In 2016, when the salary cap spiked at nearly every team was flush with cash, teams threw around money like they were in that Fat Joe/Lil Wayne “Make It Rain” video — Chandler Parsons, four years, $94.4 million; Bismack Biyombo, four years, $72 Million; Joakim Noah, four years, $72.6 million. And the list went on and on and on.
A lot of players headed into the 2017 free agency thinking the gold rush was still on, but teams had sobered up, they didn’t have the same cap space, and the market was very tight for free agents. Players were frustrated, some taking shorter contracts with the thought they could re-enter the market in a year and get their cash then.
Except 2018 is going to be a tighter market than 2017. The guys at the top — LeBron James, Paul George, Chris Paul — are going to get maxed out, but there is a shrinking middle class in the NBA already and not a lot of teams with money to spend now.
In the face of that, Indiana’s Thaddeus Young has decided to opt into the $13.7 million he is owed next season, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. It is the smart move financially.
Young provided some veteran leadership — and 11.8 points and 6.3 rebounds a game — for the Pacers last season. More than the offense, defensively the Pacers leaned on Young, who is long and switchable, exactly the kind of defender needed in the modern NBA. He’s a guy that brings intangibles, effort and a bit of an unorthodox game to the court that just works for him.
Expect a number of other players to follow Young’s lead in the next 24 hours. Most players expecting a pay raise, and anyone thinking 2016 was the benchmark and not an anomaly, are not going to find this free agent summer to their liking. Some guys may just want out of their current situations, but many players leaving for the promise of a bigger payday are in for a harsh reality check.