all over him until out of nowhere he took his game to another level this season. Jackson can almost never be classified as a "thumbs up" because he could spontaneously combust at any minute. Diop wasn't a Charlotte signing, but his contract ($6M for less than 10 minutes a game) is their problem now.

Luol Deng, Forward ($10,370,425 -- 2014)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs down.
Deng is the quintessential third scorer on a decent team who, for a wing player, has trouble getting his offense in a variety of ways. He's mostly a jump-shooter, and his deal tops out at over $14 million per year. And this assessment doesn't even take into account that the Bulls have been trying to move Kirk Heinrich pretty much since the first year after they extended him.

Mo Williams, Guard ($8,860,000 -- player option for 2012-2013)
Anderson Varajeo, Forward-Center ($6,300,000 -- 2014)
ASSESSMENT: Neutral until after LeBron decides where he's going.
If LeBron sticks around then you have a perfect complementary scorer and an energy guy off the bench on a good team. If LeBron leaves, you're left with a guy who is at best a decent undersized hybrid point/two guard and a spaz with no offensive moves and a Sideshow Bob haircut.

Shawn Marion, Forward ($6,635,068 -- tops out at $9.3M in 2014)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs down.
This contract is probably fine for now, but soon enough the Mavericks will be paying a mid-30something player who relies almost solely on athleticism over $8 million per year.

Most of the Nuggets core players have contracts that expire before 2012, and their most important player (Carmelo Anthony) has a player option for 2011-2012. All in all, they're not really hamstrung by any terrible deals.

Richard Hamilton, Guard ($11,625,00 -- 2013)
Ben Gordon, Guard ($10,000,000 -- player option for $13.2M for 2013-14)
Charlie Villanueva, Forward ($6,500,000 -- player option for $8.58M for
ASSESSMENT: Holy hell, a circus of thumbs down.
The only party that stands to benefit from these three deals is whomever took over fundraising
at the University of Connecticut after my dad left that role in 2007. All three Husky alums are one-dimensional players who, if they are one of your top two players, then you're probably in the lottery. They can all score, I'll give them that. Not Joe Dumars finest hour when he handed all these deals out.

Monta Ellis, Guard ($11,000,000 -- player option for 2013-14)
Andres Biedrins, Center ($9,000,000 -- player option for 2013-14)
Corey Maggette, Guard ($8,937,931 -- 2013)
ASSESSMENT: Two neutrals (Ellis and Biedrins) and one thumbs down

It's almost as though you have to make this one big collective thumbs down because these players were all signed to these extensions in conjunction as the nucleus of what Warriors fans hoped would be a rising young team. While it's tempting to slap a thumbs down on Ellis because of his off-the-court act and inflated stats due to his volume shooting, I'll stay neutral on him because the overall package is still good. Biedrins is a 23-year-old athletic big; I'll leave the jury out on him. Maggette is a one-dimensional ball hog, albeit an athletic one. Just not a big Maggette fan.

Trevor Ariza, Forward ($5,845,000 -- 2014)
You almost have to wait until next season to fully assess the Ariza signing, once the Rockets have had a chance to construct their team fully.

Danny Granger. Forward ($9,930,500 -- 2014)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs way up.
When healthy, Granger has shown to be one of the best scorers in the league. A perennial future All-Star.

Baron Davis, Guard ($12,150,000 -- 2013)
ASSESSMENT:  Thumbs down.
When healthy, Davis can be one of the most explosive, game-changing point guards in the game. The problem is eventually his body breaks down, that is if his willingness to ball out
doesn't break down first.

Pao Gasol, Forward ($16,451,250 -- 2014)
Andrew Bynum, Center ($12,526,000 -- team option in 2012-13 for $16M)
Lamar Odom, Forward ($7,500,000 -- team option in 2012-13 for $8,2M)
Ron Artest, Forward ($5,854,000 -- two year player option in 2012-13)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs up on Gasol, thumbs down on Artest, let's wait and see on
Bynum and Odom.

Gasol is perfectly cast as a second scorer inside to Kobe's perimeter and slashing game.  Artest is a kook who I just don't think brings nearly as much to the table as some to seem to think he does. Put it this way, when I'm betting against the Lakers, I LOVE when Artest has the ball in his hands. Bynum is still growing into his game with the arrow pointed up, and Odom is married to a Kardashian so that could go sideways any minute.

The team is a collection of guys still on their rookie deals (so a slew of team options coming up in the next couple years) and low-paid veterans. Even the one highly paid guy they have (Zach Randolph, $17M per year), who was basically dumped on them, has turned into an All-Star.

Readying themselves to make sure they can not only keep Dwyane Wade but build around him, the Heat have positioned themselves with very few long-term dollars committed. Jermain O'Neal and Quentin Richardson (combined $32 million) come off the books this off season. Let the games begin!

Andrew Bogut, Center ($10,000,000 -- 2014)
ASSESSMENT:  Thumbs up, mate!
Bogut has turned into one of the better big men in the game with a nice offensive game, complemented by a defensive game that, for what it lacks in intimidation, makes up for it in effort and smarts. Worth mentioning, the Bucks are the team that gave Michael Redd $17 million per year, a deal they would love to get out from under (player option for next season).

Al Jefferson, Center ($12,000,000 -- 2013)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs up, assuming health.
When you traded a franchise icon like Kevin Garnett, you almost had to come away with a foundation asset in return, and Jefferson is that, although the knee injury last season was a
bump in the road they didn't need. His numbers are down a little bit from his first two years in Minnesota, but so are his minutes. Big men who can score like AJ are a rare commodity, so I'm more flexible with the thumb going up.

Devin Harris, Guard ($8,400,000 -- 2013)
ASSESSMENT:  Thumbs down.
In a way, it goes back to the assessment of Mo Williams with the Cavaliers. As long as LeBron is there, $8 million is fine for a guy who is a second or third wheel. But without LeBron, Williams becomes Devin Harris basically -- a point guard on a four-win team in February. Harris is a former All-Star who I've always seen as a second tier point guard. Unlike transcendent points like Nash, Paul, or Deron Williams, you can't just throw a bunch of guys around Devin Harris and expect to stay afloat. But that's what the Nets have done. Waste of money.

Chris Paul, Guard ($13,520,500 -- player option for 2012-13)
Emeka Okafor, Center ($10,538,937 -- 2014 topping out over $14M)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs up and thumbs down.
Paul is one of the top five or ten players in the game. That's an easy one. Okafor is a serviceable big man who works hard but his contract is the epitome of what ails the league --
eight-figure deals for guys who are non-ticket-selling, complementary players, especially in a struggling market like New Orleans. Maybe they can find a way to deal Okafor to Detroit and reunite him with his UConn buddies.

Their moment of truth is coming up this offseason and they've never been more ready. Not one non-rookie deal that goes past this season, other than two player options (Eddy Curry for $11M and Jared Jeffries for $6M).

One of the youngest teams in the league, their long-term commitments are all rookie deals with team options and Thabo Sefolosha for a few million. That's it. They're in great shape to be a major factor in the upcoming decade building around Kevin Durant.

Elton Brand, Forward ($14,858,471 -- 2013)
Andre Iguodala ($12,200,000 -- player option for over $15M in 2013-14)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs way down and thumbs sort of down.
Brand was a bad deal the second they signed it. Iguodala is a guy who is a third player on a
good team; unfortunately he's Philly's best player. And that's why they're Philly.

None, but damn are they trying like hell to get rid of Amare Stoudemire. While they have nothing committed super long-term, they are at a choke point for the next two years with eight figures committed to Jason Richardson, Steve Nash, and Amare's player option, not to mention $7.1 million to Leahndro Barbosa.

Lamarcus Aldridge, Forward ($10M+ extension that kicks in next year
through 2015)
Brandon Roy, Guard ($14M+ extension that kicks in next year through 2015)
ASSESSMENT:  Thumbs up on Roy, thumbs down on Aldridge.
Roy is one of the three best players at his position and a crunch time beast; pay him, that's
cool. Aldridge is an athletic forward who has improved, but if you're Portland you're now married to him as the Robin to Roy's Batman. Is he that good? I say no.

Kevin Martin, Guard ($10,180,170 -- 2013)
Andres Nocioni ($7,500,000 -- team option for 2012-13)
Beno Udrih ($6,077,500 -- player option for 2012-13)
ASSESSMENT:  Thumbs down times three.
I think Martin is one of the most overrated, overpaid, one-dimensional players in the league.  And if you think I'm wrong, look up Sacramento's record this season with and without him in the lineup. Nocioni got overpaid by Chicago and now Sacramento is stuck with him. drih is just a guy.

Look at San Antonio's hoopshype.com salary breakdown page -- the epitome of a well-oiled machine. No big contracts weighing them down, marquee players are the top-paid ones, surrounded by a bunch of bargain-priced role players and character guys. Delightful.

Hedo Turkoglu, Forward ($9,000,000 -- player option for 2013-14)
Jose Calderon, Guard ($8,219,009 -- 2013)
Andrea Bargnani, Forward (five year extension kicks in next season starting
at $8 million)
ASSESSMENT: Thumbs down on the first two, neutral on Bargnani....ah hell,
thumbs down on all three.

They better hope like hell they re-sign Chris Bosh, otherwise you're left with a really shitty defensive team built around three overpaid Euros. Not good, not good at all.

Deron Williams, Guard ($13,520,500 -- player option for 2012-13)
Paul Millsap, Forward ($10,300,000 -- 2013)
ASSESSMENT:  Thumbs up on both.
Williams is one of the three or four best point guards in the league. Millsap is a guy who, when given the minutes, has been a double-double machine. His annual salary actually goes down to the $6M-$7M range in the last three years.

Gilbert Arenas, Marksman ($16,192,080 -- two year player option for 2012-13)
ASSESSMENT: If my thumb were any further down, it would be in China, and this was the case BEFORE he decided to turn the Wizards locker room in a real life version of the Area 51 video game.


By my count, that makes 41 long-term deals/extensions into 2012-13. I have eleven thumbs up, twenty one thumbs down, and nine wait and see's. Uh yeah...the NBA, it's faaaantastic!!!!

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the Sean & John Show,  and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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