Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Players I wouldn’t touch with an NBA-sized pole

Every year teams overpay for players. In a dreadfully weak free agent class, overpaying is even more rampant. You can’t fault players for taking what teams are willing to pay. Every year teams do the same tired act of signing underachieving and overrated players to large contracts, and then act surprised when they don’t pan out. Here are four situations that a smart GM would avoid at all costs. Of course if all GM’s were smart, the Knicks might be in better shape. (And Jerome James would be out the NBA.)

-The Bulls needed a scoring big man. Their solution? Sign Ben Wallace for four years and $60million. Ben Wallace brings a lot to the table, offense is not one of them. He can't shoot, save for dunks and layups. His career high scoring average is 9.7. The Bulls incumbant center, Tyson Chandler, is apparently gone. Exchanging Wallace for Chandler nets the Bulls about 2 rebounds and 1 block per game at the expense of an older player with less offensive skill. Wallace plays hard and is an excellent defender. The problem is he is getting franchise player money, and he is not a franchise player. Further, Wallace is 31 and might become more susceptible to injuries throughout the contract.

-Nene played one game last year because of a knee injury. His reward? A 6-year $60million contract from Denver. The Nuggets also locked up Carmelo Anthony for $80million. Considering that Marcus Camby is also paid $8million a year until 2010, the Nuggets have a very expensive front court. Kenyon Martin, signed to a max deal two years ago, and is good as gone. Until Martin is traded, the Nuggets have over $40million per year invested in their frontcourt. Even trading Martin doesn’t totally solve the problem. Trading Martin means accepting players with matching salaries. An easier, cheaper solution was not overpaying for Nene. Too late now. That move just reduced Denver’s slim Championship window by two or three years.

-The Clippers didn’t overpay for Sam Cassell, but the effects may be just as bad. Cassell was a large key in the Clipper’s playoff run last year. His 2006 season had several similarities to his 2004 season with Minnesota: Traded to a new team after wearing out his welcome, playing for his next contract, and leading his new team to greater success. But Minnesota fans also remember the 2005 season as well. That year Cassell was disruptive, injured and looked very old as a player. As well as Cassell played this past year, his.443 FG% was the lowest in eight years. It doesn’t bode well for a 38 year-old point guard that relies almost solely on his jumper for points. Aside from an inevitable slip in Cassell’s number, the Clippers also have a budding point guard in Shaun Livingston. Will Cassell be willing to be a reserve in favor of Livingston? If Cassell starts for the next two years, Livingston’s progress is severely stunted.

-Mention Bonzi Wells in Portland or Memphis and people’s moods turn sour. Wells was probably the least popular member of the Blazers in the early 00’s, no small feat on a team with Rasheed Wallace, Ruben Patterson, and Qyntel Woods among others. After beginning his career as a potential 20 points per game scorer, he is now cemented as a 12-13 ppg guy. Wells doesn’t get arrested or meet legal challenges. He is simply a lousy teammate. He has spit on players, flipped off fans, berated coaches and overall shown a complete lack of interest in selflessness. All NBA teams know, or should know his history. Yet some team will still sign him, probably for too much money, hoping he will be an offseason steal. The only thing stolen will be the money headed to Bonzi’s bank account.