The 8 Biggest Mistakes of NBA Free Agency 2012
As NBA teams sign free agents left and right, they all hope to improve their squads. Not everyone does.
In the words of English poet Alexander Pope, "To err is human."
Everyone makes mistakes, and the NBA free agency period is no different. These are the eight biggest mistakes of the 2012 offseason thus far.
Signing Veterans to Three-Year Deals
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Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are still elite basketball players, but they're both already 36 years old and clearly starting to feel the wear and tear of Father Time at this stage of their lengthy and legendary basketball careers.
Both the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics had the upper hand in negotiations because it's highly unlikely that either star player would bolt for greener/different pastures (greener for Duncan, but different for Garnett because it can't get greener than Celtic green).
Despite that upper hand, each team signed its target to a three-year contract.
I understand the necessity of retaining services and ensuring that you reward the loyalty. However, three years is way too lengthy a contract for either player. By the time they'll be 39, they'll be shells of their current selves.
Jason Kidd falls into the same category after signing a three-year deal with the New York Knicks and then promptly getting busted for a DWI. He just doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentences as Duncan and Garnett at this stage of his career.
Leading on Jeremy Lin
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You knew that Jeremy Lin would be prominently featured in this slideshow. You just didn't know how.
Was it going to be the "Oh, the Houston Rockets paid him too much" route? The "Oh, the New York Knicks are dumb for not matching" route? Something else entirely?
The last is correct as the biggest mistake of the Jeremy Lin sweepstakes was leading on the breakout point guard and convincing the fans of the Knicks that he would be back. New York made the correct decision to not financially cripple the organization down the road, and the Rockets aren't overpaying by much for his services.
ESPN's Jared Zwerling summarizes the events of the summer quite nicely:
6. At season's end, Mike Woodson says that Lin will not only be "absolutely" back, but he'll be the starting point guard. Then a few weeks later, Glen Grunwald says his priority is to re-sign the team's free agents, including Lin. But he decides to sit back first and see what Lin's market value will be.
7. So in early July, Lin takes a meeting—his only one—with the Rockets, where they surprise everyone with a hefty offer sheet. But, still, sources say the Knicks will match anything for Lin up to "a billion dollars."
8. Then around that time, Woodson repeats his "absolutely" comments, and fans feel confident about Linsanity Part II.
9. All of a sudden, the Rockets up the ante and change the third-year amount in the offer sheet to include $14.8 million guaranteed in the third year. But, again, the feeling is that the Knicks will match no matter what.
10. However, in the closing days and hours, the unpredictability factor strikes again—this time without reversing course. It becomes clear that Lin won't return.
The Knicks lost a number of fans by letting Lin walk away and join the Houston Rockets, but they lost even more by leading him on.
Using the Amnesty Clause on Luis Scola
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The amnesty clause is supposed to be used on unproductive players or to clear space for incoming players.
While Houston meant to use Scola's release to clear the way for Dwight Howard, it's a waste if the big man doesn't end up playing for the Rockets. It's also a waste if he spends the 2012-2013 season with the team and then bolts.
Scola is one of the more underrated players in the league and provides a nice presence on both ends of the court. He's coming off a season in which he averaged 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
Even if the Rockets wanted to go in a different direction and hand the reins over to the bevy of young players capable of filling in for the long-haired Argentine, they could have most likely found a trading partner.
Cutting bait and not getting anything in return was a mistake.
Giving a Pair of Centers Max Contracts
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There might be a dearth of quality centers in the current NBA landscape, but that doesn't mean that the money should be free-flowing when there's a chance to retain the services of one of the few solid ones.
The Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers both made mistakes when they re-signed Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert, respectively, to max deals.
Hibbert's deal is excusable, but it's still too much money. He's a great defender and rebounder with a developing offensive game.
However, he's still not a player who can single-handedly carry his teammates to a few victories and put a team in position to win a championship while he's the star player. That's what a max contract player needs to be able to do.
As for the Lopez deal, well, that's completely inexcusable.
Lopez is a great scorer, but he has way too many limitations to ever be worth a max deal. The big man doesn't understand the concept of rebounding, doesn't appear to interested in defense and is so injury-prone that Las Vegas probably wouldn't give odds on him playing all 328 games he's under contract for because the odds would be so ridiculously outlandish.
Eric Gordon Stating His Desire to Play in Phoenix
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Eric Gordon seemed to forget how the free-agency process worked and put all of his eggs in the same basket. After he signed a max offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns, the young shooting guard made it perfectly clear that he wanted to play out west and leave the New Orleans Hornets behind.
Well, the Hornets weren't going to let that happen, and now Gordon has to repair his image in Bayou Country.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, Gordon essentially admitted that he made a mistake:
I wish I could've done a little better with the fan perception. But also at the same time they don't know the business perspective of how negotiations are handled. They don’t know how being a restricted free agent can be mind-boggling for a player.
I’m here with an open mind and here to help the young guys. They will see the next four years will be better than the last four years of my career, so it should be nothing but good things.
Although it was a big mistake at the time, Gordon is going to have many chances to fix the situation. All it will take is a few lobs to Anthony Davis and a few wins.
Giving Nicolas Batum Too Much Money
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The Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland Trail Blazers have been engaging in war for the services of Nicolas Batum. One of the two organizations will end up paying him $46 million over four years.
That's way too much money for a glorified role player. Batum is being paid an exorbitant amount of money for potential—potential he's failed to live up to year after year.
The French small forward has improved little by little each year, but he hasn't become the star defender he's expected to be. He's solid on the perimeter but struggles in the post and can't close out well when shooters catch the ball on the outside.
On offense, Batum is a solid player, but he's not going to win games on that end of the court.
Paying for potential is fine, just not overpaying for potential by millions of dollars.
Offering Landry Fields Money to Keep Steve Nash out of New York
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Nate Taylor of The New York Times reports that the Toronto Raptors are at least pretending to be happy they've acquired the services of Landry Fields. General manager Bryan Colangelo said:
Landry is something of value to us. In free agency, you tend to pay a little bit more. Regardless, we netted a player who is going to make valuable contributions to our team.
The reason why the Raptors had to pay a little bit more for Fields was that they were attempting to prevent the New York Knicks from re-signing him. Without Fields, the Knicks couldn't complete a sign-and-trade for Steve Nash as easily, and there was a better chance of the Canadian point guard ending up in his home country.
That kind of worked, because Nash didn't end up with the Knicks. Then again, he didn't end up with the Raptors either.
Now, the Raptors are stuck overpaying for a shooting guard who doesn't do much well and will be limited to a bench role for the vast majority of his career.
Giving Jeff Green a 4-Year Deal
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An aortic aneurysm knocked Jeff Green out of action for the entire 2011-2012 season, but that didn't stop the Boston Celtics for extending his contract another four years.
Green could have been signed for significantly less time, and the risk would have been taken out of the equation.
There's no guarantee that any player can stay healthy for four years in a row, but there's even less of a guarantee when someone is coming off a season lost from heart problems.
This signing could pay off, but it's just too risky to have such a lengthy contract