Biggest 2018 NBA Free-Agency Regrets
Ever have a big new purchase turn into a boatload of regret? The same thing can happen to teams a few months after they've signed free agents, and even to players who put themselves in situations they later wish they could take back.
Some are head-scratching decisions from the start, like an ungodly colored item plucked from the impulse-buy section near the cash register. With others, the regret takes time to manifest, like when a lack of quality starts to explain the item's clearance price.
The biggest regrets of 2018 NBA free agency come from all angles, but they all look like gambles gone wrong now.
Patrick McCaw: Not Returning to the Champs
Be honest: How many non-Golden State Warriors fans even remember Patrick McCaw? It's OK if you don't. He had a mostly anonymous NBA existence over his first two seasons, occasionally popping out in big moments but largely taking support duties.
Yet this summer, on the heels of an injury-riddled, disappointing sophomore campaign, he turned down multiple offers to stay with the Dubs.
It made zero sense then and remains confounding to this day.
"You can't do this after two years," one player told The Athletic's Marcus Thompson II. "You've got to get the clout first. He doesn't have the leverage."
McCaw made a power play without any real power. The Warriors still hold his rights, so he's not free to sign anywhere else. They're also getting a ton of mileage out of fill-in wings like Alfonzo McKinnie and Damion Lee, meaning there's no incentive to run back to McCaw with a bigger offer.
Oh, and the fact that guys like McKinnie and Lee have received relatively regular minutes highlights how big a role McCaw could have filled for this group. With his experience and familiarity in the system, he would have had the inside track on a significant supporting role. If exposure was his aim, he likely would have been playing his most minutes to date on the league's best squad.
Instead, he's in danger of disappearing off the NBA radar for motivations only he knows. Maybe he will find his way back eventually, but this feels like a massive misstep.
Los Angeles Lakers: Signing Michael Beasley
The Los Angeles Lakers needed to find a center and more shooting this summer.
They could have found both in Brook Lopez, who started 72 games for them last season. They opted instead for Michael Beasley, who last made 50-plus starts in 2010-11.
L.A.'s big-man itch was bad enough it had to add Tyson Chandler in early November. And the shooting remains undistinguished, with the club perched 16th in both three-point makes per game (10.8) and percentage (35.0).
As Marc Stein noted for the New York Times, inking Beasley instead of Lopez was a head-scratcher then and one that still defies logic:
"It's a decision still second-guessed by some in Los Angeles, even though the Lakers have a very effective two-headed center duo in JaVale McGee and the recently acquired Tyson Chandler. The reason: Management chose to sign the former Knick Michael Beasley for essentially the same modest one-year contract (worth $3.5 million) that Lopez took from the Bucks ($3.4 million).
"Surely you've heard the incessant chatter about the Lakers' need for more perimeter shooting to open driving lanes for [LeBron] James. Combine that with the fact Beasley has been a non-factor as a Laker, after being pegged as the more capable replacement for the departed Julius Randle, and letting Lopez go is, at best, a curious call."
Beasley has played 71 minutes so far. Lopez has made 72 triples. As hard as it is to complain about an offseason that included luring in LeBron James, this was a decision the Lakers surely wish they could have back.
Chicago Bulls: $40 Million Mistake
It made sense for the Chicago Bulls to add Jabari Parker over the summer.
They had money to burn to reach the minimum salary threshold. They safeguarded the investment by making the second season of the two-year, $40 million deal a team option. They recognized both an ongoing talent void at this stage of their rebuild and a chance to address it with a 23-year-old No. 2 pick who hails from the same city they do.
The risk was worth it. But that doesn't change the fact that this signing has already blown up in their faces.
Parker lost his rotation spot two months into the season. His defense was disastrous (as per usual), and his offense lacked its normal efficiency (career-low 12.7 PER). Chicago was outscored by a whopping 11 points per 100 possessions when his number was called.
Already, the Bulls are talking Parker trades with "several teams," sources told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. It's the only action Chicago can take, but it's not one that will soon right this wrong.
Parker's trade value has plummeted. He's a scoring specialist who's having the worst shooting campaign of his career. Teams won't exactly trip over themselves to enter the bidding.
No matter what the Bulls collect, it feels certain to be of less value than what they could've gotten instead of Parker over the summer.
Jabari Parker: Unhappy Homecoming
Approaching this from the other side of the equation, how much does this have to hurt Parker?
His ego was previously dinged by the Bucks, who let him walk just four summers after deeming him worthy of the No. 2 overall pick. But at least Parker could attribute that decision to his repeat knee problems and the struggles he had keeping up with Milwaukee's changing roster.
This is different. His past injury issues haven't flared up. He selected his supporting cast by virtue of signing with the Bulls. The setting is literally his home, the city where he once dominated the high school ranks as his father, former NBA player Sonny Parker, did before.
Think about it: Parker's hometown team is knee deep in a massive rebuilding project and still decided he's not worth the development. That's brutal.
"I can have as many opinions as possible, but that doesn't matter," Parker said, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. "It doesn't matter how I feel. It is what it is."
Parker will find his spot elsewhere. The Utah Jazz are reportedly among his suitors, sources told Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, and their needs might align better with Parker's skills. He could come out ahead on this yet, at least for this year. No one is picking up his $20 million team option next summer, so he'll inevitably sign for less.
But he probably didn't even plan on experiencing free agency at this stage of his career, let alone seeing the pitfalls of choosing the wrong employer. This will go down as both a lesson learned and humbling regret.
Trevor Ariza: Abandoning Championship Chase
Trevor Ariza could have handpicked his preferred contender this summer. Taking economics out of it, his combination of defensive versatility, outside shooting and playoff experience could have thrived in any win-now situation.
So, naturally, he took the money—all $15 million of it—and ran to the Phoenix Suns, who were coming off an NBA-worst 21-61 season. But Ariza, who played for the 65-win Houston Rockets last season, said this wasn't a money grab.
"Sometimes, things run their course and it's time for a new start and a new beginning," Ariza told Amico Hoops' Ashish Mathur. "There were a lot of options for me, but the one that showed the most promise was this one. I'm excited to be here. I'm happy to be here."
The feeling didn't last long.
No longer able to play off the likes of James Harden and Chris Paul, Ariza watched his field-goal percentage spiral to a career-worst 37.9. And as the losses piled up, Ariza "checked out mentally early in the season," sources told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.
So, the Suns sent him to the Washington Wizards for a fine (if forgettable) package of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers. In other words, Ariza is no longer anywhere near his L.A. home and—if we're being honest—still not really near the championship picture.
As exciting as Ariza's list of suitors looked, the Wizards might've had the lowest ceiling and most dysfunction of the group. Granted, there are worse fates than playing pro ball in Washington D.C. for an eight-figure salary, but this might be the last time Ariza's name comes up on the national stage all season.
Carmelo Anthony: High Hopes in Houston
The partnership forged between Carmelo Anthony and the Houston Rockets was immediately met with skepticism.
If he had a hard time bending his talents around Russell Westbrook and Paul George, how would Anthony's game ever fit alongside the more ball-dominant tandem of James Harden and Chris Paul? Was Anthony really Houston's best option when defense was such an obvious need after Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute departed?
Oh, and hadn't we seen the whole Anthony-Mike D'Antoni thing malfunction before?
Nevertheless, multiple people decided this was a good idea, and Anthony's Rockets career officially opened on Oct. 17. He'd only play 10 games before Houston decided it was better off without him.
Anthony has been stuck in limbo ever since. Despite being a 10-time All-Star on a minimum contract, he has struggled to generate interest. Even the Lakers, who employ his close friend LeBron James, aren't interested.
The league, it seems, is perhaps passing Anthony by. He's always been a negative on defense, and his offense has been defined more by quantity than quality. As more clubs move away from his preferred method of inside-the-arc isolations, his NBA stock is crashing, especially as he doesn't try hiding his disinterest in a supporting role.
Going to Houston didn't create this problem, but it might have increased the damage. The Rockets' win-now aspirations accelerated their handling of the situation, leaving Anthony to explain how things could fall apart so quickly. Not to mention, this is one of the league's marquee franchises, so everyone witnessed Houston's struggles with him after its success last year without him.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.