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The 2016 mega free agency disaster flow chart

(This is a condensed version of our 2016 mega free agency disaster flow chart. The full spread is simply too big for one email. Click here to view it in full.)

The thing about the 2016 NBA free agency spending period, which mostly happened in early July, 2016, is that it gets more and more unbelievable with age.

And, with those contracts -- mostly four-year deals -- finally running out this season, there’s no better time than right now to reflect. The who-what-when-where-why of July, 2016:

  • Average or below average players who wouldn’t have approached eight figures annually in any other year got paid Christian McCaffrey money.

  • It happened because, with the league set to take in cash from the new, massive ESPN TV deal -- which was signed in 2014 and went into effect for the 2016-17 season -- the salary cap was suddenly injected with mass cash, jumping from a $70 million cap in 2015-16 to a $94 million cap in 2016-17

  • With higher spending ceilings and rosy salary cap projections that turned out to be fool’s gold, general managers across the league lost their minds. 

The spike is why Kevin Durant was able to sign with Golden State, and why contracts like the following happened:

  • Ian Mahinmi’s four-year, $64 million deal with Washington.

  • Timofey Mozgov’s four-year, $64 million deal with the Lakers.

  • Luol Deng’s four-year, $72 million deal with the Lakers.

  • Joakim Noah’s four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

  • Chandler Parsons’ four-year, $94 million deal with Memphis.

  • Bismack Biyombo’s four-year, $72 million deal with Orlando.

(In case you were wondering: Mahinmi hasn’t averaged more than seven points per game since; Mozgov hasn’t played in the NBA since 2018; Deng played 57 games in L.A. and was waived and stretched in 2018, then retired in 2019; Noah played 53 games with the Knicks, and is out of the league; Parsons has played 99 games since the 2016-17 season; Biyombo hasn’t eclipsed 20 minutes per game since 2016.) In all, nearly two-dozen indefensible and expensive long-term deals were handed out by the gild-laced pockets of clueless front office members, which have since resulted in two general outcomes:

  1. A contract became so untradable that the player and the team were forced to get along, like Mahinmi or Evan Turner in Portland, who was finally traded this past February in the final year of a four-year, $72 million deal. 

  2. Other, smarter front offices saw these terrible contracts as ways to obtain assets. For example, Brooklyn took Mozgov’s contract off of the Lakers’ hands; in exchange for the cap relief, the Lakers had to include D’Angelo Russell in the trade, who bloomed into an All-Star with the Nets. 

Every move -- from trades, to waives, to salary stretches, to retirements, to trips to China -- is included in our massive flow chart, which is sampled above and can be viewed in full here.


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