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Deal or No Deal: Predicting Which 2018 Free Agents Will Receive Max Deals

Fadeaway World

Fadeaway World

The 2017-2018 NBA season has not even started yet, but still, I have decided to predict which 2018 star free agents will be the recipients of maximum contracts, and which notable players will not make the mark. As well as giving an explanation, I have also written their free agent class, whether it be restricted or unrestricted, as well as their 2017-2018 salary.

For optional free agents, I have written their option, whether it be player, team or early termination, as well as what they could potentially be making in 2018-2019.

Chris Paul: Maybe

FA Type: Unrestricted

2017-2018 Salary: $24.6 million

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 29:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles up court against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on December 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Despite being 32 years old and past his athletic prime, Chris Paul still is easily a top ten player in the NBA, and probably one of the smartest players in the league, as well. However, with that being said, still I am not sure if Chris Paul will end up seeing a max contract. Let’s start with the fact that he will be 33 years old when he enters free agency in July, and teams most likely won’t want to pay a 38-year-old well over 30 million dollars a year.

Chris Paul also happens to play point guard, the deepest position in basketball, and therefore it will be hard for him to command that much money compared to if he was at his level in value, but playing small forward for example. A player who needed to face that issue this year was 31-year-old Kyle Lowry, who despite being 17th in win shares, 11th in box plus minus and tenth in real plus minus for 2016-2017 and 13th in win shares and ninth in box plus minus from 2014-2017, saw himself get just a three-year deal.

Now with that being said, Paul is a better player than Lowry, being 14th in win shares, third in box plus minus and second in real plus minus in 2016-2017 and third in win shares and fifth in box plus minus in from 2014-2017, but being that Paul will be two years older than Lowry was when signing the deal, perhaps that would balance out. But perhaps with Paul’s sheer talent, he will end up getting a max deal, however, it is very possible that he gets a three-year deal with near max per year money.

DeMarcus Cousins: Yes

FA Type: Unrestricted

2017-2018 Salary: $18.1 million


Despite his mean streaks, technical fouls and seeming inability to lead a team to the playoffs, I would highly doubt that a talent like Cousins would not get the max, as talent like his is just so hard to find.

Despite not being incredibly athletic, Cousins has practically become an all-around talent at center, which is just incredibly hard to come by.

He had an OBPM and ORPM of above 3.5, and 18.2% rebound percentage, 25.8% assist percentage AS A CENTRE, and despite not being all that game changing defensively, he was a positive defensive player both in DRPM and DBPM and had a pretty good 51.1% defended rim field goal percentage. He was one of three players this year to have a 15% rebound percentage, 25% assist percentage and positive box plus minus (Nikola Jokic and Russell Westbrook were the other two, you’ll find out about them later).

Cousins is also incredibly versatile offensively, he drives 7.3 times per game, which is the most by far for a big, with Blake Griffin coming in second, driving just four times, is in the 81st percentile for post up points per possession, and extended his game to three-point range to the point where he is an actual threat, as his three-point percentage is 36.1% and his adjusted three-point percentage is 35.1%. And although his adjusted three-point percentage is lower, it is actually the more impressive number of the two, as that means that he is being defended like a small man at the three-point line, as other bigs who have higher three-point percentages the Cousins, like Karl-Anthony Towns (36.7% 3P%), Marc Gasol (38.8%) and Mike Muscala (41.8%), actually have lower adjusted percentages. This means that Cousins is more likely to command defensive attention on the three-point line than KAT, Gasol or the Moose, as they get a lot more open threes than Boogie Cousins.

So despite the aforementioned negative qualities, his positives more than make up for them.

Jabari Parker: No

FA Type: Restricted

2017-2018 Salary: $6.8 million

Jabari Parker

If this was anytime before February 8, I would bet that Jabari Parker would earn himself a max contract in 2018, as despite the facts that the Bucks actually played better with him off the floor and that he is just an awful defender, he still scores pretty efficiently, and is extremely athletic and powerful.

However, after tearing his ACL for the second time, having a second season ending injury in his short three year NBA career, and being that this year he will only be able to play around February, it does not seem like Parker will be able to have an impressive enough showing to earn himself a max contract.

Isaiah Thomas: No

FA Type: Unrestricted

2017-2018 Salary: $6.3 million

<> during the second quarter at TD Garden on December 15, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

Credit: Getty Images

Fact: Last year Isaiah Thomas was third best among point guards in offensive real plus minus. Counterfact: Last year Isaiah Thomas was last among point guards in defensive real plus minus. Now, I already released an article awhile ago about the double-edged sword of playing Isaiah Thomas, however, to summarize it in order to save y’all some time, let’s just say there’s nothing he can do to improve on his defensive play, as it is not a matter of hustle like it is for other guards like Kyrie Irving for example, but Thomas simply is not big enough to be anything but a terrible defender.

And although Thomas definitely will get 25+ million dollars per year, provided that he can only be positive on one side of the floor, that brings his value down from the max.

Andrew Wiggins: Yes

FA Type: Restricted

2017-2018 Salary: $7.6 million


Andrew Wiggins may be raw, Andrew Wiggins may have a bad shot selection, and Andrew Wiggins might not play defense all that well, but in the end none of that really matters, as if the Minnesota Timberwolves do not extend Wiggins, any team at the bottom of the league would be happy to sign up someone as athletic as Wiggins, no matter the cost.

This is how in 2016, Harrison Barnes was able to get himself a max contract with the Dallas Mavericks, as the team was desperate for a wing, and trusted that someone with his athleticism could be valuable for them and that eventually all of the kinks could be worked out. And if Barnes, a complimentary player with the Warriors could earn a max contract, a player like Wiggins who averaged 23.6 points per game could probably do the same.

Joel Embiid: Maybe

FA Type: Restricted

2017-2018 Salary: $6.1 million


When Joel Embiid is on the floor, he is a max player. Not just a rookie max player, ala Harrison Barnes or Otto Porter, but a legitimate max player. Between his elite rim protection, and versatile offensive game, he is the most talented young center in the league, outside of Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic.

However, with just 31 games under his belt in three years of service time, it is not at all a guarantee that he will be. Perhaps this year, Embiid will be able to string himself enough games to get to the max, however, if not Embiid will likely need to sign for much less. Embiid’s goal should be to go upwards of 60 games this year, with upwards of 25 minutes per game.

LeBron James: Yes

FA Type: Player Option, Unrestricted

2017-2018 Salary: $33.3 million

2018-2019 Option: $35.6 million

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As far as talent goes, still at 32 years old, LeBron James is still definitely the best player in the world, and he will most definitely stay that way at 33 when he enters free agency. This is where he will receive max offers from every team in the league. And unlike in the past where LeBron would have taken bargains to keep a team together, at this point in his career, it seems that LeBron has traded in that outlook for a more me-first POV. This would seem quite uncharacteristic for a player as unselfish as LeBron but is made perfectly understandable after once again being disappointed under the harsh grips of the authoritarian Dan Gilbert regime.

Russell Westbrook: Yes

FA Type: Player Option, Unrestricted

2017-2018 Salary: $28.5 million

2018-2019 Salary: $30.7 million

May 10, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (0) celebrates a basket and a foul against the San Antonio Spurs after scoring in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-268808 ORIG FILE ID:  20160510_ajw_ai1_157.jpg

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Russell Westbrook is not someone who I need to justify why he will receive a max deal, as surely his 2016-2017 MVP campaign is reason enough, so yes, he will, with 99.99% certainty receive a max contract.

Carmelo Anthony: No

FA Type: Early Termination Option, Unrestricted

2017-2018 Salary: $26.2 million

22018-2019 Salary: $27.9 million

New York, New York, 2/06/2013 Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks reacts during the third quarter. The Knicks defeated the Magic at Madison Square Garden on February 06, 2013.  (Paul J. Bereswill)

Credit: Paul J. Bereswill

The days of Carmelo Anthony getting max contracts are simply over at this point in his career, he has proved that he is not a first option scorer. And as a second or third option scorer, he could not receive a max, as he will be 34 years old when free agency rolls around, and second option scorers should be able to at least play a lick of defense to earn a max deal.

However, this might actually be a blessing in disguise for Melo, as he can finally leave the dreadful Knicks, and NBA fans might finally be able to see what it’s like for Melo to be a complementary player. I am quite looking forward to the new era of Melo that we’ll probably see, I guess we can call it a Melossance.

Kevin Durant: No

FA Type: Player Option, Unrestricted

2017-2018 Salary: $25 million

2018-2019 Salary: $26.2 million


Let me make this clear, if Kevin Durant wanted a max contract, he would get a max contract. However, in order to keep this historically great Warriors team together, he will once again take less money, as he did this year in free agency, and when he signed with the team in 2016.

DeAndre Jordan: Maybe

FA Type: Player Option, Unrestricted

2017-2018 Salary: $22.6 million

2018-2019 Salary: $24.1 million


DeAndre Jordan is very good at what he does. He protects the rim well, he is one of the best rebounders in the league and no one in the league is a bigger roll threat than him. However, that is pretty much where his game ends, and although Jordan has become one of the best centers in the league doing this, people usually expect more from max players.

Look at Nerlens Noel, who is pretty much like a diet DeAndre Jordan, in terms of skillset, and how he still is yet to sign a lucrative contract. I’m not saying that Jordan is on the same level as Noel, as obviously he is much better, however, I do not think that his max contract is written in stone, despite him having a 15th in the league RPM, 23rd in the league BPM and 12th in the league win shares this year, as well as sixth in the league win shares and 20th in the league BPM over the last three years.

LaMarcus Aldridge: No

FA Type: Player Option, Unrestricted

2017-2018 Salary: $21.5 million

2018-2019 Salary: $22.3 million


A few years ago, LaMarcus Aldridge was considered a top ten player in the league, however, since signing with the Spurs in 2014, his reputation has taken a major hit, as his production has gone significantly down, and this year the Spurs were even 4.6 points per 100 possessions with Aldridge on the court.

Aldridge’s style also clashes with the way most teams currently play, as LaMarcus Aldridge took a larger percentage of mid-range jumpers than any other player in the league, at 54.3%, and unlike other big men high up on that list, Aldridge took just 56 three-pointers last year. In the new NBA, mid-range jumpers have continued to be scratched out of NBA plays, in favor of more efficient looks at the basket or from three. However, this does leave guys like Aldridge out in the dirt unless he develops a three-point shot.

Aldridge is also a bad roller (.94 points per possession) and playmaker (9.9% AST%), and so shooting is the only thing he contributes to offenses. Therefore, Aldridge, who will be 33 years old when he enters free agency, will not see anything near a max deal.

Paul George: Yes

FA Type: Player Option, Unrestricted

2017-2018 Salary: $19.5 million

2018-2019 Salary: $20.7 million


Although much like Melo, George has shown that he cannot be the first option for a great team in the league’s current climate, George still has the potential to earn max money, as George can actually play defense.

Despite having a -.1 DRPM this year, George is still one of the league’s best two-way wings, as not only was his team 1.3 points per 100 possessions worse on defense when he was off the floor but also because in 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 George’s DRPM was at least 1.5. And due to George’s well-roundedness, and the fact that he will be just 28 years old when he signs this contract, he will probably receive the max.

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Nikola Jokic: Yes

FA Type: Team Option, Restricted

2017-2018 Salary: $1.4 million

2018-2019 Salary: $1.6 million


I know what you’re thinking. Why would any NBA team decline a team option that would retain one of the best centers in the league for a very cheap contract? Well, that is because Jokic’s contract is conditioned that if they do not decline the team option for this 2018, making him a restricted free agent, he will automatically become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, and so in order to keep Jokic for longer, they will almost definitely decline Jokic’s team option. A similar situation with a similar option happened in 2014 with Chandler Parsons and the Houston Rockets, who ultimately declined his team option, and then let the Mavs take him away, but obviously, the Nuggets will not do the same with Jokic.

Now to why Jokic deserves the max. This year, Nikola Jokic was sixth in the league in RPM at 6.7, fifth in the league in BPM at 8.4 and 19th in the league in win shares. And despite 19th in win shares being very good, the only reason why Jokic’s win shares were top 20 in the league and not top ten was because he was not made a full-time starter until December 15th. And from the 15th to the end of the season, Jokic averaged 19.2, 10.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game on 58.7% shooting. 18/10/5 on 55% shooting have been averaged for a full season by just two players, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. And being that Jokic did this 51 games, and will likely average similar numbers for the totality of next year, he definitely deserves the max.

Jokic’s offensive versatility is matched by just few centres in the league, as well, as not only did he lead centres in assist percentage at 28.8%, but he is also a very underrated scorer, who is quite efficient in the pick and roll, averaging 1.15 points per possession, putting him in the 75th percentile and in the post up, averaging 1.12 points per possession, putting him in the 95th percentile. Jokic even makes the mid-range jumper efficient, hitting on 51.9% of them, which is third among players who take more than two mid-range jumpers a game. And if it weren’t reason enough, Jokic will be just 23 years old in 2018 free agency, and so a max contract is definitely on the horizon for Jokic.