Free Agent Spending By Division: Recap

Last week, we examined each team’s 2016 free agent spending, broken down by division, which illuminated some interesting statistics and trends. For instance, in the Northwest, the Trail Blazers committed over $240MM to free agent contracts, while their four division rivals combined to commit about a third of that total. In the free-spending Southeast, all five teams committed at least $150MM to free agent contracts.

These divisional breakdowns don’t necessarily present a full picture of teams’ offseason spending. Some notable free agents, including LeBron James, remain unsigned, so there’s still money out there to be spent. Our lists also don’t include money spent on this year’s first- and second-round picks or draft-and-stash signings. There are a few free agent names missing in some instances as well, since those deals aren’t yet official or terms haven’t been reported.

Still, if a team committed a huge chunk of money to a player this offseason, it can likely be found in this statistical breakdown. Now that we’ve covered all six divisions, we’ll take a closer look at the overall results. Let’s dive in…

1. Southeast

  • Total money committed: $972,415,880
  • Guaranteed money committed (including player options): $944,422,130
  • Highest-spending team: Washington Wizards ($239,223,166)
  • Largest contract: Bradley Beal, Wizards (five years, $127,171,313)

As noted above, all five Southeast teams committed at least $150MM in total money to free agent contracts, a staggering number. The Hawks spent the least free agent money in the division, and Atlanta still handed out $70MM+ contracts to both Dwight Howard and Kent Bazemore. Each Southeast team had a least one big-money free agent of their own to re-sign (including Beal, Bazemore, Evan Fournier, Nicolas Batum, and Hassan Whiteside), and most clubs in the division aggressively pursued outside targets as well.

By our count, NBA teams committed more than $3.5 billion to free agent contracts this summer, including non-guaranteed money. Nearly $1 billion of that came from the Southeast.

2. Southwest

  • Total money committed: $767,231,583
  • Guaranteed money committed (including player options): $714,468,634
  • Highest-spending team: Memphis Grizzlies ($266,310,613)
  • Largest contract: Mike Conley, Grizzlies (five years, $152,607,578)

No team committed more free agent money this offseason than the Grizzlies, which makes sense, considering they also handed out the largest contract in NBA history to Conley. That deal isn’t fully guaranteed, but it should become guaranteed before it reaches its fifth year.

Also, for all the talk we hear months or years in advance about NBA teams trying to open up enough cap room for multiple maximum-salary free agents, only one club this year actually signed two free agents to max deals. That would be the Grizzlies, who also locked up Chandler Parsons to a four-year contract worth nearly $100MM. By comparison, perennially active teams like the Mavericks and Rockets practically played it safe, despite committing a combined $344MM+ to free agents themselves.

3. Atlantic

  • Total money committed: $576,554,546
  • Guaranteed money committed (including player options): $538,193,337
  • Highest-spending team: New York Knicks ($164,387,929)
  • Largest contract: DeMar DeRozan, Raptors (five years, $137,500,000)

The Knicks’ offseason additions were among the summer’s top talking points, the Celtics finally landed a star free agent in Al Horford, and DeRozan’s contract was second-largest behind Conley’s. Outside of that, things were fairly quiet in the Atlantic on the free agent front. The Nets looked like they would make a significant move or two, but they ultimately had their offer sheets for Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson matched, meaning their big free agent expenditure was Jeremy Lin, who inked a three-year, $36MM pact.

4. Pacific

  • Total money committed: $468,048,642
  • Guaranteed money committed (including player options): $436,048,642
  • Highest-spending team: Los Angeles Lakers ($186,000,000)
  • Largest contract: Luol Deng, Lakers (four years, $72,000,000)

A lack of truly high-end contracts limited the Pacific’s overall total, but there were still a handful of active teams in this division. Of course, in terms of impact, the biggest free agent contract of the summer was Kevin Durant‘s. Because it was just a two-year deal, however, it’s just a small piece of the largest Pacific division picture — Deng’s and Timofey Mozgov‘s contracts with the Lakers had larger overall values than Durant’s.

Elsewhere in the division, the Clippers showed that it’s not necessary to have cap room or star free agents to spend a lot — Los Angeles signed four of its own free agents (Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Wesley Johnson, and Luc Mbah a Moute), then added a few outside free agents on minimum-salary deals, but the club’s overall bill was still north of $105MM.

5. Central

  • Total money committed: $447,506,792
  • Guaranteed money committed (including player options): $425,577,871
  • Highest-spending team: Detroit Pistons ($207,171,313)
  • Largest contract: Andre Drummond, Pistons (five years, $127,171,313)

The Central division’s spending total figures to rise in the coming days, weeks, or months — whenever LeBron James gets around to finalizing his new deal with the Cavaliers. J.R. Smith is also likely to return to Cleveland, and while that still probably won’t make the Cavs the division’s highest-spending team, it will increase their current free agent total ($9,573,362) exponentially.

For now, Drummond’s five-year pact with the Pistons is the only mega-deal in the Central this offseason — Miles Plumlee‘s $49.6MM contract with the Bucks takes second place.

6. Northwest

  • Total money committed: $327,499,219
  • Guaranteed money committed (including player options): $306,812,499
  • Highest-spending team: Portland Trail Blazers ($242,414,220)
  • Largest contract: Allen Crabbe, Trail Blazers (four years, $74,832,500)

As mentioned previously, the Blazers were the only Northwest team that was overly active in free agency this summer. The Thunder sat out of the process once Durant departed; the Jazz focused on acquiring talent via trades; and neither the Timberwolves nor the Nuggets are ready to make a major splash in free agency quite yet.

In Portland, a good chunk of the Blazers’ money was spent on retaining their own free agents, like Crabbe, Maurice Harkless, and Meyers Leonard. However, the team also went out and brought in Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli on multiyear deals.

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