Every NBA Team’s Worst Free Agent Signing Since 2000

Free agency is always a good time to pay attention to the latest rumors surrounding your favorite NBA team. Who will they be adding to the team, and who will they be re-signing with bigger deals than the ones they originally signed? Any faithful fan wants to know these things, and depending on how the signing or re-signing goes, we either react with triumphant yells of "I told you so!", or vitriolic jeers of "get his (place choice insults or profanities here) butt out of here!"

But as we often find out, the teams that overspent on bad free agent signings find it hard to unload these underperformers via trade, as the strain these players place on their teams' salary cap continues to escalate. When everything's all said and done, the poor teams' executives are left with egg on their face, while the bad signings and re-signings likely have fancy new cars in their garage, or have moved into plush new cribs after providing a mere fraction of the stats their teams had expected. Life is often unfair, isn't it?

As there have been so many bad free agent signings and so many general lists documenting the worst per year, per team, or of all time, we're going to narrow down our focus to the 21st century, and give you each team's worst addition or retention via free agency since the year 2000.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now


via Alchetron.com

Excited by his solid performance as a sixth man for the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets in 2005-06, the Atlanta Hawks invested $25 million over four years to sign Speedy Claxton as a free agent. There weren’t any illusions of him bringing back memories of Mookie Blaylock at the point, but such a deal suggested the Hawks expected him to be a decent starter or better, and a pest on the defensive end as he had been in previous seasons.

Sadly, all the Hawks got was someone who was almost always injured, and whose shooting stroke had totally abandoned him when he was healthy. Claxton played just 44 games in two seasons, averaging just about 5 points and shooting 30 percent from the field, and was traded in 2009 to the Golden State Warriors, whom he never played for.


via Flickr.com

Despite only being 31 years old at the time, Jermaine O’Neal was already on the way down when the Boston Celtics signed him to a two-year, $12-million deal in 2010. But he was still a very productive player who could score inside and block some shots, and between him and a slow, aged Shaq, it was the younger, higher-paid O’Neal who was expected to get the starter’s minutes.

Oh, how wrong anyone would have been had they guessed J.O. would be a productive player during his time as a Celtic. Knee and wrist injuries had limited him to just 24 games and averages of 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 2010-11, and while his second season (5.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.7 bpg) was mostly an improvement, he was still a shadow of his old self and still very injury-prone, seeing action in just 25 games in 2011-12.


via CBC.ca

Sometimes it takes less than a year for teams to get buyer’s remorse when it comes to a bad free agent signee. That’s what happened in the 2007-08 season, when the then-New Jersey Nets signed Jamaal Magloire to a deal that had paid him $4 million that year. Now that’s not what one would call a lucrative contract by any means, and it was certainly a more appropriate deal than the $8-plus million a year he received with his previous teams. But he may have had a chance to start in a Nets lineup that resembled a donut.

With Magloire in the middle, the Nets still resembled a donut, and he averaged just 1.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 24 games before New Jersey cut him loose in the middle of the season. If you do the math, that's $166,667 per game and $90,909 per point scored. Yes, it was buyer's remorse indeed for the Nets with this one-year wonder.


via IGN.com

The second-overall pick in the 2004 draft, Emeka Okafor was mostly living up to the hype, but wasn’t exactly an elite center in his first four years for the Charlotte Bobcats. But when his contract came up, the Bobcats re-upped him for a deal that made it look like Charlotte had the next Hakeem Olajuwon or Patrick Ewing on their lineup. As we always would in this list, we’ll remind you of how much that deal cost – $72 million over six years in 2008.

When the Bobcats realized they had just re-signed someone who was good, but not great for a salary that suggested the latter, they desperately sought to unload him, and did so just one year later when they sent him to the then-owners of their current team name – the New Orleans Hornets – in exchange for Tyson Chandler. Okafor last played in the NBA in 2013, as injuries soon took their toll on the once-promising big man.


via NBA.com

Despite never averaging in double figures in his NBA career, Ben Wallace was a superstar for the Detroit Pistons because he was one of the league's best rebounders and frontcourt defenders. But was he worth $60 million over four years when the Chicago Bulls signed him as a 32-year-old free agent in 2006?

For a team that had two three-peats with an old Bill Cartwright, then the journeyman likes of Luc Longley and Bill Wennington at center, Big Ben was better than all those three put together, and was an upgrade over predecessor Tyson Chandler, who was still adjusting to life in the pros. But he was far from being as effective as he was in Detroit, and it took one and a half season for the Bulls to dump his overpaid butt off to the Cavaliers in a three-team trade.


via Wikiwand.com

Now here's one of the many reasons why you should always think twice before offering megabucks to a guy who's fresh off a career season in his contract year. Playing for the Washington Wizards, Larry Hughes had a monster 2003-04 season by his standards, averaging 22 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.9 steals pr game and making first-team All-Defensive. And with the Cleveland Cavaliers needing someone to complement their prize sophomore LeBron James, the team thought Hughes was worth $70 million over five years.

They thought wrong. Hughes lasted just three and a half seasons and offered solid, but greatly reduced numbers for the Cavs. And when the team traded him to Chicago midway through 2007-08, that was the first of three straight seasons where Hughes found himself playing for two teams in one year. In case you missed it the first time, contract years can be deceiving. Very deceiving.


via wikimedia.org

After averaging 12 points, 12 rebounds, and close to 2 blocks a game for the traditionally center-poor Golden State Warriors in 2003-04, the center Shaquille O'Neal once disparagingly called "Ericka" had something close to an All-Star season. But nobody should have been surprised, as it was a contract year for Erick Dampier, who signed a $70 million, seven-year free agent deal with the Dallas Mavericks in 2004, with the Mavs hoping he could give them a much-needed presence in the middle.

What the Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban got was someone who was adequate at center, but not much more than that. Dampier was an effective rebounder and defender, and shot at a ridiculously high clip from the field, though if you're a near-seven-footer whose few shots are almost always tip-ins and putbacks from point-blank range, anything less than 55 percent is a letdown. Still, the bottom line is still this — you expect MUCH more than adequate if you're paying your starting center over $10 million a year.


via LockerDome.com

In a draft class littered with busts, Kenyon Martin was one of the few members of the 2000 draft class to enjoy a successful NBA career. But was it worthy of a first-overall selection? Far from it.

In his first four years playing for the New Jersey Nets, the original K-Mart was an All-Star caliber power forward and a force on defense, but the Denver Nuggets had overpaid and then some when, in a sign-and-trade deal, they got Martin signed to a $92 million contract over seven years. While still solid on defense, his rebounding ability evaporated in all but one of those seasons, and it didn't help that he missed all but two games in 2006-07 due to injury. He was just one of those players who weren't bad after signing their max deals, but didn't offer good value for the money either.


via offtherecordsports.com

Oh, how we miss the Josh Smith who stuffed the stat sheets for the Atlanta Hawks. On a personal note, I credit J-Smoove for being the best late first-rounder in fantasy ball a team owner could ask for, as Smith helped me to one of my best finishes in the ultra-competitive league I’ve been part of for over a decade. And for the Atlanta Hawks, he was a stud of a forward who could do it all – score, pass, rebound fairly well, and play defense.

As such, we can’t blame the Detroit Pistons for signing him to a four-year, $60 million deal in 2013. But we can’t blame them either for cutting him loose after he put his game on autopilot and thought he was a good enough long-range shooter to make the trey a part of his arsenal. After the Pistons cut him early on in the 2014-15 season, he quickly sunk to reserve status, and he’s since taken his talents to China, much like many a washed-up ex-NBA star has done.


via NBA.com

After a slow start to his NBA career, Andris Biedrins broke out in his third NBA season, and was still good for around 10 points and 10 rebounds a game in his contract year, in 2007-08. Thinking they had found their man in the middle, the Warriors re-signed Biedrins, giving him $54 million over six seasons starting in 2008-09. And at first, it seemed as if Golden State made a wise decision paying big money to the Lithuanian center, as he averaged a career-best 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds in 2008-09. Plus, he was only 22 years old when he posted those numbers.

We now know that Biedrins was out of the NBA by the time he turned 28, but prior to that, injuries began to make the Warriors’ big investment look more and more like a waste of good money. He bottomed out in 2013-14, playing just six games for the Jazz after being unloaded via trade.


via 1130thetiger.com

In five seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, Stromile Swift was quite the tease, an ultra-athletic power forward drafted second overall in 2000 who could score and rebound decently, and block a lot of shots, but couldn’t put it together consistently. Thinking he’d stoke a fire in a lethargic, yet far-from-ancient Juwan Howard, the Houston Rockets signed Swift to a four-year, $22-million free agent deal in 2005, only to get more of the same as Howard retained his starting job and improved his game a bit.

Elvis Presley could have sang Swift’s 2005-06 soundtrack, as it was a case of return-to-sender, with Swift traded back to the King’s hometown after just one season. He remained glued to the bench for most of his remaining three seasons in the league, going down in history as one of the most disappointing second-overall picks of the 21st century.


via solecollector.com

How much is a sweet-shooting, yet nonetheless soft and unathletic power forward worth? For the Indiana Pacers, the answer was $51 million spread out over seven ultimately underwhelming years for Austin Croshere, who played in six of those seasons before his expensive contract was traded to Dallas. The ironically nicknamed Crusher never cracked the starting lineup on a regular basis while with the Pacers, and there was even a point where his minutes per game had dropped down to the 12-13 range.

Yes, he was a contributor to the Pacers' 2000 Finals run, and a favorite of then-coach Larry Bird, who probably saw a little of himself in Croshere. (Emphasis on a little.) But when that coaching run was through, it was obvious that few others saw the same potential for Croshere to have anything more than a decent, yet unspectacular career as a reserve forward.


Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of extremely recent examples in this list, and Jamal Crawford is unfortunately among one of them. Since joining the Clippers in 2012, Crawford won two Sixth Man of the Year awards, adding to the one he had won with the Atlanta Hawks in 2009-10. That included winning the honor in 2015-16 despite not offering much outside of his usual instant offense off the bench. So why did the Clippers give him $42 million over three years to re-sign him in 2016, despite that fact and the other fact that he’s already 36?

Currently, Crawford is playing well for a 36-year-old with 17 years of NBA experience, though not as well as he used to. Assuming his play and playing time continues to erode in the remaining two years of his contract, the Clippers will be playing superstar money to a seventh, eighth, or even ninth man in his late-30s.


Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers have been going through some hard times lately, and that’s something we don’t need to remind you of. And while they’ve gotten some mileage out of their young players, they’ve been spending big cash on veterans who are anything but game-changing. To be fair, Luol Deng was a productive starter prior to signing a ridiculously high-paying, not-worth-it deal with the Lakers this season. But the team’s other big veteran signing, Timofey Mozgov?

Four years and $64 million for a 30-year-old center who won a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but averaged just 6.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in 2015-16. Seriously, Mitch Kupchak? Mozgov’s starting in the middle for the Lakers, but he's getting reserve's minutes and stats, and is still the same old Mozzy — good as your backup center, but only worth starting if you've got no other options.


Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

We almost gave this dubious honor to Darko Milicic, whom the Grizzlies wasted $21 million on (over three years) in the late-2000s. But we cannot understand, for the life of us, why Memphis would sign Chandler Parsons to a max contract – $94 million over four years in 2016.

We can give Parsons the benefit of the doubt because he’s still young enough at 28, and because he’s been hobbled by injuries all season long. He’s a tall and versatile small forward who’s been a big second-round draft steal so far. But we have to reinforce a point we often make in this list – max contracts are just too juicy to offer to players who are "merely" good, but not All-NBA material. In other words, Parsons wouldn’t have been worth $22-plus million a year even if he was healthy.


via sun-sentinel.com

Playing for the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers, Brian Grant was a workmanlike power forward, always a threat to double-double, save for his final year with the Blazers, where he came off the bench as Rasheed Wallace’s backup. But the Miami Heat, who were big fans of the Rasta Monsta, thought a seven-year, $86-million deal in 2000 was sweet enough to free the dreadlocked bruiser from the chaos of the Jail Blazers.

As it turned out, joining the Heat on a max contract helped Grant post some of the best numbers of his career. But they still weren’t good enough to justify the big bucks, and by 2004, he was turned into trade bait for Shaquille O’Neal, joining the Lakers alongside Caron Butler and Lamar Odom. Sadly, Grant was diagnosed in November 2005 with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, and retired after the 2005-06 season.


via Yardbarker.com

There was a time when winning Most Improved Player was an invitation to return to mediocrity a season or two later. Just ask Dana Barros, Don "Not The 'American Pie' Singer" MacLean, Gheorghe Muresan, and Ike Austin. Then we saw Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal, Zach Randolph, and others break the "curse" and enjoy sustained NBA stardom. Then came Clippers forward Bobby Simmons, who shocked fans with a surprisingly good 2004-05 and parlayed his Most Improved Player campaign into a rich ($47 million, five years) deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. Again, it's that contract year fluke syndrome coming into play.

The signs were already there when Simmons' stats took a slight hit in 2005-06. But after he missed the entire 2006-07 due to injury, he came back as a journeyman-caliber small forward (who did bounce around a bit for good measure), mostly playing a reserve role until his NBA run ended in 2012.


Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

A second-round pick in 2008, Nikola Pekovic proved to be a steal for the Minnesota Timberwolves, emerging as starting center in his second NBA season in 2011-12 and following his sophomore campaign with even better numbers in 2012-13. As a restricted free agent in 2013, Pekovic re-signed with the Timberwolves, with his salary almost tripling to $60 million over five years.

There was one small problem with that deal, and that was the fact that Pekovic has never played more than 62 games in a single NBA season. Not surprisingly, his injury woes ramped up after re-signing with the T-Wolves, and he’s currently on the sidelines for the entire 2016-17 season, earning over $12 million for sitting out due to nagging Achilles and ankle injuries. As Minnesota now has Karl-Anthony Towns at center, it's safe to say Pek will be an afterthought when he returns in 2017-18 for the final year of his contract.


via basicball.com

As a key reminder of that one time when the Sacramento Kings didn't suck, Peja Stojakovic regularly frustrated opposing teams' fans, Lakers fans in particular, with his dead-eye shooting from long range and ability to put points in the bucket. He was still a top small forward in a half-season with the Indiana Pacers. So in 2006, with their dynamic young point guard Chris Paul establishing himself early on in his career, the New Orleans Hornets (as they were known then) acquired Peja for five years and $64 million in a sign-and-trade with Indiana.

It wasn't Stojakovic's fault that he didn't live up to expectations as a Hornet. Back issues limited him to just 13 games in his first season in the Big Easy, and when he returned, he was clearly far from being the same player he was with the Kings and Pacers. His NBA career ended in 2011, after he played 33 games for three teams (Hornets, Raptors, Mavs) in a reserve role for all.


via Alchetron.com

After suddenly turning into a force in the middle in the 2005 NBA playoffs, massive (7’0”-300) Seattle SuperSonics center Jerome James went from one of the NBA’s worst starting centers to becoming a hot free agent commodity. And the New York Knicks went ahead and signed James to a five-year, $30 million deal. It wasn't like the Knicks were looking at the next Willis Reed or Patrick Ewing, but they at least expected a competent starter.

Instead, James wasn’t even the next Marvin Webster, another center who infuriated Knicks fans with his subpar play after breaking out with the Sonics. And the Knicks soon found out why they called James “Big Snacks,” as he showed up fat and out-of-shape, proved to be injury-prone, and averaged just 3.1 points and 2.1 rebounds in a backup role. Miraculously, he lasted three more years on the Knicks' bench before they finally unloaded his underperforming butt to the Chicago Bulls, who promptly cut him.


via canishoopus.com

Thankfully, this list only covers the 2000s, so we don't need to remind you of how the future Oklahoma City Thunder, a.k.a. the Seattle SuperSonics, so infamously overspent for Jim McIlvaine and Vin Baker. But Calvin Booth's six-year, $34-million contract in 2001 definitely did take place this century, and back in those days, that was a plausible enough deal you'd give to a solid starting center joining a new team, or even a young backup with considerable upside.

Booth was neither of those two, as the Sonics were blinded by a backup center for two teams in the season beforehand (Washington and Dallas) who happened to average two blocks a game off the bench. Sure, the Sonics got a good defender, but he was worthless on offense and subpar on the boards, and necessitated years of wasted first-round draft picks on underwhelming centers — Robert Swift, Mouhamed Sene, and Johan Petro, in case you're wondering.


via ballerz305.wordpress.com

Back in his time with the Seattle SuperSonics, Rashard Lewis was something special at the three — a 6'10" guy who could also play power forward, and could shoot threes like nobody's business. He parlayed these abilities into averages of 22.4 points, 6.6 rebounds,, and 2.4 assists in 2006-07, and when free agency came calling, the Orlando Magic snared him away from Seattle with a six-year, $118 million contract.

First of all, that was a ridiculous amount of money to pay a player who may have been very good at the time, but not great. Secondly, Lewis' numbers declined upon joining the Magic, and while he did make one All-Star Game, he just wasn't giving them a good return on investment. Lewis was traded to the Wizards for the troublesome Gilbert Arenas in the middle of 2010-11, and wrapped up his career chasing rings for the Miami Heat from 2012 to 2014.


via the-cauldron.com

Remember the last time the words "Philadelphia 76ers" and "playoffs" were regularly mentioned in the same sentence? Before the days of Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel (the latter two when healthy), and a supporting cast of jabronis, the Sixers weren't a bad team, and they thought signing Elton Brand to a five-year, $80 million deal in 2008 was a good way to level up in a traditionally-weak Eastern Conference, not to mention give the perennial 20-10 guy for bad Bulls/Clippers teams more playoff exposure.

The caveat to this deal was that Philly was paying big money for a guy fresh off a left Achilles tendon injury, and someone who missed most of his first season due to a shoulder injury. Compared to the Elton Brand who stuffed the stat sheet beforehand, this version of the two-time All-Star power forward was essentially Brand X.


via tumblr.com

He was a dynamic point guard playing alongside Shaquille O'Neal on the Orlando Magic, but when the Phoenix Suns paid a pretty penny (pun intended, natch) for Anfernee Hardaway to get him via sign-and-trade in 1999, it was an offer he just couldn't refuse. In the first year of his seven-year, $87 million deal, Penny played well enough, but a left knee injury limited him to just four games in 2000-01, and he was never the same player again. A good player for a time, perhaps, but soon to become mediocre as his Hall of Fame potential evaporated.

It's quite sad to note that this onetime future Hall of Famer had his career hampered by injuries at such a young age, so we can say it wasn't the Suns' fault that they overspent on Hardaway.


via yoursportsfeeder.com

Admit it, you had a glimmer of hope when Darius Miles torched the Denver Nuggets for 47 points in the second-to-last game of the 2004-05 NBA season. He'd shown teases of his tremendous potential in previous years, and the Portland Trail Blazers were hoping against hope that D-Miles would make the most out of the $48 million over six years they were paying him as a 2004 free agent signee. And when he got off to a hot start in 2005-06, you probably were hoping too that he'd live up to his third-overall selection in the 2000 draft.

Alas, what Portland got was another player in the Jail Blazers mold — a lazy head case who also turned out to be injury-prone. After playing the best ball of his career while remaining maddeningly inconsistent, Miles sat out the entire 2006-08 seasons with a career-shortening knee injury. Worse, he essentially held up the Blazers to pay him $18 million over the last two years of his contract, despite not playing a single minute for Portland during those years.

As Complex so aptly put it, Darius Miles was living "Homer Simpson's version of the American Dream." And the Blazers were, in the words of Homer's evil boss Mr. Burns, in "deep d'oh."


With Ben McLemore teetering closer than ever to bust territory, the Sacramento Kings thought they could do better than a young kid looking more like the next Allan Ray than the next Ray Allen. So for 2016-17, they went ahead and signed veteran Arron Afflalo to a two-year contract worth $25 million. A solid scorer, shooter, and defender who isn't that old yet at 31, he seemed like a cinch to average at least 12 points and serve as an upgrade over the disappointing McLemore.

Unless we see the Arron Afflalo we saw with Denver and Orlando return in 2017-18, that big two-year deal is going to turn out to be a waste of money. He's now registering his lowest averages since 2009-10, and he can't even hold down a regular starting job. Again, it's not too late for him to turn things around, but like Kosta Koufos (four years, $33 million), he's another overpaid complement to the talented, yet troublesome DeMarcus Cousins.


Oh, here we go again with the contract year. Rasho Nesterovic spent the first five years of his NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and while his numbers (11.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg) in 2002-03 weren’t anything to write home about for a starter, they were his best ever, and the San Antonio Spurs thought he’d make a good complement to Tim Duncan, signing the seven-footer to a six-year, $42 million deal in 2003.

The Spurs did end up starting Nesterovic in the middle alongside Duncan, but he was essentially the forerunner of Tiago Splitter, Aron Baynes, and other average-at-best big men slotted next to TD until LaMarcus Aldridge came along in 2015. He was serviceable enough, but his contract had “albatross” written all over it, and he was traded to the Raptors in 2006 for journeyman Eric Williams and three-point-shooting big man Matt Bonner.


Sometimes, all it could take is a change of team to turn a borderline All-Star candidate into someone struggling to keep his starting job, then into someone who isn't even starter material. Hedo Turkoglu is one of those players, having thrived as a point forward for the Orlando Magic in the late-2000s. He was at the peak of his career, putting up great numbers for the Magic as a top-notch passer for a forward. Then the Toronto Raptors acquired him in 2009 via sign-and-trade, inking him to a five-year, $53 million contract.

With Jose Calderon also at top form as the Raptors' point guard, Hedo's ball-handling duties were diminished, and the chemistry just wasn't there up north as it was in O-Town. As Turkoglu sank into mediocrity, he made a stopover at Phoenix in 2010-11, then returned to the Magic after just 25 games, where he continued reminding no one of his magical 2007-09 run.


Is it really a good idea to spend $22 million over two years to sign a past-his-prime Joe Johnson when you've already got Rodney Hood as your starting two-guard and Alec Burks, though injury-prone, as the backup? Yes, there was a time when Iso Joe was only slightly-overpaid by virtue of his max contract with the Atlanta Hawks; one of the league's best shooting guards, true enough, but maybe earning a tad too much coin for his contributions.

Now that he's in his mid-30s, Johnson is earning WAY too much coin for someone who serves as Hood's backup on the Utah Jazz. And if Burks shakes off his injury problems at some point in the near future, the Jazz may end up paying over $10 million for a 15-minute-per-game guy in the second year of his contract.


The term "Hibachi" is Japanese for "fire bowl," but in 2008, Gilbert Arenas made it seem as if that nickname of his was Japanese for "grossly overpaid." Still thinking of himself as hot you-know-what after three fantastic seasons from 2004-07, Agent Zero re-signed to the tune of $111 million over six years. So how did he reward the Wizards for caving in to his ludicrous demands?

Well, there was the injury-marred 2008-09 where he played two games. Then there was 2009-10, where he and Javaris Crittenton were suspended indefinitely for that little matter with guns in the Wizards locker room. 2009-10 was good, if abbreviated, but a combination of bad attitude and injuries took the fire out of his game from 2010-11 onward. The Wizards traded Arenas to Orlando early that season for the similarly overpaid Rashard Lewis (see above), and he was just 30 when he played his last NBA game in 2012.

More in NBA