The summer of 2016 was a free-for-all in NBA free agency, a spending spree for teams flush with cash. The salary cap jumped in a big way and you can always rely on NBA teams to overpay players and make other bad moves when given the opportunity. Free agency gets a lot of teams into trouble every year and there is no doubt that some of the offseason deals will seem regrettable by this time next year. Paying aging or unproven NBA players large sums of money on long-term contracts can really blow up in a team’s face.
Maybe it’s a reclamation project or maybe it’s a guy who just happened to have his best season in a contract year. Despite a history of red flags, teams still screw up. It’s part of the fun of the NBA offseason, unless of course you’re a fan of one of the teams that makes a blunder. Between the new contracts and the trades, there were some mistakes that should not take very long to come back and haunt the franchises involved. Here are 15 NBA offseason moves that teams will regret by next summer:
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15 Miami Heat: Hassan Whiteside
The Miami Heat made Hassan Whiteside a priority in the offseason, a major priority. It’s part of the reason Dwyane Wade left. Miami awarded the big man with a contract worth more than $98 million. Whiteside has had two excellent seasons since Miami found him on the scrap heap, but this could very well be a move that the Heat regret.
Whiteside has a history of maturity issues and, while it’s something he’s worked on, there have still been signs that he doesn’t have the temperament to be a reliable franchise player. Well, Miami paid him like one anyway and now the onus will be on the Marshall product to continue to work hard and keep his cool on the court. Betting nearly $100 million on a player with character concerns doesn’t seem like the most prudent move.
14 Brooklyn Nets: Jeremy Lin
Brooklyn is in a bad place right now. The Nets have a dearth of talent and a dearth of draft picks, so free agency was really their only avenue to add quality players to the roster. They tried to sign a multitude of young players, but they were restricted free agents and their teams matched the offer sheets. The Nets signed Lin to a three-year deal worth more than $38 million. It’s not a terrible contract, but signing Lin to be the starting point guard won’t make this team much better than they were last year.
Outside of Linsanity at Madison Square Garden, Lin’s career has been rather pedestrian. He’s a shoot-first point guard that has never been very efficient. He was praised by many for his 2015-16 campaign in Charlotte, but he was a bench player and even then shot just 41.2% from the floor.
13 Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan
The salary cap may have gone up, but we now live in a world where DeMar DeRozan signed the second-largest contract in NBA history. I get it; the Raptors needed to keep the band together in the hope that LeBron James or Kyrie Irving gets hurt and clears the path to the NBA Finals. The Raptors were the second-best team in the Eastern Conference last season, but they simply don’t stand a chance against Cleveland at full strength.
Even at that, Boston may be better than Toronto now too thanks to the addition of Al Horford and the Raptors just don’t seem like a championship team. DeRozan can’t shoot threes and struggled in the playoffs. In the modern NBA, or any NBA really, he’s not worth what Toronto paid him.
12 Dallas Mavericks: Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes looked like the next NBA star coming out of high school. He was a stud headed for Chapel Hill, and had there been no age restriction for the draft he may have been the number one overall pick. However, two less-than-stellar years at UNC resulted in his falling out of the top five when he did declare for the draft. Barnes landed with the Warriors and settled in as a high quality role player.
The Mavericks apparently think there is still star potential left in the UNC product, as they handed him a max contract worth nearly $95 million in the offseason. During his time in the pros, Barnes has shown himself to be little more than a one-dimensional player that struggles to create his own shot.
11 Miami Heat: Dion Waiters
Dion Waiters has to think he’s the best player in the NBA, as there is no other explanation for his style of play. The Cavaliers reached for Waiters with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft after he was the sixth man for his college team (shades of Marvin Williams) and he quickly wore out his welcome in Cleveland. Waiters showed flashes of promise in Oklahoma City, but eventually reverted back to his old ways of being a ball-stopper. OKC didn’t seem to want him back after the 2015-16 season, so the Miami Heat decided to give him a try on a one-year deal with a player option for around $3 million per season.
The Heat should quickly find that to be money poorly spent, as Waiters seems destined to forever remain an inefficient player that consistently makes poor decisions on the court. The contract wouldn’t be that bad if it were just the first year, but the player option for a second was a bad move.
10 Indiana Pacers: Jeff Teague
The Pacers essentially traded George Hill for Jeff Teague and at first glance the deal looks like a solid one for Indiana. Teague has had some good statistical seasons over the years, but there was a reason that Atlanta was hot to move on from him. When the Hawks signed Teague to his current contract, there seemed to be a lot of hesitation to do so. There were rumors of a swap for Brandon Jennings that never came to be and it felt like the Hawks couldn’t make room for Dennis Schroeder to start quickly enough. Hill, on the other hand, is an underrated player and one that appears to be a better fit in Indiana compared to Teague.
Teague is more of a pure point guard, but the Pacers don’t necessarily need a pure point with Paul George handling the ball so much. Factor in that Hill is a better shooter and defender, and it looks like Indiana made a mistake.
9 Orlando Magic: Serge Ibaka
The Orlando Magic are desperate to make the playoffs, which is what the acquisition of Serge Ibaka signaled. Orlando sent promising guard Victor Oladipo (a former #2 pick in the draft) and a 2016 lottery pick to Oklahoma City to acquire Ibaka. Had the trade simply been Oladipo for Ibaka, it may have been a little better, but, even then, OKC would have still gotten the better end of the deal.
Ibaka seems to have a reputation around the league as a defensive stalwart, but his best rim-protecting days are in the rear view mirror. He now fancies himself a stretch four, though he has not been very good in that role. Not only did Ibaka come at a steep price for Orlando, but he can walk via free agency in a year (if the Magic miss the playoffs, why wouldn’t he?) and his presence will force the team to play youngster Aaron Gordon out of position quite a bit.
8 Orlando Magic: Bismack Biyombo
Bismack Biyombo is coming off his best NBA season. In Toronto he was one of the best backup big men in the league and he played well when injuries forced his insertion into the starting lineup. This move would not have been all that bad had the Magic not traded for Ibaka, but now the team has a crowded frontcourt making a lot of money. Orlando gave Biyombo $72 million over four years and he’s probably the fourth big in the rotation. His defensive abilities make him a good fit next to Nikola Vucevic, but how much time are those two players going to spend on the court together?
Orlando’s offseason seemed to lack direction in a desperate effort to make a run at a playoff spot, even though being mediocre does little to benefit an NBA franchise in the long-term.
7 Chicago Bulls: Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo was once one of the best point guards in the league. Some people might tell you that he still is. The guy did lead the league in assists last season, but dig a little deeper. Anyone that watched Rondo play last year saw a player that took plays off and looked disinterested at times.
Rondo has never been the most motivated player on a nightly basis, but his stints in Dallas and Sacramento showed that he’s getting worse in that department. Chicago signed Rondo to a two-year deal worth more than $28 million. Why? Well, they didn’t really have many other options. Chicago did not seem to have much of a plan for the offseason and this move doesn’t make a ton of sense. Rondo dominates the ball, which means less time for stud Jimmy Butler to have it in his hands.
6 New York Knicks: Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah is just a few years away from receiving First Team All-NBA honors, but it feels like ages ago. Noah’s skillset is excellent and he’s the kind of player that any team could benefit from having. He’s an energy guy that rebounds, defends and happens to be one of the best passing big men in the game.
So why will the Knicks regret signing him? It’s more about the years than the money. New York handed Noah more than $72 million over four years. This is a guy that has played in just 96 games over the last two seasons and he’s 31 years old. If he somehow stays healthy, then this is a good signing. Unfortunately for the tortured Knicks fan base, that doesn’t seem very likely.
5 Memphis Grizzlies: Chandler Parsons
Much like Noah, Chandler Parsons is another guy that has a hard time staying on the court. Parsons was a steal for the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft and he surprised a lot of people when he moved to Dallas a few years later. His tenure in Dallas did not go swimmingly, though, as the former Gator was limited to 127 games in those two seasons combined. Parsons is a versatile two-way player when healthy, but giving him nearly $95 million would seem like a stretch even if he didn’t have the injury history.
It seems clear that Memphis was genuinely worried about losing Mike Conley and assured him that they would add a significant piece to the puzzle in the offseason.
4 Los Angeles Clippers: Austin Rivers
If your dad could give you tens of millions of dollars, he probably would. For most people, that’s not an option. For Austin Rivers it is. Rivers has never been a good NBA player. He’s a me-first, undersized two-guard that was pretty close to heading to the D-League before his father Doc swung a trade for him two years ago. After one-and-a-half poor seasons in Los Angeles, the team rewarded him with more than $35 million. Rivers was so bad at playing the backup point guard role last season that the Clippers saw Ray Felton as an upgrade.
There is simply no way that Rivers would have gotten anything comparable from another team. It seems that the NBA is now beyond nepotism, and it’s a bit ridiculous.
3 Atlanta Hawks: Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard is a big name. The Atlanta Hawks have struggled to bring in big-name free agents for years. Dwight Howard is from Atlanta. And thus ends the reasons for Dwight Howard heading to Atlanta. Howard may still have the name recognition of a star, but he doesn’t play like one anymore. Al Horford left Atlanta in the offseason and surely the team was scrambling to stay “relevant” in the Eastern Conference, but adding Howard for more than $70 million over three years was not the savviest of transactions.
Again, Atlanta got a hometown guy with a flashy name, but Howard is not about to help this team contend for a spot in the NBA Finals. As great as Paul Millsap is, Atlanta should have traded him, gotten younger and handed the keys to Dennis Schroeder.
2 Portland Trail Blazers: Evan Turner
This was a pretty baffling signing by the Blazers, a team that has earned a reputation for making savvy moves over the last couple of years. Turner found a good role for the Boston Celtics and most people assumed he’d get a solid deal from someone. However, the price tag of $70 million was too steep and the team fit is not there.
Turner joins a Portland squad that already had a solid three-guard rotation of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe. Sure, Turner can play the three, but he’s a player that is at his best with the ball in his hands. With Lillard and McCollum in the same boat, there is no way each player can get enough touches.
1 Los Angeles Lakers: Timofey Mozgov
This deal came early in the free agent process and was the most inexplicable of all the contracts handed out during this summer’s madness. The Lakers gave Mozgov $64 million over four years. Yes, you read that correctly. Mozgov couldn’t even crack the rotation for the Cavs down the stretch and in the playoffs last season, yet the Lakers felt he was worth more than $60 million?
In a league that values true centers less and less every season? In a league that values versatility? This is a total head-scratcher and what’s more confusing is that the Lakers pounced on The Moz as if he was going to be a hot commodity. There’s nothing like out outbidding yourself. Ouch, just ouch.
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