The 1 Player Each NBA Fanbase Hopes Doesn't Return Next Season
Heading into the 2014 offseason, each NBA team has at least one player who fans hope vanish between now and this fall, either via trade, free agency or a handful of other available options.
For some squads, the choice is easy. The amnesty clause didn't wipe out all of the dead weight around the league, as fans of the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder can not-so-happily attest. For the few teams with amnesties still available, this summer may finally be time to pull the trigger.
Other franchises, such as Atlanta and Portland, are largely devoid of such wastes of space. They simply must remain cautious upon entering free agency, lest they throw away the progress they made this season by overpaying one of their undeserving role players.
Based on past production, contract status and future potential, here's a look at the players each NBA fanbase would like to make disappear this offseason.
Atlanta Hawks: Gustavo Ayon, C
Fresh off pushing the top-seeded Indiana Pacers to the brink of playoff elimination, the Atlanta Hawks find themselves in a great place this offseason. Al Horford will return from a season-ending pectoral injury, they have the No. 15 pick in the draft and Lucas Nogueira, the 16th overall selection from 2013, could join the team this fall after he finishes playing in the Spanish ACB league.
Better yet, they don't have a single player on their roster who fans hope to jettison. Though Lou Williams suffered through a disappointing 2013-14 season, his ability to create shots off the dribble makes him a valuable rotation member off the bench.
Center Gustavo Ayon, who played only 26 games this year due to ankle and shoulder injuries, is the most likely candidate to generate furor from fans if he returns. Because quite frankly, the Hawks have little incentive to bring him back.
Assuming the Hawks extend him a qualifying offer, he'll be a restricted free agent this summer. But with Horford, Paul Millsap, Pero Antic and Mike Muscala all set to return (and Nogueira potentially joining them), the Hawks would be better suited letting Ayon walk and using that cap space to fortify their wing rotation.
Boston Celtics: Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG
Heading into the 2013-14 season, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace appeared to be the two players most likely to inspire ire from the Boston Celtics' fanbase. Both represented the instant spoils from the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade, which sent most Boston fans into a rage blackout at the time.
But as Evans Clinchy of CelticsBlog noted, Humphries "surprised" Celtics fans by becoming a "very good player in [coach Brad] Stevens' rotation." Wallace, who underwent season-ending knee and ankle surgery in early March, "quietly did the little things on the court and is an excellent veteran presence," ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg wrote.
The inconsistency that plagued Jeff Green may have cost him a few fans this season, but his talent and potential as a complementary option remain undeniable. Thus, combo guard Jerryd Bayless is the most logical candidate to have fans rooting against his return in 2014-15.
Given the abundance of high-usage, low-efficiency guards throughout the NBA, a player like Bayless, who shot 41.8 percent in 41 games with Boston, isn't hugely in demand. Based on the reaction from CelticsBlog commenters, re-signing him for more than $2-3 million per year instead of allowing him to walk as an unrestricted free agent this summer would likely infuriate a large majority of Celtics fans.
Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams, PG
The Deron Williams era in Brooklyn reached a new low during the 2014 postseason. Williams bricked his way to shooting 39.5 percent over the Nets' 12 playoff games despite attempting the second-highest number of shots of any Brooklyn player.
Had he come anywhere close to his previous postseason career average of 45.4 percent shooting, the Nets feasibly could have pushed Miami to six or seven games in the conference semifinals. Instead, Brooklyn succumbed in five, with D-Will averaging a ghastly 11.2 points on 36.7 percent shooting in 34.9 minutes per game.
As Rick Barry of The Brooklyn Game captured, a slew of Nets fans couldn't hide their disgust with the disappearance of their franchise point guard during the playoffs. Williams is also "frustrated," a team source told Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game, as he hasn't been "up to the standards in the three years since [the Nets] got him."
Bleacher Report's Howard Beck reported that Brooklyn could look to trade Williams this summer, although the Nets "have not seriously explored the market" for him just yet, per Kharpertian.
Given the angst on both sides, finding a willing trade partner for a point guard with a laundry list of recent injuries—and one who's undergoing surgery on both of his chronically balky ankles this offseason—might be best for all parties.
Charlotte Hornets: Luke Ridnour, PG
Had Charlotte not waived shooting guard Ben Gordon in early March, he'd be the obvious choice here. He finished the season with a PER of 6.4, the second-worst rating of any Bobcat who played more than 100 minutes, while shooting a team-low 34.3 percent from the floor.
Now that the team's long-lasting Gordon nightmare has come to an end, it's time for Hornets fans to turn their attention to the rest of the roster. Though Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller have yet to live up to their respective gaudy expectations, it's too early to give up on any of them.
The same cannot be said, however, about 33-year-old point guard Luke Ridnour, who came to Charlotte in a midseason trade with Milwaukee. In his 25 games as a Bobcat, he averaged only 4.0 points, 2.2 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game, finishing with a career-worst PER of 8.6.
As Derek James wrote for At The Hive, "It seems that we're at the point where the league is going to continue to minimize Ridnour's role going forward just as Milwaukee and Charlotte did this season." With Ridnour set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, Charlotte fans would presumably prefer to see the Hornets spend their money on a backup to Kemba Walker elsewhere.
Chicago Bulls: Carlos Boozer, PF
If the Chicago Bulls bring back Carlos Boozer for the 2014-15 season, fans may legitimately riot.
Boozer, with only one year remaining on his massive five-year, $75 million contract, might be the league's most obvious amnesty candidate. However, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is "adamantly against the idea of setting Boozer free via amnesty," per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, and the team will thus "do everything they can to find a trading partner for Boozer before seriously considering the amnesty option."
Though the notoriously stingy Bulls would much prefer trading him to dumping him via the amnesty, his dramatic decline this past season—he finished with a career-low player efficiency rating of 14.4—should force the action one way or another. Especially with a viable replacement candidate, Taj Gibson, waiting in the wings.
According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times, the Bulls coaching staff has allegedly told Gibson to get his "body and mind right to be a starter." The big man quickly denied those claims on Twitter, but it's just the latest piece of evidence suggesting that Boozer's time in Chicago could be down to its final weeks.
And lo, the Bulls fans rejoice.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson, PF
Though 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett had a historically awful rookie season, it's too soon for Cleveland Cavaliers fans to give up hope on him. ESPN.com's David Thorpe (subscription required) rightly preached patience when it comes to Bennett's long-term future, suggesting that he still has star potential.
Cleveland, which just won the No. 1 pick for the third time in four years, has little room for patience these days. And thus, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the Cavs are shopping fellow power forward Tristan Thompson, per Joe Kotoch of ProBasketballDraft.com.
Barring an extension by Oct. 31, Thompson is set to become a restricted free agent next summer, and the Cavs have no intention of paying him $10 million or more per year, according to Kotoch. Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico echoed those sentiments in an April 30 online chat.
Kirk Lammers of Waiting for Next Year theorized that "Thompson's ceiling [may be] an energy first big off the bench," in which case, handing him a massive extension makes zero sense for Cleveland. With Bennett waiting in the wings, Cavs fans likely wouldn't be too torn up seeing Thompson traded this summer before the franchise must confront his restricted free-agency decision in 2015.
Dallas Mavericks: Samuel Dalembert, C
The Dallas Mavericks badly need to fortify their defense this summer, which could spell the end of center Samuel Dalembert's time with the team.
Dallas ranked 22nd in points per possession allowed this past season, the worst of any playoff team in either conference. The Mavs conceded 107.2 points per 100 possessions with Slammin' Sammy manning the middle, hardly the mark of a legitimate title contender.
Only $1.8 million of Dalembert's $3.87 million contract for 2014-15 is guaranteed, which should free up Dallas to pursue top centers either via free agency or trades.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein named New York's Tyson Chandler and Milwaukee's Larry Sanders as two potential trade candidates this offseason, while Hal Brown of Mavs Moneyball floated the names of Washington's Marcin Gortat and Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers as two possible free-agent targets.
If the Mavs are able to secure the services of a top center, Dalembert may be too pricey for Dallas to retain as a backup. Though most Mavericks fans likely don't feel strongly about the big Haitian one way or the other, they'd happily watch him depart if it meant bringing in a significant upgrade at center.
Denver Nuggets: Jan Vesely, PF
It's never a good sign when kissing your attractive girlfriend on draft night can go down as one of your career highlights. That sums up Jan Vesely to a T.
After two-and-a-half disappointing seasons in Washington, the Wizards shipped Vesely to Denver this February in a three-team deal that netted them backup point guard Andre Miller. Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie accurately summed up Vesely as follows:
Vesely has showed very few signs that he is an NBA-caliber forward since Ernie Grunfeld brought him to Washington in 2011 with the sixth pick in the draft. He’s made more than half his shots since entering the league, but he’s not much of a rebounder despite significant athleticism, and he’s missed 22 of 30 free throw attempts this year. Bad news for a guy whose pell-mell style would tend to lead to plenty of trips to the line.
Lo and behold, the Czech big man averaged a whopping 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game for Denver. As Andrew Feinstein of Denver Stiffs posited, "Vesely tries hard, but nothing about his game resembles that of a true NBA player and I fear these final two games with the Nuggets could be Vesely's last in the NBA."
Suffice it to say, Denver fans won't be too torn up when the team allows him to walk as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Detroit Pistons: Josh Smith, SF/PF
It didn't take long for Detroit Pistons fans to sour on Josh Smith, the team's marquee free-agent addition from the summer of 2013.
Despite having two young, talented big men in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond already on the roster, Detroit inexplicably signed Smith to a four-year, $54 million deal last offseason. Unsurprisingly, the Smith-Monroe-Drummond trio failed to ever gain traction, finishing with the third-worst plus-minus rating of any three-man lineup that played at least 1,200 minutes this past season.
Because Smith submarined his trade value with a never-ending barrage of terrible shots, the Pistons may be forced to allow Monroe, a restricted free agent, to walk this summer. That may turn the entire state of Michigan against J-Smoove.
Only 8 percent of voters on Detroit Bad Boys believe the Pistons should retain Smith this summer rather than seeking to trade him, which just about sums up the fanbase's current feelings toward the polarizing big man. Since no one in the NBA is untradeable—look at Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson for proof—most Detroit fans will pray Stan Van Gundy can find a miracle buyer for Smith this offseason.
Golden State Warriors: David Lee, PF
In his introductory press conference, new Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters that he thought the team "could use a stretch 4." David Lee, who has attempted only 26 three-pointers over his nine-year career, likely cringed upon hearing that.
Per Marcus Thompson of the San Jose Mercury News, the Warriors "have lowered the bar" on potential trades involving Lee, "realizing they've got to come off that contract so they can go after a co-star for Stephen Curry." Thompson named Orlando as a potential destination for Lee, suggesting Arron Afflalo could be "expendable" if the Magic select a guard (Dante Exum?) with the fourth overall pick in the draft.
Landing a promising 2-guard in Afflalo for Lee's bloated contract would be a no-brainer for Golden State. Likewise, shipping Lee to Minnesota in a package for Kevin Love should have all Golden State fans salivating uncontrollably.
Lee is entering the fifth year of his six-year, $80 million contract, with $30 million still remaining. He's not a worthless player by any means, but Dubs fans would gladly swap him for a younger, cheaper piece in a heartbeat.
Houston Rockets: Omer Asik, C
Houston Rockets center Omer Asik was a staple of trade rumors during the 2013-14 season thanks to the team's acquisition of Dwight Howard last summer. He reportedly requested a trade in mid-November, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, but Houston couldn't find a deal it deemed suitable.
Asik's career per-game averages of 5.6 points and 4.9 rebounds don't speak to the value he provides to a team, yet his contract will give teams pause this summer. He's due nearly $15 million in 2014-15 thanks to general manager Daryl Morey's trickery, only $8.4 million of which will count against his team's cap.
Morey told Feigen that he "[doesn't] expect" to move either Asik or point guard Jeremy Lin this summer, but Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Houston plans on making a run at a trade for Minnesota's Kevin Love. Unless the Rockets include Howard or James Harden in that deal, they'd need to ship out either Asik or Lin to make the financials work.
Rockets fans, desperate for their team to make another stride toward a championship, would gladly sacrifice Asik in a trade for Love or another marquee player this summer. The Turkish big man is clearly not part of the team's future, and thus Morey must maximize his value before losing him for nothing next July.
Indiana Pacers: Evan Turner, SG/SF
After trading for swingman Evan Turner in February, the Indiana Pacers must have felt like they were on an episode of Punk'd.
Instead of getting an instant-impact player who could become a deciding factor in the playoffs, Turner turned into a pumpkin immediately upon arriving at Indiana. He averaged 7.1 points on 41.1 percent shooting in 21.1 minutes per game over 27 regular-season contests with the Pacers, good for a PER of 9.7.
Somehow, he's been even worse in the postseason, as opponents are outscoring Indiana by 17.8 points per 100 possessions while he's on the court. It's gotten to the point where Turner missing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals with strep throat was widely viewed as a benefit for Indiana.
Instead of becoming a reliable backup to starting shooting guard Lance Stephenson, Turner inspired a detrimental game of one-upmanship between the two players, per B/R's Ric Bucher. Even if Stephenson departs this summer in free agency, it's difficult to imagine the Pacers matching a significant contract offer for Turner, who's a restricted free agent.
It's even more difficult to imagine Indiana fans batting an eye at that decision.
Los Angeles Clippers: Glen 'Big Baby' Davis, PF/C
As the dust settled from February's trade deadline, the Los Angeles Clippers appeared to have one critical Achilles' heel: big-man depth. Outside of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, both of whom were in the midst of career years, L.A. only had Ryan Hollins and Hedo Turkoglu to man the paint.
The Clippers made a killing on the buyout market, however, signing both Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Danny Granger to prorated minimum deals. By doing so, the Clips appeared to have more depth than any team in the West outside of San Antonio.
Though Granger provided valuable minutes off the bench in the waning months of the season, Big Baby's signing proved less successful. During a late-March game against the Houston Rockets, coach Doc Rivers sent Davis back to the team's locker room early in the second quarter and didn't allow him to return, per Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles.
Davis has a player's option for the league minimum in 2014-15, but he's set to earn $6.6 million thanks to his buyout with Orlando. Clippers fans likely wouldn't mind seeing him stick around for the minimum, as Steve Perrin of Clips Nation suggests, but re-signing him at a higher rate if he does opt out would be far less palatable.
Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash, PG
The Los Angeles Lakers enter the 2014 offseason with the strangest situation of any team in the NBA. They only have six players signed to a contract—Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Nick Young, Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshall and Robert Sacre—and three of those deals (Young, Kelly and Marshall) aren't guaranteed.
Thus, Nash earns the nod here effectively by default. The four players on minimum contracts aren't worth getting in a tizzy over, and Bryant, despite his massive, cap-crippling extension, remains a saint in the eyes of nearly all Lakers fans.
Nash, on the other hand, is a 40-year-old who has only played in 65 of a possible 164 games over the past two seasons due to a string of injuries. A broken leg suffered in the second game of the 2012-13 season led to ongoing nerve issues in his back, the likes of which, as B/R's Will Carroll explains, likely won't go away until he retires.
As of March, Nash wasn't planning on throwing in the towel before the 2014-15 season, saying in a Grantland documentary, "I'm not going to retire because I want the money." (He's owed $9.7 million this coming year.) However, the Lakers could use the stretch provision on him, which would allow them to pay him in installments of $3.23 million over the next three seasons, which Nash acknowledged.
Per B/R's Kevin Ding, the Lakers plan to "piece a roster together again next season around Kobe Bryant and save their cap space for 2015 free agents," perhaps sparing Nash from such an inglorious end to his fantastic career. That won't stem the bitterness many Lakers fans feel toward Nash for his first two lost seasons with the squad.
Memphis Grizzlies: Tayshaun Prince, SF
The days of Tayshaun Prince being a valuable contributor to a title contender appear long gone.
Prince finished with the lowest PER of any regular rotation member in Memphis this past year, both in the regular season (8.2) and the playoffs (5.2). He was one of only three Grizzlies to contribute negative win shares per 48 minutes during the postseason, joining Ed Davis and Jamaal Franklin.
The former Detroit Piston still carries value on defense, as evidenced by the 1.8 defensive win shares he contributed during the regular season, but his lack of offense can't compensate for that. He shot only 40.7 percent from the field and 29.0 percent from three-point range in the regular season and even worse than that (38.5 and 25.0 percent, respectively) in the playoffs.
Prince still has one year and $7.7 million remaining on his contract, which will make trading him damn near impossible for Memphis. The Grizzlies could always opt to use the stretch provision on him, though, which would allow them to spread his $7.7 million cap hit over the next three seasons.
Miami Heat: Shane Battier, SF/PF
Earlier this season, Miami Heat forward Shane Battier announced that he'd be retiring at the end of the year, per B/R's Ethan Skolnick. "It would take an act of God to change it and that act of God hasn't come," he said.
Despite Battier's contributions to Miami's back-to-back championships, Heat fans will assuredly hope that God doesn't intervene and change his mind. That's because, to put it kindly, the former Dukie has devolved into a shell of himself in 2013-14.
Battier finished the regular season with a career-low PER of 8.7, and his .078 win shares produced per 48 minutes was his worst mark since his rookie season in Memphis. After knocking down 68 triples in the playoffs over his first two years with the Heat, he has only gone 6-of-13 from downtown this postseason.
The 35-year-old played all of two minutes in the Heat's four-game sweep of Charlotte in the opening round of the playoffs and has already been replaced by Udonis Haslem in the starting lineup against Indiana in the conference finals. The lockdown defender of years past only shows up in spurts these days, limiting his long-term value to Miami.
Once his contract expires at the end of the season, Heat fans will assuredly tip their caps to him as he rides off into the sunset. They'll just be praying that no act of God changes his mind.
Milwaukee Bucks: O.J. Mayo, SG
Choosing just one player who Milwaukee Bucks fans hope to never see again is damn near impossible. Aside from Giannis Antetokounmpo and perhaps John Henson, the Bucks might not have any other players worth building around.
Combo guard O.J. Mayo, who signed a three-year, $24 million contract last summer, is already on the trading block after a pedestrian season, per Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times.
Center Larry Sanders, who inked a four-year, $44 million extension this past offseason, had an absolute nightmare of a year, highlighted by a broken hand suffered during a bar brawl in November and a marijuana-related suspension late in the season.
The Dallas Mavericks may attempt to trade for Sanders this summer, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, though the Bucks would be forced to sell on him at an all-time low. Suitors for Mayo, meanwhile, will likely be few and far between because of his precipitous decline in Milwaukee.
Mayo "was as much of a disaster as anyone and his weight gain became as much of a punchline as the team’s anemic record," wrote Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball. If the team can find a willing buyer for him this summer, Bucks fans would have no reservations about trading him away since his ceiling is far lower than that of Sanders.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Dante Cunningham, SF/PF
The Minnesota Timberwolves' bench was not the team's strong suit in 2013-14. Only five teams' benches scored fewer points per game than Minnesota's this past season, per HoopsStats.com, and Golden State's was the only bench that shot worse from the floor.
Symbolic of these problems was Dante Cunningham, the Wolves' undersized reserve 4 who had a miserable season both on and off the court. He finished the regular season with a career-low true shooting percentage of .474, and his PER of 12.6 was his second lowest ever.
Making matters worse: Cunningham was arrested twice in the first week of April, first on suspicion of domestic assault, and three days later for "suspicion of [terroristic] threats" to the same woman. He was charged with one felony count of domestic assault by strangulation, according to The Associated Press.
"At the very least, Cunningham is guilty of some egregiously poor decision-making—not to mention being a massive, aggro jerk—of a kind that makes discussing his value to the Wolves' bench seem crass and irrelevant," wrote Benjamin Polk of A Wolf Among Wolves.
With Cunningham set to become an unrestricted free agent in July, Wolves fans don't seem to mind allowing him to walk away and become another team's headache.
New Orleans Pelicans: Eric Gordon, SG
After coming to New Orleans in the Chris Paul trade and missing nearly all of the 2011-12 season, shooting guard Eric Gordon wanted out. He signed a four-year, $58 million offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns and pleaded with the Pelicans not to match, saying, "Phoenix is just where my heart is now," per ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.
New Orleans failed to heed that warning, however, and did match the offer, sealing Gordon's fate with the Pelicans through the 2015-16 season. He proceeded to miss 58 of a possible 164 games over the next two years, likely leaving the Pelicans with a massive case of buyer's regret.
Gordon did shoot a career-high 39.1 percent from three-point range this past season, potentially giving Pelicans fans a shred of hope with regard to his future. However, it may be a case of too little, too late after two injury-ravaged years.
"Regardless of what Gordon does or doesn’t do on the court, I eagerly await the day that he’s no longer a Pelican," Joe Gerrity of Bourbon Street Shots wrote. "Combine his injuries, poor play, and complete disregard for the reality of his situation and you'll understand why so many people are disappointed in him."
Unfortunately for New Orleans fans, Gordon still has two years and roughly $30.5 million remaining on his contract, which will complicate any potential trades this summer. Pelicans fans certainly wouldn't mind if another team attempted to turn their trash into treasure, however.
New York Knicks: Andrea Bargnani, PF/C
When news broke last summer that the New York Knicks had traded three future draft picks for oft-maligned Toronto Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani, Knicks fans weren't shy about sharing their displeasure.
Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting published a post titled "Why the Andrea Bargnani trade bothers me." KnickerBlogger's Jonathan Topaz criticized the philosophy behind the deal, noting, "It is a terrible shame to recklessly dangle draft picks in a salary cap system that rewards rookie contracts."
Bargnani only further validated the fears of Rosenthal and Topaz by having a completely forgettable season for New York, averaging 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 29.9 minutes per game through late January. He then tore a ligament in his left elbow against the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 22, causing him to miss the final 40 games of the year.
The Italian big man has an $11.5 million early-termination option for 2014-15, but given the way his 2013-14 season went, it's difficult to fathom why he would opt out. Unless the Knicks buy him out this summer—or somehow find a trade suitor for him—New York fans will likely be stuck booing Bargs for one more season.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Derek Fisher, PG
If Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins both disappeared after the 2014 postseason, few Oklahoma City Thunder fans would shed a single tear.
Perk has long been considered one of the league's most likely amnesty candidates, as the plodding center's impact becomes more difficult to quantify with each passing season. Kevin Durant and coach Scott Brooks are quick to point to his intangibles, but rookie Steven Adams has unquestionably outperformed him by virtually every fathomable metric this year.
However, after bullying Memphis forward Zach Randolph into a subpar series during the opening round of the playoffs, Perkins may have convinced the Thunder front office not to pull the trigger on his amnesty. That leaves Fisher as the reviled OKC player with the best chance of vanishing this offseason.
The 39-year-old point guard is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he may well hang up his basketball shoes for good. He reportedly has a "strong interest in becoming a head coach next season," per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, and is the perceived front-runner for the New York Knicks job.
Thunder fans, sick of Fisher taking playing time from Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, wouldn't mind seeing him depart OKC to become New York's head coach. Royce Young of Daily Thunder has been railing against Fish since the middle of last season, with headlines such as "Why are the Thunder bringing back Derek Fisher?"
Orlando Magic: Jameer Nelson, PG
Jameer Nelson's future in Orlando was sealed the second the Magic drafted Victor Oladipo second overall last June.
Even if you don't believe Oladipo to be Orlando's long-term answer at point guard—and based on his position splits as a rookie, skepticism is warranted—it's clear that Nelson is not the answer. More than half of his field-goal attempts came from behind the three-point line this past season, yet he only shot 34.8 percent from downtown.
With only $2 million of his $8 million contract for 2014-15 fully guaranteed, it wouldn't be surprising to see Orlando waive Nelson this summer. However, WESH-TV's Larry Ridley reported in late April that the team is leaning toward keeping him next season, depending on what happens in the draft.
If Dante Exum falls to the Magic at No. 4 overall, Nelson is as good as gone. And per ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Charlotte Hornets already have their eyes on both him and Orlando shooting guard Arron Afflalo as potential trade targets.
Philadelphia 76ers: Arnett Moultrie, PF
On the night of the 2012 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers moved back up into the first round to select Arnett Moultrie with the 27th overall pick. In exchange, they shipped a future first-round pick to the Miami Heat.
Two years later, even though that future first-rounder may only turn into two second-rounders, Miami still appears to have pillaged the Sixers in that deal. Moultrie's sophomore season was an unmitigated disaster, featuring a dispute with coach Brett Brown over his conditioning and a five-game late-season suspension for violating the league's anti-drug program.
"Moultrie is the new Kwame Brown," John Gonzales of CSN Philly wrote. "He gets paid to eat the buffet and not play basketball, but probably not for long."
The team already picked up Moultrie's $1.1 million team option for 2014-15, meaning Sixers fans can only hope for a trade this summer to rid themselves of him. If Philly decides to ship out Thaddeus Young, Moultrie could feasibly be thrown into the deal to make the financials work.
Phoenix Suns: Emeka Okafor, C
The Phoenix Suns, one of the most pleasant surprises from this past year, don't have a glaring need to ditch any of their main rotation players. All eight Suns who played more than 1,200 minutes this season finished with a PER above 13, which is slightly below average at worst.
Thus, the only logical candidate to release this summer is center Emeka Okafor, who missed the entire 2013-14 season due to a herniated disc in his neck. Back in October, Phoenix traded Marcin Gortat to Washington for him, knowing he'd miss most (if not all) of the season, for the Wizards' 2014 first-round pick.
Without Okafor active, the Suns turned to Miles Plumlee as their starting center, and he rewarded their faith by being shockingly competent. He's not the long-term answer at center by any means, but that's why they drafted Alex Len fifth overall last June.
Since Phoenix has three first-round selections this summer (its own, Washington's and Indiana's), there's little need to bring back Okafor, an unrestricted free agent. At best, he'd be competing with Len for sparse minutes off the bench.
Portland Trail Blazers: Earl Watson, PG
No NBA team had a worse bench in the 2013-14 than the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers' bench scored a league-low 23.6 points per game, according to HoopsStats.com, with nearly half of that production coming from backup guard Mo Williams. Earl Watson, the third-string point guard, symbolized those struggles by averaging 0.5 points in 6.7 minutes per game, good for a team-low PER of 2.1.
The 34-year-old Watson, signed to a veteran's minimum contract this past season, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July. Based on his production, the Blazers have zero reason or incentive to bring him back next year.
"Portland cannot proceed with a bench this bad," Dave Deckard of Blazers Edge wrote in his season review. Even if Williams declines his player option and departs in free agency as well, the Blazers can find more productive, younger, cheaper options than Watson for their third-string floor general.
Sacramento Kings: Jason Thompson, PF
Sacramento Kings fans seem ready to cut bait on power forward Jason Thompson this summer, and the feeling appears to be mutual.
When Cowbell Kingdom's James Ham asked Thompson if the 2013-14 season was his most frustrating year, he replied, "Hands down, man. That's saying the least. Just for the amount of shots, the type of rotations we had—offensively and defensively. It just wasn't even a fun year for me."
Sacramento signed Carl Landry, a fellow power forward, to a four-year, $26 million contract last summer, seemingly signaling its intention to move on from Thompson. However, the Kings failed to find a trade partner for the former Rider University big man, relegating him to yet another miserable year in Sacramento.
Sactown Royalty's Akis Yerocostas "will be very surprised if the Kings can't manage to find a taker this summer," as Thompson only has two fully guaranteed seasons remaining on the five-year, $30 million deal he inked two summers ago. At this point, it seems best for both parties to move on.
San Antonio Spurs: Aron Baynes, PF/C
The San Antonio Spurs carry the least dead weight of any NBA team. Guys like Danny Green, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills, who were castoffs from their previous organizations, frequently come to San Antonio and begin thriving.
Thus, Spurs fans might genuinely want all of their players to return next season, even the ones who didn't live up to expectations. After all, coach Gregg Popovich's sorcery could still coax them into becoming productive contributors in 2014-15.
If someone has to go, however, Aron Baynes seems to be the most likely candidate. He finished with the worst PER of any Spur who played at least 200 minutes this season, and the team performed better both offensively and defensively with him on the bench (0.5 points and 4.5 points per 100 possessions, respectively).
Baynes, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is only 27 and entering his third NBA season, which might entice San Antonio to keep him around on a cheap deal. There's no way the Spurs should offer him anything more than a minimum contract, however, based on his production over the first two seasons of his career.
Toronto Raptors: John Salmons, SG/SF
Swingman Landry Fields earns an honorable mention here, but there's only one real candidate for the player Toronto Raptors fans never want to see again. John Salmons, who came over from Sacramento in the midseason Rudy Gay trade, managed to inspire the hatred of the Raps' entire fanbase in just five months.
Before the start of the 2013-14 season, Grantland's Bill Simmons said Salmons was "so totally and irrevocably washed-up, it's actually kind of amazing to watch." Somehow, that description doesn't do justice to just how bad the former Miami Hurricanes swingman was this season.
In 60 games with Toronto, Salmons averaged 5.0 points per game on 36.8 percent shooting, finishing with a regular-season PER of 7.6. That was the lowest mark of any Raptor who played at least 200 minutes—yes, including Fields.
"Incidentally, no one has done more to create a positive perception of Fields' very limited game than John Salmons," wrote Raptors HQ's Zach Salzmann in his end-of-season grades. The good news for Toronto: Only $1 million of Salmons' $7 million salary in 2014-15 is guaranteed, all but ensuring the Raptors will waive him before the June 30 cutoff date.
Utah Jazz: Andris Biedrins, C
Once Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap departed as free agents during the 2013 offseason, the Utah Jazz found themselves at a crossroads. They could either seek to fill those massive holes in the frontcourt to stay afloat or they could commit to a long-term rebuild around their young lottery prospects from the past few seasons.
Utah chose Option B, and thus agreed to take upon the contracts of swingman Richard Jefferson, guard Brandon Rush and center Andris Biedrins from Golden State to acquire five future draft picks in the process. Though Jefferson pleasantly surprised Jazz fans by playing halfway decently this season, Biedrins failed to do the same.
In fact, for the $9 million Biedrins earned in 2013-14, he scored a grand total of three points in a team-low 45 minutes. He finished with a career-worst PER of 2.4, which, almost unfathomably, was not the lowest PER on the team. (Jamaal Tinsley, come on down!)
Utah waived Biedrins in early April to make room for Erik Murphy (who?), so the odds of a reunion in free agency this summer appear rather low. Sorry, Jazz fans…you'll have to find a new punchline next season.
Washington Wizards: Kevin Seraphin, PF/C
The Washington Wizards have a number of difficult decisions to make in free agency this offseason, with both center Marcin Gortat and swingman Trevor Ariza set to hit the market. Washington's front office likely won't lose much sleep over deciding what to do with Kevin Seraphin, however.
The 17th overall pick from the 2010 NBA draft has done little to justify his selection during his four-year career with the Wizards. His career per-game averages of 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds don't exactly scream "superstar," nor does his career PER of 11.9.
"If the Wizards bring back Kevin Seraphin, it should be a fireable offense for [general manager Ernie] Grunfeld," suggests Conor Dirk of Truth About It. "He's been awful, he doesn't rebound, he doesn’t draw fouls, he doesn't leave the bench despite the Wizards' real need for a backup center who can bang inside."
So…there's that. With Seraphin set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, the Wizards would apparently incite a riot in the nation's capital if they re-sign him at any price.