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Buyer Beware: Five Free Agents to Think Twice About

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 6/25/2019 Khadrice Rollins
a group of people playing a game of basketball © David Dow/NBA photographer via Getty Images

It’s almost time for free agency and there are sure to be a number of interesting deals signed.

Some players will come at a bargain while others certainly will not. And after the summer of 2016, the idea of overpaying for talent seems like an even bigger concern, as teams want to make sure they keep the cap space on hold to pay for max players. 

But there isn't always one safe approach. Sometimes players who receive huge deals can give teams a case of buyer’s remorse, while other moments feature a role player who fit one system really well but doesn’t quite prosper in a new environment. And in some cases, it’s the players who looked like they had more to offer but couldn’t handle a bigger role.


So let’s check out a few guys in the upcoming free-agent class and consider which players could end up getting contracts they struggle to live up to.

Tobias Harris

Tobias Harris is going to field solid deals this summer. Teams will expect him to be third or fourth scoring option somewhere, and he very well might deliver. Contrary to what some may have previously thought, he can get the ball in the bucket. His many stops around the league belie his full talent level. 

However, during his brief stint in Philadelphia, he was not the most reliable spot-up shooter despite connecting on more than 40% of his triples  to start the season with the Clippers.

With the ball in his hands more, he might perform better from distance, but what will that mean for the greater offense of the team that signs him? Harris can still put the ball in the basket, but if he’s not hitting spot-up shots at a high level, how much value does he add to your offense at his price tag? And if the 76ers are really thinking about giving him the max, what would another team want to spend on a guy who has yet to become an All-Star?

Harris is entering his prime, and there is sure to be a situation where he flourishes and provides a lot from all over the floor, but how much he touches the ball and how much he cost should be a priority for teams. 

D’Angelo Russell (Restricted)

Coming off his first All-Star season, D’Angelo Russell will very likely take another leap forward next season. However, there is still a good chance he gets a contract in free agency that it'll be hard for him to live up to in the next few years.

Russell improved as a three-point shooter last season and that will likely carry over, but there are still questions about just how much of the load he can carry and whether or not he’s worth a max investment. In March when he had his highest usage percentage, Russell also posted a strangely low free-throw percentage and some of his worst shooting numbers. Add in the concerns about his defense and issues getting to the free throw line and there is enough to start questioning how much to give the 23-year-old All-Star.

He’s still young so there’s plenty of reason to think Russell will adjust to carrying more of the burden and get accustomed to drawing contact and getting calls. There’s no guarantee, though, and although he shouldn't be jusged too for his first-ever playoff series, it was an ugly way to end what was otherwise a magnificent season.

Terry Rozier (Restricted)

This time last year, Terry Rozier seemed like he was in line for a major payday. Trouble returning to life as a backup has threatened that, however.

Rozier might flourish off the bench outside of Boston and in a slightly different system, where he’s needed to be more aggressive. But after his 2018 postseason, he had every reason to believe he should be a starter somewhere in this league. The Celtics might need him to do just that with Kyrie Irving likely leaving town, or maybe some other team will sign up for Scary Terry and try to push the price too high for Danny Ainge to match.

Either way, despite a strong showing in Boston’s run to the Eastern Conference finals on the strength of young legs, there are enough reasons to be skeptical of what you would get out of Rozier. His shooting is still a major issue despite being respectable from beyond the arc. He’s still never shot above 40% for a season. And even though his numbers are clearly better when he starts, he’s only got 30 career starts to his name. Can he handle starting every night and being a bigger focus on the scouting report?

Brook Lopez holding a basketball: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images © Provided by TIME Inc. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Brook Lopez

This one pains me to write, but it just seems like Brook Lopez's new contract is going to be a little too big after his resurrection in Milwaukee. 

The man just decided he was going to become one of the best shooting bigs in the game three years ago, and he cemented himself as just that last season. And while the shot is there, along with a solid array of low post moves, that’s pretty much his entire offensive arsenal. He’s not much of a creator and he’s a bad rebounder. He does provide quality rim protection, but at 31 years old, it’s possible he won’t be able to replicate his best season as a shot blocker again, even if he’s still playing next to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

Depending on matchups, he could become a defensive liability, and with little ball-handling ability, it makes you wonder if you're better off spending that money for a wing or a guard who can shoot. Or maybe a center who can rebound. If the Bucks bring him back, it might not be as bad as the deal another team might offer to lure him from Milwaukee. But either way, Lopez will likely get a deal that will make expectations hard to fulfill.

Nikola Mirotic

With Nikola Mirotic there are some similarities to Brook Lopez when it comes to his value as a floor-spacer, but there are also possible concerns about whether or not he will be exploited on defense in the playoffs. And after injuries slowed him up a bit this past season, it might be fair to wonder if those are going to pop up again.

But bigger than that was how he was left on the bench for Milwaukee’s season-ending defeat to the Raptors. The regular season means a decent amount, but if a player can't be helpful in a playoff series, it will negate everything you did well from October through mid-April.

Mirotic has enough shooting and is getting ready to enter his prime. He could easily play up to whatever deal he is given, but he could also prove to be too costly because of how much he possibly gets exposed in the postseason.

Related slideshow: The top picks in the NBA draft (Provided by imagn) 


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