In the afterglow of new ownership and new management, the Sacramento Kings made their first big move of the 2013 free agency period by signing Carl Landry to a 4-year contract valued at $6.5 million per season. Landry had just completed one of the best seasons of his career, playing for the Golden State Warriors directly under the noses of Michael Malone and Vivek Ranadive.
The contract was difficult to justify at the time, even considering the great season Landry had just completed. Landry would turn 30 before the start of the season, and the deal would run through Landry turning 33. The contract looks even worse a year later. Landry tore a hip flexor last preseason, missing the first several months of the season. When Landry made his debut, he wasn't in game shape and still didn't look healthy. After several weeks of playing through pain, an MRI confirmed that Landry had torn a meniscus in his right knee. So now we examine whether Landry can come back healthy, and if he does, can he live up to his contract?
The first question is a little easier to evaluate. Can Carl Landry come back healthy? Absolutely. David Lee suffered a torn hip flexor in the 2013 playoffs and had one of the best years of his career last season. Lee is a year younger than Landry, but Lee shows no indication of any long term damage due to his injury. Torn meniscuses are also somewhat common in the NBA. Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Eric Bledsoe have all suffered the injury, albeit at a much younger age than Landry. But Top Hat has certainly had a long enough period to expect a full recovery.
The more difficult question is whether Landry can live up to his contract.
The trouble with determining contract value is that you're attempting to put a specific dollar value to specific skill sets. Robin Lopez makes $6.1 million this coming year. Is he a better player than a healthy Landry? Arguably no, but he might be a better value at $6.1 million on the Kings roster than Landry will be for $6.5 million.
The issues with Landry's contract go beyond simply the dollar value. Quite simply, it's too much money for what Landry brings to this Kings team. If Landry was signed for $6.5 million a year to be a bench big on a playoff contender, his contract might be worth it. But the Kings are far from that position. Landry's contract runs long enough that he'll likely be around when Kings management is hoping to be a playoff contender. But I don't see Landry being the guy who helps get the Kings over the hump, like him as I may.
And will Landry be on the roster still? Probably, because he's not perceived as being a good value to his contract, so there's no line of suitors wanting to acquire him in trade. This could change with a good season, but the length of the contract remains prohibitive for trades. Teams aren't eager to add long term salary for big men in their 30s.
I don't believe Landry will live up to his contract, but I believe he'll come close enough that we as Kings fans can live with it. Landry's game never relied on athleticism. He's exceptionally efficient. The biggest issue going forward will be how he fits with the Kings' ever-changing roster.