4 NBA Players Who Will Regret Their 2019 Free Agency Decisions
Just to provide some context, the "regretful" players we'll highlight here agreed to free-agency deals worth a combined $271 million.
Don't expect any of them to feel too broken up when they're deciding which variety of domesticated dolphin they want swimming in the third-biggest pool of their fourth-biggest beachside mansion.
Still, relatively speaking, mistakes were made. These guys made decisions they might want to take back. Except Marcus Morris; he'll be the only one wishing he could un-take back the take-back he already took back.
Whether because of money, playing time or overall organizational outlook, these four players will be entertaining second thoughts at some point this year.
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Money isn't everything, but it's something. This is why we have to start with the cash Jimmy Butler turned down.
According to NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh and Philly Voice's Kyle Neubeck, Butler panned the Philadelphia 76ers' five-year, $190 million offer in favor of one worth $142 million over four years from the Miami Heat. The 30-year-old four-time All-Star isn't going to starve because he passed on an extra $48 million, but there's just no way to argue that kind of money is insignificant.
It's $48 million! As a frame of reference, consider the extremes the heist crew in Den of Thieves went to (and the collateral damage incurred). They did all that for $30 million.
Thirty is an important number for Butler too. That's his age. Generally speaking, players who enter their fourth decade are looking for one more big score before their primes conclude. Guys typically look for the longest deal possible at this stage, but Butler decided he'd rather give up $48 million guaranteed and hit free agency a year earlier.
There's a lot to be said for the match between Butler and the Heat, two entities linked by an emphasis on work ethic and intensity. And it feels shallow to begrudge a guy choosing his destination based on personal preference rather than financial gain.
But, again: $48 million. That's to say nothing of Butler leaving a clear title contender for a Heat team that should make the playoffs but won’t be a factor in the championship chase.
Julius Randle, New York Knicks
It's not as hypocritical as it seems to question Julius Randle for taking the money right after we criticized Butler for passing on a bigger payday.
Randle, 24, is at a different phase of his career than Butler, who's six years older. Rather than securing the most available short-term cash, Randle might have been better served by thinking further down the road. His three-year, $63 million deal with the New York Knicks looks terrific for him on paper, even if the third year is only guaranteed for $4 million. There's no indication that amount of cash was coming from any other free-agent suitor.
Randle, though, has consigned himself to a hapless franchise ill-equipped to maximize his skills. The Knicks have 50 power forwards clogging the rotation, no reliable two-way wings and zero shooting at the point guard position. Sure, he'll get his counting numbers. But maybe he'd have been better served taking a little less now in order to put himself in a situation less...how to put this kindly?...irredeemably broken.
There's obviously money out there for "good stats, bad team" guys; Randle just got some of it. So maybe signing with the Knicks won't hurt him when he hunts his next contract in two or three years at age 27. But New York is going to lose, embarrassingly and often, throughout his time there. Even if you think he didn't hurt his future earning potential by consigning himself to the worst-run organization in the NBA, isn't there still an argument to be made for personal happiness?
The sad Knicks circus is bound to wear on him.
Marcus Morris, New York Knicks
As a general rule, if you can avoid ticking off Gregg Popovich, you should.
Marcus Morris incurred the (measured) wrath of Pop by backing out of a reported two-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs and then signing a one-year agreement with the Knicks. Though Morris is making $15 million with New York this year, and would have made just $10 million annually from the Spurs, his decision feels like a mistake.
And that's without considering the bad optics of his reneging, which also cost the Spurs Davis Bertans in a cap-clearing move.
San Antonio has a long history of getting the most out of its players. Rudy Gay's career was once in jeopardy following an Achilles tear, but he's been stellar since signing with the Spurs. Marco Belinelli has played for nine teams, and outside of a tiny 28-game sample with the Philadelphia 76ers, his best true shooting percentage, box plus-minus and win shares per 48 minutes came in two separate stints under Popovich.
Patty Mills was an NBA washout until he hit San Antonio. Danny Green salvaged a career there. The list of players maximized by the Spurs is long.
New York is San Antonio's polar opposite. Careers go there to flounder.
It's hard to imagine Morris will find such a dramatic change in environment is worth an extra $5 million in 2019-20. And look, he's already acting out!
Ricky Rubio, Phoenix Suns
Ricky Rubio spent six lottery seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, averaging 28 wins per year and never finishing higher than 10th in the West. After getting a taste of the good life with the Utah Jazz, with whom he made the playoffs in each of his two seasons there, Rubio is slumming it again.
That 28-win figure in Minnesota looks pretty good when compared to the 22 the Phoenix Suns averaged in their last four campaigns.
The money was a factor. Rubio had "only" made $71 million in his career when he signed the three-year, $51 million contract with the Suns. He was in fine financial shape by NBA career standards, but now he's set.
Still, the veteran point guard had reported links with other teams, including the Indiana Pacers. Maybe the Suns will take a step forward behind development from Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. Maybe Rubio relishes the role of veteran offensive steward on a team that needs some experience. But the losses are going to pile up all the same, and you would think Rubio had had his fill of those by now. Plus, his shooting struggles make him a tough fit alongside Booker.
If Rubio has the ball in his hands, it means Booker doesn't. And if Rubio isn't handling, his defender can comfortably shift attention to Booker without worrying about getting burned by a non-threat.
Barring an unlikely Suns leap, it's hard to imagine how any of what's ahead will be fun for Rubio.