Predicting the Biggest Steals and Busts of 2012 NBA Free Agency

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterOctober 19, 2012

Predicting the Biggest Steals and Busts of 2012 NBA Free Agency

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    With the 2012-2013 NBA season drawing ever closer, it's time to take a look back at what the offseason brought us.

    While the trade market saw stars like Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Andre Iguodala switch teams, it's always free agency that seems to generate the most buzz.

    With so many players switching cities and teams, which franchises made out, and which ones will soon regret their offseason signing?

    Here are the five biggest free-agent steals and busts from the 2012 summer signings.

Bust No. 5: Jason Kidd, New York Knicks

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    Contract Info: Three years, $9.1 million

    Age: 39

    Position: PG

    2011-2012 Stats: 6.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.5 APG, .363 FG%

    Did anyone give New York the memo that Kidd is a few months away from turning 40?

    A three-year deal? Seriously?

    We're not talking a Steve Nash-like late thirties either, as Kidd is in nowhere near the physical shape his point-guard counterpart is.

    Averaging a career-worst 6.2 points on 36.3 percent shooting last season, it seemed Father Time was creeping up on the former All-Star point guard, with retirement being a very likely option in the offseason.

    The Knicks had other plans, however, and they seem to think they can squeeze three more productive seasons out of Kidd despite his poor play the past few seasons.

    By 2015-2016, the Knicks will be stuck with a $3 million-plus assistant coach and cheerleader, wishing maybe they would have saved the money for that Lin guy instead.

Steal No. 5: Grant Hill, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Contract Info: Two years, $3.8 million

    Age: 40

    Position: SF

    2011-2012 Stats: 10.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, .446 FG%

    Unlike Kidd, Hill is still playing at a fairly high level despite turning 40 earlier this month.

    With someone of his skill set, experience and leadership qualities, getting Hill for slightly over a minimum contract is an absolute steal.

    The Clippers added a lot more than a player. They added a winner and leader who will help them create the winning atmosphere that's crucial to them taking the next step in the Western Conference.

    Hill's influence on the Clippers will go beyond the court, and L.A. will be a better team inside and out because of him.

Bust No. 4: Landry Fields, Toronto Raptors

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    Contract Info: Three years, $18 million

    Age: 23

    Position: SG

    2011-2012 Stats:  8.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, .460 FG%

    When Fields turns into a bust in Toronto, it won't be entirely his fault.

    The Raptors mysteriously signed Fields this offseason despite what already seemed to be a solid wing position with DeMar DeRozan and the newly drafted Terrence Ross occupying the spot.

    Because of this, playing time may be sporadic, and Fields may not have the chance he needs to succeed. A solid role player with New York the past few seasons, the Raptors overpaid for Fields so much that even the Knicks refused to match.

    Free agents who've crossed the border haven't exactly thrived in Toronto in the past, and Fields should prove to be no different.

Steal No. 4: Antawn Jamison, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Contract Info: One year, $1.3 million

    Age: 36

    Position: PF

    2011-2012 Stats: 17.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, .403 FG%

    Not often will you see a 17-points-per-game scorer sign a minimum deal, so the value of Jamison's deal with the Lakers is extremely high.

    Playing on a Cavaliers team in need of scoring, Jamison's numbers were certainly inflated, but the 36-year-old is still in fantastic shape and can fill a number of roles for a team.

    Expect a rejuvenated, eager-to-win Jamison to fit in greatly with a veteran locker room. He could have landed more money playing for the Charlotte Bobcats, but he instead chose to sign one of the best value deals of the offseason for a chance at a ring with L.A.

Bust No. 3: Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic

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    Contract Info: Three years, $24 million

    Age: 30

    Position: PG

    2011-2012 Stats: 11.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 5.7 APG, .427 FG%

    Nelson has shown us everything he has to offer on the basketball court, and the next person to be blown away by his skills will be the first.

    Instead of happily watching the 30-year-old's expiring contract come off their books, for whatever reason, the rebuilding Magic decided to bring Nelson back.

    Nelson will now be making more money than fellow point guards Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving, John Wall and Ty Lawson in 2012-2013.

    For someone who's been amazingly average for his entire career, it's hard to imagine what Orlando was thinking re-signing Nelson instead of trying to acquire a young point guard to build around for the next time the Magic are ready to contend.

    Not only is Nelson overpaid, he's a completely wrong fit in Orlando and will be a bust until they decide to do what they should have done last summer and agree to part ways.

Steal No. 3: O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks

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    Contract Info: Two years, $8.5 million

    Age: 24

    Position: SG

    2011-2012 Stats: 12.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, .408 FG%

    Dallas had a disappointing beginning to free agency, but it ended with a bang by adding Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Mayo.

    There just wasn't enough ball to go around in Memphis, as Mayo fell into a sixth-man role with the likes of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol all getting bigger minutes and bigger money from the team.

    In Dallas, Mayo should feel the freedom of being a starter once again. He could very well be the No. 2 scoring option on the team.

    Look for Mayo to have a career year and possibly average more points per game than Eric Gordon, who stands to make $10 million more than Mayo this year.

Bust No. 2: Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Contract Info: Four years, $45 million

    Age: 23

    Position: SF

    2011-2012 Stats: 13.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, .451 FG%

    Batum made a name for himself at this year's Olympics—and for the way he blatantly said he didn't want to return to the Trail Blazers in 2012-2013.

    Despite his efforts to leave Portland for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Batum finds himself back with the only team he's ever known. A lanky, athletic, defensive-minded player, Batum has put up very average statistics in his four professional seasons.

    Despite his minutes jumping from 27.8 to 33.4 per game from the first half of the season to the second, his scoring remained the same while his field-goal and three-point percentages dropped.

    The Blazers were forced to overpay to keep Batum in Portland, where he doesn't even really want to play.

    An overpaid average player who's already upset heading into the season? Sounds like a bust waiting to happen.

Steal No. 2: Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Contract Info: Three years, $27 million

    Age: 38

    Position: PG

    2011-2012 Stats: 12.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 10.7 APG, .503 FG%

    Nash left $9 million on the table when he agreed to a sign-and-trade with the Lakers instead of signing with the Toronto Raptors.

    Still one of the best passers in the game, his ability to improve the players around him is something the Lakers desperately need.

    Adding Nash for less than half of what the Lakers are paying Pau Gasol is truly a great deal. If he can help the Lakers extend their title window a few more years with Kobe, this already friendly deal will turn into pure gold for L.A.

Bust No. 1: Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

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    Contract Info: Four years, $60 million

    Age: 24

    Position: C

    2011-2012 Stats: 19.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, .494 FG%

    Lopez played a grand total of five games last season, but he was still rewarded with a $60 million max deal.

    Not bad for a guy who hasn't rebounded in three years.

    Lopez was a terrific player for the Nets in his first two seasons after being taken 10th overall in 2008 out of Stanford. Never missing a game in his first three seasons, Lopez looked to be the next dynamite center in the NBA.

    However, Lopez missed nearly all of last season with two separate foot injuries, including a broken bone in his right foot. Big men and foot injuries are never a good sign; ask Yao Ming, who after breaking a bone in his left foot in 2006 was never the same and eventually had to retire because of continuous nagging foot and ankle injuries.

    A max deal for a big man who is coming back from a foot injury and didn't rebound before? Lopez is sure to be a bust.

Steal No. 1: Ray Allen, Miami Heat

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    Contract Info: Two years, $6 million

    Age: 36

    Position: SG

    2011-2012 Stats: 14.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, .458 FG%

    The world champions grabbed the NBA's leader in career three-pointers made for roughly one-seventh of what the Orlando Magic are paying the amnestied Gilbert Arenas this season.

    Allen has come off the bench only eight times in 1,148 career regular-season games, but that's precisely what his role will be in Miami as a sharpshooter.

    Even though he won't start, look for the Heat to put out a smaller lineup more often this season with Allen, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, LeBron James and Chris Bosh on the court at the same time.

    The Heat not only won the crown for the 2011-2012 NBA season, but they also the award for best free-agent steal in landing Allen for only $3 million per year.