NBA Midseason: A Look Back At the 10 Worst Signings From the Summer of LeBron
Even though the current calendar period technically belongs to a different year than last summer's over-hyped free agent signing period, it's only fitting we dub it "The Winter of LeBron."
After all, much of what we've seen thus far this season, almost 50 games in, is the result of management decisions that were made just over six months ago when you know who did you know what on live television.
Of course, it was all about the kids, right? You know it's always about the kids.
Sarcasm aside (almost), isn't it better we don't speak of Queen, er, King James, considering how the success of his traveling circus has proven how fickle we all truly are, and instead focus on some of the other contracts that were signed?
Especially the bad ones because, you know, there's nothing better than bashing overpaid and under-performing pro athletes when the economy is in shambles and unemployment is hovering around nine percent.
Seriously, let's take a look at the 10 worst signings that took place during the Summer of LeBron.
10. Derrick Favors
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Huh? I knew there was a reason the title didn't specify free agent signings!
Yes, Derrick Favors, the No. 3 pick in July's draft, makes the top 10 list of the biggest mistake signings of the offseason.
Bear with me for a moment.
According to the rookie contract scale laid out in the collective bargaining agreement, rookies get X amount of money depending on draft position. For the No. 3. pick that amount is almost $9 million over two seasons, after which the team (in this case, the New Jersey Nets) has basically up to three years in team options.
In short, top draft picks aren't exactly cheap, especially as you move down the line in years. Portland has already paid Greg Oden $15.4 million, it is paying him $6.8 million this year, and if the Blazers want to bring him back next year it's going to cost another $8.8 million.
If the Nets want to bring Favors back for year No. 3, his price tag will be $4.75 million. Year No. 4 will cost $6 million and year No. 5 will jump to $7.9 million.
Now it's too early to tell what's going to happen for Favors. But considering how young and raw he is, and the fact he failed to even stand out in college—forget dominating; he scored 20 or more points just twice in 36 games—and how he (a) can't get much burn on the Nets, and (b) doesn't do much when he does play, Favors is looking like a bad investment.
The respective No. 4 and No. 5 selections—Wesley Johnson and DeMarcus Cousins—have been far more productive than Favors while holding more favorable contracts.
The 19-year-old Favors is averaging 6.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 19.3 minutes of action. He's shooting 60 percent from the free throw line and makes Kwame Brown look like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
9. Josh Howard
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Inking a once-promising but often-injured (and coming off knee surgery) 30-year-old scorer to a one-year, $4-million deal certainly doesn't qualify as an end-of-the-world signing.
However, when that player contributes just 165 minutes of shoddy play before going out indefinitely with knee tendinitis, and you're a disaster of a team called the Washington Wizards, you just don't get the benefit of the doubt.
At least some teams are getting dividends from their junk bonds—Johan Petro is averaging an impressive 11 minutes per game—but re-signing Josh Howard has thus far been a complete waste of money.
8. Richard Jefferson
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Over the past 23 years, no NBA team has won at a better rate or more games than the San Antonio Spurs. With that in mind and the fact the Spurs are currently on pace for a 70-win season, it's pretty damn hard to criticize anything this organization does.
Even signing Richard Jefferson to a four-year, $39-million deal this past summer.
Still, I just can't let this slide. Knowing Jefferson will make over $11 million in 2014, when he'll be an old 34 and pushing the 1,000 games-played mark, just sounds too crazy to me.
After all, Jefferson is in his prime now and putting up just 12.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Anyone who watches the Spurs regularly will tell you Jefferson has been solid, but not nearly as valuable as DeJuan Blair, George Hill, or maybe even Gary Neal, three guys whose entire contracts combined make up just a little more than what RJ is earning this season alone.
7. Tyrus Thomas
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The No. 4 selection in the 2006 draft is in his fifth year and has yet to average 23 minutes per game in a season more than once.
There's no doubt Tyrus Thomas is young (24) and talented (career per-36-minute averages of 15 points, nine rebounds, and 2.5 blocks), but signing him to a five-year, $40-million deal was premature and undeserved.
The Charlotte Bobcats are currently seven games under .500—sadly good enough for the No. 8 seed in the East—and owner Michael Jordan, who has already changed coaches, is said to be looking to retool the entire roster.
Thomas has averaged just 21.6 minutes per game this season and is currently out with a torn knee meniscus, an injury that will require surgery and sideline him for up to two months.
6. David Lee
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Seriously, who in the world besides a couple of jaded ex-girlfriends could possibly dislike David Lee?
He says all the right things, plays hard every second he's on the court, roots for his teammates from the bench—the guy represents all that we want (and seldom get) from today's professional athlete.
Unfortunately, this article isn't about NBA player likability, nor are we identifying guys who should win sportsmanship awards. This is about basketball and money. And where these two factors are concerned, Lee's signing for six years and $80 million is pure, Michele Bachmann-level insanity.
Yes, the Golden State Warriors are performing much better than they did last season—Don Nelson's absence is reason No. 1—but they're still far from being a good team, let alone one anyone believes will make a serious playoff push.
This is all with Lee being the team's most expensive player. Never mind that he's statistically having his worst season as a starter (scoring, rebounding and shooting percentages are all down), the fact he's earning superstar money ($15 million in 2015) is alone enough for him to make this list.
5. Josh Childress/ Channing Frye (Take Your Pick)
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Let's play the "What Would You Do?" game—no, this isn't about standing up in a crowded diner to yell, "hey, that's not right!" to a stranger who has snatched a jelly packet from the grip of a child who has Down Syndrome.
You're the general manager of the Phoenix Suns. The 2010 season has ended. You've just lost your top scorer, Amar'e Stoudemire, to free agency. Steve Nash, the heart of your franchise, will turn 37 midway through next season. Your No. 3 guy, Jason Richardson, is entering a walk year.
What would you do?
A: Acknowledge it's time to rebuild and focus on clearing cap space, stockpiling draft picks and accumulating young talent.
B: Make one last hurrah and sacrifice some of the future (picks, young talent) to focus on landing a few marquee players. The goal is to be a formidable playoff opponent as long as Nash is around.
C: Tread water and see what happens. You don't sacrifice the future for now, nor do you clean house; you just focus on retaining what you have and see where it takes you.
If you answered C, you could be a general manager for a pro basketball franchise!
Plainly put, the Suns suck. If they manage to sneak into the playoffs with a near-.500 mark, surely they will be swept in the first round. So why in the world did Josh Childress and Channing Frye, both going on 28, get respective five-year deals worth $34 and $30 million?
Frye is averaging 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds on 42 percent shooting. Childress is posting 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per 17.3 minutes of action.
4. John Salmons
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After arriving in Milwaukee via a trade deadline deal with the Chicago Bulls, John Salmons averaged 20 points per game and kicked off a 15-2 (win-loss) Bucks run that helped the franchise finish with its best record since 2001.
In the offseason, the Bucks rewarded the then-30-year-old Salmons (now 31) by inking him to a five-year, $40-million deal.
How has this deal panned out? Salmons is averaging 13.8 points per game on 39-percent shooting. He has been so bad that nine players on the roster currently have a better PER (Player Efficiency Rating).
3. Joe Johnson
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I don't care what you or anyone else has to say in Joe Johnson's defense, so please just save whatever positive argument you can concoct for the only place it's relevant—your fantasy basketball league.
Johnson's six-year, $119-million deal isn't the worst contract in NBA history only because one idiot decided to give Gilbert Arenas six years and $111 million after knee surgery, and another gave a Peja Stojakovic clone, Rashard Lewis, six years and $118 million.
But it's up there.
Never mind that in 29 playoff games with the Atlanta Hawks, Johnson has averaged 17.8 points on 40-percent shooting. In the last two seasons, he posted a PER of 18.7 and 19.3, respectively. And in the playoffs those two years, those PER figures dropped to 12.5 and 14.5.
The guy almost always disappears when it matters most. And this is the guy you're going to pay $25 million in 2016 when he's going on age 36 and approaching 1,200 games played?
It's even debatable if Johnson has been better this season—or at least more important to the Hawks—than reserve Jamal Crawford. If you look at their rates of production, Johnson has just a slight edge despite earning 62 percent more money.
Ask Hawks fans who they want taking the final shot.
Al Horford leads the team in PER and Win Shares by a wide margin. Josh Smith is second in both categories. Johnson? He's the only "superstar" who doesn't rank at least second on his team in one of the two stats.
Johnson isn't ranked No. 1 on this list because, unlike the next two guys, he's making a significant contribution to a winning situation.
2. Brendan Haywood
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After signing a six-year, $55-million deal this summer, and playing like doo-doo afterward, Brendan Haywood is now sitting somewhere between Adonal Foyle and Jerome James in my mental file cabinet.
Of course, it's not Haywood's fault Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was dumb—in Cuban's mind, this word is synonymous with creative—enough to put such a ridiculous offer out there. But because Haywood inked his name on the paper and has since only flapped his arms like an albatross, it's only right we clip his wings.
Haywood is averaging 4.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.0 block in 18 minutes per game of action. For that he's earning just under $7 million this season.
Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler is having a career season as the anchor of the Dallas' defense and is a free agent at season's end. What crippling effect, if any, does Haywood's situation have on the Mavericks' desire to re-sign Chandler? In my opinion, Haywood's deal will be the reason Chandler won't return.
Haywood will be 36 at the start of the 2015 season and earning close to $10 million. If he's not producing now, what makes anyone think he'll produce then?
1. Travis Outlaw
As a New Jersey Nets fan and season ticket holder, I'd like to impose a new nickname on Travis Outlaw. For now on, he is to be referred to as "What the F***?"
The short version, the acronym WTF, does not apply here. The player formerly known as Outlaw must be referred to by his nickname in its entirety.
After watching this guy hit a candy-box variety of clutch shots in Portland, I was sure the Nets made a steal when they signed him in the offseason. After all, he's just 26 years old and his per-36-minute averages (18-and-6 in 2008) suggested No. 2-caliber potential.
Five years and $35 million? Sure, I thought.
And now, after watching him for 49 games, in person and on the tube, all I can say is "What the F***?"
I can go into further detail about why he's playing so poorly, but the few Tums I have left are being saved for tonight's game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Instead, I'll just give you an incredible stat I dug up that will let you know exactly how awful Outlaw has been this season.
Fifty-eight players have played at least 1,500 minutes this season, including you know, um, the enigma from Starkville, Mississippi. Of all these players, guess who ranks dead-last in PER?