Assessing 2024 Free Agency - Part 3 & 4

  • By Kris Burley, Day 206, 2024


Assessing 2024 Free Agency - Part 3 & 4:

With the regular season wrapped up, GM KB wanted to share his 100% impartial and objective verdicts on FA signings in 2024.

METHODOLOGY

Players
- 2020 Draft Class Max Extensions (Part 3)
- Excludes FA signings that were traded mid season PLUS (Part 4)

Minimum 60 games
WS = ANY
$ Per WS > $3.3m
Salary > $10m


Part 3: Tier 'I Hope this pays off in the future'

Sasha Vidmar - Phoenix Vultures
Aaron Rowland - Seattle Thunder
2023 Salary - $4,100,000/$3,600,000
2024 Salary - $20,000,000 (both)
Team Offers - ?
Win Shares - 3.6 (both)
$ per WS - $5,555,556 (both)
Position Competition: Swayda (Nash)/Sowder

The situation for both of these players is remarkably similar so I've decided to combine the commentary for both:
- Both play on consistently high performing teams
- Both play behind future HOFers
- Both from the 2020 draft class

In order to assess the merits of these two signings, additional data and context is required. Both teams are title contenders and having solid depth is critical and both of these players give this to their respective teams. Both of theses players were not offered extensions in 2023 like some of their contemporaries.

To put some perspective around this, here is the ranked $ per WS AND WS/48 for maxed players from the 2020 class. I've decided to include the meme per 48 stat because in the context of this analysis it's important.


Vidmar $5.9m 0.0800
Rowland $5.9m 0.1530
Weaver $1.5m 0.2120
Houston $2.3m 0.1740
Adams $3.3m 0.1200
Hooker $4.3m 0.1020
Navi* $3.1m 0.1260

There are a number of interesting observations here:
- Adams and Hooker were both contract extensions, but had a stagnant year in metric improvement.
- Navigato initially qualified based on my initial $3m per WS, however is under the average and gets a pass (though he is ranked 4th worst in $pWS in FA so more on him later)
- Houston and Weaver are obvious, but both would remain favourable to the league average even if were signed to $28m deals

So what are the take outs on this? Hooker needs to be included in the mix and how do we evaluate the decisions made by these teams?

For 2024, averages for player salary >= $20m

Number of players - 45
Average Salary - $22.9m
Average WS - 7.35
Average - $3.1m per WS

For me Rowland gets a pass. With WSp48 of 0.153, he is ranked 3rd on this list. Rowland dropped to 17.4mpg, 7 minutes less than last year, yet has made the most of the limited opportunity he has been given. His per 36 stats continued to rise in season 5 and had career highs in BPM and PER. Based on this I characterise him as a flexible player that is probably never going to be a no.1 option on a team, but a steady reliable 2 or 3. The lack of improvement in FG%/EFG% does raise some concerns. Given Thunders cap space and Sowder getting older, this is the best of the 3 signings, albeit inefficient for 2024.

How do we separate the final two? It comes down to intangibles in the eyes of this GM which I see as:
- Player ceiling
- Player ability to grow/perform without being a primary player

Hooker for me is pretty clear cut, I believe he has largely hit his ceiling. What is concerning about Hooker is his BPM - 1.5. This is the 3rd season he has had neg BPM. This year it is largely driven by declines in defense. Based on this I do not see Hooker developing further. If he can reverse his defense regression, he can be a 22/12 guy and live up to his 'Shot-blocking All-Star power five' title and be inline with the averages of his salary peers.

Vidmar is a much harder case. I did contemplate the fact that some players need to 'be the guy' on their team to perform, however he has been given plenty of opportunity (has started every game played in the last 4 seaons). His BPM is positive, but needs to be evaluated in context of the fact he is on a high performing team. Looking at his individual game performance, in 73 games he scored less than 10pts on 12 occasions (adj) and never scored above 29pts. His shooting did improve this year, but remains slightly above league average efficiency. Although his ceiling is still unknown, given the above I consider Vidmar the winner of 'you chose....poorly' award of 2020 draft class max management.

In closing you just gotta have some goddamn faith.


Tier 'Chris Paul'
Marcus Ivory - Oaland Tritons
2023 Salary - $27,300,000
2024 Salary - $28,000,000
Win Shares - 5.5
$ per WS - $5,090,909

Ivory rounds out the worst 3 2024 FA signings based on this methodology. Look WS are hard to come by in the competitive West (Tritons finished 10th, but would have qualified in the East), but for the franchise man to rank 4th on the team in WS on the first of a 5 year max contract is not ideal. Both Isaiah Foreman C and Tanor Dembele C/PF ranked ahead of him. What has happened to the former MVP superstar? A cursor look at his stats vs previous seasons:

- lowest usage since 2017
- lowest ppg since 2016
- lowest FGA since 2016
- FG% improvement on past 5 seasons
- career low OWS

What is interesting is his shot locations. This season he shot more 22% from long (vs 13% LY) and only 4% in close (vs 12% LY). We've already established that his FG% has improved, so this negates the offset in fg% between close and long.

Whilst he is a year older at 31 and had some declines in scouting grades vs LY (athletics and post defense), it feels like this is more likely to be driven by team dynamics. So what has changed at the Tritons in 2024?

Pace: The biggest change, Tritons ranked 3rd this year vs 25th in 2023. Given he is another year older and lost some athleticism this will be a contributing factor, but I don't feel it is the main one.

Navigato: A bigger role this year, with his usage up 3.5%pts. Although they play different positions (SG vs PF/C) I feel like that there is enough information to warrant a deep dive. Both are described as defensive. Ivory only has 2" on Navigato.

Of the 11 scouting attributes (based on my scout FOW):
- One letter grade diff or less 6
- One letter and a sign grade diff: 2
- 2 letter grade diff or greater: 3

Of the final component, two of these are post centric. There is some similarity in their strengths, Navigato increased role does appear to taken away opportunities from Ivory. How could this be managed? Here I present to you: could be better utilised at SF. Here are some arguments

At 6"9, is short for a C and would be considered on the shorter end of PF
The two players he is most similar to are both SF's:
- Ray McArdle 87.7%
- Orpheus Swayda 82.6%
His performance against his 2024 All Star peers (Barry, Clarke and Banks) his +/- was neg 64 (no positive games)

Would this work? I'm not sure a positional change is going to push the dial with teams current pace and Navigato on the roster. But it is worth considering. So where to from here? I speculate the Tritons will have a long hard think over the offseason on what to do. Navigato's contract expires in 2027 (with a team option) and Ivory effectively is contracted till 2028 (player option).


For context of the Ivory position, whilst he was the 3rd worst in FA, he is 8th overall in the league for players with salaries >= $20m. Here is the > $5m per WS ranks

Jamar Strickland $10,454,545
Lamar Francis $8,888,889
Tyler Davis $8,750,000
Isaiah McCarty $6,774,194
Donnell Wallace $5,217,391
 
Couple of observations

- Of the bottom 8 ranked, 4 players come from Duke.
- Whilst Davis absurd contract puts him into 3rd place, he would need to be paid $10.5m just to get to the average
- RKG is responsible for 2 of these


Whilst this may come across as a hit piece on Vidmar and Ivory, it really isn't. Ivory can be a franchise player in the right system, Vidmar now has the opportunity to be more of a focal point for the Vultures. The real takeaway is the Tyler Davis sign and trade.