NBA owners have shown a surprising amount of fiscal responsibility this summer after throwing around their cash like sailors on shore leave in 2016. No one has lavished millions on lumbering big men or ageing veterans like the previous year when the Lakers shelled out a cool $136 million on Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. However, just because owners have done a little more due-diligence doesn’t mean they’ve gotten every personnel decision right. Good money has continued to find its way in the hands of bad players, and it won’t be long before buyer’s remorse kicks in. Lace ’em up as we examine the league’s five worst offseason moves, and set some statistical props on the nouveau riche (make that nouveau rich-er).
Most of these lists count down to the worst of the worst. This isn’t most lists. The lumpy, spoiled cream has risen to the top.
1. TIM HARDAWAY JR (KNICKS)
The Knicks wouldn’t be the Knicks without signing at least one undeserving scrub to a ridiculously overinflated contract. This year’s recipient of the James L. Dolan Lifetime Underachievement Award is Tim Hardaway Jr., who inked a four-year, $71 million contract in early July. Giving that much money to a one-dimensional chucker is bad enough, but keep in mind that this is the same Tim Hardaway Jr. whom the club happily parted ways with in 2015 because they preferred the upside of Jerian Grant. The Knicks then turned around and traded Grant to Chicago the following year after “Bam Bam” averaged under six points per game.
It’s a shame that the league doesn’t keep track of head scratching, self-sabotaging moves because it’s the one stat that New York would lead the NBA in. As it is, Hardaway Jr.’s contract ties up 18% of the team’s salary cap and has severely restricted its ability to sign a starting-caliber point guard. (We’re looking at you, Ramon Sessions.)
Over/Under on Tim Hardaway Jr.’s PER: 14.7
2. JOSE CALDERON (CAVALIERS)
In the grand scheme of things, a 1-year, $2.3 million deal for a veteran point guard isn’t horrendous. Unless, of course, it’s for Jose Calderon, in which case it’s a downright travesty. The soon-to-be 36-year-old Spaniard has become such a liability on the court that he was waived or released by three separate teams in 2017. Even in today’s overpriced world, $2.3 million can get you so much more. For starters, it can nab you younger and decidedly more competent table-setters like Rodney Stuckey, Sergio Rodriguez, Aaron Brooks, Randy Foye, or even Ty Lawson.
But why stop there? It can also buy you 22 Teslas, 95 trips around the world, 14 bottles of Chateau Lafite 1787, and a Malibu beach house overlooking the Pacific. Surely any of those would be a far better investment than Jose Calderon. The Cavs are going to need someone when Derrick Rose breaks down like a rusted Ford Pinto, and Calderon just ain’t going to cut it.
Odds Jose Calderon will be waived by the 2018 All-Star break: 2/3
3. JRUE HOLIDAY (PELICANS)
The Pelicans knew they were going to have to overspend to retain Jrue Holiday, and that’s precisely what they did to the tune of five years and $126 million. Make no mistake, Holiday is a big, serviceable guard with a reliable jump shot and a steadying presence, but he’s not worth $25 million per season. Not even close. The UCLA star has averaged just 51 games over the past four years, and even when he’s on the court, he doesn’t do anything that makes you jump out of your seat. Nola may have succeeded in keeping Holiday in the fold, but did so at the expense of improving two-thirds of the starting lineup and a pathetically punchless bench.
Over/Under on the number of games Jrue Holiday will play in 2017-18: 68.5
4. ZACH RANDOLPH (KINGS)
Someone better tell the Kings it’s not 2010. Sacramento must have been watching Hardwood Classics when they rushed out to sign Vince Carter and Zach Randolph during the offseason. Carter’s one-year, $8 million deal won’t shackle the club, but Randolph’s two-year, $24 million contract is a clear case of paying a player for who he was, rather than who he is. The 35-year-old Randolph has taken – and given – a massive pounding over the years and his grindhouse style has clearly had an adverse effect on his body and his game. Z-Bo posted numbers well below his career averages for the third consecutive year in 2016-17, and is ageing about as gracefully as Keith Richards’ liver.
Making matters worse, Randolph will invariably take minutes away from Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere, two promising young bigs who need all the touches they can get. It never hurts having savvy vets in the locker room, but trotting them out on the court for 25-30 minutes a game is another matter altogether.
Over/Under on how many games Zach Randolph will start in 2017-18: 15
5. KYLE KORVER (CAVALIERS)
Remember when Kyle Korver pulled a disappearing act in the NBA Finals and averaged just 4.4 points per game on 36% shooting? Neither do the Cavs. How else could you possibly explain why the club signed the 35-year-old gunner to a three-year, $22 million contract? That’s big money for a team’s seventh best option, especially when you consider he looked more washed up than a piece of driftwood throughout most of June. This deal will look even worse in another year when Kyrie Irving and LeBron James have both bolted town, thereby further exposing Korver’s laundry list of weaknesses.
Over/Under on how many three pointers Kyle Korver will make in 2017-18: 165.5
Dion Waiters (Heat): four years, $52 million
Ron Baker (Knicks): two years, $8.9 million
Serge Ibaka (Raptors): three years, $65 million
Cristiano Felicio (Bulls): four years, $32 million.