LA Lakers: 5 Biggest Free-Agent Busts of the Last Decade

Joshua SextonSenior Analyst IIOctober 2, 2011

LA Lakers: 5 Biggest Free-Agent Busts of the Last Decade

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    This article will look at the Los Angeles Lakers’ five biggest free-agent busts of the past decade.

    I have decided to limit the selection to players who played significant minutes in the team’s rotation and/or were expected to make big contributions to the team’s overall success but failed to do so.

    Therefore, the bigger-name players on this list who I deem “busts” will be ranked higher than the less reputable ones.

5. Samaki Walker

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    After the Los Angeles Lakers won their second consecutive championship in 2001, the team signed Samaki Walker prior to the 2001-02 season.

    Walker served as the team’s primary starting power forward in 2001-02, making Lakers fans bite their nails from time to time.

    In his two seasons with the team, Walker averaged six rebounds and five points a game, but he is probably best known for being punched by Kobe Bryant on the team bus in 2002.

4. Steve Blake

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    While Steve Blake’s stay in Los Angeles is still very much a work in progress, the former Maryland Terrapin got off to a terrible start in his first season with the Lakers.

    Blake averaged a career low in points (4.0) and shot his lowest percentage from the field since 2004-05. Things only got worse for Blake when the playoffs started, as his scoring average dipped to two points a contest.

    Maybe Blake will flourish under Mike Brown’s new offense and quell the team’s poor point guard play going forward.

3. Vladimir Radmanovic

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    Prior to the 2006-07 season, the Los Angeles Lakers signed Vladimir Radmanovic as a free agent after he helped the Los Angeles Clippers make a deep playoff run the previous season.

    Vlad failed to provide much for the team in his two-and-a-half-year stint, though. He is best known for his streaky three-point shooting and being traded to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for Shannon Brown.

2. Smush Parker

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    Smush Parker is not only considered one of the Los Angeles Lakers’ biggest free-agent busts of all time, but he is also considered one of the worst all-around Lakers of all time.

    What made Parker’s two-year stint with the team practically unbearable was the fact that he wasn’t a role player, but rather the team’s starting point guard, averaging over 30 minutes a contest.

    In between trading Shaquille O’Neal and acquiring Pau Gasol, it’s amazing Kobe Bryant kept his sanity trying to keep the Lakers relevant having to share a backcourt with Smush.

1. Karl Malone

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    I know. It seems strange to see Karl Malone on a list with the likes of Smush Parker and Vladimir Radmanovic. But it’s hard to argue Malone was anything but a bust in his one season with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    After the Lakers signed Malone and Gary Payton as free agents in the summer of 2003, some predicted the team to win 70 games and cruise to the championship.

    Despite a tumultuous season that resembled a reality TV show more than an NBA season, the Lakers made it to the NBA Finals before being shocked by the Detroit Pistons in five games.

    As far as Malone being a bust, the Hall of Famer missed half of the regular season with a knee injury, and when the playoffs rolled around, Malone had fans wondering if his injury wasn’t still bothering him. Malone’s scoring average went from 13 points a contest during the regular season down to eight in the postseason, including a paltry five points a game in the NBA Finals.

    I believe if Malone had been 100 percent healthy, the Lakers would have beaten Detroit for the championship.

    Needless to say, Malone’s one and only season with the Lakers is one he and Lakers fans would like to forget.