There are some bad contracts in the NBA, but whose is the worst?
Thanks to a salary cap that’s lower than projected, suddenly “dead weight” contracts are becoming more of a talking point. The best example of this was the Lakers’ having to attach a legitimate asset like D’Angelo Russell just to unload Timo Mozgov’s oversized contract.
It had me thinking: who has the worst contract in the NBA? Here were my answers below, but feel free to weigh in with your own opinions as well.
Ryan Anderson, HOU. Anderson barely missed the cut. He’s still a quality offensive player, but his contract ($19 + $20 + $21) is bloated given his flaws.
Evan Turner, POR. I’m not an Evan Turner fan whatsoever; the stats suggest that whatever offensive talents he has (like playmaking) don’t make up for his terrible shooting. Still, he’s a serviceable rotational player so I didn’t have the heart to include him. And if you’re wondering: I happen to think his (former) teammate Allen Crabbe is a legitimately good player so his huge contract doesn’t bother me much.
Enes Kanter, OKC. Kanter’s a defensive liability, which is made worse because you can’t play him much alongside their other expensive center Steven Adams. Still, his contract ($17.9 + $18.6 player option) is only two years max, which doesn’t make it quite as bad as others on the list.
Carmelo Anthony, NYK: Right now, Carmelo Anthony’s still a net positive player, so you can stomach his $26.2 salary for this season. Next year scares you more when he has a player option for $27.9. Overall, he doesn’t make the top 10 because it’s only a max of 2 years and he still figures to be a solid (if overpaid) player.
The “top ten” worst contracts
(10) SG J.R. Smith, CLE ($13.8 + $14.7 + $15.7)
Lost in the malaise of Cleveland’s regular season was the fact that J.R. Smith really struggled after returning from injury. He only shot 34.6% from the field over 41 games, which scares you for a player who’s already 31 years old. I fear this contract will look much worse if LeBron James leaves. You can justify overspending now for a contender, but when you’re rebuilding, that $15+ million for a 34-year-old J.R. Smith may look ugly.
(9) C Bismack Biyombo, ORL ($17.0 + $17.0 + $17.0 player option)
Bismack Biyombo is only 24. Allegedly. But even if he’s a few years older than that, he’s still young enough to be in his “prime.”
The problem is: that “prime” isn’t worth $17 million a year. He’s an effective backup center (6.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks per game over 22 minutes last year), but not worth that price tag. In terms of last year’s overpriced free agent centers, I like Ian Mahinmi more; when/if healthy, Mahinmi’s the better player in my mind.
(8) SG Kent Bazemore, ATL ($16.9 + $18.1 + $19.2 player option)
Bazemore capitalized a breakout year into a bloated contract, a la his former teammate DeMarre Carroll. Of the two, Bazemore appears like the bigger albatross at the moment, because it’s a year longer.
Bazemore’s actually a decent player — 11.0 points per game, 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists — and one that you’d consider a low-end starter or a good rotational piece. However, the high price tag is what bothers you here. A player of Bazemore’s caliber should be worth about $10 million, not $18.
(7) C Miles Plumlee, ATL ($12.4 + $12.4 + $12.4)
In our free agent preview, I tried to explain the difference between the Plumlees. TL;DR — Mason is the good one. Older brother Miles is basically a non-factor who would best served as a 3rd string center. Instead, he somehow landed a long-term deal at $12 million a year (and somehow had two separate teams trade for the contract.) My only excuse is that the GMs confused him for Mason as well.
(6) C Omer Asik, NO ($10.6 + $11.3 + $12.0 player option)
Omer Asik looked like a promising younger center back in a different era of the NBA; now, his plodding defense doesn’t help you much at all. Perhaps he’d get more minutes on a different team, but on New Orleans’ he’s useless. He’s already 31 as well, which makes those 3 remaining years even more cringe-worthy. edit: Pelicans fans pointed out that his last year only has $3 million guaranteed; given that, his contract’s not as bad as I thought and shouldn’t be ranked this highly.
(5) SF Luol Deng, LAL ($17.2 + $18.0 + $18.8)
Luol Deng’s coming off a horrible shooting year (38.7% from the field, 30.9% from three) that made him look older than his 32 years of age. Even if he can bounce back to a certain extent, it’s really hard to imagine he’ll be an effective rotational player in 1-2 years. He’s a good vet that you wouldn’t mind having on the team — but one you wish came at 1/3 of the price.
(4) C Timofey Mozgov, BKN ($15.3 + $16.0 + $16.7)
When fit and healthy, Mozgov is still a solid backup center. Unfortunately, he’s also 31 — and an “old” 31 given his injury and conditioning concerns. There’s a good chance he winds up being the next Nikola Pekovic by the end of the deal — a complete dead weight that’s unplayable and simply collecting checks.
(3) PG Brandon Knight, PHX ($13.6 + $14.6 + $15.6)
You feel for Brandon Knight, who’s a good kid who was recently injured for this upcoming season. But in the interest of brutal honesty: he was terrible, even pre injury. His offense is inefficient, his defense is atrocious, and ESPN advanced stats actually charted him as having an estimated “wins added” of NEGATIVE 1.63 last year; his presence actually hurt the team. I’m not sure he’ll play meaningful minutes in the NBA again.
(2) C Joakim Noah, NYK ($17.8 + $18.5 + $19.3)
Unlike Brandon Knight, Joakim Noah isn’t a bad player when he’s healthy — he logged a respectable 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 22.1 minutes a game for the Knicks last year.
With Noah, though, it’s a question of availability. He’s 32 years old — again, an “old” 32 — coming off a season where he only played 46 games. He only played 29 the year before. It’s difficult to imagine Noah getting through next season healthy, let alone the next three seasons. I imagine Noah will play more games and be more of an on-court help than Brandon Knight over the next three years, but those extra contributions aren’t worth the extra $4-5 million a year.
(1) SF Chandler Parsons, MEM ($23.1 + $24.1 + $25.1)
It’s hard to feel bad for a good-looking millionaire pro athlete, but I do have some sympathy for the wreckage that’s become Chandler Parson’s career. Parsons is only 28 years old, but like Joakim Noah, it’s really hard to imagine that he’ll be able to keep his health going forward. He only played 34 games last year, and may never be a 60+ game player again.
To make matters worse, he played really badly when he actually suited up. His 33.8% field goal percentage was atrocious and could make him completely unplayable for the Grizzlies if he can’t bounce back. That, combined with the 3-year length of the deal, combined with the exorbitant amount (he’ll be on par with Kevin Durant this year), makes this the hardest contract to bear in my mind.