NBA Free Agency 2012: Ranking the Biggest Gambles of the Offseason

Mike Walsh@WalshWritesCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2012

NBA Free Agency 2012: Ranking the Biggest Gambles of the Offseason

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    As with any gamble, there is the possibility of losing, and teams can lose big with the money being tossed around today.

    There were some NBA free-agent contracts signed this summer that left us open-mouthed. Still, as the saying goes, high-risk, high-reward. Some teams took big gambles in hopes of striking gold. Some may work out 100 percent, while others will crash and burn.

    While the following 10 signings may not necessarily be bad gambles, they are risks all the same. They have the potential to make a GM and franchise look very smart if things work out—or very dumb if they do not. 

10. Brook Lopez

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    Of the 10, Brook Lopez seems to be the closest to a sure thing. The biggest reasons he is a gamble are the injury risk and the amount of money Brooklyn just invested in him.

    Lopez began last season on the sidelines with a broken foot. After 32 games, he was finally activated and played in five games, averaging 19 points. However, after those five games, he was shut down for the remainder of the season with a sprained ankle.

    The good news is that prior to 2011, Lopez had played in every possible game since his rookie year, starting all but eight of them. 

    Even when healthy, though, Lopez may not live up to the four-year, $61 million contract extension he inked with the Nets. Lopez's rebounding dropped significantly the past two seasons from an already mediocre 8.6 per game his sophomore year.

    The Nets are going to be thin in the frontcourt and will be counting heavily on Lopez to man the paint. After Lopez's three complete seasons of up-and-down production and one year missed entirely to injuries, it remains to be seen if this gamble will pay off for Brooklyn.

9. Eric Gordon

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    The Phoenix Suns really forced New Orleans' hand in this gamble. The Hornets had to match the offer sheet Eric Gordon signed with the Suns in order to retain the most meaningful piece they acquired in the Chris Paul trade. 

    Signing Gordon to the four-year, $58 million contract shouldn't be that big of a risk. That is, if Gordon is the player everyone says he should be. On the contrary, Gordon hasn't actually shown a lot of the production that he is advertised to have in his repertoire. 

    In reality, of a possible 328 regular season games, Gordon has missed 123. That is more than 37 percent of his possible NBA games. In the games that he has played, Gordon had one stellar season and two average years. There is a lot of potential in his game, but unfortunately, that is all New Orleans has to go on. 

    Rewarding a player for potential is one of the biggest gambles an NBA team can make.

8. Roy Hibbert

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    Roy Hibbert made himself a lot of money this past postseason when he dominated the paint against Orlando and Miami. 

    In the playoffs, Hibbert averaged nearly 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game. In some ways, he completely earned that four-year, $58 million deal. In other ways, however, he may be an even bigger gamble than Brook Lopez or Eric Gordon. 

    He has proven to be a consistent producer, playing in all but three regular season games from his sophomore year on. Still, that is a lot of money to be tied up in a player who is very limited offensively. While Lopez has the potential to be a 20-and-10 player, I'm not sure Hibbert can come close to those scoring totals.

    He has set very high standards following last year's postseason. Whether he continues to live up to them and improve his offensive production is a big gamble for a Pacers team that has championship aspirations. 

7. Andrei Kirilenko

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    Andrei Kirilenko was one of the most uniquely versatile players to ever set foot on an NBA court. However, after spending the last year in Russia playing for CSKA Moscow, it is a mystery if the 31-year-old can still keep up in the NBA.

    Kirilenko will be joining a new NBA team for the first time in his career. He spent 10 years with the Utah Jazz prior to last summer's lockout. In 2010-2011, he started all but two of 64 games for the Jazz and averaged 11.7 points, five rebounds and three assists. He also managed more than one steal and one block per game.

    Kirilenko's gamble extends farther than his NBA absence and his age. He will be forced to fit into a new system with the young Timberwolves. He also just recently signed a pretty hefty contract with Minnesota.

    It is worth mentioning that Kirilenko was named MVP of the Euroleague in 2012, so he does still have a lot of game left. This is a big gamble that could pay off equally big for the Timberwolves.

6. Goran Dragic

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    A lot is being made over Goran Dragic this summer. His inflated value has led many to believe he is a better player than he has shown in five NBA seasons. 

    Dragic signed a four-year, $34 million deal with the Phoenix Suns to presumably become their starting point guard now that Steve Nash is a member of the Lakers. Many thought it seemed like a great move, but at roughly $8.5 million dollars per year, Dragic seems overpaid. 

    It is always risky to toss a player into a role they are unfamiliar with right off the bat. Whether Dragic recognizes it or not, he has only 36 NBA starts under his belt. That is only 36 more starts than rookie first-round pick Kendall Marshall has in the pros. 

    The Suns took a big risk on a player who averaged 12 points and five assists last season. He could wind up being one of the promising young guards who succeeds expectations, and the Suns will look great. However, there is also a chance he winds up as so many other PGs have: a backup playing out of position and out of his league.

5. Michael Beasley

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    Joining Goran Dragic on the Suns next season will be a veteran of three NBA teams in five years, Michael Beasley. Phoenix signed the troublesome small forward to a more manageable three-year, $18 million deal this summer.

    Beasley is well worth that money when he is healthy and has his head is on straight. The problem is, those two things are not always the case and definitely were not in last season's debacle with Minnesota. He started just seven games for the Timberwolves and missed 19 of them altogether.

    Beasley has always been somewhat troubled but has received a bad rap in the NBA due to minor run-ins with authorities concerning marijuana use and a troublesome relationship with Pat Riley when in Miami.

    If he is to have retribution in Phoenix and return to the player who scored 19 points per game two seasons ago, then he is well worth the gamble and Phoenix will reap the benefits. On the other hand, this could just be stop No. 3 on the journeyman career of a former second overall pick.

4. Jeremy Lin

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    While a lot of New York fans were quick to jump all over James Dolan for not matching Houston's offer sheet for Jeremy Lin, not as many are concerned that the Rockets just invested a lot of money in a player with 25 meaningful games under his belt. 

    While all the Linsanity stuff was great theater and actually some impressive basketball, the Rockets took a huge risk in signing the 23-year-old. In those 25 games with the Knicks, Lin averaged an impressive 18 points and 7.7 assists a night. However, he also turned the ball over a well-documented 4.7 times per game. 

    Lin has a very high upside, especially off the court, where he is a marketing gold mine as an underdog tale. He also has the potential to be a good point guard in the NBA. Still, at three years and $25 million, this is one of the biggest gambles of the 2012 offseason. 

3. Jeff Green

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    "Aortic aneurysm" is really the operative term here. Jeff Green suffered one last December and was forced to miss the entirety of last season recovering and rehabbing.

    For one reason or another, the Celtics have apparently rewarded him with a four-year offer approaching $40 million. Though the deal is not finalized nor signed, this amount of money for a player coming off that serious of a health issue seems overblown. 

    Even when healthy, Green did not produce after his trade to Boston. In 26 games with the Celtics, Green saw his production fall to under 10 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Those numbers pale in comparison to what he was able to do as a third option in Oklahoma City. 

    It is unclear if Boston's higher-ups were merely saving face from the highly-criticized Kendrick Perkins trade, of which Green was the focal point. He has the potential to be a solid player for a long time in this league.

    At just 25 years old, if Green can stay healthy, he has a lot of basketball left in him. The Celtics appear willing to gamble on that fact.

2. Omer Asik

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    Houston's contract offer to center Omer Asik is one of the more mind-boggling deals in some time. The Rockets deemed it necessary to offer three years at roughly $25 million to a player who may not be any better than Greg Stiemsma (who is signing for minimal money in Minnesota). 

    Asik may have earned this contract with good postseason play last spring when he filled in for Joakim Noah in the Bulls' first-round series. He rebounded the ball very well and was his usual shot-blocking self. Still, Asik owns career averages of just 2.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in the NBA.

    There is talk of him becoming an elite NBA interior defender, and if that is true, then the Rockets have earned the right to be the team that sees him evolve.

    However, if his past two seasons and previous work overseas are an actual indication of his production throughout the extent of the contract, then the Rockets have made one of the worst gambles in the NBA this year.

1. Brandon Roy

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    Brandon Roy was once one of the most promising young guards in the NBA, and he put together three straight seasons of elite shooting guard play for the Portland Trail Blazers. 

    However, he began feeling the effects of his bad knees in his fifth NBA season. Roy played just 47 games in 2010-2011, starting less than half. It was the first season Roy hadn't started all of his games since he came off the bench twice as a rookie. Roy's production also plummeted from 21.5 to 12.2 points per game. 

    Prior to last season, Roy didn't just say he would be missing some time healing up from an injury, or even taking the year off the get treatment and rest. Roy made the decision to retire as a 27-year-old NBA guard. He knew there was no amount of treatment or rest that would make his knees better.

    Now, one year later, he is attempting a comeback. 

    At two years for $10 million, a 28-year-old, three-time All-Star seems like a steal. If the procedures Roy has had on his knees hold up and he can perform near the way he was a few years ago, it will be just that. There is, however, the possibility that Roy, like the best of us, is overestimating his own body and will be unable to return to NBA form.

    The sheer range of possibilities that come out of this comeback make it the NBA's biggest offseason gamble in 2012.