For any NBA star, free-agency is not a thing to take lightly.
For that moment, for that small window of time, the player himself gets complete control over his destiny. Choose the right path, and it could lead to Championships, All-Star seasons, and an opportunity to market your brand. If things go wrong, however, it could devastate a once promising career.
Granted, the results aren’t always that dramatic, but the point remains true: being a free-agent presents an important and career-changing opportunity.
This summer, the free-agent class was among the best we’ve had in years. By now, nearly all of the top marketed players have made their choice. But was it the right one? It’s not our place to decide, or judge… but we’re going to do it anyway. Here are five 2019 free agents who (probably) made the wrong decision this summer:
Destination: Golden State
Better Option: The Couch
DeMarcus Cousins broke the internet when he agreed to a deal with the Golden State Warriors. There are, admittedly, some positives to joining the best team in the league (there always are). But, in hindsight, he was probably better off just sitting this year out entirely.
The whole point of him joining the Warriors was to rebuild his reputation and prove to the league he is still worth a max contract while being in a positive, Championship winning environment. He’s definitely on a good team, but how can he earn a max contract next summer when he’s not even the fourth best player on the team? His role will be minimized, and it’ll be hard to see if/when he makes the Warriors any better. Plus, if he somehow starts a dumpster fire in Golden State, he’ll likely be out of the league for good.
He should’ve taken this next season to get healthy, do some off-court public appearances, and then re-enter next offseason, where the landscape will have changed quite a bit. At least then, he wouldn’t be one of the most fan-hated players in the NBA.
Destination: Atlanta Hawks
Better Option: Literally Anywhere Else
You definitely can’t accuse Vince Carter of ring chasing at this point.
After a pretty meager stint with the Kings, Carter elected to sign with Atlanta (of all places), where he’ll likely play off his final season. We get it — he wants to have a veteran impact for a young lottery team. Besides the Hawks, he could’ve served that same purpose for teams like the Nets, Hornets, Mavs, or Knicks, who likely would’ve taken him on a vet min deal. They have something to build on and are all in a better place right now.
With the Atlanta Hawks, the team doesn’t have enough young talent to be optimistic, yet have a guy in Trae Young that will make the Carter acquisition second-hand news.
How ’bout signing with the Raptors, who’d provide Carter with the storybook ending he deserves while also giving him a chance to join a really good, optimistic team. Instead, he’s going to come off the bench for the dysfunctional Hawks, who will likely not sniff relevancy for at least another 5 years.
Destination: Houston Rockets
Better Option: Rockets, But For Less.
Chris Paul’s mistake isn’t like the others on this list.
His oopsie wasn’t signing with the Rockets but signing with the Rockets for so much money. The contract he inked with the team is for 4 years, $160 million… meaning the franchise will be paying him around 40 million a year. It’s great that CP3 got his money, but was it worth a Championship?
Had he signed, let’s say, a one year, $18 million contract, the Rockets might’ve been able to keep Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, who both signed elsewhere this summer after Houston spent their money on Paul’s lucrative deal.
In response, Daryl Morey and the Rockets had to settle for an aging Carmelo Anthony, who provides little defensive edge.
Now, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t think Houston has taken a significant step back this summer, all because their multimillionaire point-guard couldn’t manage to take a pay-cut.
Destination: New Orleans Pelicans
Better Option: Los Angeles Lakers
Julius Randle has a breakout year with the Lakers last season. By the time it was over, Randle had become one of their top performers, and their best big man. Most of all, he proved to the world he had heart.
The Pelicans, following Boogie’s departure, were quick to notice and offered Randle a 2-year deal. The problem?
The contract only has Julius getting paid $18 million dollars. If he was only going to sign for 9-mil a year, why the heck did he leave the Lakers in the first place? While Julius was never seen as non-expendable, it’s hard to imagine the Lakers wouldn’t take him back for more than just 9 million dollars.
With the Pels, almost nothing changes for Randle. His spotlight is dim with Anthony Davis in the frontcourt, his starting spot is far from guaranteed, and he has no long-term security, seeing as to how the contract is only for two years. It’s the same situation he would’ve had in LA, except he’d be playing in a much bigger market around the guys he’s known for years.
Maybe he just doesn’t like LeBron, or maybe his agent has some kind of vendetta against Rob Pelinka… who knows. Regardless, the choice doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Destination: Oklahoma City Thunder
Better Option: Sixers, Lakers
For PG13, it was either the Lakers or Thunder for the months leading up to free agency.
In fact, until the last minute, most were sure he’d be a Laker before the end of the week.
So when he announced his decision to stay in OKC, people outside of Oklahoma weren’t really sure what to think. To be blunt, the 2017/18 campaign for OKC was nothing short of disastrous, with the team getting beat by the inexperienced Utah Jazz in the first round.
Staying means PG will have to endure Westbrook’s often frustrating style of play, living in the small market of Oklahoma City, and being a team that isn’t nearly good enough to beat the Warriors, Rockets, Sixers or Celtics in a seven-game series.
He chose that over a LeBron-led Laker team. He chose that over the chance to lead a young and exciting Sixers team. He chose that without so much as a meeting with anyone else.
Bearing all that in mind, it’s hard to think the PG won’t look back on his 2018 free-agency as a missed opportunity.