NBA Offseason Grades: 10 Teams That Flunked Free Agency
The NBA free-agency dust has finally begun to settle, and what we're now left with is a handful of teams that struck gold and an ample amount of franchises that simply struck out.
Free agency is a fickle friend to the Association. While it is the avenue through which many teams build a championship contender, it is also a potential source for self-inflicted condemnation.
Whether such a destructive offseason consisted of laughable inaction or trigger-happy ignorance is irrelevant; some teams simply missed the point of free agency.
The point being to improve a roster and a team's overall direction, not to deconstruct a fragile blueprint or perpetuate a string of unflattering regular-season finishes.
New York Knicks
Free Agency Moves: Signed Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni, James White, Ronnie Brewer and Chris Smith, re-signed Steve Novak and J.R. Smith, acquired Marcus Camby via sign-and-trade from Rockets, acquired Raymond Felton via sign-and-trade from Blazers and declined to match Jeremy Lin's offer sheet from Houston
The Knicks have certainly been busy this offseason, but that's not necessarily a good thing.
Some of New York's signings were stellar. Brewer and Smith were nothing short of a steal. Camby's deal was justifiable, and so was Novak's. But the Knicks still flunked.
There are two rules you must abide by in New York: 1) Never eat any food that has touched the city streets and 2) You never, under any circumstance, walk away from an asset empty-handed.
The Knicks are guilty of the latter—and possibly the former, because I'm not sure what Mr. Dolan considers fine cuisine these days—and there's no recovering.
I don't care how much of a fluke Lin supposedly is; he was hot property, and you don't declare you'll match any offer up to $1 billion only to balk at $25 million, knowing you'll get no assets in return.
And yet it doesn't stop there.
Lin's "ridiculous" contract prompted the Knicks to commit four years to Felton, who is coming off the worst season of his career. That's the move I'd truly call ridiculous.
Point guard has been the position in the greatest flux for the Knicks since before Felton's first stint in New York, and once again, the team did nothing to establish continuity at it this summer.
And that's borderline unforgivable.
Free Agency Moves: Signed Ramon Sessions
No surprise here, as all the Bobcats and Michael Jordan seem to do is strike out.
Prior to signing Sessions—and claiming Brendan Haywood off the amnesty wire—Charlotte had a maneuverable amount of cap space to work with. More than enough to make a play for an above-average addition.
Instead, the Bobcats are left with Sessions, who is a solid point guard but hinders the potential development of Kemba Walker as a floor general.
Don't get me wrong: Had Charlotte been more active, or rather, aggressive, it would have been unbelievably difficult to convince or coerce a relevant player to plant his flag.
That said, the Bobcats were still obligated to try, and—lukewarm pursuit of Antawn Jamison aside—try they simply did not.
The Bulls have been incredibly active, yet surprisingly standoffish at the same time.
Though the signing of Robinson was huge—instant offense trumps size—every other move Chicago made was slightly questionable.
Where was that move that wowed the fans? Where was the move that re-instilled hope into a franchise and fanbase that's suddenly down its best player in Derrick Rose? Where were the Bulls when the Mavericks signed O.J. Mayo for nearly half his intended salary?
After a bevy of underwhelming signings, it's clear a mood-altering move was never in the cards.
But Rose or no Rose, the Bulls were obligated to at least attempt to make some noise this summer, especially in free agency.
And yet they opted to ride quietly off into the sunset, in the least satisfying and most unfulfilling way possible.
I get that the Wizards had almost no cap space available, but they amnestied Andray Blatche for a reason, right?
Though Washington has a slew of players with potential, there are plenty of holes that needed filling, none of which were addressed.
With Blatche on the move, Nene in a losing battle with plantar fasciitis, Jan Vesely raw as uncooked ground beef and Emeka Okafor an essential wild card, any and all money made available should have been spent on additional size, or at least a true point guard to back up John Wall.
But that's apparently asking too much.
Washington felt it more pertinent to add two more guards, neither of whom can effectively run an offense, rebound or block shots.
Yes, the Wizards are in much better shape than this time last year, but 1) that isn't saying much and 2) it is in no way thanks to a strong free-agency showing.
Considering how poorly things are going with Dwight Howard, investing more than $8 million annually in a deteriorating Nelson was more than unnecessary.
The Magic's willingness to sign-and-trade their second-leading scorer in Anderson to New Orleans for essentially nothing in return isn't helping their offseason case, either.
And, while I'm repulsed by the actions of Orlando's man-child as much as the next person with a conscience, I'm astounded the Magic actually had the audacity to ask him to stay, after their latest activity all but ensured their place outside the playoffs.
I'm all about doing your due diligence and cracking jokes at Howard's expense, but I simply cannot justify their approach to free agency—or their future in general—this summer.
No one can.
Just when you think the Kings have turned a corner, they double back to their fortress of stupidity.
Thomas Robinson fell into Sacramento's lap at the NBA draft, and his selection supposedly signified a giant step in the right direction.
But then the Kings went and invested $30 million in an unproven and foul-prone Thompson, whose numbers have done nothing but decline since his first two seasons.
As if that wasn't enough, Sacramento felt it necessary to add another subpar distributor to the fold in Brooks. Though he's fairly deft at creating his own offense, he's failed to meet career expectations and has done so in an unflattering matter.
Not to mention, he's a near carbon copy of Jimmer Fredette.
There's a lesson to be learned here, one that implores you to realize maintaining any faith in the Kings is futile.
The Raptors' hearts were in the right place when they signed Landry Fields—that place being Steve Nash's New York residence—but their heads simply weren't.
I'm not saying Toronto is an unattractive place to play, but Nash—a point guard at the end of his career with no championship rings to show for his efforts—was not the realistic star to build around.
Had the Raptors realized this, they would have also realized they were throwing their money away by signing Fields.
And while Lucas' deal isn't entirely unwarranted, it is illogical, unless Toronto is hell-bent on wasting the potential of any point guard on its roster. With Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon in the fold, Lucas' signing means nothing, unless Calderon gets dealt.
The Raptors came into free agency seeking to land that one attraction that would thrust them into relevancy and convince others to join them.
Now, though, it seems they'll leave with nothing but a series of marginal signings, most of which make little sense.
Nice job, Toronto.
Quite frankly, the Timberwolves could have done much better.
While Minnesota will likely be a captivating storyline for us to follow throughout next season, it's left a lot of its immediate future up to chance.
Both Kirilenko and Roy were stars, but the key word there is "were." By all accounts, courtesy of injuries and age, they're far from the players they once—here comes that word again—were.
The Timberwolves haves $15 million wrapped up in Kirilenko and Roy, money that could have been spent on younger players with less baggage, or at the very least more potential.
So, while it's not so much the acquisitions—they are intriguing and have potential in their own right–it is the gamble the Timberwolves are taking here.
They could have gotten much more bang for their buck.
To put it in perspective, more than 25 percent of Minnesota's cap space is being paid to two players who weren't in the NBA last year, one of whom has degenerate knees and the other of which has been in a steady decline for years.
Intriguing or not, that's a fail.
Free Agency Moves: Re-signed Luke Harangody
The Cavaliers had cap to burn this summer, and yet the only noise they made was when they momentarily entered the Dwightmare in a purely facilitating role.
And that's absurd.
Not only does Cleveland have a budding young star in Irving, who it needs to start surrounding with some serious talent, but it also lost the scoring output of Antawn Jamison.
Who's going to replace that 17-20 points per game?
Certainly not Harangody, that's for damn sure, and Dion Waiters—one of the biggest reaches from draft night—is too raw to put up those kinds of point totals out of the gate.
It's almost like the Cavs front office is content continuing to bask in the impurity that was LeBron James' decision. Or it's just plain crazy.
Either way, Cleveland needed to do more this offseason than establish itself as a perpetual spectator.
The Knicks flunked free agency because they let Lin leave for nothing, and now the Rockets fail because they paid too much to bring him back to Houston.
Well that, and because the Rockets opted to clean house en route to overpaying both Asik and Lin, neither of whom brings guaranteed production to the table.
I understand the intrigue factor here, but investing over $50 million in those two over the next three years is insane, and immensely perplexing.
Not too long ago, the Rockets' greatest asset was their ability to absorb bad contracts to take on a star in any potential trade—like Dwight Howard, for instance.
Now, though, their cap space has dwindled to the point of less than impressive, much like their immediate outlook.
The Rockets had the potential to make this a summer to remember, but now, regardless of how polarizing their recent additions may seem, it has quickly turned into one they'll soon want to forget.