2013 NBA Free Agents: Ranking the Top Potential Duds
The beauty of an NBA offseason often comes through the rose-colored glasses of general managers and fans.
Free agency can act as an instant fix for a long-standing problem, a missing piece for a contender, or a replacement for what’s been lost.
With any free agency period, hope is more often piloted by disillusionment. And when looking deep ahead to the 2013 NBA free agent class, there is a lineup of potential duds of which to be wary.
Oct. 20 conversation:
“I am so pumped we got [new guy].”
“Oh, I know. [New guy] is going to be so freaking good."
“I heard that [new guy] has been incredible in training camp and everyone thinks he is funny.”
“Yeah, [new guy] is going to be so much better than [old guy].”
“We are definitely going to the playoffs this year. I already bought [new guy’s] jersey.”
Six games in:
“Dude, [new guy] is having trouble adjusting to our system [that I don’t really understand but this sounds smart to say to my friend].”
“Don’t worry, [new guy] is a career slow-starter. He’ll get it going. He’s [new guy]!”
“[New guy] sucks.”
“I told you he would.”
“We should trade him for [future new guy].”
The overly hyped expectations in 2013 will fall on the shoulders of this starting lineup of potential duds representing the upcoming class of NBA free agents.
Guard: Devin Harris
Devis Harris will continue to make money off a successful early part of his career.
The 29-year-old is still living off a short-lived prime of his career, when he broke out as the guy worthy of replacing Jason Kidd to be the future leader of the New Jersey Nets. But after a career season with the Nets in 2008-09, averaging 21.3 points and 6.9 assists per game, Harris has been on a strict decline.
Harris was made team captain in New Jersey in 2009 after the trade of Vince Carter and the jinx began. He dealt with injuries that season, and missed 10 of the Nets’ 18 consecutive losses to start that season.
Harris was then traded again, sent with Derrick Favors and a package of picks and cash for Deron Williams. He put up reputable numbers in Utah, but no longer fits that all-star mold. This past July, Harris was traded for a third time, this instance to the Atlanta Hawks.
Harris will be paid $8.5 million this season before becoming a free agent this summer. There will be a team hungry for a point guard that will pay big cash for a guy whose reputation is larger than his career 13.1 points per game.
Guard: Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin could be one of the more deceiving players in upcoming free agency.
He’s another guard coming up on age 30 whose career numbers are already in decline. The one-dimensional player has seen his numbers dwindle since his career-high 24.6 points per game in 51 games in the 2008-09 season.
Martin has battled injuries throughout his career, playing more than 70 games just three times in his eight seasons.
Following the blockbuster James Harden deal, Martin now finds himself in great position with the Oklahoma City Thunder. As a third scoring option, Martin will benefit greatly as a scorer. Already in seven games, Martin is shooting above 50 percent and scoring 17.7 points per game.
But it’s not going to be a true representation of what the guard can truly offer. The $12.43 million deal this season will end, and Martin will be unrestricted this summer. A team will put too high a price on an above-average scorer who offers little more than jump shots and injuries.
Forward: Josh Smith
Josh Smith has not proven that he can consistently hit a jump shot; of course, he certainly doesn’t mind launching them.
Smith’s career scoring average of 15.1 points is best suited when the athletic tweener forward gets to the basket and scores inside. A double-double machine with valuable defense, no doubt, Smith’s career average is about what a team can expect going forward out of the 6’9” Hawks star.
But when a player can’t consistently find a jumper, the second part of his career usually declines statistically. Most of Smith’s strengths stem from his athleticism, but that is only going to begin to fade.
If a team spends big money on Smith this summer, it will end in disappointment. Smith is not a marquee player, and from this point on, the hype will only decline along with his overall numbers.
Forward: David West
Do not be fooled; David West is on the downside of his career.
At 32 years old, the former first-round pick is removed from the two-time all-star who played alongside Chris Paul in New Orleans. Despite a tremendous comeback last season after an ACL tear in March 2011, West will begin to show signs of slowing down.
He averaged less than 30 minutes per game last season for the first time since 2005, and scored just 12.8 points, also his lowest figures since 2005. Early this season, West averaged 16.7 points per game with increased minutes and a more developed role in Indiana. But the legs of a veteran are strongest in November.
West was given $10 million per year by a Pacers team that took a chance on a 30-year-old recovering from surgery. With any level of productivity this year that appears similar to his all-star seasons, West could wind up cashing in for even more money for the long haul.
But it will be a pricey mistake. Teams seeking size will pay a hefty cost for the 6’9” 250-pound power forward, but the reality is they will end up overpaying for a declining veteran who will ultimately give you roughly 12 to 14 points and seven rebounds per game—or simpler put, Byron Mullens-type numbers.
Center: Andrew Bynum
Some team in 2013 will mistakenly pay Andrew Bynum plenty of money to buy suits and sit on its sideline.
OK, maybe that’s dramatic.
Bynum leads the league in potential year after year, and his leash has always been long because of the grand optimism surrounding his talents. Whether it was consistent injuries, disappointing play or defiant attitude, the young seven-footer has never lived up to his true expectations.
The long leash is for good reason. After seven years with the Lakers, the center just turned 25 years old and is coming off his greatest season as a pro, one in which he averaged 18.7 points on 55 percent shooting and 11.8 rebounds.
Then there’s that nasty flip side. Bynum, paid $16.8 million this season, has rarely had a full, healthy season. He’s young, but his knees are bad, and he’s about to become a free agent.
There will absolutely be a team that spends as much cash as possible to bring Bynum in as a franchise player. The Orlando Magic didn’t want to take a chance on his knees, but the Philadelphia 76ers did.
Bynum has had his start date pushed back likely into January. He may put up 45 games worth of quality numbers before becoming a free agent and cashing in on a probable max deal.
The long-term probability of success is low for a big man with knee problems and any deal is liable to be a dud.
Who else is a potential free agent dud in 2013? Let @JimmyPSpencer know on Twitter.