NBA free agency is a fickle exercise. It is a game where, more often that not, partnerships that once seemed rosy end up in bitter divorce.
It's easy for teams to talk themselves into signing players. Especially good ones. There's a reason why "Player X" is commanding so much money, so why not add him to your roster and reap the benefits?
But signings of that ilk ignore basketball's nuances, and far too often we see great players join the wrong team for the wrong reasons. You'd think (and hope) history would teach them not to sign so myopically, but instead, history just finds a way to repeat itself.
Here are thee bad potential matches we could see next season:
Dwight Howard: Dallas Mavericks
Sources: Mavs, led by Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki, will meet with Dwight Howard Tuesday in LA— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) June 29, 2013
Far be it from me—on most occasions—to question the process of Mark Cuban. He's a visionary businessman who's proven, much to the consternation of stuffy and traditional suit-types, that he also knows how to assemble a basketball roster.
Cuban has those two identities sitting on his shoulders like a devil and an angel. They bicker into his ears, the businessman and personnel expert inside him, and occasionally tell him different ways to proceed. And in this particular case, the businessman is winning out.
Even as he's antagonized two cities in two years, Howard still remains one of basketball's most marketable stars. For a franchise like the Mavericks, a team that just missed the playoffs for the first time since forever, bringing in a beacon of hope like D12 would galvanize a waning fanbase. It would put tickets in hands and buttocks in seats.
But it wouldn't necessarily work on the court. Howard's now indisputable ego never computed in Los Angeles. He couldn't stand playing second banana to Kobe Bryant, a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer who has spent his entire career with the team. He couldn't bear the thought of not being the hometown fans' favorite player.
In Dallas, Howard would be playing next to Dirk Nowitzki, another first-ballot Hall-of-Famer who's spent his entire career with one team. And again, no matter what Howard does on the court, this will always be Dirk's team (at least for the time being), and not his.
Cuban might be trying to use Howard like a rich man's Tyson Chandler, who was a key part of the formula that helped them with the title three years ago. But unlike Tyson Chandler, Howard won't ever be content taking on that kind of role. He remembers the good old days when he was "the guy" in Orlando, and he desperately wants to recreate those glorious memories.
If he can hold out for Dirk to retire, then he could eventually become "the guy" for the Mavericks. But something tells me he would pout and whine his way out of Dallas long before that.
J.R. Smith: Milwaukee Bucks
The New York Post is reporting that Milwaukee, along with a few other non-contenders, have considered making an expensive run at J.R. Smith. Per the report:
The Knicks believe odds are they will retain J.R. Smith, but it hardly is a guarantee considering the bevy of under-the-cap clubs and a weak free-agent class. The Bucks, Pistons and Suns are contemplating throwing money Smith’s way.
With Monta Elllis' two feet already out the door, Milwaukee should have the money needed to lure J.R. Smith away from New York. Also, Ellis' absence opens up more-than-adequate minutes for J.R. Smith to play, which makes it, prima facie, seem like a pretty good match.
But it's not.
Replacing Ellis with Smith would be like running on a treadmill for Milwaukee. One is a high-scoring ball hog who can shoot you in or out of a game, and so is the other. Ernest Hemingway warned us not to mistake motion for action. For the Bucks, this would be motion, entropy and kinetic movement, but it would be far from forward action. They would be essentially the same team they were last season.
For Smith, moving from the Knicks, a conference contender, to the Bucks, a playoff contender, would be a major step down in prestige. Smith didn't like his time out of the spotlight in China, but relished the attention he got in New York. Milwaukee is markedly closer to the former than the latter.
Smith would fit on Milwaukee's depth chart, but that doesn't make this a win-win. It's actually more of a lose-lose.
Andre Iguodala: Detroit Pistons
Denver is the odds-on favorite to retain Iguodala's services, so there's a chance this becomes a moot point. But he did opt out of his contract this offseason, and it would be unwise to assume that Iguodala is actually an 100 percent bet to return.
This is especially true after USA Today's Sam Amick sent out this tweet on Sunday, listing a dossier of teams he's heard are in the mix to acquire Iggy:
Couple free agency tidbits-Teams I'm hearing in the mix for Andre Iguodala: Denver, Hawks, Pistons, Kings, Mavs, Pelicans, Warriors, Rockets— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) June 30, 2013
The Pistons are included on that list, which has been something of a common theme this offseason. Detroit has popped up as a destination for several free agents, including guys like Josh Smith, and the team is apparently eager to use its cap flexibility for the short-term.
But Iguodala is not the right fit for them, not by a long shot. He would step right in and be counted on as a lead scorer, which his time in Philadelphia proved—almost incontrovertibly—he is not.
Iguodala plays best off the ball, scoring in doses and having his primary impact on defense. He would play all those roles anywhere, but the Pistons would be counting on him to do something more, and that's a recipe for disappointment.