2012 NBA Offseason: The 5 Worst Moves in Free Agency Thus Far
It wouldn't be an NBA offseason without teams making moves that make us point and laugh. Free agency has moved at a frenetic pace, with big names changing addresses and rumors flying everywhere.
Some teams have managed to pull off some impressive moves. The Lakers got the point guard they have desperately needed for years by swinging a deal for two-time MVP Steve Nash. The Mavericks have bounced back from missing out on Deron Williams by utilizing an impressive "Plan B" that includes guards Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo, as well as center Chris Kaman.
Those were just a couple of the highlights of this NBA offseason.
However, what were the low-lights? After all, for every good move, there's always a team that pulls off a bad one, right?
While there haven't been many head-scratchers so far this summer, there have been a few moves that made me shake my head.
With most of the big names off the market and the Dwight Howard saga still ongoing, I comprised a list of the five worst moves that have been made thus far.
There are also some honorable mentions.
Desperate for a big man since the retirement of Yao Ming, Houston has wisely thrown its name in the ring for the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes. However, the Rockets' offer to Bulls restricted free agent Omer Asik was not as wise. The three-year, $25.1 million deal is a bit much for a 26-year old center with a career average of 2.8 points and 4.4 rebounds a game.
Philadelphia's decision to take a chance on former No.1 overall pick bust Kwame Brown seemed like a nice, cheap move when you consider the Sixers gave him a two-year deal worth $6 million. When head coach Doug Collins announced Brown was going to be the team's starting center, my jaw dropped.
Collins' plan is to have Spencer Hawes fill in for the amnestied Elton Brand at power forward while Brown, a former Collins pupil in Washington and one of the biggest draft busts ever, gets another shot at breathing life in his NBA career.
How many teams does Kwame Brown have to fail before he stops getting second chances?
He flopped with Washington. He was a disaster with the Lakers and his stints in Detroit, Charlotte, Memphis and Golden State were forgettable. Kwame Brown is 30 years old. This isn't taking a chance on a young kid who could turn things around. It's been proven that the guy can't play. Yes, they aren't paying him much, but you can't tell me that there wasn't better options out there.
As bad as those moves were, there were a few I disliked more than those two. These are the five worst moves of the NBA offseason so far.
5. Houston Uses Amensty Clause on PF Luis Scola
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My disclaimer here is that I'm willing to take back the criticism of this move if it leads to Houston landing Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howard in a three-team trade.
Houston decided to cut Luis Scola loose in an effort to free up more cap space to acquire one of the game's two best centers, both of whom seem to be on the trading block. The Rockets have been in hot pursuit of Dwight Howard for months, but Howard is unwilling to re-sign with Houston.
Bynum, however, listed Houston as one of the three teams he'd consider signing with. The Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers are in a tug-of-war to be the third team in a three-way deal that would send Howard to the Lakers.
As for Scola, the Suns won the auction for his services and they'll get a 32-year old forward, who is coming off a season where he averaged 15.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game, at a discount. Phoenix also made two other good offseason moves by bringing guard Goran Dragic and forward Micheal Beasley.
If Houston ends up with the short end of the stick in their pursuit of Howard or Bynum, a Rockets team already thin on size up front becomes much thinner. Houston already traded center Marcus Camby, and now wait to see if Chicago will match their preposterous offer to Omer Asik.
The Rockets seem to be in desperation mode. Every move they've made has been to open up cap space, and the overall talent has suffered. Chase Budinger was traded to Minnesota. Kyle Lowry is now a Toronto Raptor, and the team is left with Kevin Martin and a group of unproven veterans and rookies.
Scola was arguably Houston's best player, even if he was coming off a down year last year, and now he's a casualty in a scramble to pull off a trade that may never happen. This move only makes sense if Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum suit up for the Rockets this season.
Otherwise, Houston just dropped one of its best players for nothing.
4. Toronto Overpays for SG Landry Fields
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Landry Fields is a decent young two guard with good size and defensive capabilities. He'd be a solid role player on a contender, either as a starter or coming off the bench.
That being said, he wasn't worth the three-year, $18.7 million that Toronto offered him as a restricted free agent, which the Knicks wisely chose not to match.
Fields averaged just under nine points per game for the Knicks last year. He shot a little over 25 percent from behind the arc. With the acquisition of Kyle Lowry and the drafting of Terrence Ross, Fields may be the third or fourth best guard on the Raptors.
On the bright side, Fields will come cheap the first two seasons, as the team will only pay him close to $5 million each of the first two seasons before the price goes up in the third year. That's not bad for a decent two-way player.
The problem is Fields' presence probably relegates Ross, who is playing well in the Summer League, to the bench. Ross is averaging 16.8 points in four games in Las Vegas. He seemed like a sleeper to win Rookie of the Year. It will be tough to play him and Fields together with Lowry and DeMar DeRozan also on the roster.
If Fields improves in his new situation in Toronto, then this move looks wise and I will eat my words. However, Fields has never struck me as more than a poor man's Thabo Sefolosha. He is adequate on both ends of the court and might provide a couple big plays.
The price for Fields is reasonable for the first two years, but the price tag for the third year and the potential blocking of Terrence Ross' progress is what makes the Fields' acquisition too costly for me.
3. Washington Trades for SF Trevor Ariza and PF Emeka Okafor
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The Washington Wizards had an enticing expiring contract in Rashard Lewis and the potential to create cap room to be a player next summer in a loaded free-agent class.
Instead, the Wizards turned the $28.1 million left on the final year of Lewis' deal into two overpriced role players.
Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor are both solid defenders who individually bring a premium on the offensive end. Ariza is an athletic young forward who can make plays on the wing and in transition. Okafor, when healthy, can be a monster on the boards.
However, neither are worth the near $35 million the Wizards will now have to pay them for the next two seasons. Ariza is set to make nearly $7.3 million this season with a player option for $7.5 next year. Okafor is due $13.5 million this season and will make $14.5 next season.
The Hornets were so desperate to get rid of at least one of these contracts that there were rumors that they were dangling the No. 10 overall pick to entice a suitor. The Wizards went ahead and foolishly took the two worst contracts off New Orleans' roster and compromised any cap room to add around talented point guard John Wall next season.
Both Okafor and Ariza could contribute this season, but, for what Washington will pay them, they probably could have found more reliable options. They also could have probably gotten something better for Lewis' expiring deal. Now, we'll never know.
The deal worked out great for New Orleans, as the cap room allowed them to bring back franchise cornerstone Eric Gordon and acquire forward Ryan Anderson.
For the deal to work out for the Wizards, Okafor would have to revert back to the guy who beat out Dwight Howard for Rookie of the Year and Ariza will have to go back to being the player he once was with the Lakers.
Ariza was so bad down the stretch for the Hornets that he was benched for youngster Al-Farouq Aminu late in the season because Aminu proved to be the better defender. That's not a good sign for a guy whose claim to fame is defense.
Now, they are the fourth and fifth-best players on a Wizards team that have made a home for themselves at the bottom of the NBA's basement. It's doubtful that any team will be just as foolish as Washington. The only hope is that the team gets something out of Ariza and Okafor that the Hornets couldn't.
This was the kind of rushed trade that keeps bad teams in the cellar and makes fans throw their hands up in disgust.
2. New York Lets Jeremy Lin Walk
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I thought Bill Simmons said it best on Twitter.
Bill Simmons @sportsguy33
But seriously - any time you can flip a 23 year old asset/fan favorite into a washed-up 40 year old and a fat guy, you have to do it.
In truth, the Knicks' decision to let Jeremy Lin leave for Houston should be 1A on this list. For about a two-month span, Jeremy Lin was the biggest thing in the biggest media market in America. He turned around a Knicks team that was struggling and made them the talk of the town.
Now, he's taking his talents to H-Town thanks to the three-year, $25.1 million deal the Rockets offered the 23-year-old breakout star. The deal offers the same "poison pill" third year that makes the offers to Landry Fields and Omer Asik confounding.
Lin will make a little over $5 million a year the first two years of the deal before he's set to make $14.8 million in the final year. That third year price tag is reportedly what made the Knicks balk. There was also a report that Knicks owner James Dolan decided to let Lin leave because he felt "decieved" by the former Harvard star.
The Knicks aren't completely out of luck. They signed Jason Kidd, initially to be Lin's mentor, and swung a deal for former Knick Raymond Felton. Neither of whom provide the potential that Lin would have provided, but both are adequate replacements (provided the team can keep Kidd out of bars or find him a good car service).
Did the Knicks not learn anything from Yao Ming and the Rockets about what having an international superstar on your team can do for your marketing department? Did they not see the way the Big Apple responded to "Linsanity"?
Jeremy Lin was the PR sensation that Carmelo Anthony should be. More importantly than that, the kid can play. Yes, his best moments came under ex-coach Mike D'Antoni. Yes, Lin only played 35 games last year. Yes, the $14.8 million was a tough pill to swallow, especially with luxury tax ramifications.
Regardless, he was a fan favorite who became a feel-good national story. When did the Knicks start caring about the luxury tax? And was that before or after the ridiculous Jerome James contract or the trades for Steve Francis and Penny Hardaway?
It remains to be seen whether Lin can keep the momentum going in Houston. However, if we've learned anything from Lin last season, he lives to prove people wrong.
That's something the Knicks should have known before letting Linsanity walk out of the Garden.
1. Brooklyn Trades for SG Joe Johnson
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In all honesty, I disliked everything the Brooklyn Nets have done this summer, short of re-signing Deron Williams.
I didn't like the idea of paying Gerald Wallace $40 million for the next four years, especially after giving up a lottery pick to get him. As good of a young forward Kris Humphries is, I thought $12 million a year for two seasons was a bit much.
I also didn't like the four-year, $61 million deal given to oft-injured young center Brook Lopez, who the team may still might try to trade if Dwight Howard is still in Orlando come January. The rush to trade half the team for Howard was silly, too, as Brooklyn was the only team until recently that Howard would sign an extension with.
The move that takes the cake was the decision to acquire the worst contract in the league when the team sent a package of expiring deals to Atlanta for Joe Johnson and the $89 million the team will have to pay him over the next four years.
Altogether, the Nets handed out $312 million worth in contracts for their starting five, and they are still, at best, the second best team in the East.
Deron Williams said that the trade for Joe Johnson is what helped sway his decision to stay in Brooklyn.
My question for Nets fans and management is, was it worth it?
Was it worth acquiring the worst contract in basketball to keep a guy who isn't in the top three at his position and may not even be in the top five?
The trade for Johnson and the return of Williams will generate back pages in Brooklyn's favor and create buzz throughout the Big Apple that would normally go to the Knicks. However, what does it do in terms of winning? And which is the most important thing?
Johnson was never happy being the third or fourth option in Phoenix, and he never took Atlanta past the second round as the alpha dog with the Hawks. The furthest he's made it in the playoffs was the Western Conference Finals, and the Suns made it right back there the next year without him.
As for Williams, he's made it past the second round once (2006-07) dating back to his time with the Utah Jazz. His rift with legendary coach Jerry Sloan is part of the reason Sloan retired and Williams was dealt to the Nets.
Those are the two best players on the Nets unless the team gets Dwight Howard, and we all know Howard's reputation for being a coach-killer.
Deron Williams is an excellent point guard and Joe Johnson is a good shooting guard who can put up points. However, if bringing in Johnson was the price tag to keep D-Will, isn't that a bit too pricey? Is Joe Johnson really the guy you want to help assemble your own "Big Three"? Is your plan for the future really a 31-year old two guard whose scoring has dipped since signing his big contract?
If Dwight Howard ends up in Los Angeles or anywhere other than Brooklyn, the team will need Brook Lopez to stay healthy and live up to his promise for the Nets to stay competitive. The expensive backcourt of Williams and Johnson won't be enough.
For this experiment to work, the Nets will have to find a way past LeBron James and the Heat. If they can't, then they mortgaged their future by using the acquisition of a terrible contract to retain a very good-but-not-great point guard.
When it's all said and done, we will once again ask: Was it all worth it?