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Worst deals in 2015 NBA free agency

A new stat, Free Agent Quotient, is used to determine which off-season acquisitions could have been overpaid due to a jump in the salary cap.   

Before the dawn of this year’s free agency period, I used my new Free Agent Quotient (FAQ) metric to predict which players might go under the radar as potential bargains.

Well, so much for that. With the NBA’s salary cap rising by nearly 50% over the next two years, teams didn’t hesitate to dish out extravagant contracts. So while some deals might look more team-friendly in the future, other athletes are currently radiating jealously over their basketball counterparts. 

• MORE NBA: Free agent tracker | Roundup: Grade the deals | Off-season rumors

Not every player will live up to their new, lofty salaries. Let’s examine five guys whose contracts could soon become downright onerous. As a reminder, FAQ uses a player’s 2014-15 PER, career PER, 2014-15 Win Shares and age to project his future value. Aging veterans, beware.

A quick review of the FAQ scale, which roughly ranges from 0-100:

100 = Strong MVP candidate
90 = Weak MVP candidate
80 = Superstar
70 = Bona fide All-Star
60 = Borderline All-Star
50 = Above-average starter

40 = Solid starter
30 = Valued rotation member
20 = Decent role player
10 = Bench player
0 = D-League All-Star

Iman Shumpert, Cavaliers

Contract details: Four years, $40 million (29th highest average annual value among free agents)

Free Agent Quotient: 12.4 (81st among free agents)

This off-season, Cleveland essentially employed the same strategy the San Francisco Giants did after winning the 2010 World Series: hastily rewarding the role players involved in the championship run. There’s just one problem with that: the Cavaliers didn’t win a title with last season’s supporting cast. And Shumpert hasn’t shown nearly enough to merit the same contract that Danny Green received from the Spurs.

NBA Players | PointAfter

Shumpert has never recorded a PER above 11.7. He’s been perfectly average as a three-point shooter during his career (34.2%), so he hardly qualifies as a “three-and-D” guy. Really, his best asset is that he’s still 24 years old. That’s shaky foundation for a $40 million contract.

Omer Asik, Pelicans

Contract details: Five years, $58 million (26th highest AAV among FAs)

Free Agent Quotient: 32.1 (41st among FAs)

This wouldn’t be a horrible signing for every other NBA franchise. But given the context of New Orleans’ crowded frontcourt situation, it makes you wonder why they’d throw nearly $60 million at a center with no discernible offensive skills—especially someone who will turn 34 in 2020 (when this deal ends)—and possesses talent that could have been replicated by a combination of other sources, for cheaper.

Note: You can hover over each zone to see the shooting percentages of Asik and the league average in each area.

Omer Asik 2014-15 Shot Chart | PointAfter

Anthony Davis is already one of the best rim protectors in the game and will only get better. The Pelicans also have Alexis Ajinca (four years, $20 million) and Luke Babbitt (two year, $2.5 million) on their payroll, plus Kendrick Perkins (one year, $1 million), who was signed Tuesday.

Instead of inking a one-dimensional center who has clearly plateaued, why not go after someone like Kosta Koufos, who ended up signing with Sacramento for four years and $33 million? It’s a question that will likely peck at the Pelicans’ front office for the next half-decade.

Side note: Signing Kendrick Perkins to mentor Anthony Davis is like hiring Iggy Azalea to be Taylor Swift's guide through pop music. Really, what could Perkins teach Davis at this juncture?

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Wilson Chandler, Nuggets

Contract details: Four years, $47 million (27th highest AAV among FAs)

Free Agent Quotient: 21.4 (71st among FAs)

The Nuggets were the third-worst shooting team from beyond the arc last season. Denver will sorely need better spacing if they're actually aiming for a playoff return in the next couple years, and locking up Chandler this offseason is at least a step toward that goal.

But Chandler’s status as a deep threat is quite overstated. He’s only converted more than 35% of his three-pointers in one season, when he made 41.3% of his attempts in 2012-13. But that’s starting to look more and more like an anomaly.

Note: The below visualization has two entries for the 2010-11 season, one each for his time with the Knicks and Nuggets.

Wilson Chandler Shooting Accuracy | PointAfter

Chandler can’t be considered a building block for Denver’s next contending core, whenever that group emerges. FAQ indicates that he’ll merely be a decent role player over the course of this contracts, so why cough up nearly $50 million for a shooter who can’t even shoot that well?

Wesley Matthews, Mavericks

Contract details: Four years, $70 million (13th highest AAV among FAs)

Free Agent Quotient: 40.3 (31st among FAs)

In Dallas’ defense, Mark Cuban didn’t originally plan to commit $70 million to Matthews. The Mavericks initially offered the wing $57 million over four years, which would have placed the former Blazer’s contract 20th in AAV among free agents—a bit pricey, but not completely unreasonable.

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However, DeAndre Jordan’s change of heart opened up some cap space for Dallas, which they filled by giving Matthews a max deal. From a moral standpoint, that’s a highly respectable decision by Cuban. From a basketball standpoint, it’s pretty indefensible.

Let’s be clear: Matthews is a very solid three-and-D guard, the type of player who excels in today’s game. But you don’t have to look at Matthews’ middling FAQ (40.3, in the “solid starter” range) to come to the conclusion that he is in no way, shape or form a max player. And that judgment could be made before Matthews suffered a potentially career-altering Achilles injury.

Reggie Jackson, Pistons

Contract details: Five years, $89 million (11th highest AAV among FAs)

Free Agent Quotient: 47.1 (26th among FAs)

Only Kevin Love, Marc Gasol, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler were guaranteed more money this summer than Reggie Jackson. Keep in mind that Detroit’s newly highest-paid player has a worse career PER than Jeremy Lin, Leandro Barbosa and Marcus Thornton.

Even though PER underestimates Jackson’s contributions on defense, that is a damning assessment of Jackson’s offensive ability. You simply don’t pay someone of that caliber the same amount as John Wall, no matter the salary cap situation.

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And for all the praise that Jackson earns for his tenacity on the defensive end, opposing teams’ offensive ratings were less than a point worse with him on the floor last season. Unless the 25-year-old has some unforeseen breakout in Motown, the Pistons will probably rue paying Jackson like a star.

Reggie Jackson - On/Off Stats (Opponent) | PointAfter