NBA

6 Most Puzzling Signings During 2014 NBA Free-Agency Period

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2014

6 Most Puzzling Signings During 2014 NBA Free-Agency Period

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Let's get weird.

    The NBA's offseason has been all kinds of weird, after all.

    Some free-agency transactions have made loads of sense. There isn't a soul out there questioning the Cleveland Cavaliers bringing LeBron James back or the Miami Heat's decision to fill (part of) the hole King James left with Luol Deng.

    Other moves haven't made as much sense. Lots of moves, actually.

    Unexpected additions have become unsurprising—common in the most puzzling way possible.

    This doesn't make them bad, though they can be. It doesn't make them good, either. They just are. There are reasons to hate them and love them, to overlook them and recognize them. 

    More than anything, there are reasons to stop, stare at many of these free-agency matchups and wonder, "What in the name of Donald Draper is going on here?"

Ben Gordon to the Magic

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    Kent Smith/Getty Images

    One of the first free agents to sign this summer was Ben Gordon.

    Ahem: Ben Gordon.

    To answer your question, no, your time machine still isn't working. This isn't July 2009, and Gordon isn't fresh off a season where he averaged 20-plus points and shot better than 41 percent from deep for the then-middling Chicago Bulls.

    This is 2014. Gordon just wrapped a five-year, $55 million contract by appearing in 19 games for the now-Charlotte Hornets. He reached new statistical lows, registering just 5.2 points on 34.3 percent shooting a night, completing what CBS Sports' Matt Moore basically describes as the Circle of Self-Carnage:

    Gordon, once upon a time, was the second best player on a playoff team in Chicago. Then he signed a massive offer sheet with the Pistons, and fell into the pit of horribleness there. He was eventually traded to Charlotte, and because of his attitude and conditioning, didn't get time there, either. He has clashed with the last three coaches he's played for.

    So that's not a great look.

    And yet the Orlando Magic feel he's worth $9 million over the next two seasons, per CBS Sports' Ken Berger. The second year is a team option, minimizing any risk involved. But come on.

    Although Moore goes on to explain that the Magic are essentially overpaying a veteran to join a rebuilding team, this move still makes little sense. Gordon isn't a mentor. He isn't someone known for his constructive locker room decorum. 

    He's Ben Gordon—the has-been scorer now playing for the developing Magic, whose motives, despite the absence of long-term perils, are no clearer than your average, knee-deep mud pit.

Darren Collison to the Kings

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Why sign Isaiah Thomas for four years and $27 million instead of Darren Collison at $16 million over three seasons?

    Because it's obviously the right thing to do.

    The Sacramento Kings feel right being oh so wrong, apparently.

    Replacing Thomas with Collison remains a head-scratcher. The former averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists on 45.3 percent shooting last season; the latter backed up Chris Paul with the Los Angeles Clippers, has never shown he can be an everyday starter on a good basketball team and closed out 2013-14 averaging 11.4 points and 3.7 assists on a slightly better 46.7 percent shooting.

    There is little evidence to suggest Collison is the better fit in Sactown, other than the fact that he helps the Kings duck luxury-tax bills. 

    Given how the Kings played last season, Grantland's Zach Lowe argues that, well, there isn't even an argument—Thomas is the better fit:

    Collison has never been Thomas’s equal as a scorer or a passer. He’s hesitant about penetrating the defense in the half court, and his inability to read the floor has frustrated coaches at just about every stop. Ask the Mavericks about him sometime.

    Collison is a speed demon, but the Kings ranked about average in pace last season, and — get this — they played much faster with Thomas on the floor. ...

    ... The Kings with Thomas on the floor played at a faster pace than the Clippers did with Collison, regardless of whether Paul was also playing, per NBA.com.

    So, yeah. Sacramento's thinking here is weird, even if it's financially driven. 

    Thomas told Bob Young of AZCentral Sports: “I felt very disrespected. Every year it was somebody new. I felt I did a good enough job to show them I was a starting point guard or a guy who could play a big role with their team."

    Don't feel bad, Isaiah. Kings gonna Kings. 

    Not to mention there's always the chance Collison pulled a Monstars and stole Paul's point guard powers, Space Jam-style.

Carlos Boozer to the Lakers

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Scenario: You're the Los Angeles Lakers. You draft Julius Randle. You sign Jordan Hill. You convince Ed Davis to work for minimum wage plus all the Ramen Noodles he can eat. 

    What's next?

    Claiming Carlos Boozer off amnesty waivers. Duh.

    Wait, what?

    Picking up Boozer reeks of asset hoarding. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had all this money to work with, couldn't hand out long-term deals that sapped the team of financial flexibility and stumbled upon Boozer. Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated says it is, in fact, that simple:

    Paying $3.3 million for a longtime starter whose role should be reduced isn't bad, and the fact that Boozer is under contract for only one year makes this about as neutral as an offseason acquisition could be. Boozer will show up, play some minutes, cash some checks, grab some rebounds, miss a whole lot of rotational assignments and then be on his way.

    Nothing is especially wrong with this decision. And for a contending team lacking offensive firepower, it's a steal.

    But the Lakers aren't a contending team. They're re-freaking-building.

    Boozer will take minutes away from youngsters such as Davis and Randle—players the Lakers should be evaluating, who might just offer a glimpse into Los Angeles' future beyond Kobe Bryant death stares.

    Instead of letting those two—and to a lesser extent, Ryan Kelly—work out the kinks up front, they bring in Boozer, who isn't a bad player, just a questionable, four-day-old-meatloaf fit.

Channing Frye to the Magic

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Orlando, meet your 2014-15 Magic, the pre-emptive champions of perplexity.

    Inking Gordon wasn't enough. They had to go out and sign Channing Frye to a four-year, $32 million deal, too. 

    The contract itself is a good value. Frye can space the floor in ways rookie Aaron Gordon cannot, and the Magic need scoring after sending Arron Afflalo back to the Denver Nuggets for Evan Fournier and a lifetime supply of fist bumps.

    Yet this is also another case of the Magic committing big money to a veteran who doesn't bring them closer to a playoff berth. Frye can be traded if he doesn't work out—again, his price tag isn't unreasonable—but the roster is a mess up front.

    In addition to Frye, the Magic have Nikola Vucevic, Kyle O'Quinn, Andrew Nicholson and Gordon (Aaron, not Ben). Perhaps there's balance to be found there, but for a club like Orlando that's still in the early stages of rebuilding, any moves that take minutes away from young guns must be met with skepticism.

    "I think it would be a problem if we said we didn't like it," general manager Rob Hennigan said of the Magic's roster, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "We're excited with where we're at. We've still got a lot of work to do—we're fully aware of that—but we do think we're heading in the right direction."

    At least the Magic are content with their talent clutter.

    And if it's any consolation to those who fear the illogical, Frye makes way more sense than Ben "Remember When I Used to Score" Gordon.

Evan Turner to the Celtics

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    David Dow/Getty Images

    Rest in peace, floor-spacing.

    Evan Turner does nothing to move the Boston Celtics' rebuilding needle. Nothing.

    Sure, he's a risk-free signing. The Celtics nabbed him for part of their midlevel exception, according to the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett, which means he took a pay cut. If he boosts his stock—not unlike he sort of did with the tanktastic Philadelphia 76ers last season—Boston has a fancy new trade asset on its hands.

    That doesn't mean he's a good for the Celtics. He's not. He's another ball-dominant scorer who can't shoot. And his arrival can only mean one thing: The Celtics will be avoiding three-pointers like it's the plague.

    Or sushi from a gas station.

    Enlighten yourself below:

    PlayerCareer 3P%
    Avery Bradley36.6
    Jeff Green34.4
    Rajon Rondo25.2
    Marcus Smart (College)29.5
    Jared Sullinger 26.8
    Evan Turner32.6

    Adding some legitimate shooters would have been nice. Smart, too. 

    The Celtics have instead opted for the unorthodox "We're Going to Break All the Rims and Lay All the Bricks" approach.

    Let's see how it pans out for them.

Marcin Gortat Re-Signs with the Wizards

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    Gary Dineen/Getty Images

    Sixty-million bones is all it took for the Washington Wizards to keep Marcin Gortat.

    So, it took too much.

    Gortat is a good big man. He's not great or spectacular. He's good. And on the wrong side of 30.

    This is an overpay. Not in a the-Wizards-are-screwed-six-ways-toward-next-Thursday way, but in a buh-bye-flexibility way, as Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal explains:

    Essentially, Washington is committing to its current core. Not just now, when it works, but years into the future, when Gortat's effectiveness is by no means guaranteed. 

    Again, this could pan out nicely. But the length of the deal necessitates at least a bit of worry about it backfiring down the road. 

    After all, the Wizards are out of wiggle room. 

    Keeping 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game was important. We get it. But he won't be putting up those numbers by the end of his deal when he's 35.

    Nor does this help Washington's not-so-secret pursuit of Kevin Durant in 2016. Other contracts come off the books and the Wizards let Trevor Ariza go to the Houston Rockets, but there's still Gortat, John Wall and Bradley Beal's inevitable max extension to consider.

    Looking at just this offseason, Gortat's deal doesn't hurt the Wizards much. They still managed to sign Paul Pierce, giving them one of the most underrated free-agency gets.

    Were other teams really after Gortat to the point where the Wizards felt it necessary to bend over in negotiations, though?

    That's a question they'll undoubtedly be asking themselves two, three, four and five years down the line.

     


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