The Top 25 Free-Agent Signings: Were They Worth It?

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

The Top 25 Free-Agent Signings: Were They Worth It?

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    Whenever an NBA team signs a player to a lengthy, multimillion-dollar contract, they automatically hope that the new acquisition will live up to the billing and make the investment look like a good one. Unfortunately, though, that's not always the case. 

    Deron Williams was the headliner in the 2012 free-agent class, but he's just one of the top 25 free-agent signings we'll be looking at here.

    These aren't the 25 best free agents from the class, but rather the 25 players who signed the contracts worth the most over the entirety of their lengths.

    If teams had the benefit of hindsight, none of these contracts would have looked the same. Some players turned into huge bargains, while others are already giving their squads a frightful dose of buyer's remorse. 

     

    Note: All stats are current through Saturday, Jan. 5, and contract information was provided by Spotrac.com.

25. Michael Beasley, Phoenix Suns

1 of 25

    Contract: Three years, $18,000,000

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.4 steals

     

    Unless Michael Beasley was playing for free, he'd be making too much money based on his play during the first half of the 2012-13 season. 

    There's no point in sugarcoating it: Beasley would be an unquestioned front-runner for Least Valuable Player if such an award existed. 

    His 37.3 percent shooting from the field is absolutely putrid, and it's especially problematic for a player whose sole contributions come from the offensive end of the court. 

    According to Basketball-Reference.com, Beasley has actually racked up negative win shares for the Suns. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

24. Landry Fields, Toronto Raptors

2 of 25

    Contract: Three years, $18,750,000

    Position: SG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 3.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.4 steals

     

    Landry Fields still has plenty of time to make good on his exorbitant contract with the Toronto Raptors, but he hasn't lived up to the monetary value at this point. 

    Limited by elbow surgery and a glut of swingmen on the Toronto roster, Fields hasn't found his shot yet for his new team. While his rebounding skills continue to make his height look like a misprint, the former New York Knick simply hasn't made much of an impact when he's not crashing the boards. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

23. Brandon Bass, Boston Celtics

3 of 25

    Contract: Three years, $19,350,000

    Position: PF

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 8.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.7 steals

     

    Minute limitations and some cold shooting have kept Brandon Bass from truly living up to his contract during the first half of the 2012-13 season, but he's not tremendously overpaid by any stretch of the imagination. 

    Even when he isn't putting up big numbers, Bass still manages to spread the court with his deadly mid-range shooting. The 27-year-old power forward has made 45 percent of his shots from 16 to 23 feet from the basket (via Hoopdata.com), although he's struggled far more than normal from 10 to 15 feet. 

    Once his numbers start climbing up to the typical 44 percent he's customarily knocked down from that range, Bass will start to look significantly more valuable. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

22. Andrei Kirilenko, Minnesota Timberwolves

4 of 25

    Contract: Two years, $19,998,769

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.5 steals

     

    If you're looking for the biggest bargain of the offseason, you might as well just focus on Andrei Kirilenko and stop looking at the rest of the contracts signed throughout the Association. 

    Easily the most valuable player on the Minnesota Timberwolves thus far, AK47 has been one of those rare players whose value truly exceeds the numbers he produces in the box score. 

    The longtime member of the Utah Jazz returned to the NBA with a vengeance, providing suffocating defenses at a number of positions while remaining a steady and versatile offensive option. Quite frankly, I considered listing his position above as follows: "SF/PF on offense, PG/SG/SF/PF/C on defense." 

     

    Verdict: Worth it

20. Courtney Lee, Boston Celtics (Tie)

5 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $21,350,000

    Position: SG

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 6.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.9 steals

     

    Courtney Lee has been struggling to fill his role on the Boston Celtics, and things aren't going to get better any time soon. With Avery Bradley returning from his shoulder surgeries and resuming his stellar perimeter defense, Lee's minutes are only going to decrease. 

    Seeing as he's only played 23.6 minutes per contest already, that's not a good thing for a guy owed—on average—just over $5 million per year. 

    Unless Lee's three-point shooting suddenly picks up and his 32 percent clip from downtown becomes a part of the past and not something that continues into the future, this shooting guard is soon going to become fairly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

20. Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers (Tie)

6 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $21,350,000

    Position: PG/SG

    Age: 32

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.1 steals

     

    It's kind of hard to believe now that Jamal Crawford and Courtney Lee signed contracts with identical lengths and values before the start of the 2012-13 season. 

    While Lee has struggled and spent a lot of time on the Boston Celtics bench, Crawford has been one of the biggest reasons for the Los Angeles Clippers' overwhelming success. With his 16.5 points per game and sickening handles, the combo guard has emerged as one of the leading candidates for Sixth Man of the Year. 

    The bench mob in L.A. has been absolutely crucial to the Clippers' emergence as a Western Conference power, and Crawford has been at the forefront of that charge. 

     

    Verdict: Worth it

19. Kris Humphries, Brooklyn Nets

7 of 25

    Contract: Two years, $24,000,000

    Position: PF

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 7.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.3 steals

     

    Even before injuries knocked him out of the Brooklyn Nets lineup for an extended period of time, Kris Humphries was seeing his playing time start to decline. 

    This could have been a solid contract for an above-average role player, but Humphries hasn't even been that during the 2012-13 season. A solid rebounder in limited action, the big man's offense has lagged behind his typical production, forcing the Nets brass to leave him on the bench more and more. 

    With Brook Lopez playing well, Reggie Evans providing valuable work on the boards, Andray Blatche regaining his offensive prowess and Mirza Teletovic starting to play better, it's hard to imagine Humphries ever living up to his contract. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

17. Omer Asik, Houston Rockets (Tie)

8 of 25

    Contract: Three years, $25,123,938

    Position: C

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.6 steals

     

    Omer Asik isn't much of an offensive option, and his 55.6 percent shooting from the charity stripe makes him a bit of a liability down the stretch in close games. 

    However, his defensive presence and work on the glass make him an unmitigated success. Asik has been worth every penny of his contract, and his relatively low age affords him plenty of time to continue improving. 

    A strong candidate for Most Improved Player, Asik has been a key part during the Houston Rockets' surprising 20-14 start to the 2012-13 campaign. 

     

    Verdict: Worth it

17. Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets (Tie)

9 of 25

    Contract: Three years, $25,123,938

    Position: PG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.9 steals

     

    Jeremy Lin is still trying to figure things out with the Houston Rockets. 

    He's played much better alongside James Harden as the season has progressed, but the dynamic between the two starting members of the backcourt has still been strained as each prefers to dominate the ball. 

    Still, Lin is coming closer to playing like the point guard Daryl Morey was trying to sign. His December splits show marked improvement over his start to the season: 13.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game on 48.9 percent shooting. 

    Looking at his play as a whole during his first season in Houston, Lin hasn't yet lived up to an average of more than $8 million per year, but he's starting to draw closer. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

16. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers

10 of 25

    Contract: Three years, $27,901,500

    Position: PG

    Age: 38

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.8 steals

     

    Steve Nash is going to be viewed as somewhat of a savior for the Los Angeles Lakers if the team rebounds from its poor start to the season and makes the playoffs. Even if he's not the driving force behind such a turnaround, the point guard will still play a major role. 

    A fractured leg kept the longtime member of the Phoenix Suns from making a big impact right off the bat, but he's been solid as he plays his way back into shape. Most importantly for the Lakers, though, Nash isn't Chris Duhon, Steve Blake or Darius Morris. 

    For now, I'm going to say that Nash has been worth his contract because he gives the Lakers a legitimate and sorely needed threat at 1-guard, but the answer is going to become more and more clear as the season progresses. 

     

    Verdict: Worth it

15. Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns

11 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $30,000,000

    Position: PG

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.6 steals

     

    Goran Dragic has disappointed fantasy owners who expected him to fill in for Steve Nash and run a high-tempo offense that would lead to tons of points and assists, but he has performed admirably to those that went into the 2012-13 season with more realistic expectations.

    It's already quite clear that Dragic was no flash in the pan. As good as he was while filling in for Kyle Lowry on the Houston Rockets, he's been that good for the Phoenix Suns, averaging career highs in every major per-game category while lowering his amount of turnovers.

    Phoenix might be enduring a difficult campaign, but the fault can't rest on the shoulders of the 26-year-old floor general. 

     

    Verdict: Worth it

14. Jason Thompson, Sacramento Kings

12 of 25

    Contract: Five years, $30,187,500

    Position: PF

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.5 steals

     

    The 2012-13 season has seen Jason Thompson emerge as one of the league's most underrated players. Even though his name carries little to no recognition among the sport's more casual fans, Thompson has been a consistent presence in Sacramento's frontcourt. 

    Each and every night, Thompson is a threat to put up a double-double, and his offense has only been improving as the season has progressed. While this is admittedly a small sample size, he's averaged 16 points per game since the calendars flipped over to 2013. 

     

    Verdict: Worth it

13. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

13 of 25

    Contract: Three years, $30,361,446

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 36

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.5 blocks, 0.9 steals

     

    If sentiment were included in the equation here, Tim Duncan would be worth quite a bit more than $10 million per year. After all, it's impossible to picture the greatest power forward of all time in any uniform besides the San Antonio Spurs' version that he's donned for so many years. 

    Even if you only look at the numbers, Duncan has undoubtedly lived up to his contract. 

    Spitting in the face of Father Time, the big man has been a constant double-double threat while providing tremendous play on both ends of the court. His 25.55 PER is one of the best marks in the NBA as well. 

    Is it time to start checking the validity of this guy's birth certificate?

     

    Verdict: Worth it

12. Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Hornets

14 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $34,000,000

    Position: PF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.5 steals

     

    When Ryan Anderson was sent to the New Orleans Hornets in a sign-and-trade deal with the Orlando Magic, not everyone believed that the three-point marksman could keep up his level of play. 

    After all, the stretch 4 no longer had the protection of Dwight Howard in the middle of the paint, ensuring that he'd face more pressure from defenders trying to close out as he took aim at the bottom of the net. 

    Yeah, so much for that. 

    Anderson has been fantastic during his first season with the Hornets, averaging 17.8 points per game while shooting over 40 percent from downtown and posting a plus-20 PER. 

     

    Verdict: Worth it

11. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics

15 of 25

    Contract: Three years, $36,010,000

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 36

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.0 steals

     

    Kevin Garnett might not be defying old age to the same extent that Tim Duncan is over in San Antonio, but he's still looking far more spry than a physical 36-year-old power forward/center should. 

    The big man's game is shifting further and further from the basket as his career progresses, but that jumper from outside the paint is absolutely ridiculous. If you don't get up in his face, Garnett is going to make you pay. 

    Although his defense hasn't been quite as impressive as it was during the prime of his incredible career, he's still been quite good on that end of the court as well. 

     

    Verdict: Worth it

10. Jeff Green, Boston Celtics

16 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $36,240,000

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.7 steals

     

    Jeff Green makes it four Boston Celtics to appear in this article, but the news continues to be negative in Beantown—with Kevin Garnett serving as the lone positive result. 

    The combo-forward's athleticism and offensive skill set made him an intriguing option for Boston, a team in desperate need of some youthful exuberance. He was supposed to become a dangerous transition threat alongside Rajon Rondo. 

    Unfortunately for the C's, though, the key word in that sentence was "supposed." 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

8. George Hill, Indiana Pacers (Tie)

17 of 25

    Contract: Five years, $40,000,000

    Position: PG

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.0 steals

     

    The Indiana Pacers knew what they were doing when they decided to hand the starting point guard job to George Hill before the start of the 2012 postseason and re-sign him to a five-year deal during the offseason. 

    Hill might not be a big name among NBA fans yet, but he's the real deal. A great rebounding and defensive point guard—Hill is only allowing opposing point guards to post a 12.7 PER against him, according to 82games.com—the former IUPUI standout's offensive game is continuing to grow.

    As long as he continues to minimize his turnovers, Hill is a point guard worth keeping around. 

     

    Verdict: Worth it

8. Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks (Tie)

18 of 25

    Contract: Five years, $40,000,000

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 25

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.6 steals

     

    Signing Ersan Ilyasova to a five-year deal worth $40 million has been an unmitigated disaster for the Milwaukee Bucks, at least if we can believe the early returns. 

    Simply put, Ilyasova doesn't look like the guy who broke out during the 2011-12 season, averaging 13 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while even recording 29 points and 25 rebounds in the same game. After signing his gaudy new contract, Ilaysova's single-game highs during the 2012-13 season have been 24 points and 14 rebounds. 

    Those performances most assuredly did not come in the same game, as the forward has only recorded three double-doubles in 30 games played. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

7. Gerald Wallace, Brooklyn Nets

19 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $40,000,030

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.5 steals

     

    Gerald Wallace does a lot of little things well for the Brooklyn Nets, but he hasn't been the All-Star-level player that he was before joining the squad. 

    Crash just hasn't looked too comfortable, particularly when shooting the ball. His 42.4 percent shooting from the field is easily the worst mark of the post-Sacramento portion of his career and continues the unsettling trend that began when he joined the New Jersey Nets during the 2011-12 season. 

    Although he's still a valuable player, he's not playing like a guy worth eight figures each year. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

6. JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets

20 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $44,000,000

    Position: C

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 2.0 blocks, 0.3 steals

     

    JaVale McGee was simply too talented for the Denver Nuggets to let him walk, even if he's still inexplicably stuck behind Kosta Koufos on the depth chart. 

    It's hard to say that the lanky seven-footer has been worth an average of $11 million per year over the span of four seasons because he's only played for 19 minutes per contest during his first full year in the Mile High City. Then again, it's also tough to say that he hasn't been worth it because he's been so good on the court. 

    McGee has been efficient on offense and effective on defense, posting a team-high PER of 22.1 thus far. Note that this is a hesitant designation, but...

     

    Verdict: Worth it 

5. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers

21 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $45,000,000

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.5 steals

     

    In the interest of full disclosure, I'll go ahead and admit that I was not a fan of this signing when it happened. I thought the Portland Trail Blazers should have let Nicolas Batum go, rather than bring back the forward that was so full of unrealized potential. 

    I was wrong. 

    Batum has contributed in every way possible for the Blazers during the 2012-13 campaign, even posting a rare five-by-five that essentially summed up his ability to contribute across the board. LaMarcus Aldridge is still the best player in Portland, but that's no longer true each and every night. 

     

    Verdict: Worth it 

4. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

22 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $58,365,563

    Position: C

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.7 blocks, 0.6 steals

     

    When the Indiana Pacers gave Roy Hibbert a max contract for four years, they probably assumed that he would be able to capably throw a basketball into a giant Hula-Hoop set up 10 feet above the ground. By the looks of it during the 2012-13 season, that's not so easy for the big man. 

    Now, just imagine how hard it is for him to actually get the basketball through a regulation-sized rim. 

    Hibbert is providing the Pacers with some solid defense, but his 40.6 percent shooting is just beyond awful. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

3. Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets

23 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $58,365,583

    Position: SG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.3 points, 1.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.3 steals

     

    One number stands out above all others when it comes to Eric Gordon's tenure with the New Orleans Hornets: three. 

    Of the first 33 games of the 2012-13 season, Gordon has only suited up in three of them. His knee injury kept him sidelined until Dec. 29, when he debuted in style against the Charlotte Bobcats by scoring 24 points in 25 minutes and added seven assists in the close victory. 

    Gordon is an ultra-talented shooting guard capable of becoming one of the absolute best players at his position, but the Hornets aren't paying him to wear street clothes. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it

2. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

24 of 25

    Contract: Four years, $61,000,000

    Position: C

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 2.3 blocks, 0.6 steals

     

    Brook Lopez still isn't a great defender or rebounder, but it's tough to argue with what he does on the offensive end of the court. That in itself is so stellar that he's been worth the big contract given to him by the Brooklyn Nets. 

    With his 25.92 PER, Lopez has nearly averaged 20 points per game while shooting a sensational 52.3 percent from the field. 

    I'd still like to see this seven-footer play a little more physically when he's not shooting the ball, but it's hard to call his latest campaign anything but a success. 

     

    Verdict: Worth it

1. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

25 of 25

    Contract: Five years, $98,772,325

    Position: PG

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.1 steals

     

    Deron Williams simply hasn't been the elite point guard that he's been in the past. Really, that lack of elite-ness has dated back to when he first joined the team, then called the New Jersey Nets. 

    A shift in locale to Brooklyn hasn't changed much. 

    D-Will remains one of the better point guards in the league, but it's increasingly difficult to make any sort of argument claiming that he belongs in the same class as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and the true elites. 

    If he ever breaks out of his prolonged shooting slump, that will be the first step toward justifying this massive amount of money owed to him by Mikhail Prokhorov and the rest of the organization. 

     

    Verdict: Not worth it