Biggest Risks Taken in NBA Free Agency

Sam Richmond@srichmond93Correspondent IJuly 25, 2013

Biggest Risks Taken in NBA Free Agency

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    Free agency is built upon NBA teams taking risks.

    However, year after year, some teams take it to the extreme. Some teams make moves in which the risk outweighs the reward. 

    The 2013 free-agency period was no different. When a guy like Monta Ellis, who's both enticing and inefficient, is up for grabs, how could it not be?

    Here, we'll evaluate the risk in the Dallas Mavericks' signing of Ellis, as well as the six other most dangerous moves from this summer.


    Note: Andrew Bynum was not included because, while risky, his contract was for two years, $24 million. The second year is a team option, and only $6 million is guaranteed. 

Dallas Mavericks Signing Jose Calderon

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    Four years, $29 million

    Jose Calderon might be one of the more underrated offensive point guards in the league to the general public; however, the Mavericks surely didn't underrate him, locking up the 31-year-old for four years. 

    Let's start there, with Calderon's age. He'll be 35 years old in the final season of this contract and making around $7 million.

    Calderon already struggles mightily on the defensive end, especially with quick point guards. So, you can imagine how big of a problem that will be when he's four years older.

    This isn't to say this is a horrible signing. While it would be better if he could get to the rim more often (he averaged just 1.5 shots per game at the rim last season, according to Hoopdata), he's a fantastic shooter (42.9 3PT% in 2012-13) and passer (7.1 APG in 2012-13).

    The Mavericks will likely be pleased with this contract in the first year or two. But it's the back end of the deal, which banks on Calderon remaining effective as he nears the end of his career, that makes this a risky move.

New Orleans Pelicans Signing Tyreke Evans

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    Four years, $44 million

    There are multiple reasons for why this move could work out well for the New Orleans Pelicans.

    At just 23 years old, Tyreke Evans still has plenty of potential to grow and improve as a player. He's also leaving one of the worst situations in the league, the Sacramento Kings, and will now likely fill a sixth-man role, which is what he's seemed destined for throughout the past couple of seasons.

    However, $11 million annually over four years for a sixth man is a good chunk of change.

    Plus, the Pelicans aren't necessarily a team that needs a sixth man like Evans. Tyreke isn't backing up a player like Thabo Sefolosha; he's backing up another scorer in Eric Gordon. It's not a great fit.

    Evans is going to have to accept not being "The Man" anymore, which is one thing to say and actually more to do on the court. Also, he'll have to continue improving his jumper and commit on the defensive end, which seemingly wasn't a requirement in Sacramento.

    With the type of money Evans is going to be making, if he doesn't do all of those things, then this will be a losing gamble.

New York Knicks Trading for Andrea Bargnani

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    Two years, $23 million

    Is there risk in the New York Knicks trading for Andrea Bargnani? The better question might be, where isn't there risk? He has played a combined 66 games over the past two seasons due to injuries.

    While Bargnani has always been a disappointment in the NBA, never living up to the expectations of being a No. 1 overall draft pick, he was a valuable shooter in his first couple of years in the NBA. No more. He hasn't topped 31 percent from outside in either of the past two seasons.

    And the downside on this move continues. Bargnani is a putrid rebounder. Last season, he hauled down 4.6 rebounds per 36 minutes. This guy is 7'0"! 

    To top it all off, he is an atrocious defender.

    The Knicks counting on Bargnani to stay healthy, rediscover his stroke and not hurt them both defensively and on the glass is about as risky as an acquisition can get.

Detroit Pistons Signing Josh Smith

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    Four years, $54 million

    Some of the risk in this signing simply stems from the timing of it. By adding Josh Smith, the Detroit Pistons are making the statement that they are ready to win now.

    But the Pistons would have been better served to wait a couple of years, let their franchise cornerstones Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond fully develop and then sign a player of Smith's caliber.

    Now, the Pistons have to win—and win quickly—for this move to be a success. And I'm not very bullish on their potential to do so. 

    Offensive spacing figures to be a huge issue for this team. While Smith seemingly believes he has a good shot, as he's constantly chucking up mid-range jumpers, he's an inefficient shooter. Last year, Smith shot 24 percent from 10-15 feet out and 33 percent from 16-23 feet out, according to Hoopdata.

    Considering Smith is going to be playing a lot of small forward on this team alongside Monroe and Drummond, who aren't floor-spacers, his lack of shooting ability is a problem.

    Smith is a big-time talent (he averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists last year) and one of the more freakish athletes in the league. But there's a lot of uncertainty about how well the Pistons and Smith will mesh.

New Orleans Pelicans Trading Nerlens Noel and 2014 First-Round Pick

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    Trade for Jrue Holiday

    The Pelicans made a huge splash at the beginning of the 2013 NBA draft by sending Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jrue Holiday. 

    Now, I'm a huge fan of Holiday's game. He's just 23 years old and emerged as one of the better point guards in the league during the 2012-13 season, averaging 17.7 points and eight assists per game.

    But can he develop into a true NBA star? With the Pelicans giving away two enormous assets to get him, he better be.

    Noel, who many thought should have been the first pick in the draft, has gobs of potential. To give away Noel by himself would have been tough.

    But to tack on a first-round pick for what seems primed to be one of the best drafts in recent NBA history means the Pelicans are really putting all of their eggs in Holiday's basket.

Charlotte Bobcats Signing Al Jefferson

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    Three years, $41 million

    There is no getting around it: The Charlotte Bobcats massively overpaid for Al Jefferson. 

    You can make the argument that because they're the Bobcats they have to overpay players if they are to represent any semblance of an attractive free-agent destination, but it doesn't change the facts. 

    Jefferson is a great post scorer and is solid on the glass (he averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds last season). But there are a lot of holes in his game.

    He's someone who commands the ball a lot of the time, which will take away opportunities for some of Charlotte's young and growing players (Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo). He's not always a willing passer, and his defense can be downright embarrassing at times, especially on the pick-and-roll.

    On top of Jefferson's skills not being worthy of the money, this was the wrong year for the Bobcats to make this move. As we've talked about, the 2014 NBA draft is going to be stacked, and this move improves the Bobcats enough to worsen their draft stock while still not making them close to a playoff team.

Dallas Mavericks Signing Monta Ellis

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    Three years, $30 million

    This move immediately smelled like one made out of desperation after the Mavericks missed out on Dwight Howard.

    The Mavericks wanted to pair an aging Dirk Nowitzki, 35, with a big-name player, and by signing Monta Ellis for $30 million over three years, they did just that. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the Mavs found a player capable of helping the team win titles.

    Ellis is a shoot-first guard to the extreme. The problem with that? Ellis isn't a good shooter.

    Last season, Ellis shot four three-pointers a game and made just 28.7 percent of them. That's historically bad. Only two players, Mookie Blaylock and Latrell Sprewell, have ever matched that in NBA history, according to

    Ellis' shot selection is almost laughable at this point, as he continuously takes low-percentage jumper after low-percentage jumper.

    If Ellis adjusts his mentality offensively, then perhaps this will end up proving to be a risk worth taking by the Mavs. However, Ellis will be 28 years old when the 2013-14 season begins. Who he is right now is likely who he's going to be for the rest of his career.