The Iggy Contract, Fair or Not, Is Bad


Editor’s Note: This is Kyle’s counter-argument to my article posted Friday morning, titled “Iguodala’s Contract: Time or Money?” Let your views be known in the comments. – Sean

Early on Friday, we posted an article about Andre Iguodala’s contract compared to the rest of the league’s comparable players. Andre is the 8th highest paid small forward in the NBA, behind players such as Rashard Lewis and Andrei Kirilenko. Now, it is pretty obvious that Iguodala is much better than those two, so his contract might not seem bad. Luol Deng and Danny Granger are right behind Iguodala in salary. Andre is probably also better than those two, although Luol Deng is quickly improving this year.

Based off of that evidence, Iguodala’s contract is fair considering the market of players at his position, right?

It probably is. But does that mean the deal is helping the 76ers get better? Not so fast.

The market for players in the NBA that are just below the level of stars is very large, and it is wise not to give them market value. Why? Because even if they perform the way you expect, the deal could hurt your team. This is because a player that is mistakenly getting paid like a star is not performing like a star. That player inevitably could get criticized over his contract even though he is performing the way he is supposed to be performing. And, even though it makes no sense, the criticism could be valid.

Look at it this way: Unless you are good enough to be the GUY, you are going to take up the cap space that GUY could be getting. Thus, this player that is performing to market value is hindering your team because he takes up more cap space than his possible better replacement. This brings up the question: should you overpay for the very good but not great player to keep him? Or should you let him go and take a step back in performance but keep cap flexibility?

NBA teams generally take option one, which is generally justified at the time. But thinking long term, when the realization sets in that the very good player you have will not be great, you usually have a player performing to the point where it would hurt your team a lot to get rid of the guy. But if you keep the guy, you are stuck without the cap space necessary to grab a star or other pieces to the championship puzzle that aren’t overpaid or require cap space.

The 76res are almost in that cycle. They gave not only Iguodala money that should only go to a star to a very good player but also gave this money to Elton Brand. That is a really toxic combination, giving big money to two players that aren’t big stars in one offseason. Plus, Elton Brand has had just one good year out of three with the 76ers. The chances that players regress should also discourage GMs from giving out these contracts to non-superstars.

The Brand deal is the type where you know it’s bad, but nobody wants to take it in a trade because everybody knows how bad it is. Iguodala’s deal is the type where you want to get rid of it just because it occupies so much cap space, but trading would hurt your team a lot in the short term. It appears the franchise is not making a commitment to winning. Fans would look at it as a salary dump if you get rid of the player. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

So what does this all mean? Well, it probably means that paying market price for players that aren’t going to help you win a championship is going to take you down the tubes in the long run. It also probably means that the 76ers contract to Iguodala is, while fair, something that is preventing the 76ers from getting closer to a championship and, ultimately, hurts the team.