The 10 Riskiest Contracts Handed out During 2012 NBA Free Agency

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIAugust 30, 2012

The 10 Riskiest Contracts Handed out During 2012 NBA Free Agency

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    The 2012 period of NBA free agency has come and gone. This has not come without commotion, however, as the entire landscape of the NBA has shifted in a major way.

    It's safe to say that nothing will be the same in 2013 as it was in 2012. Even for the teams that held onto their core, new challenges await and free-agency-sculpted powerhouses have been born.

    Unfortunately, not all is looking up for the league of dreams. There are more than a handful of players who will soon fall victim to the label of the "overpaid" or "under-qualified."

    As for who those players could be, the following slides will offer insight to the possibilities. While not all will falter, each player on this list was handed a big contract for questionable reasons.

    So whose hype outweighed their certainty?

Omer Asik, Houston Rockets

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    Position: Center

    Age: 26

    Contract Details: $25.1 million over 3 years

     

    By virtue of a highly debatable contract, Omer Asik could go from one of the best reserves in the game to the poster child for big-contract mistakes. When you're coming off of a season in which you averaged just 14.7 minutes per game, it's not hard to see why the expectation to fail exists.

    As for those who believe it's just a matter of "seeing more minutes," it's not. Omer Asik is a very good shot blocker, but in his average of 21.3 minutes per game during the postseason, his scoring average increased by just 0.2 points per game. Asik's rebounding decreased from 5.3 to 4.7.

    To be fair, Asik's averages actually sat on 4.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 0.8 steals when he played at least 20 minutes.

    Nevertheless, Omer Asik is a defensive-minded player whose energy outweighs his production in a major way. One might compare him to Joakim Noah, the current Bulls center who is far more polished as a player.

    This is not to suggest that the Turkish big man cannot succeed, but the odds are stacked against him. Until proven otherwise, this contract can be described as nothing short of a risk.

     

    2012 Season Averages

    13.44 PER, 14.7 MPG, 3.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.0 BPG

Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 23

    Contract Details: $46.5 million over 4 years

     

    After four years with the Portland Trail Blazers with nothing more than upside to show for it, one has to question when the franchise will give up on Nicolas Batum. After re-signing him to a four-year deal worth just under $46.5 million, it doesn't appear that the submission to his underwhelming performances will occur any time soon.

    Even after his overstated progression.

    Nicolas Batum's length is promising for his eventual role as the Trail Blazers' lockdown perimeter defender. The fact of the matter is Batum has always been average from a statistical standpoint and rather frustrating on the floor.

    His punch to Juan Carlos Navarro's groin during the 2012 London Olympics was an extreme example of his immaturity. It was also a reflection on what can be labeled as nothing short of true: Nicolas Batum is not mentally ready for professional basketball.

    As a result, his physical abilities have been lost and progression stunted. Although he is just 23, he's already spent four years in the league. As a wise man once told me, "The word potential one day loses its value."

    Though the upside is still there, could that unfortunate day come soon for Nicolas Batum and the Portland Trail Blazers?

    Don't be shocked if that answer is yes.

     

    2012 Season Averages

    17.32 PER, 13.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 BPG, 1.0 SPG

Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Position: Combo Guard

    Age: 32

    Contract Details: $21.35 million over 4 years

     

    Jamal Crawford is a fine player who, when on his game, can be compared with the NBA's elite. Unfortunately, Crawford can also go cold in a major way and personifies the term "streaky."

    One way or another, Jamal Crawford will find a way to make your heart race and mind rattle. The question is: Can the risk truly be defined as worth it when he's not getting any younger and just came off of his worst season since 2002?

    Considering Crawford is 32 years old and was just handed a four-year contract worth $21.35 million, one has reason to say it is not.

    The Los Angeles Clippers were clearly in need of a perimeter scorer, and Jamal Crawford can be just that. He attacks the basket as well as any, and when hot, can kill with his jumper. Although inconsistent, these traits make the deal understandable.

    What is difficult to understand, however, is why the Los Angeles Clippers opted to sign Crawford when Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe and Chauncey Billups are all under contract. The team now has three point guards and a combo guard to hold down the shooting guard position.

    This is the same dilemma the franchise faced during the 2011-12 regular season before trading for Nick Young—the same Nick Young who has been replaced via free agency by Jamal Crawford.

    "Risk" is certainly an applicable word here.

     

    2012 Season Averages

    15.80 PER, 14.0 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2.0 RPG, 38.4% FG

Raymond Felton, New York Knicks

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 28

    Contract Details: $10 million over 3 years

     

    To be fair, Jeremy Lin had just as many question marks about his situation as Raymond Felton. Furthermore, the players the New York Knicks traded to acquire Felton were about as impressive as the New York Knicks' past two postseason appearances.

    Regardless of these facts, passing on one of the most marketable young players in the NBA for a 28-year-old and overweight point guard was a questionable decision. After all, we're a long way from Mike D'Antoni, who employed the first and only system wherein Raymond Felton ever truly found his comfort zone.

    Now, Felton returns to the team that provided him with success, but to a system with which he is unfamiliar. We're far from the pick-and-roll he and Amar'e Stoudemire had perfected, regardless of how obvious it is that the Knicks need to run it.

    If Mike Woodson and company opt to ignore the clear signs in front of them, we could see a turn for the worst. We could also see veteran Jason Kidd and Argentina national point guard Pablo Prigioni take over the reins as starter.

    Regardless of the likelihood of such transpiring, the possibility is there. For that reason, and a few pounds more, we have a certain risk.

     

    2012 Season Averages

    13.46 PER, 11.4 PPG, 6.5 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG

Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 23

    Contract Details: $58.37 million over 4 years

     

    Say what you will about Eric Gordon's upside, but signing an injury-ridden player to a four-year maximum contract is quite risky. The fact that he was signed for $58 million is significant, but so is the fact that Gordon missed 57 games in 2012—and, apparently, his 107 total absences in just four years in the NBA.

    It has been acknowledged that Eric Gordon has superstar potential. His 20-point-per-game ability is already of significance, while explosive athleticism has always been a gift of the Indiana alum. The question is: How much does Gordon have left in his oft-injured body?

    As Brandon Roy will tell you, the human body does not just recover and go back to normal. A long history of injuries could indeed derail a promising career.

    Clearly the New Orleans Hornets are none too concerned with that possibility, as $58.37 million over four years would suggest they're actually inclined to believe that the young scorer is worth that money and all the risk in the world.

    Would we even be having this conversation had Eric Gordon not been involved in the infamous Chris Paul trade?

     

    2012 Season Averages

    9 GP, 19.23 PER, 20.6 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG

Jeff Green, Boston Celtics

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 26

    Contract Details: $36 million over 4 years

     

    Jeff Green is one of the most skilled players in the NBA, with above-average abilities in every category possible. From his uncanny passing to his solid post-up scoring, there isn't much to complain about with the small forward.

    Except for the fact that Green missed the entire 2012 season due to heart surgery, a detail that appears to have been lost after the Boston Celtics re-signed him for $36 million over four years without actually witnessing him play in an NBA game since 2011.

    No matter how much Doc Rivers and the Celtics might believe in the former Georgetown Hoyas star, returning from heart surgery is not your average situation. Chances are Green will have a longer road to recovery than any other player in the league.

    There's also a great possibility that Green will not fully recover. While we all hope he does, the possibility that he will not must be acknowledged.

    With all things measured, it appears as if Jeff Green is set to return to solid form in Boston. He'll play the role of backup small forward behind a player with a similar skill set, Paul Pierce, which is promising for his future.

    But a four-year deal worth $36 million with no guarantee that he will fully recover from a basketball standpoint? There is no way around how risky that move was. 

     

    2012 Season Averages

    12.92 PER, 13.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 44.9% FG

George Hill, Indiana Pacers

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 26

    Contract Details: $40 million over 5 years

     

    There really isn't much to dislike about George Hill. While his shooting percentages could increase, all shots he takes come within the flow of the game. Furthermore, Hill is a point guard who, on an average of 25.5 minutes, averaged just 1.0 turnovers per game.

    Finding a reason to go against the Indiana Pacers re-signing Hill could be difficult. It might be of parallel ease to poke holes in a five-year, $40 million contract that is going to a player who has had his career defined by promise and solid but not spectacular play.

    Cut that money in half and we might have a more sensible decision.

    There is a great chance that George Hill plays up to the level his money suggests. As the season progressed, so did Hill's abilities and comfort within Frank Vogel's system. With a more defined offensive attack, he could potentially maximize those abilities.

    Unfortunately, there is an equal chance that Hill remains who he has been for the remainder of his career: a solid player whose effort goes unquestioned and whose production will inspire confidence but not awe.

    A great player to have on your roster, but not one worth $40 million.

     

    2012 Season Averages

    15.77 PER, 9.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.8 SPG

Jason Kidd, New York Knicks

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 39

    Contract Details: $9.09 million over 3 years

     

    The money isn't the issue here, as a $3 million deal for a player of Jason Kidd's reputation should be expected. The fact that the 39-year-old received a three-year deal, however, causes one to scratch their head and simply ask, "Why?"

    Unlike Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash, Jason Kidd is no longer what he once was. In fact, Kidd has been on a steep decline over the past two seasons. Dropping from 9.1 assists per game in 2010 to 5.5 per game in 2012 are statistical examples.

    The fact that Kidd simply hasn't been able to keep up with the wave of athletic point guards now ruling the NBA is a more significant reason to note.

    Now, Jason Kidd's game will be under the most powerful magnifying lens in the world: that of the New York media. This is not just for a one-year gig, either.

    The New York Knicks did sign Jason Kidd on for three years. That means that should Kidd continue to digress, the New York Knicks would be stuck with him under contract unless he opted to retire (something Jason Kidd failed to do once he won a ring in Dallas).

    Why would he back out of $6 million between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 NBA seasons?

    He likely wouldn't. The New York Knicks may have dug themselves too deep a hole.

     

    2012 Season Averages

    6.2 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 36.3% FG

Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 24

    Contract Details: $25.1 million over 3 years

     

    Regardless of what your opinion is of Jeremy Lin, there are two facts that one simply cannot debate. For one, the kid can flat-out ball and produces at an incredible level for a player of his age.

    We also cannot debate how giant of a commitment the Houston Rockets made to a player with just 35 games played during his breakout season, which ended with Lin suffering a severe knee injury.

    Oh, and was it mentioned that the third year of his deal is worth $14.89 million? Of all point guards currently under contract, only Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Derrick Rose made more money in 2012.

    Should Jeremy Lin prove capable of performing at the Linsanity level for years to come, very few will question this deal. Should Jeremy Lin perform as anything less than a superstar, however, he will find nothing but more criticism as his career progresses.

    Lin will also be a thorn in the side of the Houston Rockets payroll. Call it what you'd like, but a player who doesn't perform as his contract would suggest can be classified as nothing but a bust.

    Even if the Houston Rockets are satisfied with his play, one has to imagine that the $14 million was offered for a reason. The Rockets expect Jeremy Lin to lead them through the postseason in 2014-15, and that just can't be guaranteed.

     

    2012 Season Averages

    19.97 PER, 26.9 MPG, 14.6 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.6 SPG

Andre Miller, Denver Nuggets

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 36

    Contract Details: $14.625 million over 3 years

     

    There are very few holes to punch in the logic behind the Denver Nuggets' decision to re-sign Andre Miller. He's a phenomenal game-manager, a consistent facilitator and one of the best point guards in the league in terms of maximizing the ability of a big man.

    JaVale McGee's progression in 2011-12 is further evidence on a track record that includes the development of LaMarcus Aldridge and solid production from the offensively challenged Samuel Dalembert.

    To put it simply, this was a brilliant move by the Denver Nuggets—until it's realized that this is a three-year deal and Miller is already 36 years old.

    What's more important is the Nuggets might have just significantly stunted the individual growth of franchise point guard Ty Lawson. While a balanced offensive attack with two floor generals is hard to define as an issue, Lawson has taken giant leaps toward superstardom.

    With a player he must battle for playing time remaining on the roster, Lawson could find it difficult to truly "find his groove." While the Denver Nuggets are undeniably a better team with two borderline elite point guards, one has to question whether or not Ty Lawson could take them to an elite status on his own.

    Over the next three years, we may never find the answer to that question. We may also find the impetus for Lawson's potential departure via free agency.

     

    2012 Season Averages

    14.84 PER, 9.7 PPG, 6.7 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG