NBA Free Agency 2012: 5 Offseason Moves Teams Will Regret
Bad moves, especially those that are made via free agency, appear to be nothing more than a part of the natural order in the NBA. Unsightly contracts and shortsighted trades are practically rites of summer, a notion that the owners themselves copped to with the inclusion of the amnesty clause in the latest collective bargaining agreement.
The owners, it seems, are perpetually helpless to stop themselves from signing off on moves that they come to regret, sometimes immediately.
It's a tragic cycle for fans of poorly managed teams, and one of endless comedic fodder for just about everyone else. For better or worse, there's something intrinsically entertaining about ripping terrible GMs for their never-ending incompetence.
The summer of 2012 has been no different. In fact, this offseason has been a veritable gold mine for head-scratchers and face-palmers. Here, for your reading pleasure/pain, are five such maneuvers.
Nets Give $40 Million to Gerald Wallace
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Kudos to the Brooklyn Nets for putting together a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference.
But $40 million for Gerald Wallace? Really, Billy King?!
Granted, there's more immediate fault to be found in the four-year, $61 million deal with which the Nets kept Brook Lopez bound to Brooklyn. He appeared in all of five games last season while with a twice-broken foot.
If NBA history has taught us anything, it's that foot injuries don't bode well for the careers of seven-footers, at least if the tales of Bill Walton and Yao Ming are worth considering.
Then again, Lopez will always be tall as long as he can still walk, and, at 24, he's young enough (and talented enough) to be worth the financial gamble. What's more, the Nets only made Lopez so rich after the Portland Trail Blazers and the Charlotte Bobcats attempted to do so.
And if Lopez winds up with the Orlando Magic in January as part of a Dwight Howard deal, then his tenure will have been well worth it.
Wallace's deal, on the other hand, seems less sensible. The Nets have essentially committed $10 million per season over the next four to a 30-year-old whose game is largely predicated on hustle and athleticism.
Hence, the nickname "Crash."
Wallace's skills have already shown signs of deterioration since his banner year during the 2009-10 campaign, when he averaged a double-double and played in the All-Star Game.
None of this is to suggest that re-signing Wallace was necessarily a bad move. The Nets needed someone to play small forward and would've looked like utter fools had they let Wallace walk after surrendering a lottery pick to the Blazers to get him.
Surely, though, Billy King could've negotiated a better deal for Brooklyn. Was Wallace really going to find that kind of money on the open market? Wouldn't a deal worth, say, $7-8 million per year have done the trick?
Of course, none of this likely matters to the Nets, whose owner (Mikhail Prokhorov) has deep enough pockets to absorb just about any financial blow his front office should incur.
Knicks Pick Raymond Felton over Jeremy Lin
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Luckily for Billy King, he need only look across the bridge to the woebegone New York Knicks to find a source of relative comfort and relief.
The Knicks' decision to let Jeremy Lin join the Houston Rockets was likely a complicated one, with multiple layers worthy of consideration and lively debate.
Not to mention all the questions that emanated from the fiasco—why didn't the Knicks make Lin an offer before he went off to find one? Were the new financial rules really the cause of New York's unwillingness to match the Rockets' money? What role, if any, did Linsanity's refusal to sign with CAA play in this saga? Would it have been worth the Knicks' while to spend $25.1 million on a point guard who played significant minutes in just 26 games last season before injuring his knee?
All interesting questions, some more valid than others (depending on who you ask).
Letting go of a fan favorite and rather effective point guard like Lin would've been fine had the Knicks replaced him with someone whose combination of talent and upside was comparable at the very least.
Instead, the Knicks went the retread route with Raymond Felton, who's coming off a terrible season in Portland during which he drew the ire of Blazers fans for being ineffective and generally out of shape.
At the age of 27, no less, when most players tend to peak.
Will Felton bounce back in New York? Perhaps, though it'd be rather unrealistic to expect him to perform as well as he did during his first stint with the Knicks in 2010-11, prior to the Carmelo Anthony trade.
Felton and Lin may be comparable players right now, but Lin has youth—and the time for improvement that it bides—on his side, while Felton is likely bound for the downslope.
The trouble, in short, is that the Knicks opted to cast their lot with a walking punch line in his late 20s instead of sticking with a bona fide phenomenon who turns 24 later this month.
Rockets Pick Linsanity over Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry
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Don't think, though, that the Rockets automatically won by taking the Knicks' "trash" and making it their own treasure.
Unlike the Knicks, the Rockets already had a pair of good, young point guards on their roster before they went all "poison pill" on Jeremy Lin. Kyle Lowry had been in the midst of a breakout season before suffering through injuries in March, at which point Goran Dragic emerged as something more than just a career backup.
Both are 26, and both could still be in Houston had GM Daryl Morey opted to keep them, though, in his defense, Lowry had expressed a strong desire to leave since Kevin McHale was hired as the team's head coach.
Morey did well enough to send Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for a guaranteed lottery pick, which may or may not prove useful in Houston's pursuit of Dwight Howard.
But essentially exchanging Dragic for Lin is another story. Dragic wound up signing with the Phoenix Suns for four years and $30 million, or one year and $5 million more than what the Rockets spent on Lin. That is, Houston committed more money per year to a player with less of a track record and presumably less ability than the guy who preceded him.
The Rockets, then, had better hope that they land Dwight or that they bottom out and wind up drafting a superstar in the next year or two. Otherwise, they'll be left fiddling about with nothing more than a middling team and, perhaps, a downgrade at point guard.
Raptors' Regrettable Offer Sheet to Landry Fields
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Jeremy Lin wasn't the only now-ex-Knickerbocker who got paid this summer, perhaps egregiously so.
Landry Fields, his backcourt buddy in New York, is in the money himself after signing a three-year, $18.75 million offer sheet with the Toronto Raptors.
Not bad for a guy who averaged around nine points, five rebounds and two assists and played mediocre defense as a starting wing for the Knicks the last two seasons.
As for the Raptors, this deal would've been bad enough on its own merits, but grades out even worse because of its original intent. The Raptors originally made their offer to Fields as a means of obstructing the Knicks' ability to acquire Steve Nash. Toronto figured that keeping Fields out of New York's hands would make it more difficult for the Knicks to put together an attractive trade package for the Phoenix Suns.
But Nash wound up with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Knicks turned to Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton, and the Raptors were left with the check for Landry, having outsmarted even themselves.
To be sure, Fields' deal isn't preposterously expensive and, if he fails, will be off the books before too long. And the Raptors deserve some credit for going as hard after Nash as they did.
Still, $18.75 million is a ton of money to pay a guy who'll have to battle for playing time with DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza and rookie Terrence Ross.
Magic Strap Their Cap Space to Jameer Nelson
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What is it with the Orlando Magic overpaying mid-level free agents? Isn't that at least part of the reason Otis Smith was let go?
If so, Rob Hennigan's tenure isn't exactly off to a flying start...as if the ongoing drama with Dwight Howard weren't proof enough of that.
The deal he handed to Jameer Nelson—three years, $25.2 million—won't likely help in that regard. Aside from having dealt with injuries throughout his career, Nelson is coming off one of his worst campaigns and, at the age of 30, will be hard-pressed to bounce back to the level at which he played prior to being thrown under the bus by Superman.
For a team that's already holding Howard hostage while it looks for teams to take on its bevy of unwanted contracts (i.e. Jason Richardson's, Glen Davis', Chris Duhon's, Hedo Turkoglu's, Quentin Richardson's), signing Nelson to a pact that qualifies him for such a dubious list doesn't exactly reflect well on the new regime's business practices.