Every offseason, hundreds of free agents are signed and re-signed by NBA teams. And every single time, the team expects bigger and better things out of the player who put his name on the dotted line.
Except it doesn't always work out that way.
While there are those free agents whose career arcs are clearly trending in a positive direction, there are others on the market this summer who figure to take a step or two backwards due to age and/or a number of other factors.
So, as we enter what's shaping up to be one of the most interesting free-agency periods in years, let's take a look at 10 players who are primed to regress next season.
Jason Kidd was never a great shooter to begin with, but the fact that he's shot 36.1 percent over the past two seasons is a clear sign that the future Hall of Famer is on the decline.
Kidd has alluded to the fact that he may be interested in a backup role next season, as the grind of 1,300-plus NBA games has taken its toll. In 2011-12, Kidd averaged career lows in virtually every major category, and he is no longer capable of running a team for 30-35 minutes per night over the course of an 82-game season.
Even with offseason surgery to correct an issue with bone spurs, Ray Allen's numbers next year won't be as gaudy as they were in years past.
Skilled marksmen always find ways to stay in the league, and after finishing with a career-best 45.3 shooting percentage from beyond the arc in 2011-12, Allen has at least a couple of more years left in the NBA.
Those years will likely bring with them a slight decrease in playing time, however. Allen will be 37 once next season begins, and he's at a distinct disadvantage when forced to chase down and defend the league's younger, more athletic shooting guards.
The book is out on Jeremy Lin, and the other 29 NBA teams will be fully prepared for the 6'3" guard who electrified the Association this past season.
Lin's per-36-minute averages in 2011-12 were phenomenal (19.6 PPG, 8.3 APG), but even with increased playing time next year, it'll be hard for him to approach those numbers. No longer the forgotten man on the end of the Golden State Warriors' bench, Lin is now the focus of opposing defenses and will produce at a slightly lower rate next season.
This past season, Philadelphia 76ers guard Lou Williams became the first player since Dell Curry in 1993-94 to lead his team in scoring without making a single start.
His scoring prowess (14.9 PPG) will likely result in him opting out of his deal before the end of the month, yet life figures to be a bit more difficult for him if he winds up switching teams.
While the Sixers were (overly) reliant on their 25-year-old shooting guard for points, Williams will likely end up in a situation where he isn't the team's primary or secondary option. As such, he won't have the green light to shoot as often, and as a result, he doesn't project to scoring nearly 15 points per game in 2012-13.
Leading the league in three-point shooting this past season will prove to be both a gift and a curse for New York Knicks forward Steve Novak.
The main benefit, obviously, is that it'll lead to a nice little payday for him at some point this summer. However, when you shoot 47.2 percent from beyond the arc for an entire season, you are assured to be on every team's scouting report for the rest of your career.
Novak is fairly one-dimensional on offense (83.7 percent of his field-goal attempts came from three-point range), so unless he diversifies his game, it will be hard for him to replicate his success next season.
Even at age 35, "The Big Fundamental" is still one of the more skilled post players in the NBA. However, with the next generation of San Antonio Spurs set to take over, Tim Duncan appears suited to play more of a supporting role going forward.
For years, the Spurs have been the ultimate democracy in the NBA, and with emerging stars such as Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green set to emerge, it only makes sense for Duncan to allow those players to carry the burden on offense next year. So while his overall numbers will probably take a hit, his productivity (19.7 PPG and 11.5 RPG per 36 minutes) should remain at an elite level.
Antawn Jamison's shooting percentage, rebounding average and points per game have all steadily decreased over the past three seasons. And while he's still a fairly adept scorer, a career resurgence for the 36-year-old forward is unlikely.
The wheels haven't completely fallen off of the wagon, however. Jamison's 40.3 field-goal percentage last season was an anomaly, and he should improve upon that if and when he leaves Cleveland this summer. A down year for Jamison would still equal numbers in the range of 15.5 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game—not bad when compared to most other power forwards in the NBA.
Sixteen grueling seasons in the NBA have taken their toll on center Marcus Camby. As recently as five seasons ago, he was a double-double machine who also happened to be one of the best defensive players in the league. These days, while he's still an active rebounder, his offensive abilities have seen a noticeable drop-off.
Camby's minutes have decreased sharply over the past two seasons, and at this stage in his career, he's probably best suited as a backup center who can provide size off the bench for a contender. Gone are the days where he could be a team's third or fourth scoring option: In 2011-12, Camby averaged a mere 4.9 points per game.
In a league devoid of skilled big men, Philadelphia 76ers center Spencer Hawes—who only played in 37 games this past season—figures to cash in this summer as a free agent. But despite his solid numbers, signing Hawes to a big-money deal might not be a prudent option.
Hawes shot a career-best 48.9 percent from the field in 2011-12 while averaging a respectable 9.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. However, it was clear to anyone who watched Hawes play that the 7'0" center was a liability on defense who failed to provide any sort of imposing presence in the middle.
Since it's unlikely that Hawes will return to Philly, some other team that is enamored with his statistics will aggressively chase the Sixers' big man this offseason. Just don't be surprised if his new employer quickly realizes that Hawes is a better fit as a backup than he is in the starting lineup.
While Father Time may be undefeated, Boston Celtics forward/center Kevin Garnett is putting up a spirited fight.
Over the past two seasons, Garnett's scoring average has actually increased from 14.3 points per game to 15.8. That said, at some point, the 35-year-old veteran will finally exhibit the signs of a player who has logged 17 seasons in the NBA. Including the postseason, Garnett has played more than 50,000 minutes in his career.
The Celtics have already begun the process of limiting Garnett's minutes by playing him in six-minute intervals whenever possible. Expect that to continue wherever Garnett suits up next season.