NBA free agency begins on July 1. The rumor mill isn't waiting around for another week before churning out buzz.
One story that surfaced Friday involved the Washington Wizards and upcoming free agent center Joakim Noah.
According to sources, the Wiz are locked in on making a major offer to Joakim Noah. The Wizards are said to be willing to offer Noah, coming off shoulder surgery that KO’d him in January, a full maximum contract. His deal would start at $28 million and reach around $120 million over four seasons.
Yeah, it’ll be that kind of crazy money for the soon-to-be former Chicago Bull.
The Wizards are prepared to go all out for the 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year because they have glaring holes up front and already are anticipating having to win an intense bidding war.
Where to begin. Let's move past the need for head-scratching and start with the basketball need. Washington enters the free agency period with Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris as its only big men. Beyond depth -- and the irony of replacing his long-time adversary, Nene -- Noah would provide the roster with a needed rim protector. Never a dynamic scorer, the 6-foot-11 Noah remains of the league's top passing centers. He's averaged at least 8.8 rebounds in each of the past seven seasons.
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Now let's shift to production. Injuries limited Noah to 96 out of a possible 164 games over the past two seasons. In 29 games last season, he averaged a career-low 4.3 points with 8.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. Even if we excuse the drop in production because of his shoulder injury, we can't ignore the calendar. Noah turns 32 next season.
Which brings us to the contract rumor. Now, the salary cap rise league-wide is set to make this a truly unpredictable free agency period. All bets are off when it comes to projecting how much money stars or secondary players will command. So many teams have oodles of salary cap space open and there are just only so many players truly worth big money. Therefore it's probably not wise to dismiss any rumor for now. However...
Signing Noah to a max contract over four years would have the Wizards paying a 35-year-old center $30-32 million during the 2019-20 season. Let's be kind and say that seems incredibly steep for what may already be a declining asset. Based on recent production, that deal probably won't make financial sense in year one. Also, Washington is already paying Gortat, 32, around $38 million over the next three seasons. In this summer of financial crazy, offering Noah something in those terms, maybe even a little more could be justified.
It's easy to imagine the Wizards having sincere interest in the crafty big man whose winning style carried him to back-to-back NCAA Tournament titles at Florida and several successful seasons with the Bulls. Could a clear NBA title contender with a need at center, say Golden State, offer Noah a monster deal? Sure, but that's probably just for a year, two max.
Even if Noah checks out fine physically, his shot blocking numbers have dipped four straight seasons while the scoring and rebounding stats are down three in a row.
Liking the player is one thing. Buying the contract rumor is another. Many players will sign stunning contracts. Maybe Noah is one of them. If he does so with the Wizards based on the rumored terms, commence head-scratching.