NBA Players Already Regretting Their 2017 Free-Agency Signing
As the ink dries on NBA free-agency contracts, there's always chatter about which of the summer spenders might be feeling buyer's remorse.
But we're examining the other side of the coin here and analyzing which free agents are already having second thoughts about the decisions they made on the open market.
There's a caveat to this discussion in that each of these players still has multimillions headed his way based on his offseason activity. So, even if life looks a little gloomy, it's still being viewed through a wildly wealthy lens.
Still, money can only do so much for players who aren't performing to their standards or living out the visions they conjured just a few months back.
Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers
Is it possible to regret signing a contract that pays you $173 million over five seasons? Probably not, hence the five-time All-Star's exclusion from our list.
That said, Griffin couldn't have imagined the Clippers' plight. They've been ravaged by injuries, already been saddled with two losing streaks of four-plus games and could be on the cusp of demolition. Griffin's longtime frontcourt mate, DeAndre Jordan, is being targeted by potential trade partners, per ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski, and L.A. has other players on expiring deals it could shop to spark a rebuild.
Griffin last suited up in late November and could be shelved for two months by a sprained MCL. Whenever he returns, this club could look dramatically different from the one he committed to over the summer.
Nikola Mirotic, PF, Chicago Bulls
It wasn't until late September that Mirotic inked a two-year, $25 million contract to stay in Chicago. It just feels like forever ago after all the bizarre twists and turns his journey has taken since.
Just days before the Bulls' season opener, Mirotic was punched by teammate Bobby Portis and suffered a concussion and facial fractures. The injuries stripped Mirotic of the starting spot he'd won, which instead went to fast-rising freshman Lauri Markkanen. NBC Sports Chicago's Vincent Goodwill later heard Mirotic wanted either out of Chicago or Portis to be moved.
So, why is Mirotic excluded? Because somehow, this story keeps evolving. Mirotic and Portis have shared the floor in three consecutive Bulls' wins and combined for 47 points in Monday's upset of the Boston Celtics. That might not mean they will stay in the Windy City for long, but a trade no longer feels imminent for either scoring forward.
Mason Plumlee, C, Denver Nuggets
Trapped in restricted free agency and unsigned through mid-September, Plumlee didn't appear as the likeliest free agent to strike it rich. But his patience was rewarded with a three-year, $41 million deal lucrative enough to prevent any major feelings of signer's remorse.
Still, that dollar amount might be the only number in Plumlee's favor. A crowded Denver frontcourt has squeezed him to the fewest minutes of his career (17.9 per game), and he's struggled to find a suitable partner. The Nuggets have been abysmal when Plumlee plays with Paul Millsap (minus-5.0 net rating, which would rank 27th) and fared even worse when he's alongside Nikola Jokic (minus-9.6, 29th) or Kenneth Faried (minus-17.0, 30th).
Vince Carter, SG, Sacramento Kings
Vince Carter, the Association's senior member, had a choice this summer—join the Sacramento Kings or the league's reigning royalty.
But the 40-year-old saw more to it than that, as he detailed in a post for The Undefeated: "The opportunity was there [to sign with Golden State], but they couldn't match what was offered here. I just didn't want to sit on the bench. I wanted to be able to play. It's easy to sit on the bench and ride it out. But it just wasn't the right thing."
There's nothing wrong with that stance, especially knowing the vitriol fans have a tendency to throw at perceived ring-chasers. But if Carter had visions of a substantial role in Sacramento, those have yet to materialize.
He's averaging a career-worst 13.1 minutes per game, which makes him the Kings' 13th man by average floor time. Even though Sacramento has the league's worst net rating (minus-10.1), its wing rotation doesn't always have a place for the player who once defied gravitational laws.
Worse yet, he's failing to force the issue when his number is called. He's never had a lower field-goal percentage (32.1) or a worse player efficiency rating (5.9). For the first time in his Hall of Fame-caliber career, he's worth less than a replacement player (minus-0.1 VORP).
Granted, had he gone to Golden State, his counting categories would have almost assuredly taken an even bigger hit. But the fleeting floor time would be easier to stomach on a club competing for a championship as opposed to draft lottery ping-pong balls.
George Hill, PG, Sacramento Kings
George Hill almost played his hand in free agency perfectly.
The timing was impeccable. The 31-year-old entered the market fresh off the best scoring campaign of his career (16.9 points per game) and narrowly missed personal bests in field-goal shooting (47.7), three-point accuracy (40.3) and PER (19.3).
Five years after collecting a $40 million contract, Hill snared a three-year, $57 million deal with Sacramento. And therein lies the issue.
His tenure with the Kings has been borderline disastrous. Not only is he playing for the NBA's least efficient squad, but he's also averaging his fewest points (9.0), shots (7.4) and minutes (25.5) since his rookie year. He's also losing floor time to rookie point guards De'Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III—the 34th player selected in this summer's draft.
Given Sacramento's predicament, embracing a youth movement might be a logical approach. Except Hill and the other experienced players added to this roster were told that wasn't going to be the case, per Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune:
"The Kings brought in Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter during the offseason and still have Garrett Temple on the roster. These are respected vets who can play. These are vets brought in to help a young team, and according to sources, were brought in with the promise of a team aiming to be playoff competitive.
"But that promise was made to them by Scott Perry, who since left Sacramento and now makes personnel decisions for the New York Knicks. So the direction of the franchise has shifted since Perry left. An organization that brought in veterans aiming to win now is aiming to lose."
Hill isn't happy with the about-face, according to Jones, and his play reflects that. Both his PER (12.7) and box plus-minus (minus-1.5) are at their lowest levels since his freshman year.
Nerlens Noel, C, Dallas Mavericks
Everything felt fresh in February. Nerlens Noel had been freed from the clogged frontcourt of the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Dallas Mavericks had found their best center since Tyson Chandler manned the middle. In fact, Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said their newly acquired big man was a "Tyson Chandler starter kit," per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon.
But the relationship soured at some point this summer. Noel declined a July 1 offer of four years and $70 million, per ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski, only to later accept a meager one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer that kept him in Dallas.
The bouncy big man has been fading into obscurity ever since. He shifted in and out of the starting lineup for the first month, but he only topped 22 minutes once. Then, his rotation spot essentially vanished, as he sat more than he played and averaged just 3.6 minutes on the nights he touched the floor.
Now, Noel is out indefinitely after undergoing thumb surgery. His situation and future uncertainty may have played a role in his decision to have the operation.
"He played with it for a while, but the situation has not improved and, with him set to become a free agent this summer, it makes sense from his standpoint to have the procedure so that he can return in the second half of the season and try to rebuild some of his market value with a healthy hand," Eddie Sefko wrote for the Dallas Morning News.
At this rate, Noel might have to accept another short-term, prove-it deal. His per-36-minute averages in points (11.5), assists (1.0), steals (1.6) and blocks (1.6) are career lows, and the Mavs were 22.7 points worse per 100 possessions when he played.
Derrick Rose, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Derrick Rose's problems surfaced long before free agency came about.
Between his litany of injury issues and declining efficiency, his stock had tumbled farther and faster than he realized. In January, ESPN.com's Ian Begley reported the 2010-11 MVP would seek max money in free agency. By late July, Rose was putting pen to paper on a one-year, $2.1 million arrangement with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Somehow, the situation has worsened. He opened his Northeast Ohio stint with seven rocky outings in which he averaged more turnovers (2.7) than assists (1.7), and Cleveland posted a ghastly minus-12.6 net rating over his 188 minutes.
Then the all-too-familiar injury bug struck again. This time, a lingering ankle issue forced him off the floor and into a leave of absence. ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin reported there was internal and external uncertainty about whether Rose would ever return.
He surfaced nearly two weeks later and apologized to his teammates, per McMenamin. But with the Cavs having caught fire and constructed one of the league's premier reserve units without him, there are now questions about how—or even if—he fits with his new team.
"You can say put Rose on the bench, but that group has such excellent chemistry right now," Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote. "It also is a group that shoots a lot of three-pointers, especially [Channing] Frye and [Kyle] Korver. That allows [Dwyane] Wade to drive to the rim. Rose is a poor three-point shooter (.297 career) and was 3-of-13 this season."
Rose still isn't healthy, and two-time All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas appears closer to making his Cavs debut. So, Rose might be penciled into a third point guard role (behind Thomas and Wade), and even that assumes Cleveland prefers his inside-the-arc game over Jose Calderon's 41.7 percent three-point stroke.
Ramon Sessions, PG, New York Knicks
Ramon Sessions was billed as a caretaker for lottery pick Frank Ntilikina when he signed a one-year deal with the New York Knicks for the veteran's minimum. And when Sessions landed the starting point guard gig on opening night, he looked the parts of mentor and placeholder.
But his run as first-team floor general ended after only three outings, and Sessions has failed to maintain even a rotation role since. He has only appeared in seven of New York's last 24 contests. The Knicks have not only expanded Ntilikina's workload, but they've also handed the starting reins to 34-year-old journeyman Jarrett Jack, who only played 34 games over the past two seasons because of a pair of serious knee injuries.
"It's a situation that if you came to me early in the summer and been like, 'You know, you've been inactive for so many games, would you take that role?' I'd have to be honest with myself and say probably not because I feel like in this league I can still play," Sessions said, per David Wetzel of the Myrtle Beach Sun News. "But it's a situation that you're dealt with."
Most NBA rotation spots are subject to change, but there's little reason to believe Sessions can alter his free-falling trajectory.
The Knicks need to develop Ntilikina, so if his minutes adjust, they're most likely to increase. And when Sessions was playing, he was shooting a worse percentage (32.7 to 42.7) and averaging fewer assists (6.5 to 8.4) with more turnovers (3.4 to 2.4) per 36 minutes than Jack.
Considering this is the third time in four years Sessions' PER has fallen multiple points from the previous season, this is likely just the continuation of his decline. But he's never been utilized this infrequently (14.9 minutes per game) or been less effective inside the lines (minus-5.6 box plus-minus).
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.