Ranking the NBA's Worst Offseason Mistakes
With about a quarter of the NBA season complete, it's time to look back at some of the transactions from this offseason with a little more perspective.
Maybe trades haven't been completely won or lost quite yet, and maybe it's still far too early to attach the "bust" label to certain draft picks, but there is quite a bit we can glean from the early-season results.
Which teams made the biggest mistakes? Which general manager wishes he had a mulligan to use? Let's rank the worst mistakes made by NBA teams this offseason.
10. New Orleans Pelicans Trade for Jrue Holiday
This isn't really about Jrue Holiday as a player.
Holiday is a productive two-way point guard, and he's performed almost exactly how you'd expect him to this year. His scoring is down a bit from 17.7 points a game to 15.1, but the ball is also in his hands less than it was in Philadelphia.
As a whole, Holiday has been solid. But that's sort of the point. New Orleans sacrificed Nerlens Noel—a player who could become the best big man of this draft class—and a top-five-protected pick in a loaded 2014 draft to get him.
And that seems like way too much.
Given the depth of the point guard position around the league and even the number of capable ball-handlers on New Orleans' own roster, you have to wonder why there was a rush to overpay for a point guard who is in the grand scheme of things just above average.
The Pelicans have been playing .500 ball so far this year, but that was before Anthony Davis went down with a broken hand. It might not be long before New Orleans is wishing it had those draft picks and cap space back at its disposal.
9. Clippers Trade Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley
It's hard to beat up the Los Angeles Clippers too much for this decision. If Chris Paul didn't view Eric Bledsoe as a backcourt partner now and for the future, turning Bledsoe into a deadeye shooter like J.J. Redick and a solid option on the wing like Jared Dudley isn't a bad haul.
That said, sometimes you have to save a player from himself and force him to make it work.
Bledsoe and Paul barely shared the court together in Los Angeles, but they were dynamic when they paired up. It's no surprise that Bledsoe is now making it work with the Phoenix Suns next to another point guard in Goran Dragic.
From a talent perspective, this was a bad loss for the Clippers. Bledsoe looks like one of the best young guards in the game, and this all feels a little like the James Harden situation all over again.
Redick and Dudley are capable fits next to Paul, but if the Clippers plateau, they may be kicking themselves for dealing a player with virtually no ceiling. This doesn't look too bad yet, but it has the potential to look terribly lopsided over the next few seasons.
8. Milwaukee Bucks Hire Larry Drew
Milwaukee Bucks head coach Larry Drew has been dealt a shaky hand, but he's still not playing it all that well.
Khris Middleton and Zaza Pachulia are averaging more minutes per game than John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova, which shouldn't ever happen. Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn't been fully unleashed, and Drew's treatment of Larry Sanders was interesting, even if we don't know the full story there.
Milwaukee currently has the league's worst offense in terms of efficiency, which is a surprise even if expectations were low to begin with.
Ideally, you'd like to see a young coach with potential on the sidelines, someone whose leadership would grow with Milwaukee's young core. Instead, you have a retread playing favorites with veterans and maybe even stunting the development of a few players.
7. All of the Denver Nuggets' Acquisitions
Denver's chances of contending for a title went out the window when George Karl was fired and Andre Iguodala fled to Golden State.
You would think those moments would lead the Nuggets to take a new direction personnel-wise. But instead of playing some young talented pieces heavy minutes, the Nuggets went out and got low-upside players like Nate Robinson, Randy Foye, J.J. Hickson and Darrell Arthur.
Instead of looking like a young team with potential to grow, the Nuggets look like a prime candidate to be extinguished in the first round once again, if they even make it there. Denver opted to tread water, and that's the worst thing you can do in the NBA.
6. Washington Wizards Draft Otto Porter
Otto Porter hasn't played a single minute in the NBA because of injuries, so it's difficult to call this pick a mistake. Although he looked awful in summer league, there's a chance Porter comes back healthy at some point this year and looks fantastic.
But if we're going off what we know, this pick was a questionable one for Washington. Two of Washington's best rotation players are Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster, who are both big wings like Porter.
For a team that's in "win now" mode, using the third pick in the draft on a guy who wouldn't play many minutes even if he was healthy is a shaky decision. Going forward, the Wizards have no young big man to build around, and there were a handful of candidates available at pick No. 3 to go with.
This pick certainly doesn't look good right now, and it might not look much better anytime soon.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers Draft Anthony Bennett First Overall
At least Otto Porter has the benefit of the unknown working in his favor. We've seen what first overall pick Anthony Bennett can do, and it hasn't been the least bit impressive.
While it's dangerous to rush to judgment, Bennett has had the worst start of any No. 1 overall pick in league history. He's out of shape, he's shooting 22.4 percent from the field and he has a PER of 1.2. Bennett also has a true shooting percentage of 26.7 percent, which is almost impossible for anyone who can hit a free throw.
It was shocking when the Cleveland Cavaliers took Bennett with the first pick, and it's been equally shocking how bad he's looked out on the floor. I didn't love the signing of Jarrett Jack or Earl Clark either, but those look like strokes of genius compared to selecting Bennett.
Unless Bennett pulls it together at some point this year, this may be the decision that ends Chris Grant's tenure as Cleveland's general manager.
Bennett's been that bad.
4. New Orleans Pelicans Sign Tyreke Evans
New Orleans made compounding mistakes this offseason. After the Jrue Holiday trade put on the pressure to win immediately, the Pelicans panicked and did a sign-and-trade for Tyreke Evans that put him on a massive deal worth $44 million over four years.
If there was an open space or a need for what Evans brings to the table, maybe that would be a justifiable amount to pay. Instead, Evans has played the role of a square peg trying to fit into a round hole coming off the bench for New Orleans.
Evans isn't shooting or playing as well as he did last year in Sacramento, and the chemistry with Holiday and Eric Gordon just isn't quite there. Evans isn't a bad player by any means, but he's done little to dissuade the thought that this was a horrible fit.
3. Brooklyn Nets Hire Jason Kidd
Anyone who raised an eyebrow when the Brooklyn Nets hired Jason Kidd feels vindicated. With no coaching experience whatsoever, Kidd has been forced to learn on the fly with a veteran team that doesn't have the time to wait on him to catch up.
Kidd has had clashes with his best assistant coach, he's been fined for purposely spilling soda on the court and he's failed to help the Nets mesh on the court. This has been a disaster in every possible way, from perception down to execution.
Kidd may turn into a good coach down the line, but Brooklyn needed him to be that right now. Given the circumstances, this was by far the worst coaching hire of the offseason.
2. Detroit Pistons Sign Josh Smith
Sometimes, pure talent can overcome a shaky fit. This isn't one of those cases.
The results, as you might expect, have been ugly. Smith is posting a career-low PER of 13.7, and he's attempting 4.6 threes per game, which is fairly absurd for a guy shooting 27.7 percent from behind the arc.
Floor spacing next to Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond has been an issue, but it's a surprise just how bad Detroit is defensively right now. Smith has always been one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, but he's been aloof off the ball quite a bit this season.
The bottom of the Eastern Conference is a wasteland, and it's telling that Smith hasn't been able to get Detroit past .500 this season. If the Pistons opt against keeping a younger building block in Greg Monroe because of Smith's contract, this could ultimately be a catastrophic signing.
1. Brooklyn Nets Trade for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry
Finally, the biggest mistake of the offseason.
At the time, it seemed like a pretty good idea. The Brooklyn Nets weren't going to have cap space anytime soon anyway, so they might as well take advantage of a fire sale and pick up two Hall of Fame players.
Unfortunately, this isn't a mistake that will just wash away. The Nets completely mortgaged the future, trading first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 in addition to the right to swap picks in 2017. There is no silver lining in Brooklyn's struggles.
This was a "title or bust" type of move, and the Nets are heavily tilted toward the latter right now. This could be the move that sinks the Nets for years to come.
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