NBA Owners Not Learning from Pre-Lockout Mistakes

We’re less than a week into NBA Free Agency and teams have already made several decisions that they will regret for years, then use as evidence during the next lockout they cause in 2017.

You’d think owners and GMs would learn from the likes of Gilbert Arenas, Elton Brand, and Baron David to not throw buckets of cash at players with injuries or other question marks surrounding them. But alas, they’re at it again.

Let’s take a look at the deals that will haunt teams for the next half decade.

Gerald Wallace (Nets; 4 years, $40 million ): After trading the 6th pick in last month’s draft for Wallace, the Nets had little choice but to re-sign him. Wallace and his agents knew this and used it as leverage to run the price up. For a player nicknamed “Crash” who will be 30 in a few weeks, Wallace is almost guaranteed to not live up to his contract. His entire game is based off of athleticism, which is certain to be diminishing. His reckless play combined with his age makes injuries nearly inevitable. Not much long-term thinking going on in Brooklyn, but with Deron Williams re-signed (an example of a player who does deserve his large salary), the Nets are clearly focusing on the present.

Eric Gordon (Suns/Hornets; 4 years, $58 million): Giving a max deal to a player who missed 83 games the past 2 seasons is not how to start rebuilding, Phoenix. Gordon has been great when he’s healthy, but staying healthy is his biggest weakness. He’s missed 107 of the 306 possible games throughout his 4 seasons in the NBA. That’s over 1/3 of the games missed to injuries. Gordon is a Restricted Free Agent, and New Orleans has said they would match any offer, but locking a huge portion of cap space into one injury prone player may not be the best way to start the Anthony Davis era.

Jeremy Lin (Rockets/Knicks; 4 years, ~$29 million): For a player who has only played 27 games at an NBA starter caliber, throwing $30 million his way seems strange. In his short stint of excellence, Lin certainly was worthy of that type of money. But, as with Gordon, Lin has not proved he can stay healthy, nor has he proved that Linsanity wasn’t a fluke. If Lin can stay healthy and produce similar numbers as he did for that 27 game stretch, this deal could be a reasonable one, but the fact that he is so unproven makes it very risky and a questionable decision. New York has also said they will match any offers for Lin, but their recent signing of Jason Kidd could change that.

Roy Hibbert (Blazers/Pacers; 4 years, $58 million): Hibbert is a quality starting center, averaging 13 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks last season. But those are not star numbers and max contracts should be reserved for star players. Hibbert has been very healthy throughout his career, however, missing just 15 games over his 4 years. But his production just isnt at a level worth that type of money. Portland could have an impressive front line with Hibbert and LaMarcus Alrdridge, but committing this much money to Hibbert could prevent them from making even better moves in the future. Indiana will have to think about this one for a while. They may not have the financial flexibility to match Portland’s offer, but given their struggles to attract Free Agents over the years, keeping Hibbert for this type of money would be excusable.

Spencer Hawes (Sixers; 2 years, $13 million): Hawes’ deal doesn’t have the long-term implications of the other ones on this list, but is still perplexing. Hawes averaged just 10 points and 7 rebounds – numbers that plenty of centers could put up on a nightly basis. Giving $6.5 million a year to Hawes when the Sixers could have gotten similar production for much cheaper hurts Philadelphia, as they lose cap space to sign other key pieces or trade for a more expensive player. This team clearly isn’t a contender, so why keep the exact same pieces for more money than before? That’s not going to help the team win more. Mid-level type moves like this can be just as bad as the max deals, if given to the wrong players.

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement divided the NBA’s income up in a way such that the owners will continue to profit despite these moves. But from a fan’s standpoint, it’s frustrating to watch teams throw away their future for players that won’t have much effect on their championships. We can only hope teams learn from their most recent batch of mistakes.

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