Now that Kawhi Leonard and Carmelo Anthony have been traded, it’s safe to say all the major moves of the 2018 NBA offseason are behind us. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks that have seen a number of All-Stars change addresses.
While some of those moves were fantastic, we’re not here to focus on the positive because that’s just not our style. So instead, we’ve put together our list of the five worst moves of the 2018 NBA offseason below.
Houston gives Chris Paul ALL the money
The contract breakdown is a mess. In 2018-19, Paul will make $35.65 and the deal will escalate by about $3 million each year, so he’ll be making $44.21 million in 2021-22 as a 36-year-old. If this deal was signed five years ago, I’d have no problem with it, but now? It’s foolish.
Paul has been an injury risk during all of his 13 NBA seasons. Seriously, look at this partial list of ailments he’s dealt with since January of 2014. He’s played in more than 70 games just six times, and has missed 45 regular season games over the past two years. Expecting a 6-foot, 175-point guard to get less injury-prone in his mid-30s is a foolish bet.
Between Paul and reigning MVP James Harden, the Rockets owe two players $66 million next season. That leaves little room for improvements. Those two guys take up 55.27 percent of the team’s cap space. Yes, they’re a great duo now, but the future looks dim in Houston after perhaps one more great season together.
The Rockets’ current roster might challenge the Golden State Warriors this coming season, but after that the franchise will be a mess financially because of Paul’s new deal.
Oklahoma City overpays to keep Paul George
As I’ve said a number of times, Paul George is a very good player, but he’s not a $30 million a year player. Those contracts should be reserved for superstars and he’s not that. The Oklahoma City Thunder were in a tough spot, and so they agreed to give him a four-year, $137 million contract because they really had no other option. That said, this deal is terrible.
George is set to make $30.56 million in 2018-19, $33 million in 2019-20, $35.45 million in 2020-21, and $37.9 million in 2021-22 (if he opts in). That’s a ton of money for a guy who looks to be declining rapidly.
Here’s an excerpt from an article where I explained my stance on George as a player:
During the 2017-18 season, George saw his points (21.9), rebounds (5.7), field goal percentage (43.0), free throw percentage (82.2), points per 40 (24.0), rebound rate (8.6), true shooting percentage (57.0) and PER (18.71) all fall off. In fact, his PER ranked 55th in the NBA this year. His value over replacement player was 3.3, which ranked 24th and his box plus/minus of 2.6 ranked 51st. In a league based on efficiency, George simply is not worth the money Oklahoma City is paying him.
Is George a good player? Yes. Is he a star who will win you a title? No. And the Thunder opted to pay a star’s price for him.
Chicago matches Zach LaVine’s offer sheet
Zach LaVine is an enigmatic talent who has suffered injuries and never really had a true breakout despite loads of athletic potential. And, because the Sacramento Kings are who they are, they signed him to a four-year, $78 million offer sheet. And, because the Chicago Bulls are who they are right now, they decided to match it. No one has adequately explained why.
LaVine played just 24 games during the 2017-18 season after a lengthy recovery from a torn ACL in his left knee. When he returned, LaVine averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 27.3 minutes per game. But he shot a woeful 38.3 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from 3-point range. He has always been inefficient, but a PER of 14.65 shouldn’t be rewarded with a contract that will pay him $19.5 million in each of the next four seasons.
The UCLA product is still just 23, so there is upside here, but is anyone convinced LaVine will develop into the value of that contract? His raw athleticism is off-the-charts but these days teams simply don’t win with guards who can’t shoot, unless they are incredible distributors. LaVine isn’t.
This deal still puzzles me, even if the Bulls felt they just had to lock him down after he was part of the return for Jimmy Butler.
The Spurs got two cents on the dollar for Kawhi
Look, I get it, the San Antonio Spurs needed to move Kawhi Leonard because he was refusing to play for them. They had to make a deal at some point between now and the 2019 trade deadline. I have no problem with moving Leonard, I have a problem with the return.
In exchange for one of the five best players in the NBA and Danny Green, the Spurs got DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick likely to be in the 20s. Apparently the Spurs are in win-now mode and added DeRozan in an attempt to remain relevant in the Western Conference. What they should be doing is tearing things down and rebuilding because without Leonard they aren’t winning anything any time soon.
DeRozan is an All-Star, but he’s also a guy who has played incredibly well in the regular season only to disappear in the playoffs. He’s also an increasingly rare breed of shooting guard who doesn’t actually “shoot” well. He hit just 31.0 percent of his 3-pointers last season while hitting 45.6 percent from the field. He’s set to make $83.22 million over the next three seasons (if he opts-in to the final year) and as a 28-year-old, it’s unlikely he’ll improve much.
Poeltl, like DeRozan, is a guy who would have been far more useful a decade ago in the NBA. He can move for a 7-footer, but he just doesn’t fit the modern game.
From top to bottom this deal made little sense for San Antonio.
Atlanta Hawks import Linsanity
Again, this move made absolutely no sense. The Atlanta Hawks traded a 2020 second-round pick and the rights to Isaia Cordinier to the Brooklyn Nets, in exchange for Jeremy Lin, a 2025 second-round pick and second-round pick swap rights in 2023. What are they doing?
Lin is due $13.77 million this coming season, so this was a straight salary dump for Brooklyn. But in taking him on, the Hawks were only able to secure a future second-round pick and swap rights on another second rounder. On top of that, they crowded the point guard position.
With Trae Young heading into his rookie year and Lin on the roster, it meant Atlanta needed to get rid of Dennis Schroder. Which they did on Thursday in the Carmelo Anthony deal. Young is now the team’s point guard and Lin is basically an overpaid sideshow.
The 29-year-old point guard just isn’t going to move the needle. In a historically weak Eastern Conference there was a chance for the Hawks to return to relevance rather quickly, but that looks like a long-shot. While they did extract a 2022 first-round pick out of the Thunder in the Anthony deal, it’s lottery protected and becomes two second-round picks if it is not conveyed in its first year. That’s a huge risk.
Instead of using their cap space to take on a bad contract attached to a first-round pick in the historically deep 2018 draft (or what should be a solid 2019 class) the Hawks got Lin, Anthony and a potential first-rounder in four years.