5 Teams That Took the Big Gambles During 2012 NBA Free Agency

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IJuly 11, 2012

5 Teams That Took the Big Gambles During 2012 NBA Free Agency

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    Like the Heat in transition, NBA Free Agency is off and running at a feverish pace.

    At 12:01 p.m. ET, the NBA free agency period officially began, as players were able to start signing with their new teams only a few hours ago. 

    Of course, many big-time free agents had already come to terms with new (and old) teams alike, in the last few weeks, and this list takes a look at the teams that have taken the biggest gambles so far. 

    Some land on the list for going after superstars, while others, due to a more wait-and-see type approach. 

New York Knicks

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    The New York Knicks have been one of the most active teams in free agency, searching for the correct combination of players that can bring a title back to the Big Apple for the first time in four decades. 

    The Knicks started off with a bang, luring ageless wonder Jason Kidd to in effect create a "Big Four" in New York. 

    They followed the move up by re-signing Steve Novak to a guaranteed four-year, $15 million deal. 

    Only hours later, the Knicks landed veteran defensive-minded center Marcus Camby in a massive sign-and-trade deal that sent Houston Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan and second-round picks in the 2014 and 2015 NBA drafts. 

    Every move they've made has been a gamble; the Knicks have gone all-in to win a championship. 

    Kidd's name is increasingly ironic, as he's 39 years old and will reach the 40-year old mark before the 2012-13 regular season has concluded. And with his advanced age has come the lessening of his production.

    Kidd averaged 10.3 points and 9.1 assists per game in 2009-10, dropping to career-lows of 6.2 points and 5.5 dimes per contest last season. 

Dallas Mavericks

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    No one has fallen from grace as quickly or as hard as the Dallas Mavericks. 

    Dallas won the 2011 NBA title, but the team has shattered since then. 

    Before being fitted for his championship ring, Tyson Chandler went to the Big Apple to team up with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.

    Kidd just left to New York himself, chasing another championship before his near 20-year career is done. 

    Jason Terry jumped ship and flew to Boston to join Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo as they make a run for the title of their own. 

    Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki is left in Dallas with a skeleton of the team that won the title in 2011, left wondering what's next in the Big D. 

    The Mavs have taken a huge gamble due to their inactivity, and Terry said himself he was surprised with the Mavericks didn't match his offer from the Celtics because he would still be in Dallas if so. 

Miami Heat

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    Miami showed everyone they were en fuego, too hot to stop, as they took home their first title this year with the new "Big Three."

    That's why the news of them getting Ray Allen to agree to terms with the team was so huge. 

    While Mike Miller played courageously through back injuries, barely making it up the court numerous times, Allen will undoubtedly be an improvement in three-point shooting. 

    Allen, like many players on this list, is older, at 36 currently, and his game has certainly declined in every area besides shooting from beyond the arc.

    The greatest three-point shooter of all-time hit a career-high 45 percent of his shots from downtown last year, though is must be noted he shot only 234 attempts, third lowest of his career.

    If Miami asks Allen to only shoot from downtown, it will be a great pickup, but a gamble if he's asked to do more.

    He looked old, slow and out-of-sorts in the Eastern Conference Finals against the younger and more athletic Heat and it remains to be seen how much he still has left in the tank.

    The newest word is that the Heat will sign Rashard Lewis to the veteran minimum, a gamble in his own right due to numerous injury problems that have lingered throughout his career. 

Houston Rockets

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    The Rockets and GM Daryl Morey love gambling, and they've been doing lots of it this summer.

    First, Houston and Bulls' center Omer Asik agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal. Asik is a restricted free agent, meaning Chicago could match, but due to very interesting CBA rules, the Bulls would have to pay Asik $14 million in the third year while the Rockets could pay him evenly throughout the deal. 

    (Read Robert Mays' interesting and intelligent take on how Morey stole Asik from the Bulls here.)

    And while he stole the second-year center from Chicago, is Asik really worth $8 million per season? 

    The 26-year old from Turkey put up career-highs at 3.1 points and 5.7 boards per game last year as the backup center in Chi-town; those numbers will certainly have to improve for him to warrant earning that $24 million. 

    He'll be under even more of a microscope as a defense-first center trying to replace former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby. 

    The next gamble was trading away point guard Kyle Lowry to Toronto for backup SG/SF Gary Forbes and a future first-round pick. 

    It leaves the Rockets without a point guard, after Goran Dragic left Houston for Phoenix on Wednesday. 

    The third gamble came when they offered Jeremy Lin a four-year, $30 million deal to become their next point guard, though he's a restricted free agent and has only played 64 games at the NBA level. 

    Lin was amazing, creating "Linsanity" before dropping off and then missing the end of the season due to a torn meniscus. 

    Can he bounce back from injury? And can he play consistently at that elite level?

    These are the questions Lin will have to answer starting this season if and when he becomes a Houston Rocket officially.

LA Lakers

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    Undoubtedly, the biggest free agent acquisition of this current offseason has been Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    But, it was a great gamble, too. 

    Yes, Nash is a superstar, as is Kobe Bryant, and they team up with stars Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum as well. 

    It's LA's answer to the current "superteam" epidemic, and it should be a formidable foe for defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder and the rest of the west as well. 

    But it's not necessarily a slam dunk. 

    Nash is ancient, at 38 years old, and like everyone else, his game is slipping. 

    His 12.5 points per game last year were his lowest since 2000, though his 10.7 assists were tops in the league. 

    Unquestionably, Nash is the best passer in the NBA today, and he was brought into LA to be the on-court general. 

    There are other questions besides his age that make signing Nash a gamble though. 

    Can he play decent enough defense to slow down the likes of Russel Westbrook, Tony Parker and other speedy point guards?

    Can he motivate Bynum and Gasol to run the floor like they can? Nash is at his best in transition, and the Lakers bigs are lazy at times. 

    And, most importantly, can he coexist with Kobe?

    Everyone in LA knows it's Kobe's town, and we're sure to see some clashes on the court between the two all-time greats. 

    Will Nash be able to back down and give King Kobe his power?

    It all remains to be seen. 

    And in this era of superteams, where piling on aged stars and superstars in an effort to capture a title, keep in mind that basketball is the quintessential team game; chemistry cannot be understated or forgotten.


    Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. You can follow Rich on facebook and/or twitter.