Earlier this summer, we detailed the phenomenon that was the NBA’s 1996 offseason, one that saw an ungodly amount of All-Stars and future Hall of Famers either change teams, enter the league, or re-sign with their incumbent squads. That summer was David Falk’s crowning moment as a player agent, as he had a hand in encouraging massive free agent deals for Michael Jordan, Alonzo Mourning, Kenny Anderson, Dikembe Mutombo, Juwan Howard (twice!), John Stockton, and Buck Williams, while helping initiate trades featuring clients Jalen Rose and Charles Barkley, while acting as the first pro agent for draftees Stephon Marbury, Kerry Kittles, Vitaly Potapenko, Antoine Walker, and Allen Iverson.
Those were heady times. Now? Falk is attempting to find a restricted free agent deal for Greg Monroe, and he recently came to an agreement with the Boston Celtics regarding onetime lottery pick Evan Turner, who signed for just a part of Boston’s mid-level exception.
Partly by design (Falk isn’t exactly semi-retired, but he doesn’t chase down clients as often as he did two decades ago), but partly by function, this has not been a blockbuster summer for the superagent. Worse, Falk explained away Turner’s moderate deal to a ridiculous degree in talking with Steve Bulpett (who broke news of the contract) on Monday. From the Boston Herald:
“Had Evan stayed in Philly with those kind of numbers, more than likely he would have made in excess of $10 million a year,” he said. “So we obviously didn’t want to lock him into a long-term kind of a deal, and I think, likewise, the Celtics want to see. They know Evan was the national Player of the Year (in 2009-10). They know that over the last two years he’s averaged 14, 6 and 4 (13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists), which are pretty good numbers. So I think this is an opportunity for him to re-establish his value in a new environment.
“I think if you’d asked most GMs in February when Evan was averaging 17, 6 and almost 4, I think they all would have expected that he’d be a treasured free agent,” Falk added. “Unfortunately in the NBA, we tend to be very trendy. When you’re up, you’re really up. When you’re down, you’re really down. Sometimes people don’t modulate in the middle.”
That last part is true, but certainly not in Evan Turner’s case.
If you’ll recall, Philadelphia boasted what was far and away the NBA’s fastest offense last season, amping up per-game numbers for each of its participants along the way. Even during that run, though, most mindful NBA observers were looking at Turner’s $8.7 million qualifying offer for 2014-15 and assuming that the Sixers would decline that particular option, not keen on spending that much money on a player that barely tops the “meh” meter even when things are completely aligned in his favor – like playing on a terrible team with an ultrafast offense that can pump up your stats.
When Turner was dealt to Indiana at the trade deadline, merely for a second-round pick and a player in Danny Granger that they would later cut, it was also assumed that the Pacers (fearful of the luxury tax) would also pass on picking up Turner’s qualifying offer. And at no point during any of this span can I recall any pundit or league executive predicting that the potential restricted free agent would sign for a number higher than that $8.7 million mark. Billy King’s Nets are capped out, after all.
This isn’t to denigrate Turner, who can still contribute on an NBA level. It’s to point out that NBA general managers are getting smarter and smarter, and (to use Falk’s parlance), they don’t just look at “17, 6 and almost 4” anymore. Thank goodness for that.
One doesn’t have to be overly familiar with advanced statistics to consider Evan Turner a player that isn’t worth anywhere near eight figures a season. Any old school GM could pull up the often-tired but sometimes-true argument about putting up good statistics on a terrible team as a way to keep his price down. The game film does him no favors – Turner does a bit of everything well enough, but Philadelphia’s pace jacked up his per-game averages, and his ball dominating ways on one side of the floor wouldn’t seem to mesh well with any hypothetical batch of teammates.
You don’t need to subscribe to WinShares Weekly in order to come to the conclusion that someone that has the ball in his hands that much should really get to the line more often, and that a small forward’s 32 percent three-point mark (just under 29 percent in Philly last year) just doesn’t cut it in the modern NBA.
It’s true that Indiana did Turner no favors. They ran precious few sets for him on his beloved right side of the floor, his stints in the rotation were inconsistent, and even when given the excuse of his midseason addition (as the perceived Pacer empire crumbled and as locker room favorite Danny Granger was sent elsewhere), there was still no reason why the team could not have run some old school isolation sets for the swingman. His time with the team further hurt Turner’s reputation, and it probably did cost him some money.
Did it cost him an eight figure contract?
Listen, there are always going to be bad GMs. There are always going to be impatient owners, and personnel bosses that go against what they’d usually deduce midseason merely because they have cap space, the summer makes everyone uneasy, and because everyone is tied for first in July. All it takes is one bum move, and Turner playing out the string for that awful squad in Philly could have encouraged a bigger contract.
To the tune of a number higher than $8.7 million? No bloody way.
Turner is a good player, he’s properly compensated, he’s a few years away from his prime, and despite his reputation as a gunner, he’s not a bad dude. In spite of all those misses, he’s a fun player to watch as he lopes around the NBA’s (rightfully) forgotten midrange, and he’ll have a chance to take advantage of the unyieldingly talked-about spike in salary cap rates in one or two years.
The Celtics, meanwhile, get another solid rotation piece as they wait out this slow rebuild, with an impressive set of either unguaranteed contracts (Keith Bogans is still at home, seething) and just-OK players that contending teams can talk themselves into dealing for. Currently over the luxury tax line with Turner’s contract, and with 15 guaranteed contracts already on the roster, they’ll have to start wheeling. Teams know this, and Danny Ainge could have a hell of a time with what comes next.
David Falk? He’s doing what David Falk has always done, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. We’re just allowed to call him out on his protestations along the way.
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