Predicting Biggest Busts of 2013 NBA Free Agency

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIIMay 29, 2013

Predicting Biggest Busts of 2013 NBA Free Agency

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    A number of valuable free agents will become available to NBA teams with cap space this summer, but league GMs need to be wary of potential busts during the free-agency period.

    There were a variety of signings in 2012 that worked out tremendously for certain teams. For instance, Ryan Anderson (New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans), Omer Asik (Houston Rockets) and Matt Barnes/Jamal Crawford (Los Angeles Clippers) all contributed in big ways after signing their new deals.

    Clearly there were teams that succeeded in the offseason.

    But the other side of the coin was also well represented.

    Gerald Wallace had a putrid season after re-signing with the Brooklyn Nets, Jason Terry struggled in his first season in Boston and Michael Beasley was an absolute cancer for the Phoenix Suns after signing a three-year deal. Those names fail to include free-agent signings that sputtered due to injuries like Steve Nash and Eric Gordon.

    Even Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert failed to justify a max contract for four months before turning it on in March, April and the postseason.

    As is often the case, NBA free agency provided a variety successes and failures in 2012. The offseason in 2013 will likely see more of the same.

    Hindsight is 20/20, but what players should NBA GMs look to avoid in 2013?

6. Tyler Hansbrough

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    Considering that NBA general managers know what they’re getting from Tyler Hansbrough—energy, hustle and some scoring/rebounding abilities—he doesn’t have much bust potential.

    Nonetheless, “Psycho T” should receive plenty of attention this summer after a successful playing stint in March.

    With David West sidelined due to injury from March 18 to 27, Hansbrough took over as the starter. During that six-game span, Hansbrough delivered with four double-doubles (including a 22-point, 12-rebound effort in a blowout win against the Milwaukee Bucks).

    Although Hansbrough’s time replacing West in the starting lineup led to individual success, the sample size is far too small.

    Could Hansbrough continue that success with a bigger role elsewhere? Possibly.

    Would he be able to do so after notching a career-low 16.9 minutes per game this season? Probably not.

    The North Carolina product does bring solid interior scoring and rebounding to his ball club, but his poor production in other categories is alarming.

    Over the course of a four-year NBA career, Hansbrough has averaged 0.5 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.2 blocks per game. He rarely (if ever) looks for teammates to pass the ball to, and his defensive impact is negligible at best.

    If your favorite team is signing Hansbrough as a role player, so be it. If they’re bringing him in to play a bigger role based on his success in March, expect disappointment.

5. Mo Williams

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    Mo Williams didn’t have a terrible season for the Utah Jazz during the 2012-13 campaign. Nonetheless, the veteran point guard played just 46 regular-season games due to injuries.

    An injury to his right thumb, which required surgery, kept Williams sidelined for nearly half the season. Even though he was taking over for the woeful point guard trio of Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley and Alec Burks, Williams’ return wasn’t enough for the Jazz to hold its Western Conference playoff spot.

    After returning to the court, Williams shot just 41.8 percent from the field. He also saw his assist numbers decline from earlier in the season.

    One could argue that Williams will be poised to have a big year now that he’s healthy. However, his points per game have been on a yearly downslope since 2008-09 (when he averaged 17.8 points per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers).

    There aren’t many NBA teams in need of a point guard this summer, but those who do would be wise to avoid Williams.

4. Gerald Henderson

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    As Bill Simmons of likes to say, “Good Stats/Bad Team alert!”

    There’s no denying Gerald Henderson’s offensive maturation after four seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats. His points per game have improved in every season:

    Year 1: 2.6 points per game

    Year 2: 9.6 points per game

    Year 3: 15.1 points per game

    Year 4: 15.5 points per game

    Henderson also shot a career-high 33 percent from three-point range and a career-high 82.4 from the free-throw line this season, while lowering his turnovers to 1.6 per game.

    Having noted all of the evident positives, Henderson isn’t a guy who will provide a team with much other than scoring. He recorded a career-high 2.6 assists per game this season, saw his rebounds dip to 3.7 per game and nabbed one steal per contest.

    His offensive improvement from year-to-year is the key positive, but Henderson has never missed fewer than 11 games in a season, so health is another concern.

    Henderson has been able to thrive in a system that features him as one of the marquee scorers on a bad team. There’s no guarantee that he’d find continued success in a different situation.

3. Earl Clark

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    Frankly, there’s a reason why Earl Clark has played for three NBA teams during his four-year career and why he may be poised to move yet again.

    Clark did provide a reeling Los Angeles Lakers team with a nice midseason spark. His play even prompted head coach Mike D’Antoni to coin the term “Earlsanity,” per Beto Duran of ESPN via Twitter.

    But even Clark’s best month of the season wasn’t overwhelming.

    After notching just 36 total minutes from October through December, Clark’s court time increased in January and peaked the following month. In February, Clark averaged 33.5 minutes per game, by far the most minutes he’d played in any month prior in his career. Despite the ample court time, though, Clark posted relatively pedestrian numbers.

    The swingman out of Louisville averaged 10.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in those 33.5 minutes, while also averaging more turnovers than assists. His 45.4 percent shooting from the field was nice; his 21.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc was not.

    Clark’s minutes continued to dwindle when Pau Gasol returned from injury. By April, he was averaging 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

    He certainly didn’t help his stock in the playoffs either. In 20.3 minutes per game over the course of a four-game sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, Clark averaged 3.5 points, three rebounds and 1.5 turnovers per game. He also shot a lowly 36.8 percent from the field while missing all four of his three-pointers.

    Let’s just say that Clark shouldn’t receive a big payday based on one decent month of production.

2. Andrew Bynum

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    It’s difficult to blame the Philadelphia 76ers for going after a guy who was widely viewed as the second-best center in the NBA.

    With hindsight, however, I think it’s safe to say the Sixers would take a mulligan.

    Not only did Andrew Bynum fail to play a single minute in Philadelphia, but Sixers fans also had to endure a meteoric rise from Nikola Vucevic in Orlando while Andre Iguodala continued his usual all-around consistency in Denver.

    If Philly experienced breakout seasons from Jrue Holiday and Vucevic while still having the veteran leadership of Iguodala, it probably would have made the playoffs in 2013.

    As it stands, Bynum is a free agent and the Sixers are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    If they let the big man walk in free agency, Philly will essentially have given up Iguodala, Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a protected first-round pick for nothing in return. Should the Sixers re-sign Bynum to a hefty contract, they’re risking the future on an injury-prone center with maturity issues.

    Of course, Philly isn’t alone. For any NBA team that wants Bynum’s services (hoping he can return to form and stay healthy), there are huge risks involved.

    Signing him to a non-guaranteed contract is the most logical option, but the bust potential is there regardless.

1. Paul Millsap

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    As one of the hotter commodities in the 2013 free-agent pool, Paul Millsap likely wasn’t a name you were expecting. However, I’ve concocted a theory behind Millsap’s bust potential that makes sense (at least in my mind).

    Since Millsap came into the league in 2006-07, he’s had the luxury of playing beside tremendously talented frountcourt players.

    From 2006 through 2010, Millsap played behind Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. Boozer averaged a double-double in all four seasons, while Okur averaged at least 13.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game during those four years.

    From 2010 through 2013, Millsap has played alongside Al Jefferson, who is one of the most underrated post players in the NBA today. Big Al has averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during his three years in Utah.

    In other words, Millsap has never experienced the pressure of being the go-to guy in the post on his own team. Because teams have had to focus on Boozer, Jefferson and Okur, Millsap has been able to fly under the radar and put up respectable stats.

    Quietly being the second-best interior talent on the Utah Jazz has been Millsap’s modus operandi for quite some time. As a result, he’s never averaged more than 8.8 rebounds per game in a season.

    Moreover, his points-per-game average has been on a yearly decline since he averaged 17.3 in 2011. Millsap has also shot below 50 percent from the field for two straight seasons after eclipsing 50 percent shooting for five straight years at the start of his career.

    To be clear, I believe Millsap will thrive if he finds a similar situation to Utah (i.e. joining the Atlanta Hawks to play beside Al Horford in the post).

    If he signs for big money in a situation where he’s the go-to guy in the post who is susceptible to double-teams, there’s a good chance he’ll struggle to justify a hefty contract.