While I said a few days ago that there's no real way to measure the contracts handed out during this free agency period, we've still seen some clear-cut bad contracts. Pretty much any contract signed this summer is fair game, but I'll avoid the Enes Kanter deal. There is simply too much nuance to the situation, and complexities that have been covered at great detail.
Let me give a disclaimer one more time. Whenever a player was given a questionable contract, everyone was quick to point out that the cap was set to increase. I'm sure some of the deals I highlight today will look reasonable in the future. But relative to other deals signed this summer, they were the worst of the worst.
Aron Baynes to the Pistons (2+1 years - $20 million)
Aron Baynes is an Australian who came into the league before the 2012-2013 season. In his first two years in the league, he played just 634 total minutes, in 69 games. Last season he (relatively) exploded, playing 70 games and averaging a whopping 16.0 MPG. He was also a real stat stuffer, tossing up a 6.6-4.5 line with 0.3 blocks and 57% shooting. With Tiago Splitter sidelined for 30 games last season, Baynes filled the role fairly well. He was a solid offensive rebounder, averaging 3.6 OPG per 36 minutes. But despite his progress on both ends of the floor, Popovich clearly had no trust in him. In the Spurs' epic seven-game series against the Clippers, Baynes played just 40 minutes total, with a 2.5-2.3 line.
For a guy who is 28 years old, he's still learning how to play in the NBA. He has a slowly developing midrange game. Of his 319 shot attempts, just 60 were from outside the paint. And while he shot 57% from the field overall, he shot just 42% from beyond the paint. His most respectable attribute may be his defense. Despite having low block numbers, advanced metrics love Baynes. He finished 28th among 96 power forwards in defensive RPM. So while he has his redeemable qualities, he simply isn't worth more than Brandan Wright.
I have no idea who the Pistons were bidding against for Baynes, and he hasn't established himself well enough to earn this contract. With Detroit, he will presumably be a backup 4 and 5, and hopefully give the Pistons another dimension. Stan Van Gundy envisions playing Drummond and Baynes together to maximize Baynes' ability to shoot the ball.
He said, "We think there are going to be chances where we play Aron and Andre together because of Aron's ability to step away from the basket and his ability to put the ball on floor."
If Stan wants to experiment with an extremely raw player, more power to him. But I don't think Baynes will develop his mid range game as quickly as Detroit wants. If he can learn to consistently step away from the basket and knock down shots, this deal may not look bad in a couple years. If he can't, this deal is nothing short of disastrous.
Omer Asik Re-Signs with the Pelicans (5 years - $58 million)
When the deal was first reported as a straight 5 years - $60 million deal, it seemed quite outlandish. But as the contract details were finalized, it became a 5 year - $58 million deal with an early termination option for the 5th year. This gives the Pelicans a little more financial flexibility with their big man, but it doesn't completely save the deal.
Asik's fit with the Pelicans is clear. He's a rebounder, low-post defender, and rim-protector. At 7'0'' and 260 lbs, he is an Andrew Bogut type banger down low. Unfortunately, he's not the shot blocker that Bogut is, as Asik put up just 0.7 BPG last season. While Anthony Davis' ability to alter shots theoretically diminishes Asik's total, he was never a great blocker, with his career high standing at just 1.1 BPG. His defensive ability is also somewhat overblown, as he finished just 21st out of 71 centers in defensive RPM. While that's nothing to scoff at, it's hardly at the level you expect for a one-dimensional player like Asik.
The issue with the deal going forward is how the NBA is changing. We just watched a Finals where Andrew Bogut was completely taken out of the game. With a one-dimensional defender like Bogut or Asik (or Hibbert), teams nowadays are smart enough to stray them away from the basket on switches, and make them vulnerable on the perimeter. In addition, Asik is a total liability offensively. You saw it against the Warriors in the playoffs, when he averaged just 19.8 MPG. They couldn't keep him on the court against a pace-and-space team like the Dubs––a coach like Steve Kerr is too good at taking away Asik's great interior defense, and exposing him offensively.
In many ways, Asik is like Tony Allen. A huge, white, Turkish Tony Allen. He's a strong defender who provides value throughout the regular season, when coaches can't spend 48 hours game-planning against him. But once the playoffs start, opposing coaches smartly ignore them offensively, and find ways to minimize his impact defensively. We've seen it for 5 straight postseasons with Allen, whose shot attempts plummet in the playoffs. Now we're beginning to see one-dimensional big men like Asik, Bogut, and Hibbert get the 'Tony Allen Treatment'. So while they're worth a couple wins during the regular season, they can't be relied on in the postseason. For an up-and-coming contender team like the Pels, they would have been better off looking for a bargain center to pair with Davis. Instead, they doubled down on one-dimensional rim protection, giving Asik and Alexis Ajinca long term deals. You've just gotta love a team like the Pelicans.
Reggie Jackson Re-Signs with the Pistons (5 years - $80 million)
How many times can I rip this contract? At this rate, I might spill another thousand words on this abomination of a deal. Even John Wall has taken notice of how absurd this contract is. The Pistons are paying him like a foundational player after he played 27 semi-effective games for them. 27!!! That's not even a third of a season!
And it wasn't even like Jackson was lighting the world on fire over that 27 game stretch. He averaged a 17.6-9.2 on 43.6% shooting. And while those stats look fairly promising, they bely his weaknesses. For starters, he is a god-awful three point shooter. In today's day and age, being a strong shooter is practically a requirement for elite point guards. Unless they possess once-in-a-lifetime athleticism (Westbrook, Wall), or know every crafty trick in the book (Chris Paul), every elite point guard can shoot the ball.
Jackson is a career 29.4% three-point shooter, and shot just 29.9% last season. He got most of his points by driving to the basket. Of his 420 shot attempts with Detroit, 201 of them came within 8 feet, which he converted at a solid 52% clip. But when you look at other guys in the league, Jackson's biggest offensive strength doesn't stack up. Goran Dragic shot 64% from within 8 feet. Dame Lillard shot 56%. Eric Bledsoe shot 57%. Wall shot 58%. Even little Isaiah Thomas shot 53%.
You look at those names, and think "Of course Jackson doesn't stack up to those guys. You picked some of the best guards in the NBA." But therein lies the problem. Jackson is being paid like one of those guys (and in Thomas' case, over twice as much)! Defensively, it doesn't get much better. Jackson ranked 42nd of point guards in defensive RPM, checking in at -1.10. For comparison's sake, notorious defensive sieve Damian Lillard was significantly better, at just -0.39 defensive RPM.
Any way you look at it, Jackson doesn't deserve to be paid like an elite point guard. He's not there yet, and considering he's already older than guys like Wall, Irving, and Lillard, he may never get there.