Six Pitfalls of NBA Management, Part Two: Overpaying Free Agents

Buy The ClippersContributor IMarch 25, 2010

SAN ANTONIO - JANUARY 22:  Forward Trevor Ariza #1 of the Houston Rockets at AT&T Center on January 22, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This is Part Two in a six-part series dedicated to the Six Pitfalls of NBA Management. For Part One, go to my main page or www.buytheclippers.com. 

Fans of bad NBA teams, perpetually bad teams, will try to tell you their plight is a result of plain old bad luck.  This six part series explains: I don't agree.

Instead, I see six things that perpetually bad franchises do that make them perpetually bad franchises.  And, as luck would have it, there are six things that good franchises don’t do to continue being good franchises.  Believe it or not, they are the same six things.

On to the second of the six most common pitfalls of NBA franchises:  

2) Buy Your Way Out

Money can’t buy you love, happiness, or a consistently good NBA team.  Bad teams often try to make a quick fix by buying their way out of mediocrity.

Every two to three years, there are two, maybe three, legitimate franchise players that become available via free agency.  GMs salivate all over themselves imagining they have a shot at signing the big prize and reversing the fortunes of their franchises. 

Since 1996, only one team has been successful with this strategy: the Los Angeles Lakers when they landed Shaquille O’Neal, leading to a three-peat of championships.

The truth is most of these players stay with their current teams because they can get more money by doing so.  And remember that there really aren’t too many players out there that qualify.

Right now, how many players are there in the league that could legitimately turn a losing team into a winning one merely by being added via free agency?  Kobe, LeBron, and Dwyane…and maybe Chris Paul?

Yes, there are other very good players out there, but would you really expect your team to pull a 180 by signing Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, or a 34-year-old Tim Duncan?

And even if you include them as elites, you’re talking six players total. 

Heck, throw in six more just to prove a point, and you’re talking 12 players total that fit the bill.  Now how many of those actually come up for free agency rather than just signing extensions with their current teams?

That’s right, less than one a year.

The point is, these types of players only come along every so often, but that doesn’t seem to stop bad GMs from overpaying players every summer in the hopes of turning things around, when in reality, they have no chance of doing so.

Look at this list of big free agent signings over the last three years: Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Trevor Ariza, Baron Davis, Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, Grant Hill. 

Of the teams making these acquisitions, only the Magic, after signing Rashard Lewis, made it all the way to the Finals before losing in five games to the Lakers.  But at the time, the Magic were a legitimately good team in need of one or two more pieces to get themselves over the hump. 

Most of the other players on this list were signed by bad teams, with little to no hope of contending.  In fact, with the possible exception of this year’s Raptors (Turkoglu), the rest of the teams that signed the players on this list won’t even make the playoffs at all this year!  And this is to say nothing of the endless parade of overpaid role players that get signed up every year.

The lesson?  You can’t just overspend your way to a winning team.  Ask the Knicks, they’ll tell you.

Speaking of the Knicks, come back tomorrow for Part III….

As always, for more info on our efforts go to BuyTheClippers.com.


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