The worst moves of the summer
Updated: July 12, 2013, 2:18 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider
Denver added J.J. Hickson and Randy Foye ... but lost Masai Ujiri, George Karl and Andre Iguodala.
For every good move or contract, there must be a corresponding bad deal. After looking at this summer's best moves to date Thursday, today we consider the flip side -- the 10 worst signings and other moves.
(Note that this list doesn't include trades, including the New Orleans Pelicans' deal for Jrue Holiday and the New York Knicks adding Andrea Bargnani, that have already been graded poorly in my trade grades.)
San Antonio Spurs passing on Andrei Kirilenko
It didn't take long after Kirilenko signed a bargain deal with the Brooklyn Nets for their mini midlevel exception ($3.2 million) for rivals to begin carping about Kirilenko's relationship with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, as reported on Twitter by Grantland's Zach Lowe. It's understandable that Kirilenko would want to play for his countryman, all things equal. Their connection dates back to Kirilenko's days playing with CSKA Moscow, the Russian club Prokhorov supported financially.
Unless additional information surfaces, however, the notion that Kirilenko left a bunch of money on the table to play for the Nets is unjustified. He made a mistake by opting out of the second year of his contract in Minnesota, which would have paid him $10.2 million, but that money was no longer available. The teams with the resources to make a substantial offer to Kirilenko simply went in different directions.
That includes the Spurs, the team most linked with Kirilenko during free agency. I don't know how their talks with Kirilenko went. He may have balked at playing for the non-taxpayer midlevel exception ($5.2 million) or San Antonio may have decided it needed to add multiple players with that money. (The Spurs split their MLE between guard Marco Belinelli and forward Jeff Pendergraph.) I do know that San Antonio could have made a much larger offer than Brooklyn if the team still had its MLE. I also know that the prospect of a Spurs team with Kirilenko flying around off the bench at both forward positions was a scary one for West opponents that will not come to fruition.
Denver Nuggets' offseason
Was it really just three months ago the Nuggets were the Western Conference's hottest team? Starting with a first-round upset at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, it has all been downhill in the Mile High City since the end of the regular season.
Denver lost Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri to Toronto then fired Coach of the Year George Karl. Ace defender Andre Iguodala followed them out the door, signing with Golden State in what became a sign-and-trade deal.
So far, the Nuggets have replaced Iguodala, Corey Brewer and Kosta Koufos with Randy Foye, J.J. Hickson and Darrell Arthur. That's the biggest downgrade of any team that isn't rebuilding.
Al Jefferson to Charlotte Bobcats (3 years, $41 million)
I understand the Bobcats can't just continue to lose ad infinitum, especially if they hope to add free agents to the mix at some point. And Charlotte is still young enough that adding Jefferson doesn't figure to take it out of the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. Still, the cost is a concern. So far, only three free agents -- max superstars Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, along with Josh Smith -- have gotten more money per year. Jefferson's poor defense doesn't justify that pay grade, and the Bobcats might have gotten a better deal had they waited, as the Atlanta Hawks did with Paul Millsap.
For that matter, why not try to pry restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic away from the Minnesota Timberwolves to get a center both better and younger than Jefferson?
Kevin Martin to Minnesota Timberwolves (4 years, $30 million); Jose Calderon to Dallas Mavericks (4 years, $29 million)
Group these two together because they represent a similar issue -- four-year deals to players on the wrong side of 30. Martin will be 34 and Calderon 35 in 2016-17, the final season of their contracts. Already, Martin and Calderon are among the worst defenders at their positions, an issue that should only be exacerbated by the aging process. Can they hold on long enough to justify escalating salaries? Consider me skeptical.
Carl Landry to Sacramento Kings (4 years, $27 million)
Last summer, Landry struck out in free agency, settling for $4 million from the Warriors. After a solid season in Golden State, Landry opted to become a free agent again and was paid an annual raise of more than 50 percent on a four-year deal.
Landry is not quite 30, but it's tough to see him aging well as an undersized power forward who relies on his quickness. Making matters worse, Landry is only a small upgrade at a position where the Kings already have two solid contributors in Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson.
Zaza Pachulia to Milwaukee Bucks (3 years, $16 million)
The consensus is Pachulia is a decent value but a poor fit for the Bucks, who were already flush with young big men (Gustavo Ayon, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh) behind starters Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders.
I'm not sure this deal is even that good. Pachulia is 29 and coming off Achilles surgery that ended his 2012-13 season. As a skilled 7-footer, Pachulia will always have some value. If Milwaukee is counting on getting the prime version of Pachulia, however, he's likely to be a disappointment.
Will Bynum to Detroit Pistons (2 years, $5.8 million)
It's hard to complain about a contract this small. The issue isn't so much the money or Bynum, a useful reserve the past few seasons in Detroit, as it is the roster crunch it created. When the Pistons subsequently signed Chauncey Billups, it created a logjam in the backcourt and put Detroit's roster at 16 players, including second-round pick Tony Mitchell.
The Pistons waived 2012 second-round pick Kim English Thursday before his contract became guaranteed. Detroit also will have to hope this year's other second-round pick, Louisville guard Peyton Siva, agrees to play overseas in order to maintain his rights.
Clippers' backup frontcourt
As well as the Clippers did filling out their bench on the perimeter, there are warning signs about their backup frontcourt should they sign Antawn Jamison as a free agent to join center Ryan Hollins. The Clippers had only the veteran's minimum to offer, tempering expectations, but in both cases the Clippers apparently chose offense-minded players over better defenders.
An alternative second-unit frontcourt of Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf would have been much stronger on the defensive end, which figures to be L.A.'s weakness.
Oklahoma City Thunder trade James Harden to Houston Rockets
OK, this move wasn't this summer, but has any trade had a bigger impact over the past week? Sending Harden to Houston set up the Rockets to potentially emerge as Oklahoma City's biggest rival in the Western Conference. Martin's departure also leaves a major hole in the Thunder rotation that will be difficult to fill externally because the team is up against the luxury tax.
Oklahoma City may have to rely on Jeremy Lamb, the centerpiece of the return for Harden, stepping into a much larger role after playing just 147 minutes as a rookie.