For every loser, there must be a winner. Yesterday we brought you the top 10 winners of NBA free agency, and so today we’re bring you it’s counterpoint: the top losers. For what it’s worth, some teams really did try to win (Toronto), while others reminded us why the owners need to be protected from themselves. All in all, it was fun – the topsy turvy he said/she said emotional chess match of Jeremy Lin‘s restricted free agency, the more simplisitic, checkers-like decision of Deron Williams. But with a heavy heart, we bring you those losers.
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10. ERIC GORDON
No, I’m not talking about his four year, $58 million deal. That makes him a winner in anyone’s book. Where he loses the most is in reputation. He’s one of the four best shooting guards in the NBA (Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, James Harden), so there’s little doubt in anyone’s mind he deserved a max deal. And he is 23 years old after all, so we can expect him to vastly improve by the time he hits the unrestricted free agent market.
All of this could have gone down smoothly, with Gordon politely signing Phoenix’s offer sheet and publicly shutting his mouth until New Orleans decided to match or not. Instead, he presumptively proclaimed himself a Sun, trampling all over his former Hornets brass and teammates. It’s hard to believe that he would want to leave, especially since the team has so dramatically improved this offseason with the additions of Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Ryan Anderson. Maybe he just didn’t want to share the backcourt with another combo guard, or maybe he wanted to be the outright star instead of living in Davis’ shadow. In any case, now everyone thinks he’s a whining little sh*t and kinda dumb, too, for blaming the Hornets for not reaching out during free agency. He was restricted after all, so they never needed to open up negotiations, and instead could let him dictate his own market value.
But all that’s done now, and Gordon is still a Hornet, albeit a well paid one, and he’ll have to “suffer” through the next four years of the franchise’s rise to prominence once more. Really, it’s just amazing that he managed to screw all this up when it could have been so easily avoided.
9. TORONTO RAPTORS
Landry Fields is a nice player and Kyle Lowry was a nice get. But Fields’ $6 million per year is a hefty price to pay for a player who does nothing particularly well, and ultimately the Raports lost out on the primary plan: Steve Nash. But the more curious bit of the Raptors offseason is why they would go out and acquire these players in the first place. Jose Calderon‘s contract might be expiring, but to bank on Lowry re-signing in Toronto after Calderon leaves is a stretch, especially when you can almost guarantee that a contender will overpay for his services. And even if he does re-sign, to what purpose is that signing? Toronto is trying to start over, but overpaying for a player relatively maxed out on potential seems questionable. Really, any non-salary shedding move is head-scratching at this point – unless of course they’re signing a superstar. But then again, what free agent really wants to go to Toronto?
8. CHICAGO BULLS
The Bulls didn’t lose, per se. More of a non-win. But in their current predicament, a two-time top-seeded Eastern Conference team whose playoff shelf life has been remarkably short, they desperately need to improve. In truth, they’ve really tried – signing Carlos Boozer, being active buyers at the trade deadline, etc. But nothing has come to fruition, if only because their cap space is completely done in by Boozer, Rose, Noah and Deng‘s contracts. Not that this pseudo “Big Four” isn’t talented in its own right, because it is. But the lack of cap flexibility stemming from their contracts isn’t warranted based on their talent – do we really expect a team with those four at the core to overcome Miami, a revamped Boston, San Antonio or Oklahoma City? Probably not.
In the end, Chicago did sign Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli and Vladimir Radmanovic – bolstering without bolstering their two-guard spot. But they lost Omer Asik, the one player out of these four that will make the biggest impact, so really the Bulls only got worse.
7. KENDALL MARSHALL
We might have graded the Phoenix Suns as overall winners during the 2012 free agency period, but their first round draft pick Kendall Marshall most clearly lost out. 25-year-old Goran Dragic is now locked in for four years and $30 million to be the starting point guard. That’s all good and well, but what does this mean for Marshall? You shouldn’t draft someone in the lottery if he’s not a future starter, or at least in competition to become one. The Dragic financials makes the clearest of basketball statements: Kendall Marshall is not our starting point guard of the future. I understand the need for developing a point guard, especially in Phoenix’s up tempo system, but this is a bit much. He’ll never get a chance to start (barring injury) or prove that he’s starting caliber until he hits restricted free agency in three years.
It’s an unfortunate twist of fate, considering it looked like Marshall would start immediately with Steve Nash having one foot out the door. But it all took a turn for the worst and Marshall can enjoy his sub-20 minutes per game for the next few years.
6. PHILADELPHIA 76ers
This one boils down to a simple math equation – Lou Williams + Elton Brand > Kwame Brown + Nick Young + Dorell Wright. Brand’s contract wasn’t exactly a crowd pleaser, and he probably needed to go. But exchanging Lou Williams for Nick Young is rather pointless, and adding another small forward in Dorell Wright is puzzling with Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner already on the roster. Most thought Iguodala was getting the axe in some sort of trade, but instead the Sixers brass decided to further muddle the small forward situation by adding another perimeter scorer to their roster.
Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes are nice players, and they got them on the cheap. So there’s that. But for a team that realistically needs a massive overhaul to improve within the Eastern Conference, this mild roster tinkering just won’t cut it.
5. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
No one really expected Roy Hibbert to jump ship for Portland, but acquiring his services would have totally revitalized this one thriving franchise. It’s quite scary to think that Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge could have been their own big three if it wasn’t for injuries. It’s not often that three homegrown products actually work out, but Portland’s horrid luck struck again.
Although the Blazers did unload Ray Felton and swung a few nice trades to open up cap space and acquire future picks, ultimately I question their retention of an overpaid Nic Batum for four years, $45 million. Not only did he not want to be there, but he’s teetering on the edge of David Lee territory, or, in other words, underrated players who subsequently get overpaid. Don’t get me wrong – I really like Batum. Just not for that price. And, what does it say about a guy when he does things like this?
4. DARYL MOREY
The Houston Rockets had a crazy offseason, wheeling and dealing for multiple first round picks and creating the entertaining Jeremy Lin hullabaloo. But in truth they just committed $53 million to Omer Asik and Lin, which, if you ask any non-partisan observer, is a lot of money to commit to those two guys. While we applaud Houston’s effort to acquire Dwight Howard, if only because it would have allowed them to immediately contend or start anew with limitless cap space should he leave in the summer of 2013, ultimately none of Morey’s scheming came to fruition. So really he just came out of this looking like an NBA 2K12 GM, swapping and signing and cutting and trading everyone – except nothing particularly noteworthy came out of all of it, so advance metric-guided organized chaos lost a bit of its luster.
3. RAMON SESSIONS
He is getting paid $10 million over two years, and that’s always good. But Sessions signed with the Bobcats, and that’s never good. While we understand that he wanted to have the starting role, and, you know, the respect of his teammates (we’re looking at you Kobe Bryant), he really just went from an opportunity to shine on one of basketball’s biggest stages to chasing minimal dollars on the league’s worst franchise.
Maybe it’s not the contract that’s really so bad – it seems about right for Sessions, really. But the bigger issue at play is that it could have been much more had he performed in Los Angeles and not played with such passivity. The Lakers needed a slasher to create and dish – one of Sessions’ strong points – yet Sessions never produced. He could have found himself a permanent home at the Staples Center and proved that he really didn’t belong as a backup, as was his role in Cleveland. But he didn’t and now he’s stuck in Charlotte, and will almost assuredly bounce around the league until he flames out in a few years anyway.
2. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Someone needs to explain to me what exactly the Golden State Warriors are doing. It’s baffling. They’re trying to get younger and rebuild, supposedly, so they trade away Monta Ellis. Fine. But then they acquire Andrew Bogut, whose health issues mirror that of Steph Curry. If there’s anything you can learn from Portland, don’t build around injury-riddled players. And, to make matters worse, they go out and sign subsidiary basketball parts. This is what’s most frustrating, teams that tinker with their roster when they should be blowing it up instead. It’s not that two years, $8 million for both Carl Landry and Brandon Rush are such bad deals. But if you’re not going to lose anyway, you might as well sign some guys to the veteran’s minimum, tank some more, and acquire a high draft pick.
Now, the Warriors are slated for mild success in the upcoming season, just bad enough to keep them out of the playoffs, but just good enough to keep them out of the meaty portion of the lottery. Again, I’m not criticizing the players or their contracts. It’s more a lack of direction, or a consideration for the bigger picture, that’s simply astounding. Just look at the Indiana Pacers, who seem to be the apex of what Golden State is building towards. Sure, they’re a competitive team, but does anyone really see them contending for an NBA title with the roster in its current formation? Absolutely not.
1. NEW YORK KNICKS
Forget about Jeremy Lin or Raymond Felton, for a moment. The second the Knicks lost out on Steve Nash, their offseason was rendered pointless. You don’t fill up your entire salary cap with three players because you’re rebuilding – you’re seeking championships. The Knicks, as currently constructed, are not championship-caliber. Or, at the very least, not good enough to overcome the other championship-caliber teams. Maybe Steve Nash would have changed all that, maybe he wouldn’t have. But at worst he would have given them a chance, a glimmer of hope. Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, J.R. Smith and Ronnie Brewer, while nice additional pieces, won’t do the trick. It’ll take a roster reshufflint or James Dolan’s willingness to absolutely obliterate the cap to remedy the Knicks’ non-championship ways. But, as we saw with Lin, that’s just not happening.
Who are the biggest losers of NBA free agency 2012?
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