Good big men are a luxury in the NBA. And to afford a luxury, you have to pay a premium. I understand that. But Nene, Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler have got to be kidding with their initial asking prices.
According to sources, Nene, Chandler and Gasol all set their early asking prices in the neighborhood of maximum-contract territory, starting at $14.8 million for Gasol, $17.7 annually for Nene, and $20.7 million for Chandler. There is plenty of crossover in their respective lists of salary-cap-friendly suitors, with the Nets, Rockets and Warriors appearing to be the hungriest shoppers, and the Pacers and Trail Blazers strolling the big man aisles as well.
Let’s start this by going to the gold standard, Dwight Howard. He’s making $17.8 million this season. Andrew Bynum, who I consider to be the second best center in the league, is making $15.1 million. And while I recognize that each year players will make more and more and it’s hard to compare things like this, its still a measure of ability matched with salary.
Marc Gasol is the closest to actual market value. He’s a good center, but he’s not great. At least not yet. And a closer look at his numbers show that his production dropped this past season in just about every measurable way. It wasn’t a huge drop. It wasn’t a worrying drop. But it was a drop nonetheless.
Nene’s a really good player too. With him you’re looking at about 15 and 7 on a nightly basis. Pretty good. He’s an efficient scorer and he’ll always give you maximum effort. But you’ll have a hard time convincing me he’s worth Dwight Howard money. As good as Nene is, I’d like more than 8 rebounds a game out of my $17 million center. Amar’e Stoudemire is an $18 million PF/C with a career average of 8.8 rebounds per game and people crush him for his lack of rebounding. Nene has never averaged 8 rebounds. Yes, he’s a tougher defender, but he’s still not worth $17.7 million.
And then there’s Tyson Chandler, who want more than $20 million a year. Again, like Gasol and Nene, Chandler’s a really good player. But we’re talking about value here. For $20 million a year, I want a guy who has averaged more than one double-double over a 10-year career. I want a guy who has averaged two blocks a game at least once. And I’m really not trying to dump on the guy because I know he was an important player on a championship team. But when you ask for $20 million a year, I have certain expectations.
In the end, you’re worth whatever someone wants to pay you. If Bloguin decided to pay me $10 million to blog, then I’m worth $10 million dollars (memo to my bosses: that number is negotiable. My agent will be in touch). But you’ve also got to be realistic about your worth. Chandler, and to a slightly lesser extent, Nene, are asking for money befitting the centerpiece of a franchise. And I’m sorry, no team out there is building around those guys.
Gasol has at least some argument. He can say he might be worth a couple of million less per year but, because of the thin market for centers, you’re going to have to bump up your offer. I can buy that. $14 million is tough to swallow, but I can at least get why that’s his starting point. It will be interesting to see how the offers play out for these guys. If they get their asking prices, then I’d have serious questions about why we even had a lockout.
Maybe the simple answer would be there will never be a system to protect owners from bad decisions.