It wasn't even a year ago when frenzied fans started talking about this summer's NBA free agent class as if it were Y2K or the pending apocalypse of 2012.
"The Summer of LeBron is coming!"
"The Summer of LeBron is coming!"
"The Summer of LeBron is coming!"
And with that, fans would reel off the names of potentially available players like 16-year-old girls who had just experienced their first discount shopping outlet.
Like, Oh my God, there's LeBron James... Dwyane Wade... Kobe Bryant... Dirk Nowitzki... Yao Ming... Paul Pierce... Amar'e Stoudemire... Chris Bosh... Carlos Boozer... Joe Johnson... Rudy Gay... Ray Allen... Manu Ginobili... Michael Redd... and so on.
"So many big-time players are going to be changing teams!"
We've all heard this statement at some point. After all, no basketball related conversation could even take place in the past however many months without someone mentioning LeBron going to the Knicks or D-Wade heading back home to Chicago.
Everyone said, "watch what happens at the trade deadline." We waited and waited, checking the trade rumors every morning, expecting Bosh, Boozer, Gay and Stoudemire to all be moved. And of course, none of them went anywhere.
And now, nearly a year after all of the mad hype started, we're all a bit more tranquil, even somewhat disappointed as if we were promised a fireworks show and it was canceled at the last moment because of light rain.
This is good.
Because fans have turned their attention back to the action and the playoff push, we can now start having real, rational conversations about what's truly likely to happen this off-season. Which players are really available? Who's going where? Why?
Let's start by looking at ten players who aren't worth their salt.
There are three things you need to know about Krypto-Nate the Clown.
1. He's actually a clown. No, seriously. That's the only logical explanation as to why Robinson felt compelled to dance and goof-off as often as possible as his team continued to lose. He was a serious thorn in the sides of both Isiah Thomas and Mike D'Antoni. Even Chris Duhon complained about his antics.
2. He was pulled over by police in the Bronx in August for not wearing a seat belt. He was then arrested after it had been determined his license was suspended. How did Robinson handle the situation? He tweeted "LOL" (Laugh Out Loud) several times and joked about the police inconveniencing him.
3. He shot at his own team's basket as the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter of a Knicks-Nets match in November. The shot went in just a second after the red light came on. D'Antoni went berserk on him, naturally.
Robinson is the 5'9", less-efficient version of J.R. Smith. The only real difference in knuckleheadism between the two is that Robinson smiles.
Thomas is still several months away from his 24th birthday. He doesn't make much money at all. His athleticism makes LeBron James seem human.
Yet the Bulls gave him up for a future draft pick just three and a half seasons after dealing LaMarcus Aldridge for him.
There's no question Thomas could become a useful weapon in the right system. However, he has seemed more like the second coming of Stromile Swift than Kenyon Martin thus far.
Some guys are basketball players with athletic ability, and some guys are just athletes who happen to play basketball.
Thomas is the latter.
Some team will jump all over him because of his potential. But he has a long way to go before he can justify the millions he's making.
I bet half of you out there probably forgot or didn't even know he's a free agent this summer.
That alone says a lot.
Amongst qualified point guards, look at where Felton ranks this season in per-game averages:
Minutes: 18th with 32.7
Points: 14th with 12.1
FG %: 14th with .456
FT %: 23rd with .770
3PT %: 9th with .409
Rebounds: 12th with 3.4
Assists: 16th with 5.2
Turnovers: 25th with 2.2
Ast-TO Ratio: 26th with 2.34
Steals: 5th with 1.67
Double-Doubles: 20th with 2
PER: 28th with 15.05
Not the least bit impressive.
The Bobcats drafted Felton with the fifth pick in the 2005 Draft. They were so satisfied (note: sarcasm) with him three years later that they drafted point guard D.J. Augustin with the ninth pick in the 2008 Draft.
In that draft, eight of the next ten picks were Brook Lopez, Jason Thompson, Anthony Randolph, Robin Lopez, Mareese Speights, Roy Hibbert, JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson—all promising, quality big men.
What was the 'Cats' front line at the time? 6'10" Emeka Okafor and 6'8" Boris Diaw. Obviously, they needed big men but Larry Brown felt oh-so confident in Felton that he drafted another point guard instead.
Felton isn't a bad player but it's pretty clear he's barely starting-caliber. Still, some team out there will probably sign him to a head-scratching deal.
Good luck to them.
O'Neal has made over $130 million in his 14-year career, including $21.4 million this season.
He will never sniff this kind of money again, but you have to wonder if some team will overspend for him given his age (31) and per-36-minute averages (17-and-9, 2 blocks, 54 percent FG shooting).
Hey, if both Tyson Chandler and Samuel Dalembert are making over $12 million per season, it's not unrealistic to think some team might give O'Neal a contract in the neighborhood of two years and $20 million.
Given his injury history (missed 30 percent of games the past five-plus seasons), would you even consider him at market value?
His name still carries some weight, but I'd pass on him.
Look kids, the guy on the embarrassing, losing franchise is celebrating!
Harrington will end his 12th season with over 800 career games played, which means the decline will start soon, if it hasn't already.
He has gone to the playoffs only four times and has never been named an All-Star. The only category he has ever led the league in is personal fouls (301 in 2006). He doesn't play defense. He's an average shooter, at best.
He's almost like a poor man's Richard Jefferson. I know... I didn't think such a thing was possible either.
And he's making $10 million this season.
Agent Dan Fegan's clientele includes several players making way more than they're worth. He's going to sell Harrington as a proven veteran scorer in his prime—he just turned 30—who has averaged 19-and-6 over the past five seasons.
That's all true, but we all also know Harrington is far, far, far from being a prime time player.
Next year will mark Allen's 15th season in the league. Here's what comparable players have done in their 15th year:
Reggie Miller: Age 36. Played 79 games and averaged 16.5 points on 45/41/91 shooting percentages. His numbers all plummeted sharply the next season.
Michael Finley: Age 36. Played 24 games and averaged 3.9 points. Will probably retire at season's end.
Glen Rice: Age 36. Played 18 games and averaged 3.7 points. Retired at end of season.
Dale Ellis: Age 37. Played 79 games and averaged 12 points on 50/46/78 shooting percentages. Retired two years later.
Both Mitch Richmond and Joe Dumars retired at the ages of 36 and 35, respectively, after 14 seasons.
Allen will turn 35 this summer, meaning we shouldn't expect much more out of him than one or two seasons of serviceable role work.
Still, with aging veterans like Stephen Jackson and Rip Hamilton scheduled to make $11.5 and $12.7 million, respectively, in the last year of their contracts—they'll both be 35—it's not crazy to think Allen will get a one- or two-year deal worth at least $9 million per.
He isn't worth it.
Thinking about signing McGrady to a contract these days is much like shopping for an older model luxury car with high mileage.
The voice of temptation will tell you, "it's used, but it's still a Porsche and you can afford it." The voice of reason will tell you, "I don't care what it is, a new Honda is better than a 13-year-old Porsche that has 150,000 miles on it."
So, what do you do?
We all like McGrady the very same way we all like a Porsche. But this isn't about performance nearly as much as it is about reliability and opportunity cost.
Should McGrady create the illusion over the remaining 26 games of the season that he can still play at a high level, we have to believe some teams will excitedly overreach.
Never mind the reality Mac has appeared in only 59 percent of his team's games the past five seasons, thanks to a bad back and microfracture knee surgery.
In his last 110 games, McGrady has averaged 18.5 points, 5.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds. Not bad for a hobbled guy, right?
Well, he has needed 17 shot attempts per game to score those points and has posted 41/31/72 shooting percentages (all below his career averages).
How much is this kind of player worth?
Shawn Marion, who is a year older than McGrady, signed a five-year, $39 million deal last summer.
Despite being an injury waiting to happen, McGrady has to be somewhere in that ballpark; probably between two and four seasons and $8 million-$12 million per year.
Sorry, but that's a lot of money for a guy who, even when healthy, never made it past the first round of the playoffs.
David Lee was a restricted free agent last summer, coming off a season in which he had 65 double-doubles, and not one team aside from his own offered him a deal.
He wanted $12 million per; the New York Knicks offered him $7 million with a $1 million bonus if the team made the playoffs. He waited and waited and waited... and then took it.
Now he's an All-Star who's averaging a career-best 20 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists on spectacular 56/80 shooting percentages. Only Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Zach Randolph and Carlos Boozer have more double-doubles this season.
In other words, Lee has played himself into demanding close to what Bosh and Boozer covet. That's pretty crazy when you realize it wasn't even six months ago when he couldn't get Troy Murphy money.
But is Lee worth the big contract he's going to receive?
To say no would be to state his statistics are overinflated by playing in a Knicks situation that abandons defense and gives him 37 minutes per night at the center position.
And that wouldn't be a bad argument.
After all, Kevin Love, who plays in a similarly worthless, free-for-all predicament out in Minnesota, has posted 27 double-doubles in just 39 games this year. That comes out to 57 double-doubles in an 82-game period.
Lee is on pace to finish with 53.
Is there any doubt that Love, Andris Biedrins, Murphy, or Lamar Odom couldn't post Lee-like numbers if given the same opportunity and situation?
I don't think so.
As a reluctant Knicks fan, I like Lee very much the same way the diehards do. He goes hard all the time and plays for the team. He doesn't bitch and moan or bring any negative attention to himself.
Plus, he continues to improve, which is scary considering how efficient he already is. There really isn't much not to like.
Except for one thing.
He's not a build-a-franchise-around player, nor is he a talented attraction that will sell season ticket packages. Thus, he's not worth the four-year, $55-million deal he'll likely get this summer.
The 6'8", 230-pound forward has a tremendous amount of potential that has yet to be actualized.
Some view him as the next Tracy McGrady. Others say Shawn Marion or a better version of Travis Outlaw.
Gay's comparisons, along with his body, athleticism and versatility are enough for a team to throw big money at the 23-year-old.
But again, is he really worth it?
Since he was drafted out of UConn in 2006, the Memphis Grizzlies have gone 96-206 (.317), which is one of the worst records during that three and a half year period.
Ironically, the Grizzlies went 5-3 (.625) in the eight games Gay missed during that span.
Basketball is a team sport, so Gay can't entirely be blamed for his team's lack of success.
Still, you have to question how much of an impact Gay can make on winning when he has spent three-plus years as his team's best (or most talented) player and hasn't even sniffed .500.
We've seen other superstars do more with less. A young McGrady routinely won 40-plus games and made the playoffs with the Orlando Magic despite being alone (Grant Hill rarely played and Mike Miller was often banged up).
McGrady also won two scoring titles and made four All-Star appearances during that run.
Gay has averaged close to 20-and-6 the past two and a half seasons but has failed to even make a dent.
Only this season are the Grizzlies respectable (currently 29-28) and that's due to All-Star Zach Randolph, who's having a career season.
If Gay were in fact a star-in-the-making, why haven't the Grizzlies locked him up for life already? Why are they taking the risk of losing him?
Gay asked for five years and $50 million back in November. That seems like a modest amount when you consider the one-dimensional Ben Gordon signed for $5 million more than that last summer.
I like Gay. But until he starts to show he can become a more meaningful player, he's not worthy of a large-scale, long-term contract.
Some team will give it to him, though.
In his eight NBA seasons, Boozer has:
1. Lost the bulk of three seasons to injuries. In 2005, he missed the final 31 games of the season with a sprained foot, which caused the Jazz to miss the playoffs and owner Larry Miller to call him out.
In 2006, he started off the season on the inactive list with a hamstring injury that caused him to miss 49 games. In 2009, he missed 45 games with a knee injury that required surgery.
2. Managed to piss off the only two pro franchises and fan bases he has experienced. In 2004, he went back on a promise to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers so he could sign a more lucrative contract with the Utah Jazz.
Cavs owner Gordon Gund would say at the time, "I decided to trust Carlos and show him the respect he asked for... he did not show that trust and respect in return." Cavs fans hate him until this very day.
In December 2008, while out with an injury, Boozer publicly declared that he would opt out of his contract at season's end. He said, "no matter what, I'm getting a raise."
That prompted Miller to respond with, "it's one of the top 10 stupidest things I've heard an NBA player do in 20 years." Jazz fans weren't happy, either.
Boozer then exercised his option at season's end to return to Utah for the 2010 season. Of course, as soon as the season started, Boozer started talking recklessly again about how he would like to play in Chicago or Miami.
Make no mistake, the Jazz didn't trade him at the deadline not because they decided to keep him but rather because they couldn't work out a deal to get rid of him.
3. Dominated lesser teams but shrunk against the big boys. In 17 total games this season against the league's top eight records (Celtics, Cavs, Magic, Hawks, Nuggets, Lakers, Mavericks, Suns) Boozer is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds on 48/73 shooting percentages.
In the 37 games against the rest of the league, he is averaging 21.5 points and 11.8 rebounds on 58/75 shooting percentages.
4. Appeared in only two All-Star games.
5. Shown he's a terrible defender, below average foul shooter, poor passer and sloppy ball handler.
Is this a max player? Is this the guy you want to put at the center of your franchise?
Not even close.