The worst thing to do in sports is to over-pay an athlete who doesn’t deserve the ridiculous amount of money that teams can throw at him. The Cleveland Cavaliers did just that this morning when they signed Kyrie Irving to a five-year, $90 million contract extension.Irving is a unique talent, but an inconsistent one at that. In three seasons, he has yet to play all 82 games, and being in the weak Eastern Conference, has yet to bring his team to the playoffs. But the Cavaliers decided he was good enough to deserve a contract that will be worth $90 million over the next five years, and he is only 22-years-old. If you’re trying to tell me that Irving is just as good as Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, or John Wall, you’re crazy. All of those players, besides maybe Parker now, are two-way players. Irving is strictly a one-way player (offense).
Is there a need to get into all the advanced statistics on why Irving is not a max-contract player? He isn’t a great or, for that matter, good defender. He isn’t a better point guard than the previously named point guards. Plain and simple. If you’re considered a “star” player, you should be able to get your team to the playoffs in the East, no questions asked.
But the Cavaliers aren’t the ones to fault. Teams from previous years are the ones to blame for this. Over-paying for mediocrity started when Juwan Howard became the first player in NBA history to earn a contract worth $100 million. Howard had one season where he averaged over 20 points-per-game (1995-1996; 22.1 ppg) and made one All-Star game in his entire NBA career, which spanned 22 years. Howard made over $151 million during his career, an absurd amount especially when Basketball-Reference.com compares Howard’s career to that of Joe Smith, Kurt Thomas, Robert Horry, and Mike Miller in terms of Win Shares. Howard was the fourth highest-paid player in 2000-2001, ahead of Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, and David Robinson, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame.
Another player is Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal showed a lot of promise when he averaged 20-plus points-per-game for four straight seasons. But his “positive production” only lasted for six seasons as he soon fell off the map because of injuries. In his two seasons with the Miami Heat, O’Neal made over $44 million and didn’t produce. O’Neal has yet to retire, and his bank account is rich (over $168 million). Again, according to Basketball-Reference.com, O’Neal’s career compares to that of Derrick Coleman, Donyell Marshall, and Grant Long in terms of Win Shares.
It’s unbelievable how teams get sucked into giving their best player all the money the league allows them to give to one player. Frankly, that’s why a lot of people don’t like watching the NBA because their perspective has changed once they are told, “That guy makes $12 million a year.”
LeBron James, and maybe Kevin Durant, is/are the only player(s) in the league that should be making max-level money or between 25 and 30 percent of the team’s salary cap. Otherwise, the best player on a team should be making 20 percent or less of the overall salary cap. Irving should be making $11.7 per year, but he will be making $18 million per year starting in 2015. That’s too much money for a young player who has yet to make the playoffs in the “Easy Conference”.
Stay tuned, there will be more crazy contracts to follow. I’m sure of it. Answer the poll question if you’d like.
*Win Shares is an estimated number of wins contributed by a player*