Thursday , Dec , 04 , 2008 J.N.

The Contract Year Syndrome

The Contract Year SyndromeAs Google might say, “you mean ‘The Erick Dampier Epidemic?’” Right before their rookie deals (or current deals) expire, players usually play out of their minds to sell themselves. They perform near All Star level letting people think “hey he’s probably the real deal. He’s going to be one hell of a player.” This has been a dicey situation in recent years because some players just don’t stay, or become better players, after that last year.

Questions arise: Was it a fluke? Was he playing hard just for that big payday?

Why does this matter you say?

Well, America’s economy is in recession and it’s time to put value in perspective. It’s serious business after all and future players looking for big paydays might be in for some hard truth as some teams such as the Oklahoma Thunder are wondering how to pay these guys when stadium attendance is receding like Ne-Yo’s, Tony Kornheiser’s, and Wayne Brady’s hairline. Have you seen a recent Charlotte Bobcat home game? OMG. It feels like a rec-league game.

Management might have to borrow credit to pay these guys, but that’s a problem for the foreseeable future because credit kind of dried up.

Erick Dampier is a great example of the Contract Year Syndrome (since he’s the most memorable in recent memory), but the absolute perfect case scenario is John Paxson’s mess in Chicago since he has many Erick Dampiers running around.

Kirk Hinrich: Many hardcore Chicago fans foolishly claimed that he can be near Chris Paul and Deron William’s level. Hey, they even thought he can be a Steve Nash-John Stockton type player perhaps because he was looked upon as The Next Great White Hope at the time (which was still stupid because I saw nothing that was near either man).

2006-2007 stats: 16.6 ppg, 6.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 45% FG, 42% 3PT.

After huge deal

2007-2008 stats: 11.5 ppg, 6.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 41% FG, 35% 3PT. This got them Derrick Rose and, currently, Hinrich has fallen off the face of the bench.

Luol Deng: Jerry Reinsdorf became inexplicably stupid to let Luol Deng dictate the signing by giving the Bulls a one week ultimatum to sign a huge deal. Reinsdorf fell for it. To top it all off, Deng didn’t even have a record type year like Dampier before signing.

2007-2008 stats: 17.0 ppg, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 48% FG.
2008-2009 stats (through 16 games): 13.1 ppg, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 41% FG.

The last terrible commitment was to Andres Nocioni; absolutely horrific for what he’s currently bringing.

They’re not the only ones guilty of having the Contract Year Syndrome after rookie deals. Let’s take a look around the NBA.

Andre Iguodala
2007-2008 stats: 19.9 pts, 72% FT, 33% 3PT, 46% FG.
2008-2009 stats (through 19 games): 13.9 pts, 67% FT, 23% 3PT, 42% FG.

Emeka Okafor
2007-2008 stats: 13.8 pts, 10.7 rebs, 1.7 blocks.
2008-2009 stats (through 18 games) 11.7 pts, 10.9 rebs, 1.8 blocks.

I can understand signing Mek to a huge deal because good defensive centers that can do some scoring are extremely difficult to find. Aside from Okafor, why do general managers and certain owners overrate players? Other players to note who have gotten huge money, but fell off tremendously after signing: Brian Cardinal, Grant Hill, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Kapono, etc.  I will explore the psychology behind this. From what I understand, these are the major reasons why they do this:

  • Ego – General managers take pride in who they select and don’t want to admit they were mistakes.
  • Denial – They don’t want to admit players’ weaknesses that drastically cuts the level of potential; blind to see their faults.
  • Personal Agenda/Bias – There are players that they favor heavily over others because of likable personality. GMs will work harder to get the deal they want from the owner.(Example: Deng getting his while Ben Gordon reportedly got his 6 years $54-$58 million deal pulled off the table right before he was about to sign it. The deal is considered a bargain by many).

General managers have to be more careful in committing to huge deals. This doctor’s cure to the Contract Year Syndrome? They have to do major observations throughout their first 4 years (or more) in the NBA without the denial and bias. Attend the practices, stay updated with all the coaches (ask what weakness the player is strengthening), how do they fit within the system, and keep note of improvements game by game no matter how minuscule it is. If the owner steps in removing the GM from negotiations then they have major red flags. The owner(s) usually doesn’t know shit about basketball and will usually offer big contracts to players who are not worthy. I can understand ego because we all have it, but they shouldn’t let that get in the way because this is serious business.

Otherwise, the players will just take the money and run.

Agree or disagree?