Oftentimes, it is impossible to judge the decisions of an NBA front office until the season is well under way. What looks like a brilliant move in June proves to be complete folly, and a risky gamble can be the catalyst for a surprisingly successful season.
Moves like the Los Angeles Lakers bringing in veteran superstar talent or the Philadelphia 76ers bringing in a quality big man looked great in theory before the 2012-13 season tipped off, but they have proved not only to be unsuccessful but detrimental to the success of the teams involved.
The campaign is a third of the way over and this is a perfect time to reflect on the front office decisions across the league that have not gone quite as planned. Here are the costliest decisions by NBA front offices so far in 2012-13.
All statistics accurate as of January 4, 2013.
Coming off of a season where he averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds on 55.8 percent shooting, the Philadelphia 76ers front office can hardly be blamed for making a move to grab Andrew Bynum. Bynum, when healthy, is quite possibly the league's best big man and a nightmare to handle in the paint.
The problem, of course, has been that Bynum has not been healthy. He has yet to suit up in 2012-13, and without his low-post offense, this team has seriously struggled to score, ranking 26th in the league with 93.1 points per game.
Bynum's knees have been an issue for nearly his entire career, making it a very risky move to build around him. 2011-12 was the first year he was consistently healthy in a season since 2006-07, his sophomore campaign.
Philadelphia has some intriguing young talent, but they have been forced too often to rely on small ball, leaving them vulnerable against larger teams.
Trading for Bynum might prove to be brilliant in a few years, but his absence on the floor has seriously hurt Philadelphia.
Prior to the 2012 draft, Thomas Robinson was touted as one of the most NBA-ready prospects available. Needing immediate help, the Sacramento Kings took Robinson with the fifth overall selection.
Unfortunately, Robinson has not lived up to the preseason hype and has had to fight for minutes behind DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson. His season averages of 4.3 points and 3.8 rebounds on 41.5 percent shooting have been nothing to get excited about either.
What hurts the most for Sacramento, though, is the fact that they could have used the pick to draft either a small forward or point guard, two positions the team still needs to address.
Damian Lillard and Harrison Barnes were available when the Kings were on the clock, and both players have emerged as major contributors for their teams as rookies.
Lillard is a much better facilitator than any of the point guards on Sacramento's roster, who are really just undersized 2-guards. Barnes has not been a huge scorer, but his athleticism has been a great asset for Golden State and he is a solid rebounder and defender.
Robinson may well become a productive NBA player down the road, but he was not necessarily the right fit for a Sacramento team with plenty of other needs.
The Boston Celtics found success in the latter half of the 2011-12 season by moving Kevin Garnett to the center position full-time. Garnett was rejuvenated and the team road this smaller lineup all the way to an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Going into the 2012-13 season, the Celtics had an extremely frenzied free agency period, but opted not to sign a pure center to the roster. Instead, Boston re-signed forwards Jeff Green and Brandon Bass to lucrative deals while retaining Garnett as the team's primary option at the 5.
Players like Jared Sullinger and Chris Wilcox can log spot minutes at center, but they are not reliable options for heavy minutes and are slightly undersized.
Unfortunately, putting Garnett at center has not proved quite as successful this year. He is averaging just seven rebounds per game and cannot keep the league's dominant big men off the boards.
All season long, the Celtics have been absolutely manhandled on the glass, and their inability to control the glass is a huge reason for their rocky start.
Boston has the talent to turn their campaign around, but they could use a true banger inside to compliment Garnett.
Needing a player capable of creating his own offense in the wake of Steve Nash's departure, the Phoenix Suns took a risk by signing talented troublemaker Michael Beasley to a three-year, $18 million deal. The team's front office hoped that Beasley would be rejuvenated by a change of scenery and finally live up to his tremendous potential.
Unfortunately, Beasley has once again failed to live up to expectations. He is averaging 9.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, while shooting a paltry 37.2 percent from the floor and 31.5 percent from three-point territory.
Because of his inability to play consistent defense and his penchant for taking bad shots, Alvin Gentry has been forced to bench Beasley in the fourth quarter of close games, and he has seen his minutes fluctuate wildly as he has lost floor time to Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker because of their play on the defensive end of the floor.
Beasley's contract is not astronomical, but it is clearly a gamble that did not pay off. Beasley has not provided what the Suns hoped to get from him in the scoring department, and his ineptitude on defense has been even worse than anticipated.
After striking out on landing Deron Williams in free agency, the Dallas Mavericks decided to preserve cap flexibility for the future and build their team by bringing in players on one-year contracts.
The Mavs signed veteran big men Elton Brand and Chris Kaman to deals that expire in 2013 while trading for Darren Collison and inking O.J. Mayo to a deal with a player option for 2013-14.
This strategy is great for positioning a team to make a run in free agency in the future, but it has not translated into wins in the present, as the team stands at just 13-21.
Dirk Nowitzki's knee injury and missed time obviously hurt, but even with their superstar back, this team lacks the chemistry and defensive presence to be anything but an afterthought in the Western Conference.
Barring an unexpected late-season charge, Dallas appears poised to break their streak of 12 consecutive playoff appearances, and the organization only has itself to blame.
To add insult to injury, it should be nearly impossible for a veteran team coming off of a lottery season to lure in the kind of impact free agents the Mavs will most certainly be courting.
Dallas' goal was to build a playoff-caliber team while preserving financial flexibility, but it seems that they have only accomplished the latter while forsaking the former.
The Portland Trail Blazers have managed to claw their way into the postseason conversation on the backs of their strong starting unit, but their absolutely horrid bench has seriously hurt them at times.
The Blazers' focus in the offseason was on drafting wisely and re-signing budding star Nicolas Batum; as a result, the team did not put much emphasis on building a solid bench unit that could effectively spell the starters for stretches.
Portland's starters are all playing extremely well, but the team has a tremendous drop-off in production outside of their starting five. The team's leading scorer off the pine is rookie big man Meyers Leonard, who is notching a mere 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 16.6 minutes of work a night.
Not every team needs a superb sixth man, but because Terry Stotts cannot depend on his bench to play defense and put up consistent points, he is forced to play his starters for superhuman minutes every night.
To make matters worse, Portland's season would be absolutely ruined if one of their key players gets injured, as they have no one on the roster capable of stepping up and contributing in any kind of meaningful way.
The Trail Blazers are a very young team with some solid talent, but their potential success for the season is greatly lessened by their lack of depth.
On paper, few organizations have ever had a better offseason than the Los Angeles Lakers did in 2012. The additions of Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison and, of course, Dwight Howard were expected to make this team a title favorite, but that has simply not been the case thus far in 2012-13.
The glaring problem for Los Angeles is their lack of youth. This team is one of the oldest in the league, and that fact is painfully obvious on the defensive end of the floor, where their rotations are slow and they struggle mightily to hustle back in transition.
Dwight Howard has continued to be an impact player protecting the rim, but he does not look quite as comfortable running the floor as he did prior to back surgery.
The Western Conference is brimming with young, hyper-athletic teams, like the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder, that love to push the pace and attack on the fast break. The league, as a whole, is moving away from coveting big men to a small-ball era, and this exposes L.A.'s lack of young legs.
The Lakers may have more pure talent than any squad in the NBA, but because their roster is veteran-laden, they have not succeeded in a meaningful way at all.