Gilson’s Sports Guide: NBA players are getting paid big time, but are they worth it?

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Above-average players are being signed to superstar level contracts. These players include Jaylen Brown, Domantas Sabonis, Buddy Hield, and Dejounte Murray.  AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Above-average players are being signed to superstar level contracts. These players include Jaylen Brown, Domantas Sabonis, Buddy Hield, and Dejounte Murray. AP Photo/Darron Cummings

The deadline for contract extensions from players selected in the 2016 NBA Draft was this past Monday. As a result, some teams signed above-average players to superstar level contracts, but how many of these players are actually worth it? I’ll give you a hint: Not too many. Let’s break some of the biggest signings down the good old-fashioned way, with grades. 

Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics (C+):  

Danny Ainge and the Celtics signed SG/SF Jaylen Brown to a four-year extension worth $115 million total, including $103 million guaranteed.  

Some quick math will tell you that Brown is now guaranteed to make just under $26 million yearly, making his contract bigger than players like Marc Gasol, Rudy Gobert, and Victor Oladipo and just $100,000 less than reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. All but one of those players has some type of hardware to support their lofty contracts and, you guessed it, that player is Brown. While I understand the Celtics are playing the long game and setting Brown up as a staple of the team’s future, I don’t think a kid that averaged 13 points and four rebounds per game deserves more money than an NBA Champion, DPOY or MIP. Brown has yet to fully prove himself as a player and currently sits as the fourth option on this Celtics team behind Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum, limiting his potential further. 

Speaking of Tatum, Brown’s extension puts his future on the team into question, as just about 50% of the Celtics roster is taken up by Hayward and Brown. Add on Kemba’s contract and that leaves little to no room for the team to resign the 2017 third overall pick after his rookie contract expires. I hate to say it, but it seems like we’re looking at an off-brand Warriors team, spending most of their money on a few “star” players, leaving them with limited depth that will hurt them come playoff time. The idea was there with this extension and I am a fan of Brown’s abilities, but $26 million for the next four years may end up doing more harm than good for this Celtics team. 

Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers (A-):  

The Pacers resigned their backup center to a four-year, $77 million extension. This means the Lithuanian is making just over $19 million a year, a contract equal to the likes of Zach Lavine and Tyler Johnson, players that we have seen can perform well when called upon.  

I really don’t mind this Sabonis extension, and I think he is one of the best backup centers in the league at this point. He has proven to be a nightly double-double threat, averaging 14 points and nine rebounds per game in just 25 minutes of play, and can provide a big boost whether he is playing with the starters or reserves. The only area he makes the team suffer is on the defensive side, but even then Sabonis has shown he can play a bit of the stretch-four position, so he and Myles Turner can form an incredibly dangerous frontcourt against bigger opponents.  

At just 23 years old and improving statistically every season, Sabonis is certainly a player I would want on my team for years to come. $19 million a year, while still lofty by some standards, sounds like a fair amount of money for a consistent bench presence and borderline starter production for the Pacers. 

Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings (B): 

The Oklahoma product finally reached an agreement with his team, cashing in on a four-year, $106 million extension with $86 million guaranteed. That means without earning these incentives, Hield is in line for $21.5 million yearly, putting him almost even with Oladipo’s previously-mentioned contract. 

The reason I am fine with this deal is because of all the incentives Hield has to achieve before getting to that $106 million, some being Hield earning an All-Star selection and the Kings reaching the NBA Finals, among other unlikely goals. Therefore, the fourth-year shooting guard will more likely than not hover around that $22 million a season.  

Hield has been a solid contributor for the Kings since they traded for him his rookie year in a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. His stats have improved each year, averaging a career-high 21 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists last season, and he appears to be one of the more durable players in the game, only missing two games in his first three seasons.  

Along with this, he remains one of the best and most efficient three-point shooters in the game (Hield set an NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a player’s first three seasons by eclipsing 600), and undoubtedly will continue to improve over the next four seasons with the Kings. Think of this as similar to the Jaylen Brown deal, but for less money with more to back up his contract. 

Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs (A+): 

I am all aboard the Dejounte Murray hype train and think the Spurs got a potential All-Star at a huge discount through his four-year, $64 million extension. Murray’s $16 million a year levels him with the likes of Ricky Rubio and Eric Bledsoe. 

Murray was in store for a breakout year in 2018-19, but after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason, he was forced to sit out all last season. Now Murray is back and with the starting point guard position still his, carries that same potential to breakout this year. Once he was named the starter for the Spurs in 2018, Murray put up 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game in just 26 minutes. With an entire offseason under his belt and projected increased minutes, Murray is sure to take another step in his game and improve further on those numbers, even putting him in All-Star territory with his flashy play and great on-ball defense. 

Even more so, his numbers, while still impressive, do not even show the impact he has on the Spurs when he is on the court. Murray held a +/- of 5.9 per 100 possessions during the 2017-18 season, so add in his slashing ability with the likes of Demar Derozan and LaMarcus Aldridge and we are sure to see a multi-threat offense night in and night out with ever-improving numbers from 23-year-old Murray. 

This, in my opinion, is the best deal of the lot that came from this draft class. Sixteen million dollars a year is minimal compared to what other players *cough cough Jaylen Brown* make in the league today, and Murray has the potential to put up some great numbers and continue to improve under the supervision of Gregg Popovich and the Spurs organization for the next four years. 


Conner Gilson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at conner.gilson@uconn.edu. He tweets @connergilson03.

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