Hamilton: Five Biggest Losers In Free Agency

The NBA’s offseason is far from over. And as Chris Bernucca told us Monday, there are still at least 20 free agents out there that can provide value to a number of teams.

Although it’s still pretty early in the summer, it’s not too early to identify some of the offseason’s biggest losers.

And while we fully acknowledge that individual player progression, maturity, and development can improve a team just as much as a splashy free agent signing or witty trade, keep in mind that we’re ranking how individual teams fared in free agency.

What we are not going to take into consideration are things that can happen in the future. So although the Houston Rockets got what will eventually become a high draft pick from the Toronto Raptors in return for Kyle Lowry, something like that wouldn’t come into consideration here. The sentiment is unchanged as it relates to future cap flexibility, as well.

Here, the primary concern is how the product that will take the floor for the 2012-2013 fares in comparison to the team that took the floor in 2011-2012. And in the case of the Thunder, how they fare in relation to the other four or five teams that expect to have a serious chance of winning the NBA’s 2013 crown.

Number 5: Oklahoma City Thunderthunder small logo

Just about everything general manager Sam Presti has touched has turned into gold. But the Thunder’s improbable rise may have been set back since the Lakers managed to acquire Steve Nash without sacrificing any of their core players. The Thunder haven’t lost any players of consequence, but their lack of activity is somewhat disturbing. During the 2012 NBA Finals, they failed to move the ball and couldn’t score consistent points in the paint. They’re expecting Eric Maynor to return from the torn ACL that kept him sidelined for most of the season and they have added Hasheem Thabeet. But it seems as though next summer – when both James Harden and Serge Ibaka will be restricted free agents – has the Thunder in a holding pattern.

On the bright side, the Thunder haven’t lost anyone of consequence, depending on where you value Derek Fisher. But they haven’t gained anyone, either. Rookie Perry Jones III should provide decent value as a late first-round pick, but he’s not the answer.

And since Harden and Ibaka are likely to be among next summer’s most sought-after free agents, it would have been nice to see Presti add a piece or two to see if he could have put this team over the top. Speaking of the top, the cream rises to it, and if the Thunder don’t address some of their offensive deficiencies, they may end up waiting a while before having the opportunity to make last June’s finals loss a distant memory.

Number 4: Atlanta Hawks Hawks small logo

The Hawks have won about 60 percent of their games over the past four years. Although they have failed to make it past the second round of the East’s playoffs, they have been one of the conference’s better teams.

So much for that.

After signing Joe Johnson to a six-year, $120 million deal back in July 2010, the Hawks literally dumped him on the Brooklyn Nets. They got very little in return and also sent Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz for Devin Harris. Atlanta may make some sense as a landing spot for Dwight Howard, and new general manager Danny Ferry seems to be putting his eggs in that basket.

For Ferry, this summer has been about dumping salary and setting up his team to be major players in free agency next summer. For sure, more moves are on the way. But until they happen, it’s fair to label the Hawks as one of this summer’s biggest losers. The bright side for this franchise, though, is that they could easily end up being the biggest winner next summer.

Without Johnson, the Hawks will only go as far as Jeff Teague and newly signed Lou Williams can take them. Without Johnson and Williams, the Hawks have lost two starters and it’s very likely that this will be a long season in A-Town.

Time will tell.

Number 3: Charlotte Bobcats bobcats small logo

Agreed, naming the Bobcats as one of the biggest losers in free agency is like shooting fish in a barrel. But still, after finishing the 2011-2012 season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history, the Bobcats should have done something to improve their frontcourt. Credit Rich Cho for attempting to sign Goran Dragic and Antawn Jamison, but he ultimately lost out on both of them.

Carl Landry—a player who could certainly fill a void for Charlotte—is still a free agent. Yet, for some reason, the Bobcats seem fixated with continually shuffling their backcourt by trading for Ben Gordon, allowing D.J. Augustin to leave for the Indiana Pacers, and signing Ramon Sessions.

Although Sessions, Gordon, Kemba Walker and rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should provide some offense on the perimeter, Charlotte still finds itself in the less than ideal situation of depending on the likes of Tyrus Thomas, Dasagana Diop, Brendan Haywood, Bismack Biyombo and Byron Mullens for meaningful and consistent production up front. Kidd-Gilchrist should help the Bobcats, but unless he’s the second coming of Tim Duncan, their improvement will be marginal, at most.

With a very young core and good future draft picks, the Bobcats – if managed well – should improve in the coming years.

But it’s impossible to avoid a spot on this list when you’re the worst team ever and continue to make questionable personnel moves.

Number 2: Philadelphia 76ers sixers small logo

The 76ers made an improbable run to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and gave the Boston Celtics all they could handle before losing Game 7. It was no secret, though, that their seven playoff wins in 2012 deserved an asterisk; four were against the Chicago Bulls without Derrick Rose, and three came against the aging Boston Celtics.

So the 76ers did what most organizations would do when they feel stuck: They pulled the plug. Elton Brand was amnestied and Lou Williams is now a member of the Atlanta Hawks. While the moves do free up minutes for two rookies who could help the 76ers—Moe Harkless and Arnett Moultrie—they have some redundant pieces and are arguably worse off than they were at the conclusion of their last playoff run.

A trade or two could change everything, but after losing their leading scorer in Williams and their only semi-reliable post threat in Brand, the 76ers probably will find themselves battling for the final playoff spot in the East again. After seeing every other team in the division add to their respective cores, it will be interesting to see if the Toronto Raptors can leapfrog the 76ers and leave them in the cellar of the Atlantic Division.

It will also be interesting to see what the club elects to do with Andre Iguodala. Amnestying Brand and letting Williams walk probably means that the Sixers are ready to start over. If that’s the case,  it might make sense to move Iguodala—who still has a lot of value—and attempt to get some building blocks in return.

Number 1: Chicago Bulls bulls small logo

The Bulls have signed Chicago native Nazr Mohammed and many see that as a prelude to them allowing Omer Asik – who signed a three-year “poison pill” offer sheet with the Houston Rockets – to defect. We’ll know for sure whether that’s the case by 11:59 p.m. tonight.

But even if the Bulls retain Asik – which is not likely – they are expected to be without Derrick Rose until sometime after the All-Star break. They have added Kirk Hinrich, Vladimir Radmanovic and Marco Belinelli but lost some of the key reserves that were instrumental in earning them the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, even without Rose.

C.J. Watson is with the Brooklyn Nets. Kyle Korver is with the Atlanta Hawks. Along with John Lucas III and Ronnie Brewer, they are distant memories in Chi-town.

The latest word out of Chicago is that the Bulls are reluctant to add any long-term money to their ledger because they would like to have the flexibility to add a second max player alongside Rose in the Summer of 2014, when Luol Deng’s contract expires and Carlos Boozer can be jettisoned via the amnesty clause.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers should both improve from last season and the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have all dramatically upgraded their rosters.

Under coach Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls have been among the best defensive teams in the league, and when you play defense, you have a chance to win games. But Brewer and Asik were a huge part of their defensive success, and they will probably be without each of them.

The Bulls were successful during the regular season sans Rose. But without him in the playoffs, they couldn’t beat the Philadelphia 76ers. Again without him for the lion’s share of this season, the Bulls may very well find themselves battling for one of the East’s bottom four seeds just one season after sporting the conference’s best record.

It’s easy to see that they are Summer of 2012’s biggest loser.

Honorable Mention: Orlando Magic (no way you can lose Dwight Howard and not be worse off in the long run); San Antonio Spurs (another year’s worth of mileage probably means regression); and Eric Gordon (not wise to declare your heart was in another city knowing your incumbent team was likely to match your offer sheet).

Check back later this week, I’ll be bringing you the Five Biggest Winners In Free Agency.

Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops.com and will be providing the latest news and commentary during the NBA’s free-agency period. Follow him on Twitter to stay up-to date.


  1. W M says

    So the bulls are the biggest losers but you can make the arguement that their bench got better overall? the only clear down grade was Omer but Hinrich is better then Watson (35% FG reg season and 25% in the playoffs)..Butler wont be better day 1 but has the upside to be an equal defender but much better offensive player then brewer. bellineli is a more dynamic offensive player since he isnt just a spot shooter…nate robinson is better then lucas…vlad better then scal (both will be the last guy on the bench)

  2. Jim says

    I agree with everything you wrote about the Bulls, but wouldn’t you do the same with not knowing what you will get from Rose next year? I realize Noah got hurt too, but if you can’t beat the 76ers in a playoff series without Rose what is the point of spending a bunch of bad $ for this year when Rose is a question mark? While I think Bulls management, Paxson and Forman, both think small I’m glad they are keeping the Bulls cap financially responsible going forward. Nothing worst than being an over priced team in the luxury tax who is destined to never be better than a 3-4 seed, like the Nets.

  3. A.J. says

    Pet peeve here: Clueless people that don’t know the difference between the words “literally” and “figuratively.” Unless legendary bad NBA player and atrocious NBA GM Danny “I Destroyed the Cleveland Cavaliers Not Once, but Freakin’ TWICE” Ferry had a first-class seat on the same jet he rode in 2007 when he brilliantly tried to circumvent Dan Fagen by secretly flying from Cleveland to Brazil and banging on the front door of the parents of holdout restricted free agent Anderson Varejao in the middle of the night, “the Hawks literally dumped him on the Brooklyn Nets” to describe Joe Johnson was a really, really dumb sentence.

    Ya see, for Ferry to have literally dumped Joe Johnson on the Brooklyn Nets, Ferry would have had to bang a mallet over Johnson’s head until he was rendered unconscious, then tie 100-pound boulders to each of Johnson’s legs, and then toss him out of the plane at the exact moment they were directly above Brooklyn and the Nets were taking their absolutely stunning outdoor team photo while standing next to a dead apple tree with an artistic graffiti rendering of John Gotti scratched onto the stump.

    There, I feel better now.

    • Chris Bernucca says

      A.J., from one stickler to another: Please have a cup of decaf. Thanks for reading, and writing.

  4. Adam says

    Mr Hamilton,
    I feel you are off base with having the Charlotte Bobcats on this list. Sure they were the worse team ever last year so it is easy to pile on them, but their off season has been very productive. You have to realize that this is the first time the Cats are following a coherent plan to get better as organization and a team. Previous to Cho we just traded our picks for the Stephen Jackson’s of the world or made insane picks like A. Morrison @3 spots. So now we have a plan and its not get better instantly, but over a few years by stockpiling draft picks and maybe some young players and when we have a core of talent maybe then we can woo a true all-star free agent.
    I will start with your argument of our back-court: The Ben Gordon trade was great, we rent Ben Gordon for two years for offensive help, but MAINLY we get a 1st rounder from Detroit (most likely Lottery). So we trade an expiring contract for a future lottery, and we get a little offense for the two years Gordon, I am sorry but how is trading an expiring contract for a lottery and short term contract of a guy who could actually help us a bad move?? DJ was not producing so why not let him go to get Kemba some minutes, DJ had already given up on the team so grab sessions for backup and lets find out what we have with Kemba. May work out, may not but its the right move.
    So now we come to the front court: Yes its bad, next year we will amnesty Thomas, Heywood is a steal for the price and was our only realistic option as far as FA goes. Diop has an expiring so he is off the team next year, or Cho maybe turns his expiring to a young player or pick before the deadline. Ask yourself this, is Carl Landry the answer….no. So why sign him to a 4 year over-paid contract. We are gonna be in the lottery again with him or without him next year and I personally say keep his contact off the books. The logic to sign Carl Landry because we need a PF and he is the best FA is flawed because what we need more than a PF is a plan to get better in the long run.
    Anyway love the website guys its a permanent subscription on my Google Reader. Thanks for writing about sports and not following the recent media trends of nonsensical debate topics.

    • Chris Bernucca says

      Moke can respond if he chooses. I agree on Gordon; this team needed shooting and scoring, and playoff teams may want him down the road. But if DJ was moved to clear room for Kemba, then why bring in Sessions, who likely will start? If the plan is what you say it is, bring in a true backup (AJ Price, Nate Robinson) and let Kemba learn on the job. Agree on Landry, but then why not bring back DJ White or throw Thomas to the wolves and find out if he is an amnesty candidate? They should start Gordon Kemba Biyombo MKG Thomas but probably will start Gordon Sessions Haywood MKG Biyombo. The kids need to play AMAP ASAP. Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>