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Five Worst Early NBA Free Agent Signings

Ryan Phillips
Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz - Game Two
Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz - Game Two / Alex Goodlett/Getty Images
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NBA free agency started off with a bang Monday afternoon with a flurry of deals that saw stars and role players gobbling up contracts quickly. As with any major spending spree, bad contracts are going to be signed. That's what we're here to examine.

Here are the five worst contracts signed on the first day of NBA free agency.

Evan Fournier, New York Knicks (Four years, $78 million)

The Knicks made a mistake here. Don't get me wrong, Fournier is a nice player and can do some things on the court, but this was too much money. He put up 19.7 points per game in 26 games for an awful Orlando Magic team last season, which is certainly enticing. But after a trade to the Boston Celtics he came back down to Earth. In 16 games in Boston he averaged 13.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 29.5 minutes. On a decent team, that's about where you can expect his averages to land.

While some will point to his 46.3 percent shooting from three-point range while in Boston, it's highly likely that was an anomaly. He's a career 37.9 percent three-point shooter, so expect him to slot in somewhere around there. It's worth noting that Fournier ranked 168th in win shares (2.8) and 103rd in value over replacement player (1.0).

Fournier is a 28-year-old scoring guard who didn't suddenly learn to be a star. An average annual value of $19.5 million is far too steep for a player of his caliber.

Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns (Four years, $120 million)

This isn't about Chris Paul, it's about the length of the deal. He'll be 40 by the time it's up and this was far too long to sign an older point guard who has struggled with injuries throughout his career. While all of the money likely isn't guaranteed and we're not 100 percent sure of the structure, at the very least Paul is due $60 million over the next two years and the third season almost certainly carries some guarantees. That's a lot of cash.

With everything Paul has done for the Suns to help them reach the NBA Finals, this deal was inevitable. There's a connection to the franchise and the team's young stars that was too good to pass up. It's just a lot of money for an oft-injured 36-year-old point guard.

Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat (Five Years, $90 million)

Let me preface this by saying I love Duncan Robinson and his story is amazing. This deal is the largest ever given to an undrafted player and that's awesome. It's also a mess of a contract for the Heat for a number of reasons.

Robinson is an outstanding 3-point shooter who has hit 42.3 percent of his attempts during his three-year career and hit 40.8 percent while averaging 8.5 attempts per game last season. He's a knockdown guy and you can't have enough of those in the modern game. But he doesn't do much else. He's an average defender and his true shooting percentage dropped from 68.4 percent in 2019-20 to 62.8 percent last season, while his PER dropped from 13.12 to 11.10.

Another issue here is age. Robinson was 24 by the time he left Michigan after a year of prep school and a transfer from Division III Williams College. He has only played three seasons but he's already 27. Which means he'll be turning 32 in the final year of this deal. His physical skills won't be what they are now. For the next two years this contract is likely worth it just for the floor spacing he'll provide. After that, this one might look like a big mistake.

Mike Conley, Utah Jazz (Three years, $72.5 million)

Again, I get the sentimental connection but overpaying for aging, oft-injured guards is never a good idea. The Utah Jazz fell into that trap just like the Suns did. When he's on the floor, Mike Conley is a big part of what Utah does and is a solid floor general. But he hasn't played more than 70 games in seven seasons.

When healthy, Conley was a solid starter last season for the Jazz. He averaged 16.2 points, 6.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds while playing 29.4 minutes per game. But he also missed 21 regular season games and was absent for most of Utah's playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Conley has missed 167 games. That's an average of nearly 28 games a season. That's just not he kind of reliability you want out of someone at his age who you hand a big contact to. I just don't see him finally figuring out how to stay healthy after nearly a decade of constant injuries.

Doug McDermott, San Antonio Spurs (Three years, $42 million)

Like Duncan Robinson, McDermott can do one thing on a basketball floor really well and that's shoot. These days that gets you paid a ton of money, but this feels like too much.

McDermott mostly came off the bench for the Pacers last season and averaged a career-high 13.8 points, while adding 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 24.5 minutes per game. His 3-point percentage actually dropped by almost five percentage points last season compared to 2019-20. It went from 43.5 percent down to 38.8 percent. And it wasn't like an increase in volume caused the percentage to go down, as McDermott averaged 4.3 3-pointers per game in both seasons. Clearly the Spurs think the drop is an anomaly.

Digging down, McDermott wasn't anything special last season. He finished 97th in win shares (3.8), 106th in box plus/minus (-0.5) and 140th in VORP (0.6). Those aren't great numbers for a guy whose entire career has built on being an efficient shooter, and who just got a big chunk of cash.

If the Spurs had given McDermott $14 million for one year with a team option for the second, maybe a deal like this makes sense and could be excused. But tying yourself to a 29-year-old shooter for three years after his percentage dropped last season is a puzzling decision.

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