How Players Who Opted Out Fared In Free Agency

Twenty-nine players entered the 2016 offseason with player option decisions to make on their contracts, and 26 of them decided to decline those options. Only Caron Butler, Tim Duncan, and Mo Williams opted to pick up their player options. Butler has since been waived by the Kings, Duncan has announced his retirement, and Williams may follow suit.

In short, unless you were planning on calling it a career or recognized you had no chance to match your player-option salary on the open market, you were probably opting out this summer, attempting to take advantage of the new $94MM+ salary cap by cashing in on a new deal.

Many of those players who turned down their options ended up with huge paydays, but not all of them were so fortunate. Here’s a breakdown of how all 26 players who declined options fared in free agency this summer:

Premier free agents who scored huge, long-term contracts:

  1. DeMar DeRozan
    • Player option: $10,350,000DeMar DeRozan vertical
    • New deal: Five years, $137,500,000 (fifth year is player option)
  2. LeBron James
    • Player option: $24,004,173
    • New deal: $99,857,127 (third year is player option)
  3. Chandler Parsons
    • Player option: $16,023,000
    • New deal: Four years, $94,438,523
  4. Dwight Howard
    • Player option: $23,282,457
    • New deal: Three years, $70,500,000
  5. Bismack Biyombo
    • Player option: $2,940,630
    • New deal: Four years, $68,000,000 (fourth year is player option)

Even for players like James, Howard, and Parsons, who would’ve made plenty of money in 2016/17 by simply opting in to their previous contracts, it was the right call to opt out instead and gain longer-term security. For someone like Biyombo, who managed to land a ’16/17 salary more than five times larger than his option salary, it was a no-brainer.

Veteran stars (or former stars) who got big raises:

  1. Dirk Nowitzki
    • Player option: $8,692,184
    • New deal: Two years, $50,000,000 (second year is team option)
  2. Pau Gasol
    • Player option: $7,769,520
    • New deal: Two years, $31,697,500 (second year is player option)
  3. Manu Ginobili
    • Player option: $2,940,630
    • New deal: One year, $14,000,000
  4. Deron Williams
    • Player option: $5,621,026
    • New deal: One year, $9,000,000

While the rising cap gave many teams the opportunity to pursue players they otherwise might not have had room for, it also gave some clubs the chance to give well-deserved raises to long-tenured players. If it hadn’t been for the cap spike, Nowitzki and Ginobili may have been willing to take another hometown discount to remain with the Mavericks and Spurs, respectively. Instead, those teams were able to reward their veteran stars with significant pay bumps.

Veterans who landed nice multiyear contracts:

  1. Jeremy Lin
    • Player option: $2,235,255Jeremy Lin vertical
    • New deal: Three years, $36,000,000 (third year is player option)
  2. Austin Rivers
    • Player option: $3,344,106
    • New deal: Three years, $35,475,000 (third year is player option)
  3. Arron Afflalo
    • Player option: $8,000,000
    • New deal: Two years, $25,000,000 (second year is partially guaranteed)
  4. Darrell Arthur
    • Player option: $2,940,630
    • New deal: Three years, $22,999,999 (third year is player option)
  5. Cole Aldrich
    • Player option: $1,227,286
    • New deal: Three years, $21,900,000 (third year is partially guaranteed)
  6. Wesley Johnson
    • Player option: $1,227,286
    • New deal: Three years, $17,643,780 (third year is player option)
  7. Wayne Ellington
    • Player option: $1,567,500
    • New deal: Two years, $12,270,000 (second year is non-guaranteed)
  8. Seth Curry
    • Player option: $1,015,696
    • New deal: Two years, $5,926,410

You could make a strong case that the salary cap increase benefited this group of players the most. With one or two exceptions, these players didn’t necessarily take huge steps forward or have breakout seasons in 2015/16, and if the cap hadn’t increased much, they may not have received big raises. With so many teams needing to spend to reach the salary floor though, there was more than enough money to go around for this sort of second- or third-tier free agent.

Players who didn’t benefit much (or at all) from opting out:

  1. Derrick Williams
    • Player option: $4,598,000Derrick Williams vertical
    • New deal: One year, $4,598,000
  2. Quincy Acy
    • Player option: $1,050,961
    • New deal: Two years, $2,229,953 (second year is non-guaranteed)
  3. David West
    • Player option: $1,551,659
    • New deal: One year, $1,551,659
  4. Brandon Bass
    • Player option: $3,135,000
    • New deal: One year, $1,551,659
  5. Alonzo Gee
    • Player option: $1,379,400
    • New deal: One year, $1,400,000

Acy and West both signed minimum-salary deals to replace their minimum-salary options, but perhaps you could make the case that they got what they wanted, if they ended up with teams they like better. Williams’ and Gee’s deals look like they were negotiated, at least in part, to save face and ensure they got at least what they would have made had they opted in. Bass is the only veteran who took a real pay cut, though he gets to join a contender after playing for the lottery-bound Lakers a year ago.

Players who signed overseas:

  1. James Anderson
    • Player option: $1,139,123
    • New deal: Two years, exact value unknown
  2. Shane Larkin
    • Player option: $1,500,000
    • New deal: One year, exact value unknown

It’s not clear whether Anderson or Larkin got pay raises on their new deals, since exact financial terms aren’t known — Larkin, at least, will reportedly make a little more in Spain after taxes than he would have if he had opted in, and says he doesn’t regret his decision. Anderson and Larkin will certainly get the opportunity to take on larger roles for international teams, but the road back to the NBA may not be easy.

Players who remain unsigned:

  1. J.R. Smith
    • Player option: $5,375,000
    • New deal: ???
  2. Thomas Robinson
    • Player option: $1,050,961
    • New deal: ???

Smith figures to get his payday eventually, but it remains to be seen whether the same can be said about Robinson. He looks like a minimum-salary candidate at this point, meaning he’ll probably just match what he would have made if he had opted in.

Information from Basketball Insiders and the Hoops Rumors Free Agent Tracker was used in the creation of this post.

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