Although July 9th is the official day that free agents can sign with new teams, players were allowed to sign contracts on July 1st. Since that date, we have seen big names like LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Pierce, Greg Monroe, and Tyson Chandler change teams. We have also witnessed 2nd tier free agents like David West, Robin Lopez, Monta Ellis, and Wesley Mathews switch jerseys as well. Despite all of the player movement, some players stayed exactly where they are by signing extensions with their current club. Players like Dwyane Wade, Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler, and Draymond Green come to mind.
Although all four major sports have free agency, the NBA’s version is different than their counterparts. With the most visible athletes out of the Big 4, basketball has commanded the attention of the sports world as they have turned the beginning of the signing period into a media bonanza. Does ‘The Decision’ ring a bell? That’s the beauty of free agency. Players, management and even fans alike occasionally get swept up in all the rumors and Twitter posts. The player movement is all over the place, and the NBA just sits back and rakes in all the attention and dollars.
Free agency this year has a bit of a twist, as the salary cap is expected increase enormously next year due to the league’s TV deal. Due to the new money coming in next year, teams will be a little bit more willing to spend during this year’s free agent period as well. Max deals or bad contracts that are handed out now won’t look as bad this time next year. Although there are some exceptions, usually when millions upon millions of dollars are given to general managers, bad things happen. With that being said, since the first official day of the league’s new year is here, and the roster moratorium has been lifted, we here at The Sportster will give you the cherished reader, a top 15 list of the worst free agent signings, be it from a team’s perspective or the free agent himself.
15. San Antonio Spurs (Losing Cory Joseph)
This is the first team entry on the list. It’s hard not to love what the Spurs have done so far in free agency. They agreed to terms with the biggest name on the market, got a former All-Star in David West to sign for the veteran’s minimum, and still found the time and cap space to resign virtually all of their core players. There is one player departure however that has sort of flown under the radar unless you live in Canada or cheer for the Raptors of course, and that is the loss of key Spurs’ reserve and Canadian point guard Cory Joseph. Joseph who was born in Ontario, signed a 4-year, $30 million contract with his hometown team that will see him earn $7.5 million a year. That’s a significant pay pump for a player who made a little more than $5 million during the first four seasons of his career.
In the bigger picture, this is a tough loss for the Spurs. Joseph who played a key role in backing up veteran and former All-Star Point Guard Tony Parker who by the way will turn 34 next season, averaged 13 points, and nearly 4 assists in 14 starts while replacing an injured Parker. While there are still options in free agency to replace Joseph like Will Bynum, Andre Miller, and C.J Watson, to name a few, none of the guys available have spent the time in Spurs’ system and earned Gregg Popovich’s trust like Joseph has.
14. David West opting out, signing in San Antonio
No, I do not personally know David West’s agent, but the 12-year veteran’s appearance on this list is strictly financially motivated. West recently used his player option to opt of of his three year, $36.6 million deal he signed with the Indiana Pacers in 2013. In doing so, the former two-time All-Star left $12.5 million on the table to enter free agency one year early. There were reportedly many teams that were hot after West as soon as news of his decision broke.
West however, decided to sign a one-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs for the veteran’s minimum which will come in at about $1.4 million. Reports say that the former Xavier forward/center chose the Spurs because he felt that they offered him the best chance at winning a championship. After a busy offseason that has seen the team add the most coveted free agent in LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as resign the majority of their core players including future first ballot Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, it’s hard to disagree with West. While he should be applauded for putting winning and team as his top priorities, $12.5 million is still $12.5 million, and West’s bank account will feel the sting, maybe not now, but definitely down the road.
13. Miami Heat signing Dwyane Wade
While signing Mr. Miami is always a good idea for the Heat not just for his basketball skill, but for his impact off the court as well, bringing him back on a one-year deal for $20 million is a little well Kobe-esque. If you remember two years ago, the Lakers star used his upcoming free agency as leverage to sign a two-year deal with Lakers for $48.5 million. While Kobe got paid, the team was hamstrung in free agency that summer.
Yes, the Heat have the benefit of the legendary Pat Riley running the front office, unlike the Lakers who have Mitch Kupchak, the fact that they gave so much money to Wade is surprising especially considering they narrowly missed the playoffs last year. While they are a without a doubt a much better team with Wade, that $20 million off the cap assuming they sign some other free agents and sign their entire draft class, could severely limit them come the NBA trade deadline or latter in free agency when they want to add another piece. Despite his immense popularity this is a move the Heat might regret.
12. Toronto Raptors signing DeMarre Carroll
The former Atlanta Hawk turned a career year into a big payday from the Toronto Drakes… err Raptors. Although the defensive specialist is sure to bring much needed D to the Raps’ lineup, much to the pleasure of head coach Dwayne Casey, Carroll will bring home a four-year $60 million contract, which is more than a little staggering for a player who wasn’t much more than a bench player this time last year. Carroll did play a huge part in the Hawks rise from middle of the pack to the best record in the Eastern Conference last year. He also didn’t do it by himslef, as he had more than a little help from All-Stars Paul Millsap and Al Horford. The last time I checked however, neither of those guys played for Toronto.
11. Los Angeles Lakers signing Lou Williams
Speaking of the the Raptors, on the surface, the three-year deal for $21 million the Lakers handed the reigning Sixth Man of the Year Trophy winner seems like a smart move. Besides the aforementioned honor, Williams also averaged a career high 15.5 points. If you look between the lines however, you will see a deal that in all honesty just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Heading into the NBA Draft, many expected Los Angeles to select Duke star Jahlil Okafor with the second overall pick. The Lakers instead opted to take the best Point Guard in the draft in Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell. The pick was a little surprising because they already had 2014-15 Rookie of the Year candidate Jordan Clarkson and his near 12 PPG average at the position.
You would have to imagine that after spending such a high pick on Russell, the Lakers would hand him the starting gig. You would also assume that the purple and gold would like to see Clarkson build off of last season’s success. This is where the Williams addition is so puzzling. While he has thrived in a bench role last season with the Toronto Raptors, and before that with the Atlanta Hawks, the question of where the 10-year vet fits in the lineup will need to be answered. Did I forget to mention that Kobe is still around? And he operates as the team’s unofficial Point Guard and ball handler especially in crunch time?
10. Dallas Mavericks signing Wesley Matthews
This one is truly 50/50 either way. When healthy, Matthews can give any team solid defense, 3-point shooting, and clutch baskets. The problem for Matthews and the Mavs is that the former Marquette shooting guard tore his Achilles in March. The injury is devastating for any player, but especially for a player like Matthews who relies on speed and explosion to make him so effective on both ends of the floor. The torn tendon didn’t stop the Mavericks from giving him a reported 4-year, $57 million deal. If Matthews can return to form then this deal will undoubtedly look good, if Matthews ends up like Isiah Thomas or Elgin Baylor it’ll be tragic and a colossal waste of money for Mark Cuban.
9. Milwaukee Bucks overpaying Greg Monroe
Much has been made of what a great fit Monroe will be for the Bucks. His rebounding and power down in the paint are what most analyst and fans point to as the biggest attributes that the former Georgetown forward/center will bring to the cheese state. While I fully agree with the tools that Monroe brings and how’ll they will fit into a Bucks team that struggled in the key last season, I don’t agree with the contract that was bestowed upon Mr. Monroe.
For a player who struggles on defense, isn’t known as the greatest shooter, and never once in his five years as a Piston did he guide them to the playoffs, giving him a three-year max contract worth $50 million seems a like a bad idea. While Milwaukee is a small market, and they probably had to hit the max to land Monroe who was a top target of the Knicks, it still doesn’t seem smart to give a second tier free agent who has holes in his game such a large amount of money.
8. Indiana Pacers re-signing Rodney Stuckey
Just this time last year, Stuckey was stuck in the free agent market looking for a team that would take on flier on a player who despite averaging more than 10 points in six out of his first seven seasons, had only been to the playoffs twice (2007 and 2009) when he played as a reserve on some solid veteran-laden Detroit Pistons teams. Stuckey ended up settling for a one-year $1.2 million contract from the Indiana Pacers.
Stuckey had a good season with the Pacers as he averaged 17 points, in 36 minutes a game. The reason for the huge bump in PPG and playing time for the former Eastern Washington combo guard was due to the fact that Indiana played the majority of the season without superstar Paul George who missed 76 out of a possible 82 games due to a broken right leg he suffered last August.
Stuckey turned last season’s output into a three-year, $21 million deal from Indiana. The question that now remains is how effective will Stuckey be with his minutes reduced now with George back to being 100% and ready to go from Day 1. Furthermore, the Pacers also added shoot-first guard Monta Ellis in free agency as well. Ellis is also bound to take some time and points away form Stuckey too. The Pacers proved last year that they can find someone just as effective for a quarter of the $7 million that they will be paying Stuckey this season.
7. Brooklyn Nets signing Brook Lopez
Speaking of injury plagued players, happy times are here for the Lopez household. After Robin Lopez received a four-year, $54 million contract with the New York Knicks, twin brother Brook Lopez re-signed with the Nets for three years at $60 million. At first glance, getting Brook, the Nets’ best player signed to a new deal is great, giving the oft-injured forward/center $20 million a year is downright crazy. After playing a full 82 games in each of the first three seasons of his NBA career, the Stanford product has missed multiple games due to injury in every season since, including 10 this past season, and a career high 65 the year before.
What makes it worse, is the type of injuries he has sustained. The lengthy list includes a broken fifth metatarsal, a broken foot, and ankle issues among other maladies. There’s no doubting the former All-Star’s talents, it’s just his inability to show them on a consistent basis is why this contract looks horrendous.
6. Boston Celtics signing Amir Johnson
Arguably one of the more popular Raptors in recent team history, the former second round pick of the Detroit Pistons left Toronto to sign a two-year, $24 million deal with the Boston Celtics. While the length of the contract is fine, the dollar amount is a little puzzling to say the least. Firstly, by all accounts, the Dinos didn’t make much of an effort to retain him despite the fact that they still have a need at the position. Secondly, the 10-year vet who has missed time with various injuries over the last few years, has never averaged doubled digits in rebounding, and has only averaged 10 points a game or better in two seasons.
All of those reasons make the addition of Johnson to a predominantly young team that made the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference this past season an extremely odd and potentially bad fit.
5. Sacramento Kings signing Rajon Rondo
Has anyone’s stock fallen as hard and as fast as this former All-Star? It just seems like yesterday that Rondo was lighting up Boston’s TD Garden with his speed, no-look passes, and uncanny play-making ability all the while helping the Celtics maintain their spot as one of the elite teams in the NBA. Obviously some of the blame for the Celtics’ demise falls on the shoulders of their GM Danny Ainge, but Rondo’s attitude and demeanor which has been talked about in length over the years appears o have played a part as well.
After years of trade talk, Ainge finally pulled the trigger and sent Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks in a five player trade in December. The trade ended up being a total flop for the Mavs as they got eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs by the Houston Rockets. The most memorable moment from his entire Mavs tenure was his fiery on-court exchange with head coach Rick Carlisle that resulted in a one game suspension for Rondo which also served as the writing on the wall that the player and team’s partnership would end as soon as free agency started.
The aforementioned relationship ended when Rondo agreed to a one-year, $9.5 million dollar deal with the Sacramento Kings that has all the looks of a 1-year prove it deal. Ignoring the ongoing rift between head coach George Karl and the team’s lone superstar DeMarcus Cousins, besides 2015 first round pick Willie Cauley-Stein, second year shooting guard Ben McLemore, and veteran Rudy Gay, there’s just not that much for the Rondo to work with. Chances are come February when the trade deadline rolls around, that the Kings will be long out of playoff contention, and Rondo will be on the move again.
4. Sacramento Kings signing Kosta Koufos
Are you surprised that the Kings make a second appearance on the list? As I mentioned earlier, the Kings just used their first round pick in June’s draft on Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein. Although the rookie will only be 22 at the start of the regular season, you would have to imagine that he will be a starter from day 1. The former Wildcats’ presence on the roster made the Kings decision to sign veteran free agent Kosta Koufos to a 4-year $33 million contract all the more puzzling. Although Sacramento is one of the teams who usually have to pay free agents more to sign there, giving a career backup who has already played on four teams in his seven NBA seasons $8.25 million a year makes no sense whatsoever. This has disaster written all over it.
3. Derrick Williams signing with the Knicks
After being selected with the 2nd pick of the 2011 NBA Draft out of Arizona, Williams has done absolutely nothing so far in his career. After flaming out with the Timberwolves, Minnesota traded him to the Sacramento Kings in 2013. Williams failed to make an impact there as well. Naturally the New York Knicks who have struck out numerous times in free agency over the last decade decided to bring him in for a look as they gave him a two-year $10 million contract with the second year being a player option.
2. New York Knicks – pretty much every move
Speaking of the Knickerbockers, Phil Jackson, Carmelo Anthony, Knick fans, and probably even coach Derek Fisher thought that New York was going to be one a heavy hitter as soon as the signing period began. July 1st came and went and the Knicks struck out on LaMarcus Aldridge (he actually cancelled a meeting with them), Greg Monroe, and Marc Gasol, among other names. As mentioned on the previous page, they agreed to terms with the disappointing Derrick Williams. They also landed deals with Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, and acquired Kyle O’Quinn via trade from the Orlando Magic. While Afflalo and Lopez should be solid contributors, they aren’t the names that many associated with the Knicks or their fan base anticipated would be coming to NYC this summer.
1. Portland Trail Blazers – dismantling starting lineup
No team has suffered a rougher beginning to the free agent period than the Trail Blazers. After losing their best player since Clyde Drexler to their Western Conference rivals the Spurs, they watched as Wesley Matthews signed with another Western foe in the Mavericks, and Robin Lopez signed with the Knicks. The Blazers also traded Nicolas Batum to the Charlotte Hornets over fear that the French Forward would leave in free agency next year.
While Portland was able to get back prospect Noah Vonleh who was the 9th overall pick in last year’s draft along with Gerald Henderson in the trade, neither player brings the offensive and defensively versatility that Batum brings to the table. More importantly, the loss of the Frenchman represents the third member of the Blazers’ starting lineup to leave town.
To make up for some of the loses, the Trail Blazers signed Al-Farouq Aminu to a four-year $30 million deal. The former 8th overall pick of the 2010 draft averaged nearly six points and five rebounds in 74 games for the Dallas Mavericks last season. The deal has desperation written all over it for a franchise who appears to be trying to show its fans that they are at least attempting to be active in free agency. While they deserve credit for the attempt, handing a player who has never scored 20 points in a game during his 5-year career $7.5 million a year is just dumb.
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