2012 NBA Free Agency: Predicting 5 Biggest Busts and Potential Destinations

Grant Rindner@grantrindnerContributor IIIMay 15, 2012

2012 NBA Free Agency: Predicting 5 Biggest Busts and Potential Destinations

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    With the second round of the NBA playoffs underway, the majority of teams around the league have already begun planning their moves for the upcoming offseason.

    While the original prize of this year's free agency, Dwight Howard, is no longer available, there is still a slew of talent looking for a new contract or a change of scenery.

    However, there are several high-profile players teams should be very wary about pursuing. While these guys are all very gifted players, there are several red flags around them. Whether it's age, what system they succeed in, injuries or general lack of common sense (see: JaVale McGee), every player here has the potential to seriously disappoint whichever team ends up signing them. 

    Even with the new, post-lockout collective bargaining agreement encouraging teams to be more frugal with their cap space, the majority of the NBA is known for being extremely irrational during the free-agent frenzy.

    Without further ado, let's take a look at five players who may not live up to expectations on the open market.

No. 5: Jason Terry

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    Jason Terry has been instrumental for the Dallas Mavericks over the past few years in their sustained success and 2011 championship run. However, with the Mavs looking to rebuild around Dirk Nowitzki and bring in some much-needed youth, Terry has likely played his last game in Dallas.

    Some team will certainly pay a hefty sum for the 6'2" guard, who has the ability to play off the ball but also run the offense and facilitate. While Terry certainly still has some good basketball left to play, any potential suitor should be very cautious in throwing a multi-year deal his way.

    At 34 years old, Terry's best playing days are behind him and his effectiveness in Dallas was heavily impacted by his role on the team and the system the Mavs ran. Terry, being the leader of the second unit, was able to be the main option on offense for most of his time on the court and still works best as a volume scorer.

    Last season, Terry averaged 15.1 points per game, an impressive number for a bench player, but it was his second-lowest scoring average since joining Dallas in 2004. In addition, his 43 percent shooting from the field was the lowest of his Mavericks career and is something that often deteriorates for scoring guards as they age. Terry cannot be a primary scoring option anymore, so he must go somewhere that already has multiple go-to guys. 

    Terry is still an offensive threat in his own right, but he did benefit from the presence of Dirk Nowitzki. With Nowitzki's ability to hit outside shots, opposing forwards and centers had to step outside the paint to guard him, creating open lanes that catered to a slasher like Terry. On a team with traditional, low-post scoring bigs, those lanes won't always be there, and as Terry ages he won't be able to create separation for his jump shot as easily.

    In addition, Terry is an extremely poor one-on-one defender. He has quick hands and can create a turnover once in a while, but his lack of size and strength make it easy for his man to beat him, and he often struggles to guard the bigger, more physical 2-guards in the NBA. Because of the Mavericks' use of a zone defense, his shortcomings were tempered, but any team should be wary that an opponent can attack Terry on the defensive end with ease.

    Jason Terry is the kind of player who could make a significant impact on a playoff team, but if he ends up signing with a team that is an appropriate fit, of which there are many, he could prove to be one of the worst free-agent pickups of the summer.

    Potential Destinations: Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets

No. 4: Ryan Anderson

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    Let me preface this by saying I like Ryan Anderson as a player, and he certainly had an excellent season, but I have a feeling that he will be grossly overpaid this offseason.

    Much like with Arron Afflalo in the last free-agency period, a team, likely the Orlando Magic, will be enamored with him and dole out more than he is worth. 

    Anderson's breakout year led to a Most Improved Player award thanks to career-high averages of 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. In addition, Anderson cemented himself in Orlando's starting lineup as a perfect stretch-4 who thrived on open perimeter looks with all of the attention Dwight Howard lured into the lane.

    Thanks in large part to Howard's sheer dominance, Anderson hit 39.3 percent of his three-pointers while attempting nearly seven per game. However, Anderson was exposed somewhat in his team's postseason series with the Indiana Pacers.

    Without Howard forcing a defense to collapse in the paint, Anderson was not as effective as he had been during the regular season. His scoring average dropped down to a mere 9.6 points and his shooting percentage dipped down to just 34.1 percent. He still shot well from behind the arc at 40 percent, but it was clear he was uncomfortable without Howard anchoring the offense in the paint. 

    Very few teams that would consider signing Anderson have a big man as dominant as Dwight Howard, and if what the playoffs showed us is true, the Anderson we saw in the regular season may have been an aberration. 

    At just 24 years old, it is quite possible a team in need of some size and shooting will throw a lavish offer at Anderson that they will end of regretting. 

    Potential Destinations: Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns

No. 3: Landry Fields

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    New York Knicks shooting guard Landry Fields was a revelation in his first year of NBA action, averaging 9.7 points and 6.4 boards per game, shooting the ball extremely well and providing tremendous value for a second-round draft choice. However, he looked out of sorts once the team acquired Carmelo Anthony and the offense was no longer predicated upon creating transition opportunities and ball movement.

    In his second season, Fields regressed in nearly every statistical category, as he averaged 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds while hitting just 25.6 percent of his threes, although he was passing better and notching 2.6 assists a contest. Fields clearly had less confidence in his shot, and it was quite visible to anyone who regularly watched the Knicks that something was amiss.

    Still, as a free agent, he is a hot commodity and someone who will likely field multiple offers from teams looking for a hard-working swingman who can play tough defense. Fields, at just 23 years old, will likely be given a sizable contract, and one that may come back to haunt the team he ends up with.

    With the emergence of Iman Shumpert and the future of J.R. Smith up in the air, it's not a given that Fields returns to New York, but he is the kind of player teams and GMs become enamored with despite his obvious shortcomings. 

    Few teams in the league that are contenders for his services play a truly unselfish brand of basketball, meaning he may have already hit his ceiling. Fields' regression from his first year to his second is alarming, as that is a time when most players will improve, even marginally.

    At best, Fields is a role player who could serve as the third or fourth option on offense, benefiting from the looks created by his point guard or a double team that leaves him open for a shot. He's a capable slasher, but often will need someone to put the ball in his hands.

    Fields does a lot of things well on the basketball court, but he is not great at any one skill. A team signing him to be a building block for the future may be disappointed, as Fields could very well be no more than a nine-point-, five-rebound-a-night shooting guard who can drill some threes and guard two positions.

    He's the kind of player worth snagging for around $5 million a year, but not worth the $7-8 million I believe he will command on the open market.

    Potential Destinations: San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks

No. 2: JaVale McGee

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    Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee had his coming-out party in the postseason this year, averaging 11.3 points and 9.6 rebounds as his team pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games before running out of steam. Along the way he was able to shed some of the question marks that he had acquired during his time with the Washington Wizards, and showcased the talent that caused the Nuggets to deal for him at the deadline. 

    Still, more than three years of bad habits are hard to break, and McGee very well could have gotten his act together more for the sake of getting a lucrative contract than because he truly "gets it." Many still perceive McGee as a well of untapped potential, and there are few teams in the league that wouldn't make a phone call or two to at least ask about the hyper-athletic big man.

    Personally, I would be skeptical before going all-in. McGee still has some mental lapses when he's on the court, and his game isn't as refined as it should be in his fourth NBA season. He was a much improved shot-blocker this year, averaging 3.1 rejections per game in the playoffs, but there were several key moments where he goaltended the ball in avoidable situations that gave the Lakers easy points. Any shot-blocking big man is going to have his share of goaltends called, but seasoned bigs know where to pick their spots. 

    On offense, McGee still has yet to develop a solid set of post moves that he can go to on the block. He has an improved hook shot, but when he isn't powering inside for a dunk or catching a lob pass, he often looks lost. In addition, he is still a liability from the foul line. But should his strides in the past few months make teams comfortable throwing big money at him? I don't think so. 

    I believe a team in need of some athleticism and rebounding like the Nuggets will certainly make an effort to sign McGee, but making him the centerpiece of their frontcourt might not be the best decision. The Wizards were clearly looking to ditch him, and all of his issues make a long-term deal a very dangerous proposition. 

    Potential Destinations: Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets

No. 1: Brook Lopez

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    After three fully healthy seasons, New Jersey Nets center Brook Lopez was bit by the injury bug in a big way, playing in only five games last year due to a series of nagging foot injuries. In his brief time on the court, Lopez proved he could still score the ball, pouring in 19.2 points on 49.4 percent shooting from the floor, but his rebounding was down to a pitiful 3.6 boards per game.

    For a center, and a seven-footer at that, those numbers simply will not do. After peaking at a very respectable 8.7 boards per game in 2009-2010, Lopez has never shown the same tenacity on the glass. Still, as one of the league's premier offensive centers, he will likely command a hefty contract either from the Nets or another team looking to add some height to the roster.

    However, I believe picking up Lopez on a max or near-max deal this summer would be a tremendous gamble and one that teams should look to avoid. You simply cannot build a team around a center who cannot impose his will on the boards.

    His weakness was offset while in New Jersey by the presence of teammate Kris Humphries, whose calling card is doing dirty work and snagging rebounds, but without a rugged power forward, a team with Lopez would have one of the softest front lines in the league. As the Toronto Raptors have proven in their struggles with Andrea Bargnani, it is difficult to win games with one of your bigs camped out on the perimeter instead of banging in the paint.

    In addition, his injury history cannot be overlooked. Though Lopez was extremely durable for his first few seasons in the league, the fact that he kept aggravating his foot is cause for concern. His brief return before missing the rest of the season also doesn't bode well.

    In a league where size is important, I have no doubt Brook Lopez will be offered a deal north of $11 million a year. However, I would caution any team against making such an offer, as it could prove to be an unwise decision down the road.

    Potential Destinations: Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers