Every year I get suckered into believing some random buyout player is going to be the difference between a first-round exit and a Finals trip for one lucky team. Occasionally, buyout guys can have a pretty big impact (Birdman Andersen on the 2013 Heat), while most of the time, guys signed off the scrap heap don’t end up moving the needle too much (Eddy Curry on the 2012 Heat.) Today, I’m more interested in the latter so you don’t fall into the same trap I’ve succumbed to many times before. Here are the buyout signings you shouldn’t be excited for over the last month of the regular season (and the playoffs too, for good measure.)
Unless it’s bringing some heart to their karaoke nights, the Bucks should not be expecting Pau Gasol to be much of a factor for them moving forward. If Gasol plays over 10 minutes in a postseason game, it may be time to ask Mike Budenholzer if he has any large debts he’s desperate to pay off. Gasol has been used sparingly in Milwaukee, which is a good sign. He did play a whopping 15 minutes in his San Antonio homecoming, which resulted in this lovely story from Pounding the Rock: The Spurs welcomed Pau Gasol back with an offense designed to exploit him. Even with the East trending bigger instead of smaller for the stretch, Gasol is an extreme liability on defense. The Bucks didn’t sign Gasol for him to become an important role player. Still, it will be a little disheartening any time he receives minutes over D.J. Wilson. For a team with an offense as modern as Milwaukee’s, playing Gasol is like asking Giannis to start using a rotary phone. He just doesn’t belong here.
Andrew Bogut’s last stint with the Warriors will best be remembered for whenever he left the floor so the team could play something called the Death Lineup. (And that pizzagate tweet.) In all seriousness, Bogut was obviously a useful player for the pre-Durant Dubs. But those days are long gone. If Golden State really insists on playing a center during the playoffs, it already employs DeMarcus Cousins. And Kevon Looney is pretty good too! (Seriously, the Curry-Durant-Thompson-Green-Looney lineup has a 15.5 net rating.) But if this team doesn’t figure it out with Cousins, they’ll go small during the postseason and run roughshod over everyone anyway. Maybe Bogut will bring some levity to the Warriors and help ease some of the locker room drama. But the fact that the team isn’t even in a rush to put Bogut on the floor tells you all you need to know about this signing. Hey, at least when Durant leaves, Golden State will be one step closer to rebuilding its 73-win roster.
Since signing Enes Kanter, a graduate of the Dwight Howard School for Centers Who Won‘t Stop Telling Jokes, the Blazers have been an absurd 25.7 points per 100 possessions worse whenever Kanter is on the floor. Portland’s 7–3 record since Kanter’s signing is almost in spite of him. PDX is playing lights out when Kanter is on the bench, and basically he’s handicapping the team when he plays. It’s just unclear where the room is for guys like Kanter in today’s game. He’s certainly a talented scorer, but Portland’s offensive rating craters to 98.6 when Kanter plays. (Pace and efficiency take big hits as well.) He has always been skilled at getting his own buckets, but not necessarily to the benefit of his team. Even more troubling is Portland has stunk when Kanter has shared the floor with Dame Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Combine that with unreliable defense, and Kanter could end up actively hurting Portland if Terry Stotts doesn’t have a quick hook come playoff time.
Wes Matthews wasn’t a bad signing. I actually like him a lot. The Pacers have been a little worse with him on the court since he joined the team, but he was a perfectly sensible pickup in the wake of the Victor Oladipo injury, and overall Indiana has been a remarkable story this season. I definitely owe this team more credit, which makes what I’m about to say even worse: Why couldn’t Wes Matthews sign with a contender??? Matthews would have been really interesting on the Rockets or Thunder, and he would’ve become exactly the type of buyout guy I put too much faith into for the postseason. (Basically what I warned against at the start of this blog.) I absolutely would have gotten delusional and talked myself into Houston over Golden State if Daryl Morey had just found a way to land Matthews. Instead of letting my imagination run wild, Matthews chose a situation that was better for him personally, and I’m upset. Indiana is good, but I don’t know anyone who expects them to make noise in the postseason. Matthews won’t really change that.
It’s low hanging fruit but it had to be said. Sorry, Melo. I hope to see you get another bucket one day.