Two Rational Deals in the Irrational Free Agent Market

Free agency is one of the most exciting times of the NBA year-long season. The private jets. All of the free dinners. Team pitches from teams that have no chance. Fake Woj accounts. Usually, every offseason, there’s at least one WTF contract. Something like the Jodie Meeks deal. Or the more recent Thabo Sefolosha deal signed by the Hawks today.

Teams that feel their only piece away will overpay for their last piece to the puzzle that’s not really the last piece to the puzzle. Teams just trying to stay above water will throw cash around. It all gets confusing to the casual fan. For one of the only times in the season, we get to see a player’s true value in the eyes of the league. Even though a player’s salary isn’t always indicative of his value. And a lot of times, just because one team is willing to drastically overpay a guy X amount of money does not make that player worth that in the open market. Sure, the Pistons gave Jodie Meeks $20 million, but if the Pistons traded Meeks tomorrow, they’d probably only get a second rounder back, maybe two at best.

Getting guys for a fair deal isn’t as easy as you’d think. But since last night, two major deals have been signed at somewhat bargain prices:

1. Dirk Nowitzki: 3 Years/$30 Million
Dirk pulled a Duncan here. He signed at the same rate that Duncan did a few years ago, taking a $10 million/season salary. That’s obviously a huge pay cut that Dirk is consciously taking so that the Mavs will be able to pursue other good players in free agency. This will end up being the biggest bargain deal in all of free agency, and it’s not particularly surprising. Dirk had previously said he’d definitely take less money to surround himself with better players, as long as he felt respected .

Dirk is perennially underrated. Even at 36 years old, he continues to be one of the ten best players in the league. In the playoffs, the hardest players to guard goes something like LeBron, Durant, Carmelo (if he’s even there), and Dirk in some order. His game isn’t predicated on athleticism, so there’s hardly any doubt about his play continuing at a high level. The Mavs probably won’t be able to lure Carmelo to Dallas, but Dirk’s pay cut could open the door for someone like Isaiah Thomas or Luol Deng.

2. Kyle Lowry: 4 Years/$48 Million
This isn’t a huge bargain by any means, but Lowry is one of the best point guards in the league. $12 million per season isn’t in the Conley/Curry level of bargain. It is still very manageable for the Raptors though, and it should be duly noted that keeping Lowry away from the Heat makes the contract doubly valuable for the Raptors. The Raptors have a nucleus now that should be able to compete in the East consistently. Lowry was somehow snubbed from the All-Star game last season, but he’s easily one of the best point guards in the East, and the league. Think about it. Here are the guys you’d rather have Lowry over: Kyrie (questions about character and ability to win), Rondo (knee injury concern), Rose (see Rondo), and Deron Williams (duh, just making sure we agree here). In the East, the only guy who might be better than Lowry is John Wall. Even that is questionable until Wall develops a truly reliable jumper. Considering the Celtics just retained a third guard for $8 million/season, the Raptors should feel great about securing perhaps the best point guard in the conference for just $12 million a season.

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