The big news out of the NBA last night was that DeMarcus Cousins was finalizing a four-year, $60 million contract with the Sacramento Kings. In essence, Cousins and the Kings front office just sent the salary floor for Greg Monroe -- and that floor is a maximum contract.
Yes, the deal is one less year than the five Cousins was eligible for, but that doesn't exactly leave me impressed with the Kings front office's shrewd negotiating skills. It's still a wild overpay, and it makes me laugh as I remember back to the time I thought the Pistons might be able to retain Monroe for around $13 million per year. What a naive, innocent soul I was.
Because, to not belabor the point, Monroe is a far superior player to Cousins -- a fellow big man from the 2010 NBA Draft class. Actually, Monroe has produced more up to this point than any player in what turned out to be a fairly loaded draft class and if there was a redraft would be fighting for a top-three pick with the likes of Paul George and John Wall.
Wall and George are two other players that have recently been paid -- though in far different circumstances. Wall exploded onto the scene as a rookie, regressed, amassed a sizable mass of doubters and then played out of his mind for two months to end the season last year. And he used that strong finish, his tantalizing physical gifts and the fact that he played on a bad team (much like Cousins) to nab himself a five-year $80 million deal.
George, meanwhile, was an under-the-radar player slowly improving on facets of his game until he blew up last season filling in as a primary scoring option with Danny Granger injured. George became an All-Star, earned spots on the All-NBA and all-defense lists and won the Most Improved Player Award. The Pacers locked him up for five years with an $80 million deal ($90 million if he hits incentives), and the team looks poised to make runs at the finals for years to come.
Monroe, meanwhile, is still playing on his rookie deal. Still the sixth-highest-paid player on his own team. Still earning in 82 games what George could earn in 18.
He also doesn't looked poised to sign a contract extension this season and says he's not talking about his contract status all year so don't even bother bringing it up. And, again, I say just so that is crystal clear -- he has produced more to this point in his career than any of the above players.
Maybe he's been surpassed by George, maybe point guard is a more important position, maybe he didn't have the pedigree coming out of college of Cousins, maybe he doesn't often turn in highlight plays. So f-ing what. He is a great big man. And he is about to put all those questions about just how well he "fits" alongside Andre Drummond to rest this season.
Devin Dignam at Wages of Wins evaluated all of the best 2010 draft picks and figure out what their expected five-year value would be. George finished first with play expected to be worth approximately $103.5 million. Monroe finished second with production roughly worth $90 million.
Do you know where Cousins finished? Twelfth. Worth about $22.9 million over five years. That would be mean the Kings overpaid by, oh, $57 million.
But this isn't about Cousins. This is about Monroe. It's not about negotiating against yourself. It's not about the advantages of having Monroe during restricted free agency. It's not about comparing him to deals received by other big men -- not just Cousins but also Larry Sanders and Nikola Pekovic. It's not about bringing on Josh Smith so that you gain a little bit of leverage in case Monroe threatens to walk. It's not about having a little extra wiggle room under the cap next season.
It's about paying a guy what he is worth. It's about rewarding Greg Monroe for being one of the two best players in his draft class and one of the best young big men in the NBA. It's about giving Monroe a maximum contract extension.
Because I don't want, and am not sure I can, live in a world where DeMarcus Cousins makes more than Greg Monroe.
Just pay the man.