• Cameron Tabatabaie

The 5 Most Head-Scratching Transactions From the NBA Offseason

The NBA summer is coming to a close, but it will be many months before teams can fully analyze and reap the fruits of their offseason labor. How a team looks on paper is very different than how it performs on a basketball court.

Not all transactions are created equal, however. While some clubs certainly improved, others lost out on a chance to make meaningful changes. Still others stood pat, opting to run back a very similar roster. And despite the best of intentions, some teams simply made some outright absurd moves this off-season.

Chris Paul

Photo Courtesy: USA Today

Chris Paul is a generational talent. Not only is he an elite defender and passer, but he’s a consummate professional. A true leader.

Paul also turned 33 this May, and suffered a season-ending hamstring injury during the Western Conference Finals. He appeared in just 58 games during the regular season.

Inking CP3 to a gargantuan four-year, $160 million contract, therefore, is a bit of a doozy.

Next season Paul will earn roughly $35.5 million, which assuming he’s healthy, is appropriate for a player of his caliber and stature. But by the 2021-22 season, he’ll net $44 million. As a 36 year-old. Playing in his 19th NBA season.

It’s a front-loaded, win-now move by the Rockets, the kind you make when your perceived championship window is closing fast. What makes it puzzling for me is how quickly the two sides agreed to terms. I’m not entirely convinced another club would be so trigger-happy in offering an aging Paul a similar haul. Couldn’t Houston have bartered for a deal that was a little more team-friendly?

In re-investing in Paul, the Rockets are taking a big gamble. Bringing aboard a disgruntled Carmelo Anthony only muddies the water. I trust Daryl Morey and Co. know what they’re doing, but things could come crashing down in Houston.

DeMarcus Cousins

Photo Courtesy: PaperCity Magazine

The rich got richer this summer, with Boogie Cousins agreeing to a one-year, $5.3 million deal with the Golden State Warriors. Yes, those Golden State Warriors.

It’s a no brainer for the Dubs. They take on very little risk in terms of money, flexibility, and even locker room dynamic. The team can afford to move on from Cousins without much penalty if the experiment goes south.

What has me scratching my head, rather, is that no one else in the league was willing to take a flyer on a supremely talented star.

As Zach Lowe reported, the Pelicans had something of an offer prepared for Boogie, and the Trail Blazers were maybe, possibly exploring a sign-and-trade deal centered around Jusuf Nurkic. Beyond that, it was crickets on Boogie’s free agency.

Yes, the great 2016 Cap Spike had led to a depressed market. And centers aren’t the commodity they once were in the NBA. All the same, I just can’t believe there wasn’t more demand for Cousins’ tremendous upside.

Nemanja Bjelica

Photo Courtesy:SI

This move is tricky if only because it has a lot of working parts. Let’s start with the beginning.

Nemanja Bjelica, agrees to terms with the Sixers on a one-year deal worth about $4.45 million. The 30 year-old forward has just played three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He’s a decent shooter and a solid role player.

Shortly after, however, Bjelica informs the Sixers that he would not be signing a contract after all and would instead return to Europe. Fair enough.

Just a few days later, however, Bjelica inks a deal with the Sacramento Kings to the tune of three years and $20.5 million. The third season is not guaranteed. This all reportedly came about after Bjelica talked with Kings’ General Manager Vlade Divac, a fellow Serb.

For Bjelica, it’s not all that crazy of a move in the grand scheme of things. It’s a longer, more lucrative deal, and there’s maybe a sense of familiarity and comfort with Sacramento.

But why would the Kings make this move? Bjelica is not worth anywhere near that sort of money, especially not for multiple years! His nickname is “Professor Big Shots,” and while that’s simply incredible, it’s also not even close to appropriate.

The Kings are among the NBA’s best in making head-scratching moves. No surprise, the Bjelica contract wasn’t the only odd play to come out of Sacramento this summer.

Ben McLemore

Photo Courtesy:SI

Ben McLemore has never lived up to the hype. Try as he might, he just hasn’t quite gotten over the hump. Last season with the Grizzlies, he even spent some time with the club’s G-League affiliate the Memphis Hustle. This is perhaps a testament to McLemore’s humility in trying to salvage his NBA career.

Where has he done most of his underachieving? Why in Sacramento, where he spent four underwhelming seasons. Shouldn’t the Kings, therefore, have the most intimate knowledge of McLemore’s apparent ceiling?

Apparently absence makes the heart grow fonder. One season after signing with Memphis, McLemore was traded back to Sacramento, along with Deyonta Davis, a 2021 second-rounder, and cash considerations. In exchange the Kings sent back Garrett Temple, a decidedly more established and reliable player.

Temple is an solid player and on an expiring contract. He’d have been a tradeable asset for the Kings this season, and a useful role model for the team’s youth movement. It’s a great move for Memphis, and yet another odd transaction for Sacramento.

The Lakers

Photo Courtesy: Clutch Points

With LeBron in L.A., the Lakers are triumphant winners of the NBA offseason, no matter what. He’s the best player in the world, and immediately vaults the Purple and Gold back into the upper-echelon of the NBA. It was a momentous signing.

What followed said signing was the mother of all head scratchers.

Rondo. McGee. Beasley. Stephenson. A veritable who’s-who of Shaqtin’ a Fool All Stars and hot heads. In a league dripping with personality, the Lakers would be hard pressed to bring on more a core of stronger personas.

We’ve all seen the memes. We’ve all let out a collective “huh?” We’ve even all come to terms that the Lakers let Julius Randle walk. Still, at the end of the day, this Lakers roster is still really, really weird.

It’s fair to sit back and trust LeBron. It’s equally okay to simply wait until the trade deadline or next summer to make marquee changes to the team. That doesn’t make these signings any more understandable for me. There were dozens of other ways to have built this team. Why this is the route Magic Johnson took is beyond me.

So there you have it. The Los Angeles Lakers won the offseason and simultaneously had the strangest one. Hats off to the LA BRASS; that’s a tough thing to accomplish.

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