When the Magic decided to throw ridiculous gobs of money at Rashard Lewis this summer, Otis's fiscal responsibility was questioned by just about everyone. But somehow obscured by the ludicrous contract was the fact that the move made terrific basketball sense. That the awesomeness of this pairing should be surprising to some people came as a huge surprise to me. I'd have thought it would be too cliché to make mention of "winning formula" and "tried and true strategy" in this space, but the fact that all but a few were too distracted by the number of zeros to catch that Orlando had made the leap makes me reconsider.
Know the number of guys in the league who are scoring as much as Rashard right now while shooting as high a percentage from outside? Just four: Caron Butler, Manu Ginobli, Kevin Martin, and Deron Williams. And of that group he's shooting at by far the highest clip. Maybe those stats are sort of cherry picked, but the point stands that he's an extremely rare player who was easily the most talented free agent to switch zip codes this summer. That's not to mention the opportunities his shooting ability creates for the man-child inside who should make a legitimate MVP push because of his aid. While
I'm not arguing that cap space is irrelevant, but that fans and analysts tend to worry about it way more than is needed. When considering whether or not a player is being paid too much, we rarely fully consider the alternative on which the funds would have been spent. In Rashard's case, the big knock was that it prevented them from keeping the Serbian Gangster. But does this team really have a need for more rebounding or interior defense? The fact that Dwight is pretty much constantly surrounded by four guys who can hit it from outside is not a bad thing, and the Bogans of the world can almost always be found for cheap. So while they probably could have had Rashard for less, I just don't see it hurting them that much, for a while at least. In five years when their entire cap is eaten up by 3 players we can talk again. But for now, this team has the pieces it needs to make it work, so why worry that much if one dude's making a little more than others of comparable skill?
Given his successful circumstances, I'm hoping that Rashard can escape the fate shared by those attached to similarly bloated contracts. A player shouldn't be viewed as worse than they actually are just because a suit was willing to dole it out for him. To a certain extent, I can understand frustration with players who fail to perform up to their contract as salaries are often a shorthand for expectations. If you think someone's not living up to his potential, that could be a valid complaint, but if you're just pissed that he's making mad money, then your beef is with someone upstairs and not the guy on the court.At a certain point, however, fans need to close HoopsHype and quit playing GM. If Dallas can deal with paying Finley $18m to win rings elsewhere, it's not the ten million a year owed to Troy Murphy for the next decade that's the reason your team will continue to suck -- Troy Murphy, on the other hand, might be. Overpaid players can win you games just as easily as underpaid players can lose 'em (see: Parker, Smush). Rashard Lewis might never deserve his $110 million, but when all's said and done, he'll have been worth it.