Former Florida players cash in with huge contracts
The NBA free agency gold rush this week turned out to be a boon for four former Florida basketball players.
Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Bradley Beal and Chandler Parsons agreed to contracts worth more than $405 million combined. Beal (five years, $128 million with Washington Wizards), Parsons (four years, 94.8 million with Memphis Grizzlies) and Horford (four years, $113 million with Boston Celtics) will sign maximum deals, though Horford turned down a five-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks to move on to Boston.
Timing is everything, and a 34-percent increase in the NBA salary cap (from $70 million to $94.1 million) played a role in all four big-money deals. The minimum an NBA team can spend on salaries is $84.729 million.
“You’ve got to spend the money somewhere,” ESPN.com NBA insider David Thorpe said. “You can’t not spend the money. It’s a great time to be an NBA player, that’s for sure.”
The 6-foot-11 Noah left the Chicago Bulls for a four-year, $72 million deal with the New York Knicks despite being hobbled by knee issues in recent seasons and coming off season-ending shoulder surgery last January. Parsons also had knee microfracture surgery last offseason and averaged 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 61 games with the Dallas Mavericks in 2015-16.
Both contracts would appear a gamble, but Thorpe said in both instances, it’s a gamble worth taking.
“It goes back to supply and demand,” Thorpe said. “There’s a huge amount of money and there just aren’t a lot of players to give it to, most players are already under contract ...
“In the case of Noah, there’s no question he’s got a New York connection and he fits in very well with how Phil Jackson wants to play, he’s a big man who can pass, he’s probably, along with the Gasol brothers, the best passing big man in the world. And then he also brings the component of energy and defense. You almost cross every box with him for what the Knicks needed.
“Parsons was someone who was willing to go to a smaller market team for the money and Memphis had to spend the money on someone.”
Thorpe also thinks the shooting ability of Parsons will complement a Memphis roster that finished near the bottom of the league in 3-point shooting percentage (29th, 36.8 percent) and field-goal percentage (23rd, 44 percent).
“Defensively he’s been a liability in some years, but he can really shoot and Memphis is one of the worst shooting teams in the league,” Thorpe said.
Boston went after the 6-foot-10 Horford, a three-time All-Star and inside scorer, to complement guard Isaiah Thomas. Beal has had health issues of late as well, but got his deal based on his combination of youth (still just 23 years old) and potential.
“He’s the kind of guy you spend the money on, high draft pick, high upside,” Thorpe said.
Of course, some credit goes to the Florida basketball program and former Florida coach Billy Donovan for helping develop all four players. Noah and Horford help lead Florida to back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007. Parsons led UF to an Elite Eight in 2011, while Beal got the Gators back to an Elite Eight appearance in 2012.
“The best thing I can say about Billy is that he plays with a pro pace and a pro space, spacing in terms of how they run their offense,” Thorpe said. “I always felt like Billy had one of the best spacing offenses in the league in college and that is the pro game, the pro game is more space in general because the 3-point line forces that.”
If there was a loser in the NBA free-agent period, it may have been Donovan. After leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Western Conference Finals in his rookie season as NBA coach, Donovan watched his best player, forward Kevin Durant, leave for two-time Western Division champion Golden State Warriors. The Thunder will now look to re-tool without Durant and may trade their other superstar, point guard Russell Westbrook, before possibly losing him to free agency next season.
“I personally think they’ll trade him,” Thorpe said. “I don’t think Westbrook is going to tell them that he’s willing to stay long term.”
The potential departure of Westbrook, along with Durant, could leave Donovan with a long rebuilding project.
“I think that will be good for him,” Thorpe said. “In some ways, I think Billy will like that more, it will be kind of building the way he did with the lottery pick types at Florida … it will be more about developing guys and I think he’ll be back in that same stretch where it will happen for him.”
— Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or email@example.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.