Looking Back (Part II): The Worst OffSeason Moves in the NBA So Far


If you missed Part I: The Best Offseason Moves in the NBA So Far click here.

You know the old expression that hindsight is 20/20. And while that is true most of the time, there are instances where teams in every sport try to make bold moves that they hope will pan out in spite of the fact that most people thought it was a bad move at the time.

Is anyone surprised that the Chicago Cubs traded Milton Bradley one year into a 3-year, $30 million contract he signed last year?

The only reason the Cubs were able to find a taker for Bradley was because the team that took Bradley, the Seattle Mariners, dumped their own big mistake in the process.

But enough about baseball.

My criteria in compiling this list was simple. Injured players such as the Clippers’ Blake Griffin were ineligible because it’s too soon to declare them mistakes.

But what I did include were draft picks—especially lottery picks— since teams had a wide array of players from which to choose from.

One name that might be expected to be on my list but isn’t is Allen Iverson. It was just too obvious. I preferred to make a list based on guys who are still on the team’s that either signed or drafted them.

To call Iverson’s three-game stint with the Grizzlies a failure would be an understatement.

Without further ado, here the 10 worst off-season moves so far this season:

10. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

The reason Rubio makes the list is because the Timberwolves traded Randy Foye and Mike Miller to acquire the fifth pick in the draft.

Rubio’s decision to return to Spain for at least the next two years means that the Timberwolves gave up two decent players for nothing.

If the Timberwolves (7-24) weren’t currently the worst team in the Western conference then you could make the case that they made the better move for the long-term future of the team.

But because Rubio could stand to make more money if he stayed in Spain for three more years instead of two there’s a great chance that the Wolves might not even get the chance to see Rubio in Minnesota until the 2012-13 season.

You can’t tell me that the future of the Wolves wouldn’t seem a little brighter if the team had used the pick to draft either Stephen Curry or Brandon Jennings.

9. Darko Milicic, New York Knicks

When the Knicks traded Quentin Richardson to the Grizzlies for Darko Milicic it wasn’t meant as strictly a financial move since both are in the final year of their contracts.

The Knicks were hopeful that Milicic, a huge bust up to this point in his career, would thrive in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense.

Instead, Milicic has already made it known publicly that this will be his final NBA season as he intends to return to Europe after this season.

Milicic has only appeared in eight games this season and is averaging just two points and two rebounds in those games.

Those stats wouldn’t look so bad if Richardson—who was traded three more times after the Grizzlies obtained him—wasn’t shooting 47 percent, including a career-best 42 percent from downtown for the Miami Heat.

8. Andre Miller, Portland Trailblazers

I’ve never been one to kick a man while his down. And while I’m fully aware of why the Blazers signed Miller, all of the team’s recent injuries have only proved that the Blazers would have been better off using the cap space they had last summer to sign another big man.

After the Blazers struck out on Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap the team was forced to use their cap space because it would expire next season when the extensions for Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge kick in.

But instead of signing Miller the team probably could have traded the cap space to a team looking for cap relief.

With all of their injuries the Blazers now have Juwan Howard playing big minutes but they have five players on their roster capable of playing point guard.

Even before the injuries to Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla the Miller signing would have been considered a bust because it’s not as if anyone is surprised that Oden is hurt again.

Had he had no history of injuries then I could better understand the Blazers going into the season with so little depth at center.

7. Emeka Okafor, New Orleans Hornets

When the Hornets traded Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor it was seen as strictly a financial move. For a team desperate to shed payroll, the Hornets were willing to take on Okafor’s long-term contract for the final two years of Chandler’s contract because it would reduce the team’s payroll for this season.

So far, Okafor has responded by averaging career lows in both points and rebounds. In fact, Okafor is averaging four fewer points and one fewer rebound than he averaged his rookie season.

The Hornets are currently in 12th place in the Western conference. I would be willing to be more patient with Okafor had Chris Paul not made an All-Star out of David West and an Olympian out of Chandler.

Okafor was the second player picked in the 2004 NBA Draft. If he can’t succeed with Chris Paul at the helm I have a hard time believing that he’ll live up to the remaining four years and $52 million remaining on his contract after this season.

6. Flip Saunders, Washington Wizards

The only coach to make either list, Saunders has been a complete bust in the nation’s capital.

Before the season started, Saunders had amassed a career coaching record of 1,002-578—a winning percentage of .634.

So far this season the Wizards are 10-19 and fans are already calling for his head.

With a roster as talented as he has in Washington, Saunders has no excuses for the team not being at least a .500 ball club.

Considering all of the injuries that the team suffered last season, the Wizards would have been better off keeping Eddie Jordan around for at least another season.

Instead, there are rumors that the Wizards are ready to blow the team up and rebuild.

5. Brandon Bass, Orlando Magic

I wasn’t a fan of the Bass signing at the time and I made it known publicly. Here’s what I wrote in the comments section of Brandon Ribak’s article about the Magic signing Bass last July:

“If any owner would be willing to spend the money it takes to keep a free agent it’s Mark Cuban. If Cubes felt it wasn’t worth keeping Brandon Bass around for four years and $18 million what does that say about him?”

In his last 21 games, Bass has only played double-digit minutes three times—including 10 DNPs.

I’d be willing to give Bass and the Magic more rope if they hadn’t signed Bass with the intention of him providing valuable minutes off the bench.

Instead, nobody would be surprised if the Magic traded him before the Feb. 18 trade deadline.

4. Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis Grizzlies

The Draft Class of 2009 was initially considered to be a weak one. Much of the reason for that was the Grizzlies selection of Hasheem Thabeet with the number two overall pick.

Instead, the Class of ’09 is looking better and better by the day. Guys like Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jonas Jerebko, Jon Brockman, Chase Budinger, Omri Casspi, Darren Collison, and Taj Gibson have already made invaluable contributions to their teams.

Meanwhile, Thabeet has yet to crack double-digits in scoring or rebounding on a team that has already surpassed expectations.

I wouldn’t be as down on the Thabeet pick if the Grizzlies would have just trusted that Marc Gasol was the team’s center of the future.

They didn’t need Thabeet.

Instead of using their pick to draft the best player available they reached for the stars with a guy that many believed was too much of a project to take such a big chance on.

The Thabeet pick looked even worse when the team failed to reach an agreement on an extension with Rudy Gay—making him a restricted free agent in a summer when so many teams will have an abundance of cap space.

I’m not saying that Thabeet is already a bust. What I’m saying is that right now it looks as if the Grizzlies wasted the pick when they could have had Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, or even DeMar Derozan.

You don’t think the people of Memphis wouldn’t have loved to see Evans stay in Memphis?

3. Jordan Hill, New York Knicks

If the Knicks fail to find a taker for the final season of either Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries’ horrible contracts you can blame Donnie Walsh’s selection of Jordan Hill as to the reason why.

The Knicks should have enough cap space next summer to make a run at one prime free agent but unless they can move either Curry or Jeffries for an expiring contract they won’t be able to sign two.

Since the team has no first-round pick in next summer’s draft, the only way they would have been able to convince another team to take back Curry or Jeffries in a trade would be with a promising young player still on a rookie contract.

If the reports are true, then 2008 rookie Danilo Gallinari is untouchable.

Which makes Hill even more of a bust.

Had the Knicks drafted Brandon Jennings then they could either trade him or at worst, been a much more attractive destination for free agents. At least free agents would know that the Knicks could add a player in 2011 to a nucleus of Jennings, Gallinari, and the A-list free agent.

Hill hasn’t played in a game since Dec. 2 and in the 10 games he has played in he has scored more than seven points just once.

He’s not going to increase his trade stock collecting dust on the bench. While he might one day be a decent NBA player, when you consider that this was the pick that could have turned the franchise around next summer, it’s hard not to call it a bust as of today.

2. Hedo Turkoglu, Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA’s longest current winning streak. So while I may be premature in calling their sign-and-trade of Turkoglu last summer to a 5-year, $53 million contract a failure.

As far as the big picture is concerned, the Raptors are currently 15-17 and are given up an Eastern Conference-leading 105.8 points per game.

The reason why Turkoglu is so high on the list is because of the high expectations that were placed on him. He was expected to help turn the franchise around.

Turkoglu has scored 20 or more points in just five of the 31 games he’s played in this season.

That’s not a lot of production from a guy making double-digit millions this season.

While the move hasn’t looked all that good so far this season, I will say that Turkoglu has the best chance of anyone on the list of taking his name off of it.

If the Raptors more closely resemble the team that was 11-17 a week ago and Chris Bosh bolts in free agency next summer then you can point to Turkoglu as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

If the team continues to win, finishes fifth in the Eastern conference, and Bosh stays then I’ll remove him from the list.

1. Richard Jefferson, San Antonio Spurs

Speaking of high expectations, the San Antonio Spurs were on the top of almost everyone’s list of which teams had the best off-seasons.

Not long after the Lakers celebrated their 15th championship the Spurs were already hell-bent on preventing number 16.

In a move on par with the Lakers robbery of Pau Gasol from Memphis, the Spurs stole Richard Jefferson from the Bucks for Kurt Thomas, Fabricio Oberto, and Bruce Bowen.

Jefferson was expected to be the final piece for a team that felt that the only thing preventing them from winning another championship was injuries and their lack of depth.

Spurs owner, Peter Holt, was willing to open up the vault to provide Tim Duncan with another shot at adding to his jewelry collection.

So far Jefferson hasn’t provided anything more than the occasional good game.

The Spurs look old and are currently just 17-11. While that’s not a horrible record, keep in mind that the only victories the Spurs have had this year over teams that would make the playoffs if they started today were against the Raptors (15-17), the Bucks (12-17), the Mavericks (22-9), and Rockets (18-13).

That’s two wins out of 17 over teams with winning records.

The Spurs have also played six more games at home this season than they have on the road, where they are 5-6.

Jefferson’s 13.1 ppg and four rpg are his lowest averages since his rookie season in 2001-02.

That could be considered a little misleading when you realize that Jefferson is playing on a team so talented that he doesn’t really have to score or rebound in order for the team to win.

But the fact that the team has failed to live up to expectations combined with the fact that Jefferson is making $14.2 million this season and $15 million next season makes him the worst off-season acquisition up to this point in the season.