The NBA’s 10 Worst Free Agent Signings

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki are the last of a dying breed (and now it’s down to just Nowitzki). Dirk recently resigned with the Dallas Mavericks to partake in his 20th season, and like Bryant and Duncan, he’s never rocked another jersey than the one he’s in. Yet unlike these three, players today have such short attention spans they can’t help but bounce around from team to team. They’re lured in by what’s new, making the NBA offseason the summer’s hottest TV drama. With most of Free Agency now in our rearview, we look back at the ten worst signings in NBA history.

10. Austin Croshere (Indiana – $51 million / 7 years)

If you’re looking for a Croshere-like payday, you must do two things. First, make sure you’re on a playoff-bound team. And second, ball out in the postseason. It took the small forward one impressive playoff showcase to earn himself a monster contract from the Pacers in 2000. The LA native’s career average of 6.8 points per game is nowhere near what a $7 million/year deal is worth. At least he’s reached the Finals once, right?

9. Penny Hardaway (Phoenix Suns – $87.7 million / 7 years)

It’s with a heavy heart that Penny falls into this list. He was an elite player back in the day when he teamed up with Shaq on the Orlando Magic, and some would even say he was well on his way to becoming the next great guard, but injuries had other plans for him. In 1999, the Suns offered him a contract that was based more on reputation than his current skill set. He only played a few years with the Suns, averaging 12.4 ppg, and was shipped off to basketball purgatory with the New York Knicks.

8. Jon Koncak (Atlanta Hawks – $13 million / 6 years)

You’re probably thinking, $13 million for six years isn’t that big of a contract. Well, when it’s 1989 and you’re making more money than Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird and you’re not a baller, it is. Unfortunately for the Hawks, this dirty bird never learned how to fly in the NBA. Who knows what Atlanta saw in Koncak, because a player who never averaged over nine points per game in a season should never be offered a $2 million/year deal.

7. Raef LaFrentz (Dallas Mavericks – $70 million / 7 years)

LaFrentz was definitely in the wrong profession. He was for sure a better magician/conman than a basketball player. Seriously, the dude was able to convince the Mavs he was worth $10 million a year and then fool the Portland Trailblazers into giving him over $12 million on a one-year deal. This guy’s earned himself a round of applause for figuring out a way to legally scam teams into paying him big for being an average NBA player.

6. Ben Wallace (Chicago Bulls – $60 million / 4 years)

Okay, time for some real talk. Ben Wallace had four Defensive Player of the Year awards, four first team All-NBA Defensive team honors, and an NBA championship under his belt, so this contract wasn’t all that shocking, even if he could only rebound and block shots. We’ve all heard the saying “defense wins championships,” so the Chicago Bulls were banking on Wallace being that anchor in the middle; instead, he went into cruise control after getting paid and shit the bed. Seems like he was happy with his past accomplishments and said fuck it to working hard, earning him a spot on this list.

5. Allan Houston (New York Knicks – $100 million / 6 years)

The Knicks desperately tried to keep the magic alive from the ’90s, when they were a top team in the East. So in 2000 they searched for a top free agent to sign by looking no further than their own backyard. Allan Houston was definitely a solid stretch power/small forward with three-point range, but at the age of 30 he’d never had a standout season that would warrant a contract worth that much cheddar. The Knicks have proven they’re one of the worst franchises in judging the value of talent, and proved it here, tying up all their money on a guy who was never a number one option.

4. Rashard Lewis (Orlando Magic – $118 million / 6 years)

Lewis was the product of being in the right place at the right time. His timing couldn’t have been more perfect when the Magic signed him to this absurd contract, because he and Luke Walton were the top free agents in 2007. With multiple teams bidding for the three-point shooter, the Magic were forced to offer him a payday just to keep him in Florida. Like Croshere, Lewis made a name for himself with a solid playoff performance in 2010; sadly, this one-trick pony was another player whose skills declined after receiving a big contract.

3. Kenyon Martin (Denver Nuggets – $92.5 million / 7 years)

“Attention K-Mart shoppers! We’re having a sale on a glorified headcase. 16 points and eight rebounds sold separately. If interested, please bring your gigantic checkbooks to the front. Thank you.”

That’s right, Kenyon “K-Mart” Martin got just south of $100 million to score 16 points and grab eight rebounds. However, the Nuggets didn’t realize that the undersized center/power forward was a byproduct of Jason Kidd, who controlled K-Mart’s athleticism in New jersey. Once Denver removed Kidd from the equation, they were left with an overrated, overpaid player who did not deserve his max contract.

2. Darius Miles (Portland Trailblazers – $48 million / 6 years)

Ball your hands up into fists and tap the front of your forehead twice, because something just got you hyped. Yeah, that was Miles’ biggest claim to fame when he and Quentin Richardson were teammates on the LA Clippers. But when he was signed by Portland as a 22-years old, he was better known for being a troublemaker than a basketball player, getting into verbal altercations with his teammates and coach, Maurice Cheeks. The potential was there, which is why he was able to finagle Portland into paying him $18 million before playing a single game. Though Miles definitely knew how to excite a crowd, he let his ego rule and found himself as a cheerleader more often than a player. Seems about right when you choose image over production.

1. Jerome James (New York Knicks – $30 million / 5 years)

There’s one thing Isiah Thomas has that no one can take away: he’s a Hall of Fame basketball player. Sadly, he thought he could pass as the Knicks’ general manager, too. In 2005, Thomas thought it was a brilliant idea to sign Jerome James to a $30 million contract after a ten-day playoff performance, despite career numbers of 4.9 ppg and 3.5 rpg. Are you starting to see a trend here? Play well in the playoffs once and you’ll make GMs salivate at the mouth, ready to hand you all the money you could want. James had better continue to kiss Thomas’ ass for being his GM, because he got treated like an A-list celebrity when he wasn’t even a D-lister.

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