Signing Players to Max Deals: Yay or Nay?

Curtis Pride

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Jul 25, 2005
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At first I put this is the Celtics offseason thread. Then I decided that this could be a good topic by itself.
 
Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com has an article up on how to determine whether a player is worth signing to a max extension (or a max deal): http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/when-to-sign-an-nba-player-to-the-max/
 
This may help us determine whether trading for Love and signing him to a max deal or signing Rondo to a max deal would be worth it in the long run. I'd say yes on Love but no on Rondo.
 

Devizier

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The problem with Silver's aging curve is that it's based on "average" players at a draft position. That's a big range of productivity, and I'd like to see some variance in there. The other issue is opportunity cost. Just because you have cap space available, doesn't mean that you'll be able to spend it. I don't know how you figure this into such an analysis, but it's a real issue, especially for teams like Cleveland (and honestly, the Celtics).
 
That said, Kyrie Irving is a good test case, as he is a borderline max guy, but I would say "yes". Seems to me that desire is the issue with Irving and if he's going to sulk the entire time, I don't think he earns that contract. But with opportunity cost considered, Cleveland has to take that chance. As for the other guys you mentioned: even at the next level max contract, Kevin Love is definitely worth it. I'm equally certain that Rondo, at his age and given the depth at his position, is not even close to worth the max. I would be okay with the Celtics paying him Tony Parker money (somewhat of an overpay, in my book) if he'll take it.
 

Kliq

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Mar 31, 2013
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It's too hard to calculate FA signings into a formula of just yes or no. It's way too arbitrary for each player, depending on the player, the talent around the player, the coaching, the franchise, what other players have gotten, etc. that it seems kind of silly to try and put a big scope on whether a contract is worth it or not. Rondo, for example, can be worth the max, and he can't be worth the max, depending on how the Celtics improve. If the Celtics don't really get any all-star players around him and they remain a 30-win team, and Rondo is making the max, he isn't worth it. However, if you think that Rondo can be the 3rd best player on a championship team (and I think he can) then making the max isn't really a big deal. If we get Love and another big gun, and they are making the max, then having a big 3 (which is the way to win in the NBA today) is a good way to go.
 

ishmael

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Sep 3, 2006
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Devizier said:
The problem with Silver's aging curve is that it's based on "average" players at a draft position. That's a big range of productivity, and I'd like to see some variance in there. The other issue is opportunity cost. Just because you have cap space available, doesn't mean that you'll be able to spend it. I don't know how you figure this into such an analysis, but it's a real issue, especially for teams like Cleveland (and honestly, the Celtics).
Yep, like many of the pieces coming out of Nate Silver's site so far, this is another case where the additional complexity (math) does nothing to address the actual difficulty in addressing the question.
 
This is especially clear for basketball, where there are only 19,680 total minutes available in the regular season. Your best player should play at least 15% of those, with a higher usage rate, and an even higher usage rate across meaningful minutes (throwing out garbage time). Replacing that top tier production with replacement level talent is a recipe for disaster, as this Celtics season demonstrated. That dynamic will drive up the cost of a top tier (top 40) player, regardless of whether you are getting an outstanding deal (LeBron), a good deal (Kevin Love), a fair deal (Dwight Howard) or a lousy deal (Rudy Gay).
 
One of the other interesting dynamics is that not all "max" deals are created equal. Kevin Love's current max is $5 million less than an older player like Dwight Howard and Russell Westbrook's max is $7 million less than Joe Johnson.
 

JakeRae

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Jul 21, 2005
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Devizier said:
The problem with Silver's aging curve is that it's based on "average" players at a draft position. That's a big range of productivity, and I'd like to see some variance in there. The other issue is opportunity cost. Just because you have cap space available, doesn't mean that you'll be able to spend it. I don't know how you figure this into such an analysis, but it's a real issue, especially for teams like Cleveland (and honestly, the Celtics).
 
That said, Kyrie Irving is a good test case, as he is a borderline max guy, but I would say "yes". Seems to me that desire is the issue with Irving and if he's going to sulk the entire time, I don't think he earns that contract. But with opportunity cost considered, Cleveland has to take that chance. As for the other guys you mentioned: even at the next level max contract, Kevin Love is definitely worth it. I'm equally certain that Rondo, at his age and given the depth at his position, is not even close to worth the max. I would be okay with the Celtics paying him Tony Parker money (somewhat of an overpay, in my book) if he'll take it.
 
He also runs the numbers based on percentile production through 3 seasons. Those numbers actually square pretty well with the consensus on this board. Max contracts are worth it for the top 5% of players. The consensus here has been top-20 players. Those are pretty similar dividing lines.
 
In terms more relevant to the discussions going on here, Kevin Love is definitely worth a max contract. The real question is how much more than a max contract is he worth?