Each NBA Team's Potential Free Agency Disaster
Each NBA team's potential free agency disaster includes recent signings that could go horribly wrong in the future.
It also includes the reportedly close possibility of these potentially negative deals materializing.
This list highlights team needs that were not addressed this summer, the decisions to allow critical free agents to sign elsewhere along with the over-investment in a particular free agent.
These potential disasters are specifically unique to each team and vary in terms of severity. If each situation is not managed moving forward, however, they could become significant issues for all involved.
Declining to provide Brad Stevens with veteran support
Paul Pierce was on the last year of a nonguaranteed contract with the Boston Celtics heading into this summer's free-agency period.
Instead of locking up Pierce for the 2013-14 campaign, the Celtics traded the future Hall of Famer to the Brooklyn Nets. They also moved Kevin Garnett to the Nets, on the heels of losing Ray Allen to free agency this time last year.
In the meantime, Boston made no other free-agent moves to acquire veteran leadership while also hiring first-year coach Stevens from Butler University.
While I believe that Stevens has the ability to be great on an NBA sideline, declining to bring in a veteran free-agent presence while trading away the strength of Boston's locker room could be a potentially dangerous decision.
Betting one year too long on Andray Blatche's maturity
After being waived via amnesty by the Washington Wizards, Blatche responded by averaging 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Brooklyn Nets last season.
From a statistical standpoint, re-signing the productive free agent to a below-market contract of $1.4 million for one year, as reported by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, is a tremendous haul.
Although the financial risk is minimal, Blatche's track record includes the potential for disruptions inside the locker room.
If Blatche eventually overstays his welcome, by proving he hasn't quite developed the professionalism that made him successful a season ago, first-year NBA coach Jason Kidd could have a list of challenging issues to potentially manage in Brooklyn.
Investing in a potentially complacent Al Jefferson
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Charlotte Bobcats reached a three-year deal with former Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson worth $41 million.
While the addition could certainly provide support for the Bobcats' young core of Kemba Walker, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist and Cody Zeller, the potential disasters with this signing relate to Jefferson's ultimate desire to win.
If he arrives in Charlotte and helps build a winning culture that has been nonexistent over the last several years, the move will pay dividends beyond the 20 points and 10 rebounds Jefferson is capable of averaging.
But if Jefferson's motives in signing with Charlotte were simply to secure the most lucrative contract available, things will continue to remain the same as they've always been for the Bobcats.
Allowing Nate Robinson to leave in free agency
The Chicago Bulls reached an agreement with free agent Mike Dunleavy, according to Marc Stein of ESPN, worth two years and $6 million. The signing addresses a need at the wing position for Chicago and was made necessary, in part, by the departure of Marco Belinelli.
But if the $3 million annual investment in the former Milwaukee Bucks player precludes the Bulls from spending similar money on Nate Robinson, the Bulls could take a major hit in 2013-14.
As the heart and soul of Chicago's postseason run, Robinson filled the void left by Derrick Rose and averaged 16.3 points and 4.4 assists in 12 playoff games.
During the regular season, he averaged a consistent 13.1 points and 4.4 assists.
If Robinson does not return to Chicago, the loss could be worth more than the Bulls front office might expect.
The distraction of Andrew Bynum's injuries
In agreeing to terms with unrestricted free agent Bynum, the Cleveland Cavaliers invested a guaranteed total of only $6 million.
The remaining portion of the two-year, $24 million contract, as previously reported by Marc Stein of ESPN, includes an incentive-based structure in 2013-14 followed by a team option in year No. 2.
So from an on-court production standpoint, the risks in acquiring Bynum are minimal for the Cavs.
The potential disasters in signing the 7-footer who spent all of last season on the Philadelphia 76ers' sideline due to a series of knee injuries, however, relate to the possible distractions he could cause for the rebuild underway in Cleveland.
Led by Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers' locker room is still very young. Bynum, meanwhile, is a dominating presence who has had his share of issues in the past. The level of professionalism he is able to bring, more than his ability to actually produce like the All-Star he once was, is critical in determining the success of this signing.
The Mavericks' inability to add top-tier talent for Dirk Nowitzki
If Nowitzki wasn't the friendly guy he's always been throughout his career, he might be screaming mad right now.
With a finite number of NBA miles still remaining on the soles of his sneakers, owner Mark Cuban attempted to land an A-list player to help Nowitzki compete for one more championship.
The Mavericks, as they're currently assembled, do not appear collectively talented enough to secure a playoff berth in 2013-14. If they had secured significant free-agent help, however, they most certainly would've been.
The free-agent loss of Andre Iguodala
Iguodala instantly provided a level of professionalism and credibility that helped the Nuggets earn the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference upon arrival from Philadelphia last summer.
While impacting the game defensively on the perimeter, Iguodala also averaged 13 points, 5.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds.
After opting out of the final year of his contract, however, Iguodala has since signed a new deal worth $48 million over four years with the Golden State Warriors.
The loss will be difficult to overcome for first-year head coach Brian Shaw, who has been put at a significant disadvantage by Iguodala's departure. It appears the Nuggets will be forced to take a step backward as a result, before collectively improving on the success from a season ago.
The possibility of a Josh Smith implosion
After inking a free-agent deal with the Detroit Pistons, Josh Smith will now be cashing checks worth $54 million in total over the next four years.
No matter what happens, that money belongs to Smith—and he knows it.
If he is able to average the 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists he did for the Atlanta Hawks in 2012-13 for the life of his contract, the Pistons will be thrilled with their investment.
The potential disaster, however, revolves around how willing Smith will actually be to remain motivated.
When he's locked in, focused and providing maximum effort, there is no question that Smith deserves the type of NBA money Detroit will now pay him. Throughout his career, however, he hasn't always been locked in, focused and providing maximum effort.
Golden State Warriors
Losing Jarrett Jack to the Cleveland Cavaliers
As first reported by Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group, free-agent guard Jarrett Jack will join the Cleveland Cavaliers on a four-year, $25 million contract.
Though the Warriors countered by making a sound investment in Andre Iguodala, the departure of Jack could prove problematic in 2013-14.
While backing up both guard positions in Golden State, Jack proved to be the ideal fit in a three-guard rotation with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
While averaging a productive 12.9 points and 5.6 assists, Jack also served as a valuable insurance policy in the event Curry was injured. That policy and production is now gone, and the Warriors are one injury away from a disaster.
If Dwight Howard becomes unhappy in Houston
Howard was not a happy person just prior to leaving the Orlando Magic.
While struggling through an injury-plagued season with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012-13, Howard didn't appear as the happiest guy in the world then either.
After spending those last two years with two different teams, the NBA's premier post player now has a fresh start as a member of the Houston Rockets.
As Sam Amick of USA Today first reported, Howard's deal with the Rockets is worth $88 million over four seasons.
So far, things have gone pretty smooth for Howard and his new team. If his mood takes a turn for the worse at some point, for whatever reason, Houston will have a problem.
Father Time catching up with David West
While averaging 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds on 49.8 percent shooting for the Indiana Pacers, West was a primary reason for the success enjoyed in 2012-13.
Following a season that finished with Indiana extending the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, West became an unrestricted free agent.
In a move most people around the league expected, he re-signed with the Pacers.
Over the life of the contract, making that much of a commitment to the 32-year-old power forward could result in diminishing returns as West approaches his mid-30s.
Los Angeles Clippers
Replacing the athleticism of Eric Bledsoe with Darren Collison
Bledsoe was a driving force in creating the depth the Los Angeles Clippers possessed in 2012-13.
While leading the second unit as point guard, Bledsoe provided an athletic spark that was hard for benches to combat on a nightly basis.
He has since been sent via trade to the Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles has replaced him with Collison.
Though Collision is a speedy four-year veteran who's averaged 12.1 points and 5.2 assists for his career, he can't finish at the rim quite like Bledsoe.
Collison's ability to create his own version of energy plays in other ways will be critical to infusing the Clippers' bench with the enthusiasm and energy necessary for long-term success.
Los Angeles Lakers
The departure of Dwight Howard
Up until he didn't, it seemed there was no way Howard would not re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.
In joining the Houston Rockets, though, the Howard chapter in Lakers' history ended prematurely.
The rubble left in his wake includes the aging Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and not much else. It will be many years before the Lakers appear capable of contending again for a championship.
If Howard's decision had gone differently, the potential disaster of not fielding a competitive team around Bryant during the final year of his contract could have been avoided.
Not addressing perimeter shooting in free agency
The Memphis Grizzlies are a team in need of a proven NBA shooter from the perimeter.
Without much salary cap room to maneuver, however, the Grizzlies inked free-agent guard Tony Allen to a four-year, $20 million contract extension, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
But while Allen is most definitely the heart and soul of the Grizzlies attack defensively, he really can't shoot the basketball at all these days.
Meanwhile, the best free-agent shooters, J.J. Redick, Kyle Korver and Mike Dunleavy, signed elsewhere.
Not spending Mike Miller's amnesty money in free agency
According to Hoopsworld.com, the Miami Heat have $86.6 million in guaranteed salary on the books for 2013-14.
They were obviously unable to significantly invest in free agency because of that commitment.
At the same time, however, in an attempt to re-tool for a third consecutive championship, the Heat also have the opportunity to waive Mike Miller via the Amnesty Clause.
If they choose to activate that option prior to the July 16 deadline, the $6.2 million owed to Miller would come off Miami's books.
While potentially waiting too long to make that decision, they may have missed an opportunity to add a free agent signed this summer with a portion of the cap space they would save.
Letting Brandon Jennings walk
Brandon Jennings has averaged 17 points and 5.7 assists during his four-year career with the Milwaukee Bucks.
As we entered summer 2013, it seemed the Bucks intended to retain their 23-year-old point guard.
In light of the news that Milwaukee has since extended an offer to Jeff Teague, it appears Jennings' days in a Bucks uniform could be over.
If he is allowed to move on—and eventually becomes the All-Star his talent has suggested he could be—the backlash among Bucks fans could become an issue for an organization struggling to define a clear identity moving forward.
Investing too much in Nikola Pekovic
The Minnesota Timberwolves and restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic are reportedly close to a four-year, $50 million contract extension, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Pekovic is already 27 years old and has only three years of NBA experience. As a rookie in 2010-11, he averaged only 5.5 points and three rebounds.
Though his production has since improved on an annual basis, to 13.9 and 7.4 before posting 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds last year, $50 million is a substantial investment.
The Timberwolves, meanwhile, have not had a full season to be able to truly assess the way a healthy Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love would look alongside Pekovic. If that trio doesn't mesh over the long term, or Pekovic's production regresses, Minnesota could find itself in a regrettable position.
New Orleans Pelicans
Signing Tyreke Evans to play a new position
The New Orleans Pelicans came to terms on a four-year, $44 million agreement to add former Sacramento Kings point guard Evans.
The idea, in some circles, is to move Evans to small forward.
While it certainly appears Evans' game would be better suited as a scoring option off the wing, he's really never assumed that role for an entire season.
All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday was also acquired by the Pelicans in a draft-day trade, and New Orleans will need Evans to produce on the wing to maximize their investment. Whether he is able to successfully make that transition is anyone's guess.
New York Knicks
The long-term investment in J.R. Smith
Smith is the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year. After averaging 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds while earning the award in 2012-13, Smith appeared to also be developing a consistency he lacked throughout his career.
During the playoffs, however, the 27-year-old streaky guard struggled to catch fire and his production fell off dramatically.
Despite that, the New York Knicks invested four years and $24.5 million in Smith, according to Howard Beck of the New York Times.
Financially, on an annual basis, paying a player capable of averaging 18 points off the bench is well worth a $6 million investment. In Smith's case, however, four years worth of consistency and professionalism is a really long time.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Choosing Kendrick Perkins over Kevin Martin
The Oklahoma City Thunder could have made the decision to waive Perkins through the amnesty provision and save roughly $9 million in salary cap space for 2013-14.
Instead of doing so, they decided to let free agent Martin sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves on a four-year, $28 million contract, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.
The Thunder's bench, meanwhile, will take a significant hit by Martin's departure.
Perkins, despite being a valuable member of the Oklahoma City locker room, averaged only 4.2 points and six rebounds a season ago. Martin, in 27.7 minutes, averaged 14 points and his role does not appear to have been filled by anyone capable of matching that production.
Potentially not making Hedo Turkoglu a free agent
The Orlando Magic are progressing on talks to buy out Hedo Turkoglu's contract, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
If they reach an agreement, Turkoglu would become an unrestricted free agent.
Despite the cost to facilitate the buyout, the Magic need to make Turkoglu a free agent as soon as possible.
Due to a suspension for a failed steriod test along with a series of injuries, the 34-year-old forward played in only 11 games last season for the Magic.
Meanwhile, a young core led by Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and others demonstrated a winning spirit loaded with potential. Keeping Turkoglu involved in that equation any longer will only stunt the rebuild that is very much underway in Orlando.
Making no moves to replace Jrue Holiday's offense
After trading All-Star point guard Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Philadelphia 76ers will be without their leading scorer and playmaker heading into 2013-14.
The have since replaced Holiday with rookie Nerlens Noel and a future draft pick.
In response to questions about his team's lack of free-agent activity this summer, Sixers general manger Sam Hinkie told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer the following recently.
We’ve been active with a lot of the agents behind the scenes. With a lot of the other teams, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of discussions going this time of year. But, yeah, we weren't knocking on any doors on midnight on the first [of July.] That’s for sure.
Behind the scenes doesn't get buckets, though, and that's something the Sixers desperately need now that Holiday is gone.
Adding no other talent to accompany Eric Bledsoe
The Phoenix Suns acquired Bledsoe in a three-team trade just as free agency began.
It appeared to be the first of what could become several moves to improve the Phoenix Suns dramatically this summer.
In the time since, however, the Suns have made no other significant signings to build around their newly acquired point guard.
That decision that could come back to haunt the Suns if Bledsoe decides he wasn't given enough of an opportunity to win in Phoenix when becoming a free agent next summer.
Portland Trail Blazers
Failing to address the center position in free agency
J.J. Hickson filled in admirably alongside LaMarcus Aldridge last season by averaging a double-double on a minimal contract.
Hickson has since left, however, signing a free-agent contract with the Denver Nuggets.
To replace Hickson, the Trail Blazers downgraded the center position by trading for Robin Lopez.
Despite Lopez being a serviceable option, the Trail Blazers could regret the decision to not improve the 5-spot by making a significant run at a free-agent center like Nikola Pekovic or Al Jefferson.
Potentially signing Monta Ellis to a long-term deal
The Sacramento Kings have a new coach in Michael Malone.
Tyreke Evans is moving on to the New Orleans Pelicans and a new era of winning Kings' basketball could be inching ever close.
Beginning that new era by potentially signing a long-term deal with Ellis, however, could send the Kings right back into the cycle of losing they're trying to escape.
Despite that, the list of teams reported to have serious interest in signing Ellis, according to Sam Amick of USA Today, includes the Kings.
The best free-agent move they could make at this point is to resist that temptation.
San Antonio Spurs
Tiago Splitter not living up to the life of his contract
Splitter is a solid NBA center who averaged 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds in 2012-13.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, that production earned Splitter a $36 million contract over the next four years.
If Tim Duncan happens to retire before that deal expires, however, it will be interesting to see what Splitter's impact looks like then.
Playing next to one of the NBA's all-time best post players, he has been productive enough.
Without Duncan commanding the attention he still does on a nightly basis, though, Splitter's performance could decline well below the $9 million annually he's scheduled to earn.
Acquiring Tyler Hansbrough to be a starter
Masai Ujiri’s first free-agent signing with the Toronto Raptors was the acquisition of Hansbrough.
Hansbrough certainly provides value to an NBA team, and has in a role off the bench for the Indiana Pacers throughout his career.
But with the recent departure of Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors may be inclined to ask their newly signed free agent to start up-front in 2013-14.
If they do, the free-agent move to sign Hansbrough could become problematic. While he certainly provides energy player for the second unit, Hansbrough should not be perceived as a starter.
Allowing Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to leave
While the Utah Jazz were not expected to keep both Jefferson and Millsap heading into free agency, it seemed they would keep at least one of their free agent big men.
After reaching agreements to join the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks respectively, however, Utah will bid farewell to the core of their team from a season ago.
Despite having Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings, keeping one of the veteran free agents to help that transition may have proved valuable for Favors and Kanter's development.
By allowing both to leave, however, it's a sink-or-swim situation now for the future of Utah's frontcourt.
Spending more than expected on Martell Webster
Webster averaged a career-high 11.4 points to go along with 3.9 rebounds for the Washington Wizards in 2012-13.
After failing to meet expectations as a rookie with the Portland Trail Blazers out of high school during the 2005-06 campaign, Webster had re-established his value as an NBA player over the last few seasons.
He entered this summer's free-agency period with substantial interest as a result.
In order to secure his services, Washington inked Webster to a deal worth four years and $22 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
Despite his production, that number is substantially more than most people expected Webster to command. Only time will eventually tell if Washington could have more wisely invested those funds elsewhere to help the momentum created last season by John Wall, Bradley Beal and others.
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