- Whether it's the Knicks signing Tim Hardaway Jr. or Pacers trading Paul George, these puzzling offseason moves will have long-lasting implications.
Regrets, we all have them. For example, in retrospect, I should have known mixing Burger King with a second bottle of Dave Matthews wine would end in disaster. Regrets are one of the spices of life, even if they’re only kept in the back of your kitchen cabinet and you recoil every time you bite into them. What I’m saying is, regrets actually help keep life interesting, and the same applies to the NBA.
This offseason didn’t see the spending bonanza that dominated last year’s headlines (get your money, Evan Turner!), but that doesn’t mean teams didn’t make some questionable moves. Even though the ink has barely dried on free-agent contracts and the NBA season is somewhere far off in the distance, it’s not too early to know which moves teams will almost certainly come to regret.
(Before we start, the Wizards signing Otto Porter just barely missed the cut. Washington needs a better third-max guy than Porter. But it’s the Ian Mahinmi contract that’s really handcuffing that franchise. I really just needed a space to remind everyone that Ian Mahinmi making $16 million each year through 2020.)
Knicks sign Tim Hardaway Jr.
The issue here isn’t even Hardaway Jr., a young guard who maybe has the opportunity to grow into this contract with increased responsibility in New York. The context surrounding this move makes no sense, however. The Knicks need to be rebuilding, so why hand out a huge contract to someone who isn’t going to take your team to the next level? It’s not like Hardaway was a missing piece for a contender who was willing to overpay for ensured success. Instead, he will become the second-highest paid player on a team that needs to get rid of big contracts. Courtney Lee is a perfectly serviceable vet to serve around the Knicks youngsters.
Instead, New York’s rebuilding efforts—which should focus squarely on Kristaps Porzingis—will be hamstrung by big-money deals given to Hardaway and Joakim Noah. It’s a contract that will be hard to move in trades, and could be a negative-difference maker in free agency down the road. The insane part in all of this, of course, is that the Knicks traded away Hardaway two years ago! This move screams regret, particularly for a lottery-bound team that could find a better, younger, cheaper guard in the drafts to come.
Wolves signing Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson
The Timberwolves were the first kid to cannonball into the pool this summer, trading for Jimmy Butler to tip off a league-wide arms race in June. What they did after trading for Butler left a lot to be desired. Signing Jeff Teague wasn’t a terrible decision, but after George Hill signed a team-friendlier contract for the same money, the Teague deal started to look worse. Hill isn’t a remarkably better player than Teague (though he is better), but his fit in Minnesota would have been much more sensible. Hill can play off the ball, hit open threes and defend both guard spots. Teague can do some of those things, but he’s not as staunch a defender, and on offense, he needs the ball in his hands a little bit more than Hill. The way the point guard market worked out, the Wolves aren’t totally at fault for signing Teague. Minny’s quick action in free agency actually helped depress the point guard market, which led to Hill signing for less money than most expected.
The Gibson signing is also an issue. Like Teague, Gibson is a high-floor veteran who will bring some reliability to a young Wolves team. But better fits were out there. If you’re the Wolves, wouldn’t you rather pay Patrick Patterson—a stretchy four who can slide to center—$5 million as opposed to $14 million for Gibson? Patterson is also four years younger than Taj, which aligns him better with the Wolves’ core. Once acquiring Butler, the best thing the Wolves could have done is fill their roster with dependable veterans who can shoot, preferably on the cheap. Minnesota nailed the dependable part, but missed on everything else. With big contracts looming for guys like Andrew Wiggins and Karl Towns, Minnesota had to be very precise with its free-agent signings. I think the Wolves are going to be feeling some regret when the floor is severely cramped for their new superstar.
Cavs not re-signing David Griffin
When LeBron and Kyrie are both gone by next summer, it will be very easy to look at the way Dan Gilbert handled the Griffin situation as the first step in Cleveland’s undoing.
Pacers trade Paul George for who?!
I’ve gone back and forth on this trade a few times, and I’ve almost talked myself into Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis on multiple occasions. But the Pacers should have gotten more for George. He should have netted much more than an iffy prospect on a hefty contract and a so-so rookie who faded down the stretch of his first season. Indy may especially regret not trading George at the trade deadline. Rumors of George wanting to be in L.A. were circling then as well, but they weren’t as concrete as the declaration George eventually made in the summer.
Once George made it public he wanted to be on the Lakers, Indy lost almost all leverage, but still reportedly received better offers than the one Kevin Pritchard accepted. The Pacers are in store for a long rebuild in this post-George world. They could have certainly sped up the process by acquiring more valuable assets for one of the best players in the league.