Evaluating Player Option Decisions

Declining a player option was rarely proven unwise on this summer’s market. The majority of the players who opted out to hit free agency this year wound up with new deals that will give them more this season than they would have made if they’d opted in. Still, several players who turned down their options for this coming season ended up agreeing to take less in 2014/15. In those cases, most of them signed for long-term deals that give them a total amount that’s greater than they would have made if they’d picked up their options, even though that money is spread over multiple seasons.

Here’s a look at how each of the players who turned down a player option for the 2014/15 season fared, sorted by those who most certainly made the right decision, players who gave up money for this year for more in the long term, and a pair who are without NBA deals. The players are listed in alphabetical order within each category, followed by their 2013/14 teams and the values of the player options they turned down.

Clear winners:

  • Alan Anderson, Nets, minimum salary — The Nets re-signed him to a two-year deal worth slightly more than $2.61MM that represents a raise, albeit an incremental one, on what he would have seen on his option.
  • Chris Bosh, Heat, $20.59MM — It seemed there were many ways for Bosh to end up with a lower salary when he opted out, since there were rumors he would take less to help the Heat attract another marquee player. There was also no guarantee the NBA’s maximum salary would go up high enough to exceed the value of Bosh’s option year. But, that’s what happened, and the Heat reeled Bosh back in with a five-year, $118.705MM max deal with a starting salary of $54,400 more than he would have made on his option.
  • Darren Collison, Clippers, $1.986MM — The Kings signed him for three years and $15.041MM, a clear financial upgrade.
  • Channing Frye, Suns, $6.8MM — Frye signed a four-year, $32MM deal with the Magic, so as with Collison, the decision to opt out was smart.
  • Danny Granger, Clippers, minimum salary — The Heat brought Granger in on a two-year, $4.247MM deal that gives him more than the minimum each season.
  • LeBron James, Heat, $20.59MM — James was determined not to take another discount, and while he, like Bosh, gambled that the maximum salary would exceed the value of his option, it did indeed, allowing James to sign his two-year, $42.218MM contract with the Cavs.
  • Josh McRoberts, Hornets, $2.771MM — There’s no mistaking just how well it turned out financially for McRoberts, who wound up with a four-year, $22.652MM deal from the Heat after a career year in Charlotte.
  • Anthony Morrow, Pelicans, minimum salary — He signed with the Thunder for $10.032MM over three years. That means he’ll come away with about three times as much in 2014/15 as he would have if he opted in, and those enhanced paydays will continue.
  • Mo Williams, Trail Blazers, $2.771MM — Williams signed a one-year, $3.75MM deal with the Timberwolves, a raise of almost precisely $1MM.
  • Nick Young, Lakers, minimum salary — The Lakers seemed determined not to let Young get away from them in free agency, opening the coffers for a four-year, $21.326MM deal that validates Young’s opt-out decision many times over.

It depends:

  • Carmelo Anthony, Knicks, $23.333MM — Anthony surely doesn’t have any regrets about signing a five-year deal worth $124.065MM, but his new pact calls for a lower salary for this coming season than he would have seen on the option. That’s because a new pact for Anthony, whose salaries exceed the NBA’s maximum thanks to the built-in raises on his lucrative contracts over the years, was limited to giving him a starting salary worth no more than 105% of what he made last year. His scheduled raise under the old deal would have been for more than that.
  • Glen Davis, Clippers, minimum salary — Davis wound up precisely where he started, since he has a guaranteed minimum salary on his one-year deal after re-signing with the Clippers.
  • Francisco Garcia, Rockets, minimum salary — Garcia agreed to re-sign with the Rockets on a one-year deal for that minimum salary. It’s not quite clear if it’s guaranteed at this point, but if it is, he’ll have broken even, just like Davis.
  • Udonis Haslem, Heat, $4.62MM — Haslem locked in $5.587MM, more than he would have seen on his option, but that amount is spread over two seasons in his new deal with the Heat. If he had picked up his option and signed next summer for the minimum salary, he would have made more.
  • Dwyane Wade, Heat, $20.164MM — Like Haslem, Wade wound up with more than he would have made in the option year, but his $31.125MM will come over the course of a new two-year deal with the Heat. Still, it’s not the drastic annual pay decrease that seemed a distinct possibility, and Wade has a player option for next summer if he regains his superstar form without LeBron around.

Probably should have opted in:

  • Andray Blatche, Nets, minimum salary — His salary would automatically equal or exceed the value of his option if he signs with an NBA team before the season, but he might not find guaranteed salary. In any case, he remains unsigned, so the decision looks poor, at least at the moment.
  • Byron Mullens, Sixers, minimum salary — It’s unclear what he’ll make on his deal to play in China, but heading overseas probably wasn’t the outcome he would have preferred.

Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

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