Every NBA offseason's free-agency period has its own unique character, and the one that starts Aug. 2 will be defined by a surplus of salary-cap space with few marquee names to sop it up.
That's a recipe for a summer of overpays.
It's rare for more than one or two teams to carry unspent cap space into the season; organizations tend to operate with a "smoke 'em if you've got 'em" mindset. This is great news for the players on the market, some of whom are in line for outsized deals that wouldn't have been available to them in an offseason with more superstars or less cash available.
Around here, we root for players to get as much money as they possibly can. Labor over management, basically.
That said, we can highlight a handful of candidates who, from the perspective of a team with finite resources, could be in for surprisingly bloated payoffs.
Jarrett Allen, C, Restricted
Every postseason, we get reminders that conventional centers—even the very best of them—struggle to survive when opponents invariably downsize, space the floor and take old-school bigs out of their comfort zones. The pace-and-space revolution is over a half-decade old now, and it's only getting crueler to 7-footers who can't switch or shoot threes.
And yet, here we are seeing reports that Jarrett Allen could be in line for nine figures in restricted free agency.
Allen is good at what he does, which is defend the rim and rebound. He's been in the league since 2017-18 and is one of just eight players to amass 200 games in that span with a rebound rate over 17.0 percent and a block rate north of 4.0 percent. The only guys in that club with more win shares over the last four seasons are Joel Embiid, Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have signaled their intent to make Allen a key piece of their long-term plans all along. They traded a first-rounder to get him, bought out Andre Drummond and straight-up said the 23-year-old center is a significant part of their future.
But $100 million? For a throwback big? In a league increasingly obsessed with versatility and 6'8" wings who can switch across five positions?
That's a little excessive.
Dennis Schroder, PG, Unrestricted
Dennis Schroder ranked 56th in true shooting percentage among the 72 players who attempted at least 700 shots in 2020-21. Charitably, that's unremarkable for a guy defined mostly by his offense.
Despite his submediocrity among volume shooters, Schroder has long seemed confident he's due for a heap of cash in free agency. He wasn't interested in the four-year, $84 million extension the Los Angeles Lakers offered him during the season, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, and now it sounds like that rejected deal (which was the most L.A. could offer in an extension) was nowhere near the 27-year-old's asking price.
Armin Andres, the vice president of the German Basketball Federation, told the Abteilung Basketball podcast (h/t TalkBasket.net) that "Dennis Schroder has communicated this clearly: He wants $100 [million], $120 million—which he will probably also get."
Schroder started 61 games for a Lakers team that needed offensive creation, even if it came with ho-hum efficiency. That said, he profiles as a prototypical spark off the bench—the type of guy teams typically pay $12-15 million per season and turn loose against opposing second units. The money Schroder is seeking, which he may very well find, is that of a top-flight starter.
This is a classic case of John Hollinger's Bird rights trap—when a team is capped out and cannot replace key talent on the open market, but it can spend lavishly to retain its own players. Schroder isn't worth what he's hoping to get, but he's got a good chance of getting it anyway.