They were simpler times, the summer of 2016. The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908, LeBron James lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy with Cleveland and Donald Trump was yet to become President.
It also saw the NBA salary cap suddenly rise from $70 million to $94 million, sparking a summer of silly spending, frantic player grabs and some of the worst financial management by league front offices seen in the history of the game.
On the back of losing to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, Kevin Durant signed with the 73-win team – becoming the league’s go-to love-to-hate superstar.
Meanwhile, Mike Conley put pen to paper on a jaw-dropping $153 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies, making him the highest-paid player in NBA history. But this was far from the weirdest deal signed during that wild summer.
“Mike Conley” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Sean Davis
The spending was akin to a child given an unlimited budget in a candy store, reaching for anything and everything they can get their hands on. Thankfully for many teams across the NBA, many of these deals are set to expire.
The Milwaukee Bucks can at least look back and laugh at the deal they handed Miles Plumlee years ago, $52 million over four years. They are a sensational side led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and his elite supporting cast, but it wasn’t always destined for them to be favorites to claim the title in NBA betting this season.
Plumlee was in Milwaukee for just five months before being traded to the Charlotte Hornets, and then traded twice more after that – such was the toxicity of his contract. Since the 2016/17 season, he has averaged just 3.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG and hasn’t played a game since being waived by Memphis at the start of the season.
$94.8 million for four years of Chandler Parsons? Not good. In fact, since signing the contract, Parsons has played just 100 games. However, there were mitigating circumstances, he was 27 years old at the time and a promising wing player that the Grizzlies needed during their Grit N Grind era. If Parsons had stayed injury-free, the long-term view on this contract may look different, but unfortunately for both parties, it didn’t work out.
Timofey Mozgov’s 2016 deal with the Los Angeles has taken on a life of its own, a punchline and an example of the dysfunction that gripped the Lakers front office during those years. In fact, it was such a bad deal that the first thing you think of when you hear the name Mozgov is his gigantic pay-packet.
Even at the time, Mozgov’s style of center play was disappearing – the modern NBA was just passing him by. Since the 2016/17 season, the Russian big man has played just 85 games, averaged 6.3 PPG, 4.3 PPG and last stepped on the court in 2018.
The summer of 2016 should serve as an example of how not to conduct business. With the cap set to expand yet again in coming years, will teams act more cautiously and heed the warnings? Probably not.