Nov 15 2013

Free agents are the worst

Evan Turner is putting up career numbers. He’s scoring, he’s hustling, he’s getting to the line, and he’s a big part of why the Sixers have more wins than losses nine games into the young season. The same goes for Spencer Hawes. He’s hitting 3-pointers, running the floor, holding his own on defense, and dunking on Dwight Howard. 

That’s good news for the Sixers, but it’s better news for Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes.

This bears repeating: Turner and Hawes are in the final year of their contracts. Turner, 25, will become a restricted free agent if the Sixers give him an $8.7 million qualifying offer by June 30. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent if they don’t. Hawes will be an unrestricted free agent either way as his two-year, $13 million deal expires after the season.

For Turner and Hawes, the timing couldn’t be better. For the cap-conscience Sixers, not so much.

That’s because free agents are the worst. They tend to be the least cost-effective and most overpaid in the NBA. While rookie and superstar salaries are held back by CBA restrictions (like maximum contracts, and scale salaries for first-round picks), free agents in the open market are compensated well. Too well. (This ESPN Insider post from salary cap guru Larry Coon provides an extended explanation.)

Turner’s agent is David Falk. You know, Michael Jordan’s David Falk. He represents nine NBA players, including Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green, Otto Porter and Toney Douglas — they’re all properly or overcompensated. It’s hard to imagine that a 20-ppg-Turner would be content with anything short of a Jeff Green-esque, four-year, $36 million deal.

Spencer Hawes’ agent is Greg Lawrence, whose 10 NBA include J.J. Redick, Brandon Roy, and DeAndre Jordan. Redick, 29, just signed a four-year, $27 million deal with the Clippers. Hawes will be 26 when he enters free agency this summer and could demand more than $10 million per year if he continues playing at or near this level.

Now, we have no idea know how the 2014 free agent market will play out, and we don’t know what Turner and Hawes are thinking. It’s possible they fall in love with Brown’s system and accept a hometown discount to play in Philadelphia. But regardless of how happy they are in Philly, they’ll get attention in the open market if they keep producing as they have. Some team looking for the final piece of the puzzle, or some James Dolan-esque owner desperate to make the playoffs will offer a premium, leaving the Sixers in a high-risk, low-reward situation; one they are in a unique position to avoid entirely.