August 27, 2009
OK, we know the first decade of the 21st century doesn't really end until 2011. We think. But we also know there have been 10 full NBA seasons played since the phrase "Y2K" was on all of our lips (1999-2000), and here at Ball Don't Lie we've decided to use this as an offseason excuse to rank some of the best and not-so-brightest of the 10 campaigns in question. The result? Why, top 10 lists!
Free agent contracts. It's a tricky game and you're bound to get some wrong, despite your best ...
No. Let's just stop, while we have our dignity.
We knew each of these deals were pretty dodgy the day they were signed, so let's not make any excuses. Here follows the 10 worst free-agent signings of the last decade.
He's a damn good player. He can turn the tide on any team that doesn't have a forward combination worth mentioning, defensively. When he's aggressive, Lewis can truly change the flow of the game, and he's grown as a defender. Hardly matters. People who own six-year, $118 million contracts are expected to be all-world types, not players who average 17.7 points and 5.7 rebounds on 44 percent shooting. It's not Rashard's fault. He was the same player before he signed the deal in 2007 and after, but that doesn't mean he's worth the dough he'll make.
Denver paid a huge price (seven years, $92.5 million) to employ Martin through his prime, and though his injury woes couldn't have been predicted, the team still badly overpaid. And we're serious about the "injury" thing, because while Martin broke both legs during his senior season at Cincinnati and his rookie year with the New Jersey Nets, that has little bearing on the two microfracture surgeries that followed. Denver just overpaid, plain and simple.
It's hard to criticize AK's six-year, $86 million extension because, let's face it, we were all pretty smitten with his game in 2004; the year of the inking and the inkling. But he was still a huge risk as an All-Star role player. And as Carlos Boozer(notes) eased Kirilenko out of Utah's power forward slot, with injuries taking their toll, Andrei was left as a man without a position, along with a hefty price tag.
He's become a punch line of sorts not only because of his seven-year, $73 million extension, but because Dampier essentially traded cap holds with ex-Mavericks guard Steve Nash(notes), who was allowed to sign with the Phoenix Suns two months before Damp hooked up with Dallas. The burly big man is a fine player who has started nearly every game as a Maverick in the time since, but he's hardly worth eight figures a year.
Most respect Peja's ability to spread the floor and destroy defenses from all angles, and he had just turned 28 by the time New Orleans signed him to a five-year, $64 million contract, but age and back woes left him barely a fringe starter in the third year of his deal, and that's after he missed nearly all of his first season with the Hornets.
It seemed an awfully curious move at the start. Chicago was coming off a season that saw them ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency, so with a huge gob of cap space, the team's decision to sign the 32-year-old Wallace (a defensive firebrand) felt a bit off. Chicago responded by jumping from seventh to first overall in defensive efficiency with the addition of Wallace and rookie Tyrus Thomas(notes), but Big Ben fell off significantly in his second year with Chicago, before being traded to Cleveland, Phoenix and, ultimately, getting bought out of his four-year, $60 million deal.
You can carp about how Hughes may have been playing for a contract in 2004-05, but there doesn't appear to be a good explanation for the way the St. Louis product seemed to completely fall apart soon after signing a five-year deal worth around $14 million a year in 2005. Not only did his shooting touch (always suspect) completely leave him, but he embarked on a series of low-percentage looks as a member of the Cavaliers, Bulls and Knicks, enraging fans of each team as he continues to pull up for that 19-footer in transition.
It seems like a gimmick, but we swear this wasn't the intention - former Knicks boss Isiah Thomas had a hand in the three worst contracts of the decade. And while types like Wallace and Hughes make more than twice as much as someone like Jeffries, they at least contributed somewhat during the course of their contracts. That can't be said for Jeffries, or the gentlemen that follow.
Signing Jeffries to a five-year, $30 million deal was hailed by some as "the best signing the Knicks have made in years," but there was no reasonable explanation for thinking that an overrated defender (called that merely because he served no other purpose) would learn how to shoot, finish, pass, rebound or hit free throws after four years struggling to do any of that with the Wizards.
Seriously, Jerome James? He was 29 years old, coming off a season that saw him average just 4.9 points and three rebounds in 16.6 minutes a game (with 7.6 personal fouls for every 36 minutes he played), and Thomas somehow saw him as some sort of diamond in the rough. He did average 17.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and more than two blocks a game against the Kings in the first round of the 2005 playoffs, a few months before the signing, against a guy coming off a broken leg. And that should make up for the first 29 years of suck, right?
Eddy's had some personal problems of late, so we'll lay off the lame jokes, but he shoots to the top of this list for a number of reasons.
Paramount of which is the fact — fact, mind you — that Curry does have a heart condition that could be termed as "life threatening," enough so that the Chicago Bulls were willing to pay Curry a stipend for a couple of decades just to retire and take care of himself. Thomas didn't care about that, nor did he care about the fact that any deal he signed Curry to would be uninsured. Six years, $60 million for a guy who doesn't really enjoy the game. Much less defending, rebounding, blocking shots or passing.
Questions? Comments? Furious and righteous anger at a world, not to mention top 10 list, gone wrong? Swing by later today at about 3 p.m. Eastern for a BDL mini-chat regarding this very list.