There has been a lot of chatter recently about what Darko is worth to our team. $7M has been thrown out a few times as a reasonable number. On the other hand, $3-4M was thrown out as a reasonable number. Only $3M apart, but that's about a 100% difference. So what is Darko really worth? Well let's take a look. Please note there are no links attached to any of the names, so don't bother wasting your time clicking them.
Let's take a look at some comparisons and see what kind of money they were paid, then try to determine if that was fair or under/overpaid. The 8 guys I will focus on are: Haywood, Dalembert, Perkins, Mohammed, Dampier, Turiaf, E.Thomas, Pachulia. My format for the stats will be as such, pts/rebs/asts/blks and then I will add percentages and anything of note on the end.
CH Favorite, Brendan Haywood! Signed his contract for roughly those same averages at a similar age for a $5M/yr average.
9.1/9.3/.6/2.1 at 56.2% and 3.2FTA at 62%. Plus defender. Showed to be more important to those Washington teams than the Big Three on many days (though this obviously went without notice to most).
Sam Dalembert: Signed his contract for roughly the same averages again (slightly worse then at everything except for blocks) at a similar age for a $10M/yr average. MASSIVELY overpaid then, massively overpaid now.
8.1/9.6/.9/1.8 at 54.5% and 1.6FTA at 72.9%. Plus defender.
Kendrick Perkins: Signed his contract for significantly worse averages across the board. I'll put his averages for the year before he signed so we can get a better idea of his contract at the time as well as how it is perceived now. Underpaid at $4.5M/yr average.
10.1/7.6/1/1.7 at 60.2% and 3.6FTA at 58.2%. Plus defender.
4.5/5.2/1.3/1.3 at 49.1% and 1.4FTA at 60% in about 5.7mpg less. At the time, that contract was pretty fair for his age and size. I'd say he's worth about $6-7M/yr now.
Nazr Mohammed: He has been around to quite a few teams so I am just going to put his career averages and say his average contract was about $5M/yr. Not a bargain (though the argument could be made that it was), but fair enough.
6.9/5.4/.4/.7 at 49.1% and 2FTA at 64.4%. Plus defender.
Erick Dampier: Signed his last contract after average 12/12 in GS while being a plus defender, averages have gone down significantly since then. He is now MASSIVELY overpaid at about $10M/yr.
6/7.3/.6/1.4 at 62.4% and 1.8FTA at 60.4%. Plus defender and very efficient scorer in very low volume. It is of note that he was a very inefficient scorer at a higher volume at the beginning of his career. Seems perfect for a low volume specialist role on the team.
Ronny Turiaf: Signed his contract with similar averages, worse FG% but much better FTA and FT%. Fun fact: He was actually such a terrible free throw shooter this year that his TS% was worse than his FG%... didn't know that was possible. Signed to a pretty fair contract at just over $4M/yr.
4.9/4.5/2.1/1.3 at 58.2% and 1.9FTA at 47.4%. Plus defender who is actually a very good passer as evidenced by his 2.1 assists in 20 minutes of play. With triangle experience... just saying.
Etan Thomas: Signed his contract with significantly better numbers than he had with OKC. In fact, he was downright terrible at OKC. So I'll use his numbers from his last relevant year (06-07, where he was still putting up numbers comparable to when he signed his contract). As of now, there's no question that he is overpaid, and it was probably overpaid at the time because of his minutes, which had never gone over 25, and his legitimate injury concerns. His average for his contract was about $6M/yr. Kind of a tough comparison because of injuries, but he did put together a healthy season right before his contract.
6.1/5.8/.4/1.4 at 57.4% and 2.1FTA at 55.8%, playing just under 20mpg.
Zaza Pachulia: Signed his contract at a very young age, for about $4M/yr with the third team he would have played with. He has stuck around with the Hawks and given very consistent per minute production. Considering his age, the contract was probably a great deal at the time, but he has proven to be about the same player then as he is now. So probably quite a fair contract.
4.3/3.8/.5/.4 at 48.8% and 1.8FTA at 65% in 14mpg. So once again, he has given the same per minute production with 14 minutes and with 30 minutes, so take these low numbers with a grain of salt (double them all and you get pretty close to what Darko gave us this year in the same amount of time).
Some players of note that I will let you do your own looking into if you so desire (not included in averages/analysis):
Theo Ratliff: Tremendous blocker. Possibly made people forget that he wasn't a bad rebounder. Not a very efficient scorer either. Massively overpaid as well for what he brought to the table (blocking, defense and not much else. The argument could be made that he is a good Darko comparison, but I tend to think they are not at all... hence, you do your research!).
Nenad Krstic: Difficult to compare because of his injury history. Good player in NJ for a few years. Seems to be a worse rebounder, worse passer, worse blocker, but more efficient scorer (which I expect to change for Darko). He recently got a contract for about $5M/yr and seems like a decent comparison, despite the them most likely playing extremely different roles (I don't know much about Nenad, maybe they are perfect comparisons, but I figured I'd throw him here because he may have gotten underpaid due to injury for his previous production, but I have no idea how good he is in regards to his contract now.
Joel Przybilla: Better rebounder and defender, but much worse passer and absolutely no upside as a go-to scorer (which Darko, IMO, has a bit of... though maybe go-to is phrasing it too strongly). Blocks, turnovers, and FTA/FT% have all been pretty similar. I put Przybilla down here because I see him as much more of a role player who defends, rebounds, and scores efficiently when left alone whereas Darko is a defender, passer, and a guy who creates offense for himself and others rather than getting it created for him (not to say this doesn't happen). BUT, they are both big, slowish white guys... so compare as you will.
Now for Darko: Last year Darko averaged 8.3/5.5/1.8/1.4 for us on .492 shooting and 1.2FTA at .536. He managed these numbers in 25.6 minutes per game. As we all know, Darko was out of shape and getting used to his teammates/coaches/triangle/rotations/etc. So we should be able to expect a reasonable jump in his production while he is on the court. For his career averages, he shot 5% higher on twice as many free throws. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a healthy, in shape Darko to increase his FTAs next year and also increase his accuracy (seriously, his shot doesn't look bad for how poorly it seems to work). It's also not entirely unreasonable to expect a small increase in rebounds and blocks. Heck, if he figures things out he could turn into a 15/8/3/2 center, but that's not a reasonable expectation and we should not be paying him under the assumption that this is what he will become. It should also be noted that Darko also provided a defensive presence, which should not go unnoticed in the analysis.
The average stat line is: 6.2/6.4/.85/1.3 at 54.5% and 2FTA at 61% in 21.7mpg at an extremely rough average of $6M/yr (keeping in mind 2 massively overpaid gents in Dampier and Dalembert), with Turiaf being quite the outlier for assists and all being pretty good to great defensive players. Per36, these numbers are 10.3/10.6/1.4/2.2. Per36, Darko's numbers this year were 11.7/7.8/2.5/1.9 keeping in mind the FG% and FT numbers from above. Please note that the justification for average like I did: I wanted to take a rough average of the numbers that teams were actually paying for (meaning their per game numbers, not per 36). I know there is a bit of fuzziness with the difference in minutes per guy, but I figured there was more clarity figuring out the average of everything and then adding that together with the average of minutes to create the "Per36 of the Averages." This, hopefully takes any error out by averaging the numbers from guys who played massively different minutes. Please note any issues that you think this might bring so we can more accurately estimate a fair and maximum salary that we would be willing to pay Darko so we can
rip Kahn to shreds when he pays more praise Kahn when he gets him for less than that!
Differences for Darko:
Number-wise: +1.4/-2.8/+1.1/-.3 shooting 5.3% worse on .8 less FTA while shooting them 7.4% worse. As percentages
Percent-wise: 114%/74%/179%/86% at 90% the normal FG% taking 60% the FTA at 88% the normal FT%.
With these guys as our base of comparison, I think it's easy to see that there weren't really any "steals" when looking at guys with production similar to his. There are however, quite a few overpaid guys. While I am set squarely in the camp of people who would like to bring Darko back, I think it's pretty obvious that we should not do so for more than $6M/yr... which is still quite a bit higher than he has earned. $4M sounds more fair, but unfortunately less realistic. Also, sounds like $7M would be an overpayment for the guy, no matter how much I like him and want him back. Is it unreasonable to expect him to improve in a number of areas? No. But to justify $2M/yr over how he performed? That's even pushing it. Absolutely not to $7M/yr, please no to $6M/yr, I start talking once he comes down to $5.5M/yr, but I start the discussion with an offer of $4M/yr and consider it moderately generous.
Mplax Final Decision©!
Darko should be offered a... drum roll please....
4 year contract, with a player option for year 3 and a team option for year 4 paying 4M, 4.5M, 5M, 5.5M
This way, Darko can opt out if a) He decides this is not the team for him b) he outperforms his contract. The Timberwolves are locked into him for potentially 3 years, but also have the option to terminate the deal if a) he is obviously overpaid b) they want to move on to develop their new signing/rookie c) cap space is looking sparse d) they need to open up some cash for the impending FA period or e) He becomes a valuable contract for a team looking to open up space where he could potentially go, be cut, and come back to us for the MLE (Does that work or would I have been fined by the league for that?).
Whaddya think? Answer my poll! Respond with some comments!
Also, I'm having a tough time deciding between poll questions. I thought about combining them into one, but I figured that might leave some room for error. So consider answering this in your response: Which of these guys (or other) do you think is the best comparison for Darko in terms of how we should go about his contract? Note that this does not mean that he should be paid what this guy was, but rather he should get paid what we think said guy's fair value is (ie if you want to compare him to Dampier, you could say, "I think he compares best to Dampier but Dampier should have been paid $1M/yr.")
Also, what type of contract do you think he should be paid beyond the options provided in the poll? What types of options? On what years? Offer him an extra year with the last year being set up how Dampier's is now to make him into a great trade asset before we cut ties with him (a little parting gift for us, if he would oblige). Offer him trade kickers so he can feel safer? Go wild with it.