The summer of 2016 wasn’t a particularly exciting time for Sacramento Kings fans. The team’s big offseason moves were the hiring of Dave Joerger as head coach and the opening of the Golden1 Center. Free agency, the annual exercise of hope for the future, was a dud. Money flew around the league, and the Kings failed to make a big splash. At this time it was disappointing, but in hindsight that lack of excitement might have been prudent cap management.
We’re barely into January and there are already multiple reports of teams with buyer’s remorse. Those big contracts seemed fine when everyone had seemingly unlimited cap space, but are suddenly less appealing when you’ll be paying ludicrous money to someone for four years.
Not all big deals were bad, of course. Memphis signed Mike Conley to the biggest contract in NBA history (until 2017 free agency anyway), but that contract is fine. Toronto probably doesn’t regret giving a $139 million extension to DeMar DeRozan. Bradley Beal has been fantastic this year, and is still just 23, so his $127 million extension isn’t terrible if Beal can remain healthy.
But a tier below that we start seeing deals like Hassan Whiteside getting $98 million for 4 years at age 27, a deal Miami is reportedly already shopping. Memphis signed Chandler Parsons to 4 years at $94 million. Portland matched the Brooklyn Nets offer to Allen Crabbe for $74 million, which is a ton for your third guard. New York signed Joakim Noah to a 4-year deal for $72 million. Yikes. The Lakers doubled up with Luol Deng at $72 million/4 years and Timofey Mozgov for $64 million/4 years. Those deals are going to be brutal in the coming seasons.
But way down the list of 2016 contracts you find the Kings’ biggest contract: Arron Afflalo for $25 million, 2 years, with most of the second year unguaranteed. Garrett Temple’s surprisingly good play this season is enhance by his very reasonable contract for $24 million over three years.
Think about it this way: The Kings didn’t ink a single contract last summer that was bigger than what Chicago paid Rajon Rondo.
The Kings got tremendous value in their signings, and maintained flexibility going forward. Last summer was an unfortunate mix of an uninspiring free agent class mixed with no cap smoothing. Going forward we’ll see better free agent classes, and fewer teams who can’t spend money because they’re hamstrung by the contracts signed in 2016.
We’ll never truly know if the Kings purposefully avoided the big contracts, or if they simply weren’t considered by the top tier free agents. But the Kings deserve kudos for not allowing the money to burn a hole in their pockets. Even if they were shunned by top free agents, the Kings didn’t pay $70 million for Evan Turner or Kent Bazemore.