The free agent market is hotter than ever in the NBA with major superstars changing teams every summer. Each offseason now sees superstars looking for a new fit if unhappy with their current squads. Massive stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Paul George have changed rosters in recent years. Everyone wants to find their own form of happiness whether it is forming a super team to compete for an NBA Championship or making as money as possible with a max contract. There have been some questionable decisions made by players during their time on the free agent market. From this past summer to as far back as 2015, the bad decisions could have landed players a better location if they chose to play elsewhere.
Each player to sign with a team here either has regrets now or could have regrets in the very near future. We will look at why they made the wrong call signing with the teams of their choice. Another twist will be finding the right place that should been the home of these players. Many players could be in a better position right now in terms of personal happiness or individual success if they made a different choice during their time in free agency. Let’s take a time machine to go back to the points where these specific NBA stars make their choice to commit to a team and try to correct the mistakes. These are twenty-five recent NBA free agents who went to the wrong team and the right team they should have signed with.
25 Anthony Davis (should have signed with the Celtics)
The New Orleans Pelicans lucked out when Anthony Davis decided to sign a contract with them going all the way into 2021. Some NBA teams believe that Davis is already unhappy and will want to request a trade before then.
Davis made a bad move committing to the Pelicans for such a long time.
A team like the Boston Celtics would have been perfect for him. As seen with the recent success of adding more superstars and young stars, Boston is set up for a bright future, and Davis could have been the guy to lead them.
24 Dwight Howard (should have signed with the Magic)
Dwight Howard has become the most controversial player in the NBA when it comes to locker room chemistry. The bold decision of Howard to join the Atlanta Hawks in 2016 made him believe he would end his career in his hometown.
Atlanta traded him to the Charlotte Hornets after one season. Charlotte then traded him to the Brooklyn Nets leading to Brooklyn buying him out. Howard signed a deal with the Washington Wizards but would have been better off returning to the Orlando Magic and ending his career with the one fan base that loved him.
23 Dwyane Wade (should have always signed with the Heat)
Dwyane Wade made the most shocking move of his career when signing with the Chicago Bulls in 2016. The reasoning for Wade leaving the Miami Heat was feeling disrespected by the lack of money offered to him after he became the greatest player in franchise history.
Chicago was a disappointment leading to Wade getting a buyout. Following a horrible half-season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wade was traded back to the Heat and plans to end his career there. It is obvious that Wade would have been happier just sticking it out in Miami and never leaving.
22 Kevin Durant (should have signed with the Celtics)
Many would argue that Kevin Durant made a genius move joining the Golden State Warriors super team in 2016 and winning two NBA Championships since then. The problem is the narrative is that he manipulated the system to get easy rings and doesn’t get the same respect as his peers.
Media outlets stopped talking about the Warriors 2018 title win after a day with the news shifting to LeBron James’ free agency. If Durant joined the Boston Celtics like he considered, he likely may already have won a ring with the roster getting better after he joined. Durant could be an NBA Champion with more respect for his accomplishment.
21 Trevor Ariza (should have signed with the Rockets)
The Houston Rockets were the only team to win more 1 game in a playoff series against the Golden State Warriors since they added Kevin Durant. Not only did Houston play well, but they were up 3-2 before Chris Paul suffered a hamstring injury to end his postseason.
Many believe the Rockets are the only team that could beat the Warriors. However, the recent free agent loss of Trevor Ariza will hurt them.
Ariza chose to sign with the Phoenix Suns’ young roster to add experience. Given Phoenix won’t be a playoff team, Ariza will likely breaking up a special team in Houston.
20 Kawhi Leonard (should have signed with the Lakers)
The status of Kawhi Leonard today makes it obvious that he made a mistake signing a contract with the San Antonio Spurs three years ago. Leonard seemed like he would be a Spur for life after a great start to his career leading to the long-term contract extension.
It has become apparent that Kawhi will opt out of his contract next summer to become a free agent. Leonard badly wants to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers before then. Many reports suggest Leonard has dreamed of being a Laker for years, and he should have signed there if so.
19 Rajon Rondo (should have signed with the Pelicans)
Rajon Rondo resurrected his career this past season with a great run on the New Orleans Pelicans. The trio of Rondo, Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis thrived together following the injury to DeMarcus Cousins.
Rondo made a bold move to leave New Orleans and sign with the Los Angeles Lakers to play alongside LeBron James. Between LeBron running the offense and Lonzo Ball starting at point guard, Rondo may revert into a forgettable guard after his great comeback season. The Pelicans was the perfect spot for him and he gave it up.
18 Kyle Lowry (should have signed with the Spurs)
The offseason of 2017 featured Kyle Lowry re-signing with the Toronto Raptors on a huge contract. Lowry believed the Raptors could finally win the East this season, but they got swept again by LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.
The San Antonio Spurs had strong interest in Lowry and would have been the better move for him. Lowry could have developed a bond with Kawhi Leonard to keep him happy and form a new big three with LaMarcus Aldridge. Instead, he is stuck with the Raptors and their window is closing soon.
17 Hassan Whiteside (should have signed with the Mavericks)
The career of Hassan Whiteside is regressing following a bad season with the Miami Heat. Whiteside failed to get playing time in playoff games against the Philadelphia 76ers despite signing a huge contract with Miami for the long term.
One of the teams reportedly interested in Whiteside back in his free agent offseason was the Dallas Mavericks. Whiteside would have been given a bigger role in the offense and have more opportunities to prove his skills. Instead, he’s now stuck on a team that doesn’t respect him.
16 Blake Griffin (should have signed with the Cavaliers)
Blake Griffin showed too much loyalty to the Los Angeles Clippers when signing a long-term contract with them last offseason. Clippers management pitched Griffin the idea of spending his entire career with the franchise, but they traded him less than one year into the deal to the Detroit Pistons.
Griffin had a chance to join a contender. The Cleveland Cavaliers were hoping to pull off a sign and trade to add him. Griffin missed out on the chance to team up with LeBron James and contend for a title, but he now plays for an irrelevant franchise.
15 Gordon Hayward (should have signed with the Jazz)
Gordon Hayward’s first season with the Boston Celtics was a disappointment as he suffered a season-ending injury on opening night. Boston thrived without him getting all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Young talents Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum already earned respect from Celtics fans. Hayward may see them cut into his role as a superstar on the team. The Utah Jazz was the perfect franchise for Hayward to lead into contention as “the guy.” Instead, he is with the Celtics and rumors are out that he may be traded if Boston can upgrade.
14 DeMarcus Cousins (should have signed with the Trail Blazers)
The decision of DeMarcus Cousins to sign with the Golden State Warriors this summer terrified the rest of the league. Cousins is coming off a bad injury, but he is still considered one of the most talented centers in the league today.
It is hard to imagine Cousins will get more than 25 minutes per game for his role as the fifth most import player in Golden State.
A team needing a frontcourt presence like the Portland Trail Blazers would have been a better fit. Cousins would get to put up numbers to prove his worth before heading to 2019 free agency.
13 Danilo Gallinari (should have signed with the Rockets)
Danilo Gallinari had a chance to join a contender for the first time in his career last summer. The shooting skills of Gallinari are his strong suit.
One rumor saw the Houston Rockets trying to find a way to add him to the roster.
Gallinari instead chose to take more money with the Los Angeles Clippers. The team traded Blake Griffin during the season and failed to make the playoffs. Gallinari could have been the missing piece to help Houston get to the NBA Finals if he took a pay cut for a season.
12 Devin Booker (should have waited to sign with the Lakers)
Devin Booker made a huge move when deciding to sign a long-term contract extension with the Phoenix Suns. The future of Phoenix is up in the air as they are banking on other young pieces maturing with him to become contenders soon.
Booker may have been better waiting it out and testing his free agent status when the contract expired. LeBron James had huge praise for Booker in the past and would have loved to bring him to the Los Angeles Lakers with cap space freeing up. Booker would feast with James getting him open shots.
11 Tony Parker (should have signed with the Spurs)
Fans were stunned when Tony Parker recently decided to leave the San Antonio Spurs in free agency to sign with the Charlotte Hornets. Parker spent his entire career up to this point in San Antonio winning four NBA Championships and an NBA Finals MVP.
The diminishing play of Parker saw the Spurs offer less money than the Hornets. Parker chose to spend his final few seasons with a terrible team and will likely regret missing out on ending things with the franchise that made him a star.
10 Brook Lopez (should have signed with the Lakers)
The Los Angeles Lakers made a lot of shocking moves this offseason after scoring the biggest signing when LeBron James joined the roster.
Most players signed one-year contracts, but one player excluded from returning was center Brook Lopez.
The Milwaukee Bucks landed Lopez when signing him to a one-year contract to become their starting center. Lopez should have taken any deal offered from the Lakers to play with LeBron James for one season. The big man would have received open shots all game long with James running the offense.
9 Andre Iguodala (should have signed with the Rockets)
The most underrated talent on the Golden State Warriors superstar roster is Andre Iguodala. It is easy to forget about him with the four All-Stars on the roster and DeMarcus Cousins now joining. Iguodala almost left Golden State last summer to join the Houston Rockets.
The Warriors managed to get past Houston despite Iguodala missing most of the series with injury. If Iguodala joined Houston, he could have been the difference maker to ending the Warriors dominance. This would have added more luster to Iguodala’s career than just being the fifth wheel carried to another ring.
8 Julius Randle (should have signed with the Wizards)
Julius Randle understandably decided he was not going to return to the Los Angeles Lakers on a cheap one-year contract. Instead, he made the move to join the New Orleans Pelicans for two seasons as the starting power forward.
Randle may not get as much action in the post as he is used to with Anthony Davis in the lineup as well. A better fit would have been a team like the Washington Wizards. Randle could be a perfect center in today’s NBA, especially if playing with two great play makers like John Wall and Bradley Beal.
7 Zach Randolph (should have signed with the Warriors)
The career of Zach Randolph is coming to an end as he is starting to decline in his older age. Randolph signed with the rebuilding Sacramento Kings last summer. Sacramento played him on a limited schedule given the younger roster needing more playing time.
Randolph would have been better off joining a contender in a bench role. The Golden State Warriors would have been the perfect fit. Randolph could have even started at center and played major minutes winning the NBA Championship on a super team.
6 DeAndre Jordan (should have signed with the Mavericks the first time)
DeAndre Jordan’s career has taken a couple of massive twists and turns in recent years. The center agreed to sign with the Dallas Mavericks in 2015 before changing his mind after the Los Angeles Clippers talked him into re-signing.
Jordan witnessed all his fellow starting teammates leave or get traded. It culminated in Jordan leaving and signing with the Mavericks for real this time. If Jordan stuck to his instincts, he would be happier, and Dallas would be in a better position with him.
5 Paul George (should have signed with Lakers)
Paul George was one of the biggest free agents on the market this past offseason. It was obvious that George was split between joining LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers or returning to Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
George made the call to stay with the Thunder. The sad thing is they could not get out of the first round with George and Westbrook leading the team. A combination of LeBron and PG would have made the Lakers a force in the Western Conference with another star like Kawhi Leonard joining by 2019.
4 Paul Millsap (should have signed with the Thunder)
The superb play of Paul Millsap has made him among the most underrated players in the league. While he does have a good situation with the Denver Nuggets after signing with them in 2017, Millsap would have been better off joining a team with a superstar.
Before acquiring Carmelo Anthony, the Oklahoma City Thunder had another cap spot open via a sign and trade. Millsap joining Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams would have made them a significantly better team and a true contender to Golden State.
3 Marc Gasol (should have signed with the Spurs)
Marc Gasol signed a long-term contract with the Memphis Grizzlies that he is regretting today. The hope of Gasol was to contend for an NBA Championship, but the Grizzlies are one of the worst teams in the league wasting his prime years.
Gasol could have signed with a franchise like the Spurs back when they were looking for a big man. It would have been a perfect fit for his style and would have helped the team contend against the Golden State Warriors in 2017. Gasol instead is stuck on a team with no future.
2 Nicolas Batum (should have signed with the Heat)
Nicolas Batum was one of the most interesting free agents on the market in 2016. Many teams considered adding him to their roster, but he decided to stay with the Charlotte Hornets for the most money.
Batum has seen his value drop with the team being terrible last year. If he signed with a team like the Miami Heat, his star power would likely be higher in a bigger market, and Batum’s basketball skills would translate to regular season winning.
1 LeBron James (should have signed with the Rockets)
LeBron James shocked the basketball world when leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Los Angeles Lakers for four seasons. The roster around James in Los Angeles is terrible and appears to be sacrificing this season to add more free agents in 2019.
James should have signed a one-year deal with the Houston Rockets as the only true team that can pose a threat to the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers would have still been on the market next season for him to end his career there anyway if that was his dream. LeBron now risks wasting one of the final years of his prime on a weak roster.