One of the most exciting times of the NBA offseason occurs during the first few days of the NBA free agency period. It's hectic, fast-paced, and can change the outlook for a franchise for many years to come. This past offseason was especially critical as the new NBA collective bargaining agreement catapulted the players' salaries into a different stratosphere. The amount of money being thrown around this offseason was astounding and it made for some head-scratching moves, often leaving us with the reaction, "How did that guy sign for that much money?!" Seriously, these contracts were so large that they even had NFL players tweeting out that they had chosen the wrong sport.
Teams that are looking to rebuild will often focus on the draft in order to obtain cheaper talent, but for teams that are looking to build on a solid core in an effort to compete for the playoffs will sometimes take risks on overpaying players in order to entice them to signing. Sometimes these players join their new teams and immediately fit the system and provide a huge benefit. But other times, free agent signings backfire and the signing looks like a terrible move. Given the massive amount of money provided to players this offseason, it is easy to scrutinize many of the signings, but this list takes a look provides an update for 8 signings that have backfired and 7 that have exceeded expectations. Remember, however, it is still early on in the season and these signings could look very differently by the end of the year. Let's take a look.
15 Regret - Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons made it very clear this offseason that he would not sign for anything less than a max contract, despite the fact that he missed the end of the 2015-16 season after tearing the meniscus in his knee. This injury risk placed his former team, Dallas Mavericks, in a difficult position as they wanted to re-sign the tall and talented shooter but did not want to be stuck with paying a large amount of guaranteed money should he not return to his former self after the injury. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban appears to have made a wise decision in refusing to give into Parsons' lofty demands.
14 Exceeding - Harrison Barnes
The Mavericks may not have felt comfortable giving the aforementioned Parsons a max contract, but that did not stop them from offering Harrison Barnes a max deal to replace him. Barnes was an often overlooked role player for the star-studded Golden State Warriors but always put up consistent numbers as the fourth option. Now in Dallas, Barnes role has expanded exponentially and he is certainly exceeding his lofty expectations, as he is currently averaging approximately 20.4 ppg.
13 Regret - Matthew Dellavedova
Do the Milwaukee Bucks enjoy losing games? There are times where it's easy to wonder whether that statement is true, including the moment they decided to sign Matthew Dellavedova to be their starting point guard. Dellavedova, commonly referred to as "Delly," has a hard-nosed playing style that makes people either love him or despise him. While playing primarily as a back-up for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Delly showed the ability to change the momentum of games, while also getting under the skin of his opponents. It was this potential that the Bucks must have been eyeing when they signed him to a four-year, $38 million contract.
12 Exceeding - Eric Gordon
The time had finally come for Eric Gordon to leave the New Orleans Pelicans. After dealing with multiple frustrating seasons and injuries, Gordon chose to leave the Pelicans to sign with Houston Rockets this offseason. The move could not have worked out better for both parties, as Gordon has completely revived his career and is the early favorite for the 6th Man of the Year award. It's great to see a guy like Gordon finally living up to his immense potential.
11 Regret - Solomon Hill
Although not a household name, Solomon Hill was viewed as a potentially high ceiling free agent given his size, athleticism, and shooting ability. Hill is a prototypical 3 and D guy, meaning his potential suitors would expect him to come in and guard the opposing teams best scorer, while also providing timely three-pointers when open. However, Hill showed late in 2015 that his offensive skill set was progressing to the point that he could be a very solid wing player for the right team.
10 Exceeding - Dwyane Wade
There were many who thought Dwyane Wade was over the hill and was sure to regress after leaving South Beach, but the old man has continued to be a productive scorer for the Chicago Bulls. After spending 13 seasons with the Miami Heat, D-Wade decided to return home when he signed a two-year deal for $47 million with the Bulls. His homecoming has been a hit thus far as Wade is averaging nearly 20 points per game in only 30 minutes, while also giving the Bulls a temporary face of the franchise after they traded Derrick Rose to the Knicks.
9 Regret - Rajon Rondo
If Rajon Rondo isn't dishing out assists, Rajon Rondo is worthless. The guy cannot shoot if his life depended on it. In all seriousness, Rondo is a great NBA point guard and can run an offense better than most ball-handlers in the league. This is why the Bulls signed him to a two-year deal for $28 million. It was expected that he would lead the Chicago Bulls offense to a fast-paced and high-scoring group, but Rondo has been very inconsistent this season.
8 Exceeding - Trevor Booker
Not all free agent signings are marquee moves, but that doesn't mean that some under the radar signings can't have a big impact. That is the case with Trevor Booker. Booker has largely been a role player off the bench for Washington and Utah in his career but signed with the Brooklyn Nets in hopes of earning a full-time starting position. So far, Booker has exceeded expectations by nearly averaging a double-double and has been a lone bright spot for the lowly Nets.
7 Regret - Bismack Biyombo
Bismack Biyombo stormed on to the free agent scene after his surprising 2015-16 season with the Toronto Raptors, often filling in for an injured Jonas Valanciunas. Biyombo showed his worth on the defensive end with his ability to protect the rim and rebound during the playoffs, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He even had a 26 rebound performance in Game 3 of that series. His stock was at an all-time high entering the 2016 free agency period and Biyombo cashed in with a 4 year, $72 million deal with the Orlando Magic.
6 Exceeding - Al Horford
When the Celtics lost out on the Kevin Durant free agency sweepstakes, they were at least able to find some solace in the fact they were able to steal perennial all-star Al Horford from the Atlanta Hawks. Horford has been one of the best and most reliable big men in the league since being drafted #3 overall by the Hawks in 2007 and has shown no signs of slowing down with his new squad. Horford is currently averaging 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and a pleasantly surprising 5 assists.
5 Regret - Timofey Mozgov
One of the more surprising signings this offseason was the Lakers' aggressive pursuit of big man Timofey Mozgov, ultimately signing him to a $64 million contract. Mozgov won a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, but he played a very small role during their playoff run. Maybe the Lakers were impressed with his ability to sit on the bench? No matter the true reason behind this signing, Mozgov entered this season as the clear starter at center for the youthful Lakers team.
4 Exceeding - Marreese Speights
One of the NBA's most interesting players is Marreese Speights. More commonly known as "Mo-buckets" for his innate ability to score from all around the floor, Speights has become one of the most dependable reserve players in the NBA. The Clippers were able to pry Speights away from the Golden State Warriors this offseason when they signed him to a 2 year, $2.8 million contract. Yes, Mo-buckets only makes a little over $1 million a year despite the huge contracts that were given out to much lesser players this offseason.
3 Regret: Al Jefferson, Indiana Pacers
Al Jefferson was once of the most dominant post players in the NBA, averaging as much as 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Minnesota Grizzlies in 2008. As recently as 2014, Jefferson still averaged a solid 16 points and 7 rebounds while playing for the Charlotte Hornets. This offseason the Pacers signed the aging big man to help reinforce their front court as they attempt to regain their playoff hopes in the Eastern Conference, but he has provided very little thus far.
It was clear that Jefferson's game was fading as he got older, but nobody could have foreseen that he would be limited to only 15 minutes per game when he signed his three-year, $30 million contract with this offseason. When paying a player $10 million a season, they are expected to average more than just 7 points per game. Jefferson is a true old-school style big man, but it's possible that his game is now out-dated in a more up-tempo, guard oriented league. If the Pacers qualify for the playoffs this season, this signing could still prove to be valuable but as of now, Jefferson has been very disappointing.
2 Exceeding - Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant was far and away the biggest target on the market this offseason (yes, LeBron was technically a free agent but it was clear he was staying in Cleveland), and it's obvious why. Durant was voted into seven all-star games in his first nine seasons in the NBA and was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2014. At 6'10", Durant possesses a unique skill set for a man his size, as he can create off the dribble and is lethal from three-point land. Entering this season, his career scoring average was at a remarkable 27.4 points per game. He also averages around 7 rebounds per game to boot.
It is very rare for a player of Durant's caliber to reach free agency, as teams will often do all they can to lock up their elite players. However, after the Thunder lost in seven games to the Golden State Warriors in last season's Western Conference finals, it became apparent that Durant was looking to take his talents elsewhere. He was highly sought after by many teams and at one point it appeared he could sign with the Boston Celtics, but ultimately he decided to create (essentially) an all-star team in Golden State. Now paired with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, Durant has continued to put up big numbers. The signing of Durant immediately improved an already stacked Warriors line-up and they appear primed to bring Durant his first NBA championship. With this incredible signing, the Warriors now have two former MVPs on their roster and are the team to beat this season.
1 Regret - Joakim Noah
It's difficult to say that this signing has "backfired," but the New York Knicks gave a lot of money to Joakim Noah in comparison to the production he has provided. Noah has never been a player that wows you with his statistical output and it was clear that his game was trending downwards the past few seasons, but that did not stop the Knicks from aggressively pursuing him this offseason. Now healthy, the hope was that Noah would return to his former self in which he consistently averaged double digits in points and rebounds.
This season has been well below average for Noah as he is only averaging 4.5 points per game (ppg) and 7.9 rebounds. Although he gives tremendous effort and has an ability to change shots at the rim, it creates a liability offensively for the Knicks. Fortunately for them, they have plenty of offensive talent in Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis but it's alarming how ineffective Noah is on offense. He continues to provide his trademark hustle and energy but after signing a 4 year, $72 million contract, the Knicks had to have been expecting more from Noah. Plus, Knicks fans now have to endure the eye-strain that comes with watching Noah shoot free-throws... it's a truly frightening sight.
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