Last summer, I think we were all pleasantly surprised about the numbers involved in Kevin Martin's five-year, $55 million contract extension. It fit right into fair range, based on his age, performance, and personality (which is to say he has never loafed or gotten a DUI).
Looking back, we should be ecstatic. Andre Iguodala signed for $80 million over six years, an average salary of $13.3 million. That's a full 20% more than Martin, who is only a year older. And for what, you ask?
By PER, Martin is better player (21 vs 19). Martin's a better scorer (23.4 points per 36 min vs 18 pts/36 for 'Dala), a more efficient shooter (61.8% True shooting, vs 54.3% for 'Dala), and just a more versatile offensive player. Iguodala excels on the defensive end, earning more steals and anecdotally playing better man and team D. He's also a more potent passer. His rebounding is a touch better than that of Martin, though 'Dala did spend much of 2007-08 playing small forward whereas Martin was exclusively a two-guard. ('Dala will play two-guard in the near future, as Thaddeus Young wedges his way into the starting five. We'll see how that affects Iguodala's rebounding.)
Basically, Martin's a better player ... but it's fairly close. One excels on offense, the other is more well-rounded. My own thoughts on team-building would always prefer Martin, because he does a few massively important things (shoot threes, draw fouls, score a lot efficiently) incredibly well, while 'Dala does some important things (individual defense, turnover-causing, interior scoring) well ... but nothing exceptionally well. That's non-canon, of course, and I don't expect many to buy my philosophy. But I still think most would rate Martin above Iguodala at this stage.
Iguodala's contract is out of line with the rest of the Class of 2004, as I show in this FanHouse diddy. Al Jefferson will make a touch less and looks to be a far better player than 'Dala. Martin and Andris Biedrins make quite a bit less and should be better than Iguodala over the lives of their contracts. Josh Smith might be better today, does a lot of the same things, and will make a chunk less over the next six years.
Other than retroactively helping us cheer Martin's contract, how does this affect the Kings going forward? Well, the only restricted free agent in the pipeline -- Francisco Garcia -- won't be approaching $13 million in his dreams, so the contract number isn't terribly relevant. What is, however: players and their agents are no longer afraid of restricted free agency. 'Dala, Emeka Okafor, Luol Deng and (to a degree) Josh Smith turned down offers last summer, after Cleveland had basically held its two RFAs (Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao) hostage and eventually pressured them into small, below market value deals. In the collective consideration of the basketball punditocracy, restricted free agency became an ultimate weapon for cost-controlling franchises. The teams had all the power, and the players were going to lose money because of it. The repercussions would be endless -- players might take below-value deals a year early, players would jump on offers early in restricted free agency, guys would be stuck playing for cheap qualifying offers to get to unrestricted free agency, etc.
Josh Childress screwed all that up. You'd be hard-pressed to find smoking gun evidence the Childress exit cause Deng to get $72 million, or Iguodala to get eighty. But it seems obvious on the surface. Players have regained power.