Wolves G.M. David Kahn has been lambasted by the media for signing Darko Milicic to a 4-year, $20 million deal. Meanwhile, free agency officially opened on Thursday with Mavs center Brendan Haywood re-upping with the team for 6 years, $55 million.
Kahn signs a useful center in a weak free agent class at the position for $5 million a year and is torn to shreds, with people claiming that spending is out of control. The Mavericks sign Haywood for $9.16 million, but there is little to no uproar whatsoever. Double standard?
It is clear at this point (if it wasn't already) that the media is just completely judging every move that Kahn makes on a different scale than other general managers. Simply because other GMs and teams don't draft that way, or don't covet Darko, it automatically means that what Kahn is doing is foolhardy.
Let's examine the two deals side by side, along with the two players and their career stats.
Darko is a 7'0'', 275 lb center. He is 25 years old and has been in the league seven years.
Haywood is a 7'0'', 263 lb center. He is 30 years old and has been in the league nine years.
With the Wolves last year (24 games) Darko averaged 8.3 ppg, 1.8 apg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg, and 0.8 spg in 25.6 minutes per game, playing the best overall low post defense for the Wolves despite being in the worst shape of his career after spending the first half of the season riding pine for the Knicks who refused to play him.
With the Mavericks last year (28 games) Haywood averaged 8.1 ppg, 0.9 apg, 7.4 rpg, 2.0 bpg, and 0.3 spg in 26.5 minutes per game. Haywood helped the Mavs to a playoff spot and shored up their defense at the center position.
Clearly, more goes into signing a player than simple stats, but to me, these two players seem strikingly similar in regards to performance last year and overall credentials at the center position. Yes, Haywood has a longer history of success in the NBA, but at the same time, he is 5 years older and has been given more of a chance to shine than Darko.
I'm not saying that the Darko signing shouldn't go without being criticized. Clearly, a long-term deal for a player who was debating quitting the NBA less than 6 months ago is a little risky, even at $5 million a year. But the media has absolutely blown this deal out of proportion. This is not the worst signing of the summer. Not even close. Yet, it keeps being used as the measuring stick for bad deals to come out of free agency this year.
The biggest knock on Kahn over this deal has been "Why pay Darko that much when there isn't a market for him?" I agree, there wasn't a market with him. In the NBA. Darko wouldn't have considered joining any other team in the NBA after how he has been treated by various teams over the past 7 years. That doesn't mean he has no value. He was, however, considering Europe. Kahn wasn't bidding against himself, he was giving Darko enough money to justify staying in the NBA, to an extent that Kahn wasn't drastically overpaying to keep him. Keep in mind, Darko took a pay cut to remain in the NBA for the next four years.
Clearly, at $5 million per year, Darko is making a nice living in Minnesota over the next four years. Based on his track record, he may not be worth that much. Based on his potential, it may be an absolute steal.
And compared to $55 million for 30-year-old Brendan Haywood?
Who do you think will be regretting these deals more in the future? The Wolves, paying a 29-year-old Darko $5 million in the final year of his contract, or the Mavs, paying a 36-year-old Haywood $9.2 million in the final year of his deal.
So, media, stop using the Darko deal as an example of inappropriate spending in this year's free agent class. Other teams are making much more financially risky deals, but they aren't getting nearly as much crap because they don't have your whipping boy Kahn as their GM, nor do they have the word "Wolves" adorned across their jerseys.