The Worst Free-Agency Decision for Every NBA Team During 2013 Offseason
While every NBA team strives to have a perfect offseason, that's a goal that only a select few organizations can meet. The rest are bound to make at least one free-agency decision that they'll come to regret.
During the 2013 offseason, eight teams have managed to coast by without making any mistakes. But that means 22 have made at least one poor decision.
Some teams have signed the wrong players, while others have failed to bring back or acquire guys who would have greatly aided their cause. Whether it's during the 2013-14 season or down the road, all 22 franchises will look back with 20/20 vision and wonder why their sight was so cloudy during the summer.
It's also important to note that while all of the upcoming moves qualify as "worst decisions," there are varying degrees. Some are just awful moves, while others could have been slightly better.
If you aren't a fan of one of the eight mistake-free teams, here's hoping your favorite squad falls into the latter category.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.
Teams with Mistake-Free Offseasons
The Cavs haven't done anything wrong this offfseason.
They gave a masterclass in how to sign a high-risk, high-reward free agent by inking Andrew Bynum to a $24 million contract with only $6 million guaranteed, and they also landed Jarrett Jack to help provide backcourt depth.
Playoffs, meet Cleveland.
Golden State Warriors
When you get rid of all your expendable expiring contracts and then turn the resultant cap space into an All-Star swingman who complements the rest of the roster perfectly, you're in good shape.
Other than Andre Iguodala, Jermaine O'Neal, Marreese Speights and Toney Douglas have been valuable signings as well.
The Pacers didn't just re-sign David West, although he was certainly the summer's main priority.
They also added depth by acquiring Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson, setting them up for another run at dethroning the Miami Heat. Speaking of...
Miami has the luxury of not needing to make many moves. The Heat brought back Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen and Ray Allen, but they haven't added any new players.
While avoiding the temptation of splurging for a big name who would inevitably hinder the rebuilding process in the desert, the Suns picked up a new franchise player.
By trading away Jared Dudley, Phoenix landed Eric Bledsoe, who will inevitably take over Goran Dragic's role as the starting point guard.
Portland Trail Blazers
Rip City added depth across the board through free agency and the draft, but the Blazers also managed to work their way into the Tyreke Evans sign-and-trade. That allowed them to get Robin Lopez, who will presumably start at center until Meyers Leonard is ready to take on more responsibility.
Consider the main goals of the offseason met.
Rudy Gay was the big move last season, and the Raptors just needed to be patient during the hottest months of the year.
They did so, acquiring Tyler Hansbrough to provide frontcourt depth and getting rid of Andrea Bargnani for dimes on the nickel.
Washington is now firmly poised to make a playoff run after retaining all their important players. Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and Martell Webster will all be back to help out the young players.
While holding the roster together, the Wizards also kept enough financial flexibility that they can complete the necessary extensions during the season.
Atlanta Hawks: Matching the Offer for Jeff Teague
In the short term, matching the Milwaukee Bucks' signed offer sheet for Jeff Teague was a solid decision for the Atlanta Hawks, but it will backfire as we move into the future.
As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore, this is the same point guard who said the following: "I enjoyed my time there. They are going in a different direction. I’m going in a different direction. It’s time to move on." There were no indications that the Wake Forest product either wanted or intended to return to Atlanta.
But even if Teague remains happy in a Hawks uniform, he still isn't the long-term solution at point guard. Fortunately, he's a movable commodity at only $8 million per year.
Dennis Schroeder was drafted to be the floor general of the future, and the returns have been spectacular during the Las Vegas summer league. Admittedly, it's summer league, but Schroeder has still shown a great deal of tools, especially with the ball in his hands.
Don't be surprised when the German point guard starts stealing minutes from Teague and problems begin to crop up.
Boston Celtics: Not Chasing Any Young Players
The Boston Celtics moved firmly into the rebuilding process when they traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets. However, they have done nothing to further that process since the blockbuster deal.
We've heard a bit of chatter about potential Rajon Rondo trades, but the C's were curiously quiet on the free-agent front. They made no attempts to land players who could help out in the future, even though they could presumably offer more playing time than other marquee franchises.
Boston did a nice job landing MarShon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries and a number of draft picks in return for two of its premier stars, but its biggest mistake was being content with that one major move.
Brooklyn Nets: Settling for Shaun Livingston
Shaun Livingston, once a point guard full of promise before a freak knee injury shattered his career aspirations, is now a serviceable floor general. Nothing less, and certainly nothing more.
During the 2012-13 season, Livingston split time between the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 6.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He shot 48 percent from the field and earned a 13.0 PER.
Now he's set to join the Brooklyn Nets, who gave him a one-year contract worth $1.27 million. It was a nice value signing, but couldn't Brooklyn have been more patient and landed an even more valuable backup point guard?
What if the Nets had decided to hold their horses and see how the market unfolds before making their decision? On the heels of Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy reporting that Mo Williams is prepared to take less money and play for a contender, this has started to look increasingly like a poor decision.
Brooklyn has come quite close to earning a spot on the mistake-free slide, but Mikhail Prokhorov's squad could have done slightly better at securing the spot in the rotation behind Deron Williams.
Charlotte Bobcats: Re-Signing Josh McRoberts
Rather than re-signing Josh McRoberts to a two-year, $5.5 million deal, the Charlotte Bobcats would have been better off letting the power forward walk and focusing on other priorities. Bringing back Gerald Henderson, for example.
McRoberts actually played moderately well after he was traded from the Orlando Magic to Charlotte. He averaged 10.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per 36 minutes while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
However, he's not going to have a sufficient spot in the rotation any more.
After the Bobcats drafted Cody Zeller and signed Al Jefferson to a massive deal, there simply aren't enough minutes to go around. This is especially true since Bismack Biyombo needs significant playing time and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will inevitably spend some time at the 4.
Chicago Bulls: Letting Marco Belinelli Escape
The Chicago Bulls have had problems with the wing positions for years now, and things didn't get any better this summer.
Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng are poised to form a potent duo in the starting lineup, but depth will be a problem. Daequan Cook remains a free agent and Marco Belinelli has signed with the San Antonio Spurs, leaving Chicago without a single backup 2-guard. Players are capable of sliding over, but they'd be out of their natural positions.
Losing Belinelli was the bigger deal, especially because the Bulls could still re-sign Cook.
He was emerging into a solid defender under Tom Thibodeau, and his three-point shooting was invaluable to a team that made and took the second-fewest attempts per game from downtown during the 2012-13 campaign.
Without Belinelli's 1.1 triples per game on 35.7 percent shooting behind the arc, Chicago's area of weakness got even weaker.
Dallas Mavericks: Overpaying for Monta Ellis
The Dallas Mavericks are supposed to be one of the organizations that fully embraces advanced metrics and looks at numbers before making any decisions. At least that's what we thought before they signed Monta Ellis.
Bringing Ellis aboard on a cheap deal would have been understandable, but three years and $28 million is definitely not cheap.
Dallas needed to fill the scoring void left by O.J. Mayo, who opted out of his contract and then joined the Milwaukee Bucks, but this wasn't the way to do it. Ellis is more of a shot-jacker than anything else, and he'll actually make Mayo look consistent during his time with the Mavs.
The longer Ellis remained a free agent, the more it seemed like the entire NBA was trending toward an analytic approach and refusing to overpay for a volume scorer without many defensive skills.
And then the Mavericks shattered that belief.
Denver Nuggets: Not Bringing Back Andre Iguodala
The Denver Nuggets took a major step backward when they let Andre Iguodala get away.
Iggy's versatility on offense and his stellar perimeter defense were both crucial to the efforts in 2012-13, and they would have been once more in 2013-14. The swingman took a while to find his rhythm after leaving the Philadelphia 76ers, but he rounded into form at the end of the regular season and dominated in the postseason.
Losing Iguodala to the Golden State Warriors was just one part of a terrible offseason, but it was the biggest disappointment. Failing to bring back Masai Ujiri, George Karl and Corey Brewer will certainly hurt as well.
Denver was prepared to truly compete for a title once Danilo Gallinari returned from his torn ACL, but that's now just a dream rooted in the past.
Detroit Pistons: Splurging on Josh Smith
When I was just a little kid, I loved spending money on random impulse items. It was impossible to get me through the check-out line in a grocery store without finding something that I just had to buy with what little money I'd accumulated from doing household chores.
In fact, my mother once told me the Benjamin Franklin idiom that a penny saved is a penny earned, and I managed to flip it around a little. According to little Adam, a penny saved was a penny spent.
That's the same mentality that Joe Dumars seems to employ.
The Detroit general manager lets money burn holes in his pocket, and he spends it with little regard for how everything fits together. There is no other explanation for the Josh Smith signing.
J-Smoove is not a small forward.
There's no way around that fact, and Detroit will soon learn that playing him at the 3 forces him to shoot even more ill-advised perimeter jumpers while taking him away from the rim that he protects so well.
If Smith can't play small forward, he has to line up at power forward, and that forces either Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond to the bench. Neither of those players deserves to be moved out of the starting lineup.
It's a lose-lose situation for Detroit, and the Pistons may soon need to trade Monroe in order to preserve any semblance of team chemistry.
Houston Rockets: Keeping Omer Asik
According to general manager Daryl Morey, in a quote relayed by the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen, the Houston Rockets have no intention of moving Omer Asik:
When we didn’t have Omer out there last year, we (stunk). I mean, we were terrible. That was where we lost games. When we had Omer out there, we were a top-10 defensive team. Now we have a Defensive Player of the Year and Omer. That position is so important if you’re going to have a solid defense. Now we have two of the best in the league. I’m very excited.
This is a recipe for disaster, as an unhappy big man could wreck the team's chemistry and damage D12's psyche. Plus, Asik's contract is moveable and could be used to bring in even more talent at positions that actually need upgrades.
The refusal to at least consider trading the defensive ace is mind-boggling.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Eric Bledsoe Trade
The Los Angeles Clippers wouldn't be dissuaded from trading Eric Bledsoe, and the package they received in return for the dynamic point guard wasn't too shabby.
J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley will both help spread the court from shooting guard and small forward, and they both have the three-point abilities to fix one of the team's weaknesses. Moreover, the Clippers received two quality players for one guy who would have spent a lot of time on the bench backing up Chris Paul.
Let me be perfectly clear: This was not a bad move, and it was still the worst decision that L.A. has made during free agency. That's how close the Clippers have come to a perfect offseason.
However, it could have been better.
Bledsoe is talented enough that he could have been moved for an even more high-quality player at one of the two positions. Think about a guy like Danny Granger or Arron Afflalo, both of whom would have been realistic possibilities had the Clippers shown a bit more patience.
There was no need for urgency when testing the market to see what Bledsoe could bring back.
Los Angeles Lakers: Missing out in the Dwight Howard Pursuit
Charles Dickens would have loved the Los Angeles Lakers' offseason, even though it's only taken place in one city. After all, it's been the best of times and the worst of times.
The Lake Show has rebounded nicely from losing out in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, using the mini mid-level exception and a few veteran's minimum contracts to secure Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson.
However, that doesn't make up for watching Howard join the Houston Rockets.
Sure, L.A. didn't have control over the situation. The decision was ultimately Howard's to make, and the hindsight view of the situation leads us to believe that a return to Tinseltown would have been nearly impossible while Kobe Bryant remained on the team.
However, D12's departure still crippled the team. It left the Lakers without a true starting center and with no money available to go chase one. Kaman was the best they could do.
Howard leaving wasn't technically the Lakers' decision, but it was still a free-agency decision that ranks as the worst of the summer in L.A.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Lack of Moves
The Memphis Grizzlies didn't experience as much postseason success as they wanted to against the San Antonio Spurs, but you wouldn't know it from the way they've handled the offseason.
Memphis has been content to sit back and watch the other 29 teams in the Association make moves. All they've done is bring back their own players: Jerryd Bayless, Tony Allen and Jon Leuer. While the first two are crucial cogs for Memphis, neither will help push them up the Western Conference standings.
The Grizzlies needed to shake things up a bit, but they've stubbornly refused to do so.
Well, except for on the sidelines.
Milwaukee Bucks: Everything
I'm sorry, but I can't pick just one decision to single out for the Milwaukee Bucks. This entire offseason has been an unmitigated disaster.
At point guard, the Bucks still don't have a solution. Unless they bring back a sure-to-be-unhappy Brandon Jennings, they're looking at starting either Nate Wolters, the second-round pick out of South Dakota State, or Luke Ridnour.
At small forward, the situation is even worse. Milwaukee doesn't have a single natural small forward on the roster other than Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won't be truly ready for the NBA until around 2015 or 2016.
General manager John Hammond sold Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for pennies on the dollar, giving him to the Sacramento Kings for a few second-round draft picks. He curiously neglected both the ensuing hole at the 3 and the fact that Mbah a Moute has become one of the better wing defenders in the NBA.
Since that's not enough, the Bucks also splurged on Zaza Pachulia, ignoring the presences of both Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh on the roster.
Simply put, Milwaukee's worst decision during free agency has been agreeing to take part in the process.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Overpaying for Kevin Martin
The Minnesota Timberwolves needed to find size and shooting ability at the 2, but Kevin Martin wasn't the optimal solution.
Signing him to a four-year deal for $28 million definitely filled the necessary voids, but it created two new ones: perimeter defense and forward depth. By splurging on Martin instead of addressing the issue in the draft with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or simply trying out Shabazz Muhammad at shooting guard, the Wolves made re-signing Andrei Kirilenko or finding a replacement an impossibility.
Corey Brewer will help out, but he's not nearly the same caliber forward that AK-47 is.
This is another one of those moves that wasn't completely terrible but still qualifies as a poor decision.
New Orleans Pelicans: Signing Tyreke Evans as a Small Forward
I'm a big fan of what the New Orleans Pelicans did by first trading for Jrue Holiday and then acquiring Tyreke Evans in a sign-and-trade, but they're one move shy of completing the puzzle.
Eric Gordon needs to be dealt for a natural small forward or else Evans is going to be forced into playing out of position. Those results simply won't be as positive.
Take a look at the backcourt trio's PERs for and against at each position during the 2012-13 campaign, courtesy of 82games.com:
|Point guard||Shooting guard||Small forward|
It should be quite clear that none of the players is meant to line up at small forward, which means that more changes need to be made. Acquiring Evans with the intention of throwing him out as a 3 is an ill-fated idea.
New York Knicks: Re-Signing an Injured J.R. Smith
According to ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley, the New York Knicks were aware that J.R. Smith had a knee injury before signing him to a four-year deal. Now that he's going to miss the beginning of the season and is set to return—at the earliest—in mid-October, that's problematic.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is a notoriously streaky shooter, and it won't help his cause when he must try to find his rhythm during the 2013-14 campaign. The whole "in media res" thing doesn't work well for shooters.
Smith was signed using his Early Bird rights, so the money New York spent on him couldn't have been used elsewhere. However, it was a dangerous and risky commitment, one that might have prevented the team from luring in other scorers.
For more fulsome thoughts on the subject, click here.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Losing Kevin Martin Without Finding a Replacement
When the Oklahoma City Thunder completed a sign-and-trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves that sent Kevin Martin to a new team, they lost their most reliable bench scorer and didn't have much money to find a new one.
Since then, the Thunder haven't made any notable moves that will let them replace Martin's scoring punch. Instead, general manager Sam Presti is relying on an internal solution.
That means that either Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb will have to step up and serve as the primary bench scorer. One or both of them could be capable of doing so, but it's a risky move for a true contender in the Western Conference.
Acquiring a veteran would have been a safer move, but OKC has shown no indication of doing so.
Orlando Magic: Not Re-Signing Beno Udrih
If you were the Orlando Magic, would you rather have Ronnie Price, who became the first signing of the offseason for general manager Rob Hennigan, or Beno Udrih?
Udrih, who is still a free agent, is a year older. But let's take a look at their per-36-minute numbers from the 2012-13 campaign, courtesy of Basketball-Reference:
Now why exactly did the Magic make this decision?
I have absolutely no idea.
Philadelphia 76ers: Trading Away Draft Picks
The Philadelphia 76ers are supposed to be in a rebuilding process, which means they should be stockpiling assets instead of trading them away for questionable returns.
Philly's most recent move involved trading away future draft considerations for Royce White and Furkan Aldemir, neither of whom figures to contribute much in the near or distant future.
White has already become a bust, failing to play a single game in the NBA thus far with no immediate solution for his anxiety problems looming. As for Aldemir, he was the No. 53 pick in 2012 and has shown no signs of being a high-level contributor anytime soon. There's potential there but not elite potential.
The severity of this move depends on what "future draft considerations" means, but the Sixers didn't exactly acquire pieces that will help the rebuild.
Sacramento Kings: Creating Logjams
Individually, the Sacramento Kings have made a number of solid moves.
They signed Carl Landry to a reasonable contract, acquired a great young point guard by essentially swapping Tyreke Evans for Greivis Vasquez and stole Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for a few second-round draft picks.
However, the combined effect of the moves isn't necessarily a positive one because Sacramento has created a massive logjam at every position. They now have far more players than they can give minutes to across the board.
How do the Kings divvy up the backcourt minutes between Vasquez, Isaiah Thomas, Ray McCallum, Marcus Thornton and Ben McLemore? How about the power forward rotation, which needs to prominently feature Landry, Jason Thompson and Patrick Patterson?
Chemistry could be a serious issue in Sac-Town.
San Antonio Spurs: Taking the Safe Route
The San Antonio Spurs had a fine offseason. There was nothing wrong with re-signing Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter while bringing in Marco Belinelli.
That sets the team up for another deep playoff run in what could be Tim Duncan's swan song. Again, there's nothing wrong with that.
However, it was the safe route, and it doesn't set up the Spurs for continued success after Ginobili and Duncan pull the plugs on their NBA careers. General manager R.C. Buford was more concerned with keeping the current title window open than building a new one for the future.
What if the Spurs had let their old players walk and then signed Josh Smith?
It would have been a riskier move, but Gregg Popovich is fully capable of shaping Smoove into an MVP candidate. The same can be said for someone like Monta Ellis. Taking a risk on a young stud would have enabled the Spurs to recreate their core.
Plus, can you imagine the defensive potential of a Tony Parker-Danny Green-Kawhi Leonard-Smith-Duncan starting five?
No one would have scored on that team. Ever.
Utah Jazz: Not Signing a Veteran Presence
The Utah Jazz have had an absolutely fantastic offseason, even if their team has gotten worse in the process.
By taking on the expiring contracts of Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins, the team secured its financial flexibility for the summer of 2014 while acquiring a few more draft picks. The Jazz also managed to firmly hand the team over to the young guns.
However, there aren't enough quality veterans to teach the high-potential players how to maximize their value. This is particularly true in the frontcourt, unless Biedrins suddenly becomes a pedagogical genius.
Utah has done the right thing by letting the young players learn on the job during a rebuilding season, but signing a veteran or two—one who wouldn't eat away too many minutes—would have been ideal.