NBA Teams That Are Still Paying the Price for Huge Offseason Mistakes
In the NBA, a big offseason mistake can have plenty of negative consequences, some of which last for years after the decision.
The six teams featured here are all experiencing the unhappy ramifications of moves that happened last offseason, or even earlier in some cases. While the moves and trades might not have seemed too bad then, hindsight is 20/20.
As if regret for the past wasn't bad enough already, the present is now affected.
Three of the squads remain strong playoff teams, but they're still worse off than they could have been. Had these huge offseason mistakes not occurred, we may be talking about each of them as title contenders, or at the very least, rock-solid clubs.
The other three aren't so lucky, but they'd still be in far better shape had the past not occurred. It's best they pay attention, because as we all know, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.
The Chicago Bulls are in fantastic shape to make a run at the Miami Heat in 2013-14, but they'd be even better off if they'd avoided giving Carlos Boozer a massive contract.
Five years and $75 million even sounded like a lot at the time, and the power forward was coming off a ridiculous season in which he'd averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game on 56.2 percent shooting from the field. Now that Boozer's defense and offense have both declined, it looks even worse.
Last year, the Bulls paid Boozer $15 million so that they could score 4.3 fewer points per 100 possessions and allow 4.2 more, according to Basketball-Reference. That makes sense, right?
Boozer's hefty contract has prevented the Bulls from finding better options on the wings, and he's also blocked the development of Taj Gibson, who continues to be a defensive ace and solid per-minute player off the pine.
Over the same time frame, Gibson helped Chicago score an additional 4.5 points per 100 possessions while allowing 3.6 fewer.
While the Bulls are set up for success upon Derrick Rose's return, they might even be the title favorites if Boozer's contract never happened.
When the Dallas Mavericks completed a sign-and-trade that sent Tyson Chandler to the New York Knicks, they broke up a championship core and doomed themselves for the next few seasons.
Fresh off getting to hold up the Larry O'Brien Trophy, Dirk Nowitzki and Co. struggled to replace the defensive stud, going 36-30 during the lockout-shortened season before getting swept in the first round of the playoffs.
Dallas set out to use its newly acquired cap space, the ultimate goal of not bringing back Chandler, on a star point guard, but the pursuit of Deron Williams was a failure. The Mavericks had to settle for Darren Collison, and that didn't work out so well.
This time, Dallas missed the playoffs entirely.
Again, the Mavericks had plenty of cap space and set out in pursuit of the superstars, failing to realize that they simply weren't the most attractive destination. Mark Cuban probably still can't figure out why Dwight Howard and the other big names didn't want to play alongside an aging Dirk Nowitzki and a lackluster supporting cast.
But hey, at least he's convinced they're better off without Dwight.
This team might still be in contention if it had stuck with the core that helped it hoist the hardware.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers thought they were guaranteeing a title when they added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to a core that already featured Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Here comes the understatement of the century: That didn't happen.
Plagued by a never-ending stream of injuries, an early-season coaching change and a striking lack of chemistry, those championship aspirations never came to fruition. In fact, the result was one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history.
How many times has a team this ballyhooed needed 82 games to even clinch a postseason berth?
The Lakers fell for the trap of big names during the 2012 offseason. They didn't consider chemistry, which is always an incredibly important part of a title-winning recipe. To them, it didn't matter that Kobe and Dwight weren't great fits for one another.
And truthfully, it wasn't just the Lakers who forgot about that. Many members of the media, myself included, were guilty as well.
After the early postseason exit, part two of the Dwightmare began, and it resulted in the big man fleeing for the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately for the Lakers, that left them with no serviceable big men and no money to find another one before the books cleared in 2014.
Mitch Kupchak has done a fantastic job using the mini mid-level exception and veteran's minimum contracts to find decent stopgaps. However, the Lakers are now set to pay for their superteam strategy with a mediocre season, one that leaves them on the outside of the playoffs looking in but not low enough in the standings to have a shot at one of the truly elite prospects.
The Purple and Gold will stop paying for their 2012 mistakes after the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign, both literally and figuratively.
New York Knicks
Amar'e Stoudemire was still supposed to be a productive star at this stage of his career, not a decoy who spent most of his time on the bench either resting his knees or modeling his suit game.
The big man is coming off a season in which he played just 29 games, averaging 14.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 0.4 assists per game in only 23.5 minutes of action. Those numbers are a far cry from anything he'd produced prior to the past two campaigns.
After numerous knee surgeries and clear indications that his athleticism is declining, Stoudemire hasn't shown many signs that he'll be able to justify the enormity of his contract at any point in the future. He's set to make nearly $22 million in 2013-14 and then has a player option for $23.4 million after that.
There's about a snowball's chance in hell that the former Phoenix Sun decides to decline the option. Why would he turn down that much money for a chance to sign what's likely to be a seven-figure contract?
Teams aren't willing to take chances as often under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, as evidenced by the amount of time players like Andrew Bynum (injuries), Monta Ellis (inefficiencies) and Brandon Jennings (see: Ellis, Monta) have spent or are spending on the open market. Taking a chance on an annually injured former star now on the wrong side of 30 would be nonsensical.
For now, the Knicks are left hoping that someone will offer them a reasonable deal for Stoudemire, or that he'll magically regain his health. Both are unlikely, and the proposed Big Three they assembled continues to resemble nothing of the sort.
Without the prep-to-pro big man's contracts on the books, New York might have been able to lure in a player capable of pushing the Knicks forward. But now, there's both little hope of a championship in the quickly improving Eastern Conference and a burgeoning belief that Carmelo Anthony could opt out of his contract to join a team with a brighter future.
It's impossible to single out just one bad move that the Sacramento Kings have made. Instead, we're left looking at the recent tenure of the Maloof brothers in its entirety.
Pete D'Alessandro, Mike Malone and the group led by Vivek Ranadive have their work cut out for them as they attempt to turn around this beleaguered franchise. At least it's staying put in Sac-Town, though.
The current makeup of the Kings just isn't very promising, as evidenced by the moves made this offseason. Individually, they've all been great. Drafting Ben McLemore was a steal, acquiring Luc Richard Mbah a Moute an even bigger theft and signing Carl Landry a nice value deal.
However, the compilation of the moves is a reflection of the past.
Even after doing everything right, the Kings aren't much better for it.
They've created logjams at each position, accumulating too much depth without enough star power. A team this deep should be a strong postseason contender, but that's not even a remote possibility with only DeMarcus Cousins leading the charge.
The expensive contract of John Salmons is painful, but the more excruciating aspect of the finances is simply how many mid-level players the Kings have stocked up. Under the Maloofs, it seemed as though Sacramento collected both guards and big men with utter disregard for the long-term plans.
This offseason has been a step in the right direction, but the Kings are still paying for the past.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oct. 31 may be Halloween, but it's not the scariest day of the month for fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder. That would be Oct. 27, which will now function as the anniversary of the fateful trade that resulted in the image above.
On that date in 2012, general manager Sam Presti decided to trade James Harden, fresh off winning Sixth Man of the Year and establishing himself as an up-and-coming star, to the Houston Rockets. The bearded shooting guard and a few trivial role players brought back Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, a first-round draft pick that turned into Steven Adams and two more draft picks for the future.
Now this trade could very well follow a similar trajectory to the Gasol swap the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers engaged in a few years back. The Lakers originally appeared to get the better end of the deal by far, but the Grizz are slowly becoming winners as Marc Gasol continues to grow.
The same story could unfold if Lamb or Adams breaks out, but currently, the Thunder are still paying for the move.
OKC could have been favorites for the 2013 title, but instead they got one season out of Martin before he moved to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was solid during the regular season, but he flopped during the playoffs when the team needed him to step up for an injured Russell Westbrook.
You know who might have been able to step up?
Now the Thunder are left relying on unproven options to fill the scoring void on the bench. Reggie Jackson or Lamb will need to improve quickly and dramatically if this team hopes to remain near the top of the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, Harden has a new star to play with, and the Jeremy Lin-Harden-Chandler Parsons-Terrence Jones(?)-Dwight Howard starting five is one of the most intriguing units in the Association.
The balance of power might be shifting in the Western Conference, and this trade leads the list of reasons.