With the NBA season set to kick off in a matter of weeks, we can finally begin looking at the offseason transactions in the rearview mirror. Each move, especially the bevy of free agent signings that took place (along with a particularly notable trade involving Kyrie Irvin) will have specific implications on the playoff picture and the individual team’s success for this season. While there were some signings that were no-brainers, there were also quite a few that didn’t make any sense, from either the player or team’s perspective. Whatever the case, it’s clear that one party didn’t think the entire thing through.
In most, if not all cases, there were better options at hand. Signing elsewhere would have made more sense overall, and put at least one party in a better situation to succeed. In reality however, most of the time free agency comes down to the bottom line, and players were willing to take the money first and foremost. Let’s see which free agent signings from this past offseason were a faulty decision, and where the players should have, or could have ended up instead that would have provided a better situation.
Ranked below are 15 terrible, recent NBA free agent signings, and where they should have signed instead.
15. Blake Griffin
While Griffin’s play can be erratic at times, there’s no question that he’s one of the biggest stars in the league, and an impact player when healthy. He inked a new contract with his incumbent team, but the Clippers are on their way out as a viable contender, and Griffin will soon find himself as the lone playmaker on their roster.
A more cerebral move from Griffin would have been to make a move across town to the Lakers, who have an up-and-coming young roster, but little veteran presence that could take them to the next level anytime soon. Griffin has his flaws, but watching him work in combination with Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram would have been a sight to behold, and he could have stayed in the same city. With the Clippers, the upside isn’t nearly as high.
14. Zach Randolph
One of the NBA’s most underrate big men over the past 15 years, Randolph has an old-school mentality on the court that has allowed him to overachieve to some degree. Equal parts paint-scorer and vicious rebounder, he’s been an asset on just about every roster he’s been on, most recently making the Grizzlies into a consistent playoff team in a tough Western Conference.
A move to Sacramento probably won’t bode well for his chances of winning a title anytime soon. At 35-years-old, his time in the league is running thin, and though the Kings have a roster of considerable young talent, they’re still at least several years from even thinking about competing for real. The Timberwolves are just about ready to take the next step with perhaps the best young roster in the league, and Randolph would have served as an important veteran presence in the playoffs, on a team that needs help in the paint.
13. Vince Carter
Carter made the move from Memphis to Sacramento with Randolph, and at 40-years-old he’s truly a testament to NBA longevity. At this point in his career he won’t be pulling off the mesmerizing dunks and 30-point games that he regularly had in his earlier days, but he’s still good for some minutes off the bench. The problem is, as with Randolph, that the Kings aren’t ready to contend, and Carter is still in search of an NBA Championship.
It’s well known by now that LeBron is able to get just about any veteran player he wants on any given roster he’s on. The Cavs are still a viable contender, and Carter could have spent his last year or two in the league at least getting the opportunity to play for a title, instead of being hampered by a rebuilding roster.
12. Danilo Gallinari
It took some time, but Gallinari is finally starting to get the credit he deserves as an upper-tier NBA player. the former 6th-overall pick in the 2008 draft inked a new deal with the Clippers, but that seems to put a cap on how much success he’s going to see during the prime of his career. Gallinari easily has around four years of peak productivity left in his career, but the Clippers are a dead roster, and it’s going to take time for him to acclimate anyway.
Gallinari is young enough that he could have joined a roster with some young powerhouse players, and been around to see the maturation process through. Otherwise, he could have gone to a roster that had a chance for immediate success with a confirmed star player like the Rockets. Either would be a better option, but considering Gallinari’s lack of championship success thus far, it’s fair to say that a move to Houston would have been best. A pairing with James Harden would be excellent.
11. J.J. Redick
Though he’s a confirmed veteran player at this point, Reddick is still a sniper from three-point range, and there’s little reason to think that will change this season. In some aspects, the move to the Sixers on a one-year deal makes sense, but the team isn’t going to be vying for a title this season. While Redick is far and away the best shooter on the team, he’s still missing that elusive NBA Title from his resume.
A sign on to a team who is always ready to win would have been the best move. The three-ball may not be the MO of Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, but even he couldn’t deny what a shooter like Redick could do for their chances in the playoffs. Redick would have fit their system like a custom-made glove.
10. Tim Hardaway Jr.
In an utterly shocking move during the offseason, Hardaway was signed by the Knicks, and for a contract that was far above what he is actually worth. For a franchise that is so clearly in a state of flux right now however, the move made sense. Hardaway is a solid player, but he isn’t the kind of talent that should command a premium contract, and that’s exactly what he got.
It’s fair to say that just about any other destination would have been better for Hardaway’s career, but alas, he’ll be playing in New York during the upcoming season. With Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony finally gone, it remains to be seen what the Knicks will do to improve. While Hardaway could be a piece to the puzzle, the combination of him and Kristaps Porzingis alone probably won’t be enough to make an impact in the playoffs.
9. Nick Young
To just about everyone’s surprise, Young ended up signing with the Warriors on a one-year deal. While he represents the antithesis of what this current Golden State team is all about, somehow he found his way onto the roster. Maybe they’re going for any potential upside, but this seems like a mistake by the Warriors. They don’t need a player of Young’s decided immaturity mucking up any chance at a repeat title opportunity.
They should have let him walk to another team. It’s confirmed that Young likes L.A., given his stint with the Lakers, so maybe a move to the city’s other team would have been a better fit, had the Warriors seen the light and not given him a contract. We’ll see what Young can do this season, but there’s not much of a reason to have high hopes.
8. Jeff Teague
While resigning with the Pacers wasn’t going to be the best option for Teague after they entered upon a complete rebuild, going to the Timberwolves could create come oversaturation in the starting lineup. Teague is a good distributer of the ball, and will effectively run their point, but getting on the same page as Andrew Wiggins and Far Anthony-Towns may take some time. Worst case scenario, he could hinder their development into a championship-caliber roster.
Contrast this with the Pelicans, who already have two confirmed and established stars in Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, but severely lack any help in the backcourt. Pairing them with Teague could have been a powerhouse in the playoffs, but it just wasn’t to be.
7. George Hill
Hill is another veteran who signed with the Kings during the offseason, and it curious as to why they keep acquiring players who are going to be, or are already out of their prime. Hill is still a good player, but he’s not going to be a difference maker on the way to a deep playoff run, so why bother?
Frankly, Hill would have been better off staying on the Jazz. They have a playoff-caliber roster, some good young players, and he already knows the system. Making the move to Sacramento puts a cap on what he can achieve during his career from here on out. While the money may be worth it, he could have made it later on as well, and almost matched it by staying in Utah.
6. C.J. Miles
It’s true that the Pacers are going to be awful for the next few years while they rebuild, but staying in Indiana would have given Miles a chance to pad his stats and then parlay that into a bigger contract than what he got from the Raptors this offseason. Sure, he gets to play for a playoff team now, but Toronto isn’t going to compete with the likes of the Celtics and Cavaliers in the postseason.
Miles would have been one of the only quality players on a now-depleted Pacers roster, and as a result his opportunity for big numbers would have increased heavily. Some team surely would have paid out for him in a year or two, instead of the modest contract he received in Toronto.
5. Paul Millsap
Millsap made a mistake going to the Nuggets, who seemed doomed for mediocrity in the coming years. As a veteran, he could have had his pick as to where he wanted to play out his remaining years, and chose Denver of all places. The Hawks are now definitively in rebuild mode, but he could have gone to a bevy of other teams that would have paid for him, and are decided contenders.
The Bucks have a ton of young talent, and need a veteran piece that can get them over the hump in the playoffs. Millsap could have made comparable money, and been part of a young and talented team to ride out the rest of his career. That sounds like the better choice than the hapless Nuggets.
4. Kyle Lowry
It was a surprise to many when Lowry elected to stay in Toronto, as they’re clearly on the downswing and could be rendered just averaged. Continuity was placed at a premium for him though, and Toronto shelled out the money necessary to keep him. No doubt that Lowry had the pick of a better situation that could have competed for a deep playoff run.
In lieu of getting Jeff Teague, the Timberwolves should have considered Lowry. He’s less dependent on an iso-based game to contribute on a regular basis, and his passing would have been dangerous in such a dynamic offense. If everything aligned correctly, Lowry would have been perfect for Minnesota.
3. Kelly Olynyk
This is one of those situations where sometimes it’s just better for the player to take a paycut. Olynyk was a solid bench player for the Celtics going back several years, but they obviously weren’t going to be able to pay him top-dollar with all of the other acquisitions that came down the pike. Olynyk’s solution to up and move to Miami may not ultimately pay dividends.
It will work for the short-term, but Olynyk would have been better off establishing continuity in Boston. Not only would he be contending for a championship, he still would have made good money for the rest of his career guaranteed. A resign would have been the best possible route to cover all bases.
2. Serge Ibaka
Just like the aforementioned Lowry, Ibaka is now in a no-man’s-land situation with the Raptors, in terms of competing for a title. He’s a good player, but he shouldn’t be the driving force that can put a team in contention. There are a bevy of other places he could have gone that could have better catered to his skill set, and he could have been an asset to an already-good roster.
Obaka would be a perfect fit in Phoenix, with the young roster they’re building. Playing alongside talented youth like Dragan Bender and Devin Booker would have been a far better use of his skill. The Suns could be a sneaky playoff team as soon as this year. Ibaka would have been part of a potential playoff run for years to come, instead of a team closing in on a collapse.
1. Gordon Hayward
While Hayward signing with the Celtics certainly seems like the best possible move for him, with the influx of Kyrie Irving on the team, there lies the potential for some over saturation. The former 9th-overall pick by the Jazz was expected to sign elsewhere this offseason, but there are a lot of question marks about inking a deal with Boston.
We’re going to find just how much the Celtics depended on Isaiah Thomas, and just how quickly they acclimate so many new pieces to the team. Hayward may have been better off going to a team that made minimal roster moves, but what still a playoff competitor. A deal with the Wizards would have made less headlines, but ultimately his skill set could mix better with Washington incumbents John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter than it will with Irving, Al Horford and rookie Jayson Tatum.
We’ll see what happens, but Hayward very well may find himself lost in the shuffle. If he can’t get his footing, the Celtics may be less dominant than previously expected.
Better Option: Washington Wizards
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