NBA Free Agency 2012: 8 Toxic Players Contending Teams Must Avoid

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIJune 25, 2012

NBA Free Agency 2012: 8 Toxic Players Contending Teams Must Avoid

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    Congratulations to the Miami Heat. 

    Now that that's out of the way, it's officially the start of NBA free agency. 

    The actual period when teams can sign free agents doesn't start until July 11, 2012. The rumors and discussions? Those can start now

    There are always lots of free agents. Some, such as Deron Williams, will be highly coveted by many teams. 

    Then there are the under-the-radar free agents. 

    Just as some players possess positive intangibles, others can bring baggage, negativity or just a skill set that's woefully overrated.

    On a team that's striving merely to have a respectable season in 2012-2013, those qualities can be overlooked in the name of saving money, rolling the dice on potential or upside.

    On a team seeking to contend for an NBA championship, these players carry much higher risk. They're not locks to ruin a season, but they've proven to be at times more trouble than they're worth. For that reason, contenders may want to proceed with caution when these names come up.  

Gilbert Arenas: Point Guard, 30 Years Old

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    At one time, Gilbert Arenas was known as a prolific scorer. In 2005-06, he averaged 29.3 points per game for the Washington Wizards. 

    Times have changed though. 

    Arenas has battled injuries, but more importantly he's battled his own mishaps. A terrible lapse in judgement led to Arenas missing almost two-thirds of the 2009-2010 season.

    At the age of 30, Arenas has become somewhat of an NBA journeyman. He's played for three teams over the last two seasons: Washington, Orlando and Memphis.

    Last season he sat, unsigned as a free agent until he was finally signed by the Memphis Grizzlies for the final 17 games of the regular season. Arenas averaged a career-low 12.4 minutes per game of playing time.

    Arenas represents the holy trinity of free-agent red flags.

    Physically in decline? Check.

    Off-court baggage? Check.

    Production bottoming out? Check. 

    Proceed with caution. 

Anthony Randolph: Forward, 22 Years Old

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    There's an old expression: "If the shoe fits, wear it."

    What if no matter how many times you tried on the shoe, it never fit? Wouldn't you stop trying it on at some point? 

    Anthony Randolph was a first-round draft choice for the Golden State Warriors, No. 14 overall in the 2008 NBA draft. 

    Randolph had some good games and some not-so-good games in his first two years in Golden State. Of concern was that he got more playing time during his rookie year than in his second year. 

    Randolph got dealt to New York as part of the David Lee sign-and-trade deal in the summer of 2010. As a Knick, Randolph once again showed some flashes of talent but never enough to warrant serious playing time. 

    He didn't last long in the Big Apple. In February of 2011, he was dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the three-team Carmelo Anthony trade. 

    The more that things changed, the more they stayed the same. Once again, there were flashes of potential. However, Randolph could never string together a series of games that would lead one to believe he was anything more than just a former first-round pick not cut out for a lot of playing time in the NBA.

    Since Randolph is only 22 years old, there are NBA teams that might want to take a chance on him; it would be ill-advised for a team intent on contending next season, though.  

Hasheem Thabeet: Center, 25 Years Old

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    If you've followed the NBA long enough, you'll come to realize two absolutes about the league.

    1. Fans will always complain about the refs, regardless of the caliber of officiating. 

    2. If someone possesses even a moderate amount of athleticism and stands over 7'0" tall, he'll have a place on an NBA roster—probably for a longer period of time than he should. 

    That means that Hasheem Thabeet really has nothing to worry about. After all, he's a 7'3", 25-year-old center. 

    He's also someone who arrived in the NBA as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft. Thabeet has been in the league for three seasons. In that time he's produced career averages of 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds a game while playing an average of 10.3 minutes per game. 

    Now if you're looking at those minutes and thinking to yourself, "Those numbers barely translate to double figures in points or rebounds in over 40 minutes," well, you're correct. Add in the fact that Thabeet stands 7'3", and the guy is a head-scratcher.

    Thabeet was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft so expect him to be on a team next fall. Don't expect him to land with a contender though. Teams with designs on winning a ring tend to have a problem with guys that are basically projects—even 7'3" ones.   

Delonte West: Guard, 28 Years Old

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    There are a couple of things that should raise a few eyebrows for contending teams pondering signing Delonte West as a free agent. 

    West had a serious gun possession charge a few years ago. Yes, West also suffers from bipolar disorder. The disorder is not a reason to avoid West; people with bipolar disorder can play on contending teams, contribute and win. However, the fact that he has a history of gun play wouldn't bode well no matter what his overall mental state was.

    More importantly, West has a history of playing on teams that don't always live up to their potential. That may or may not be his fault; as with most things, it's probably a little West and a lot of other factors as well. Still, look at the track record.

    Boston Celtics 2004-07: West arrived and in his first year, the Celtics won 45 games. Then they won 33 games, and in West's final year, they had just 24 wins.

    West then departed, at which point the Celtics won an NBA title.

    West went to Seattle for a half-season. He was dealt midseason to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Nonetheless, Seattle finished the 2007-2008 season with 20 wins and then promptly left Seattle for Oklahoma City. For those unaware, the Thunder appear to be a franchise headed in the right direction.

    Cleveland went to the NBA Finals in the 2006-07 season. While West was in Cleveland, the Cavaliers went to the Eastern Conference finals once in 2009 where they lost. They also lost twice in the Eastern Conference semifinals, both times to the Boston Celtics.

    Following West's tenure in Cleveland, LeBron James left for Miami, sending the Cavaliers back to the drawing board as a franchise. Oh yeah—while in Cleveland, West may or may not have had an affair with LeBron James' mother (from ESPN's Colin Cowherd and the Huffington Post).

    From Cleveland, it was back to Boston where the Celtics would—you guessed it—lose to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals.

    This past season was spent in Dallas as a member of the Mavericks. The Mavericks entered the 2011-12 season as the defending NBA champs. With West on the team, the Mavs were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Anyone sensing a trend here?

Jerry Stackhouse: Guard/Forward, 37 Years Old

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    I'm not sure what's more impressive: this dunk that Jerry Stackhouse unleashed on the Duke Blue Devils back in his college days at North Carolina or the fact that Stackhouse has been able to stick around in the NBA for the past four seasons. 

    Not once since 2007-08 has Stackhouse finished a season averaging more than 10 points per game. Only once since then has he averaged more than 20 minutes per game, and he shot 40.8 percent from the field. 

    Additionally, it's not as if Stackhouse was stuffing the stat sheet in other categories or playing exceptional defense.

    Stackhouse had a decent NBA career, but it's been over for four years. Perhaps someone will realize that this offseason. 

Antawn Jamison: Forward, 36 Years Old

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    At this point in his career, Jamison really only does one thing well: He scores. The problem is that even his scoring is down, and most importantly for contending teams, he's not efficient. 

    The 17.2 points per game he averaged last season was his lowest output since the 2003-04 season. The 40.3 field-goal percentage was the lowest of his career. 

    It's the second number, paired with the circumstances Jamison was playing under, that should scare off contenders. 

    Jamison was on the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that struggled on offense. It took a lot of shots every night for Jamison to produce those 17.2 points he averaged. 

    Put Jamison on a contender, and the odds are that his numbers will drop off significantly. Jamison's rebounding numbers have been in decline for three consecutive seasons. He was never much of a defender either. 

    Contending teams don't need guys who jack up a ton of shots to score 15 to 20 points a night. Sometimes they need spot-up shooters, but Jamison has never been a great three-point shooter. Sometimes they need very efficient scorers who can come off the bench and provide an instant boost. 

    Looking at Jamison's career track and then factoring in his age, there aren't many good reasons for a contending team to make a run at him. 

Troy Murphy: Forward, 32 Years Old

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    We've probably all heard stories of NBA players who have long, productive NBA careers. This isn't one of them. 

    Instead Troy Murphy was fairly productive for eight seasons. He bounced around the league, hitting shots, grabbing rebounds and doing nothing spectacular, but he was productive enough that he was worth having on a roster. 

    Those days appear to be over. The question is when will teams come to that realization? 

    It hasn't happened for the last two years. Murphy has played for the Nets, Celtics and Lakers over the last two NBA seasons. He's averaged just 3.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. He's also only been able to average a mere 15.1 minutes per game. 

    Clearly Murphy's best days are well behind him. Most contending teams like to avoid dead weight, which is unfortunately what Murphy has become. 

O.J. Mayo: Guard, 24 Years Old

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    Maybe everything will change for O.J. Mayo if he leaves Memphis.

    Whichever team eventually signs him will definitely be counting on that. Mayo's career, dating all the way back to college, has been cloaked in controversy. That didn't stop the very talented guard from being selected No. 3 overall in the 2008 NBA draft.

    Once in the NBA, Mayo had some issues as well—primarily gambling and a fight with a teammate over a gambling debt.

    The one thing that separates Mayo from many of the other players in this slideshow is that he may end up being good—very good even. 

    As a rookie, Mayo averaged 18.5 points per game and started all 82 games of the 2008-09 season. The next season, Mayo took a small step back but still remained an 82-game starter. 

    In his third season he was moved to the bench, and since then, his production and minutes have declined. 

    The question is not: "Can O.J. Mayo be a good NBA basketball player?" The question is: "Can a team win with O.J. Mayo playing a starting role?" 

    In spite of having his prodigious talent, Mayo's USC team lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In spite of his performance in his first two NBA seasons, Memphis never finished over .500. 

    The three things that seem to follow Mayo consistently are mediocre teams, off-court issues and some gaudy stats when Mayo is given playing time. None of those would appeal to a team with designs on contending for an NBA title.