The landscape of the NBA has changed in recent years with the ascension of Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Curry’s three-point shooting is at a level we have never witnessed before in the NBA. The old narrative used to be that shooting doesn’t win championships and contenders needed a dominant paint presence to accomplish the end goal. Golden State changed that with a 2015 NBA Championship and another record-breaking season with 73-wins before falling just short of a repeat. Curry’s dominance as the two-time reigning NBA MVP and arguably the best player in the league is the main reason why.
Unfortunately, Curry signed a moderate contract before his value skyrocketed. If on the market today, Curry would be making over $30 million per season, but he’s stuck with an average salary of $11 million, making $11.3 million in 2016. 2017 will allow Curry to have a chance to make a substantially improvement to his salary when he becomes a free agent. That still doesn’t make it less staggering to break down the comparison between his contract and those players significantly below him this year. This list will look at some of the most ridiculous names out there that somehow raked in bigger bucks than the MVP. Here are fifteen NBA stars that somehow made more money than Stephen Curry last season.
15. Derrick Rose: $20 million
The Chicago Bulls thought they found their successor to Michael Jordan when hometown hero Derrick Rose blossomed into an MVP Award winner. Rose became the most popular athlete in Chicago and was awarded with a huge contract. Chicago invested in him with a contract that saw Rose earn over $20 million in the 2015-2016 season. The injury issues over the years have ruined the upside of Rose as a top tier All-Star point guard.
The notion of Stephen Curry being more valuable than Rose would have been a comical thought years ago when they signed their respective current contracts. Both men have basically flipped spots in the point guard hierarchy. The Bulls actually traded Rose this offseason to the New York Knicks and it will be his final year making that much money unless he has a huge contract season. Regardless of what Rose does, it’s a safe bet he’ll never make more than Curry again after next season.
14. Robin Lopez: $12.65 million
Robin Lopez isn’t even the most talented basketball player in his family, but somehow found a way to make more than Stephen Curry. His $12.65 million salary last season was actually a fair deal given by the New York Knicks. Robin is not as good as his brother Brook Lopez, but is still a respectable center that can add a lot to a team. It wasn’t enough to get the Knicks to the postseason as they had another disappointing year.
Lopez was one of the pieces traded away from New York to the Chicago Bulls for Derrick Rose. The big man will once again rake in more than Curry next season. You can’t blame him for cashing in or signing at a point where the market improved, but it is still laughable. A top three star in the NBA is making less money than a serviceable center on a mediocre team. Sports economics are weird.
13. Derrick Favors: $12 million
Another big man making slightly more than Stephen Curry is Utah Jazz power forward Derrick Favors. The most insulting part about this fact is that Favors is a few years younger than Curry. Most of the names on this list are veterans that were rewarded for their hard work at a time when they were better. Favors is actually just 25-years-old and has yet to hit the All-Star level of potential Utah is hoping for.
The chance of improvement for Favors makes his contract fair, but knowing a youngster still working towards his peak is getting paid more than Curry is just weird. Jazz fans know how tough it is to convince a free agent to sign in Utah, so they likely aren’t complaining but Curry can absolutely use it for leverage. Steph’s agent should just walk into the meeting with Warriors management next summer and show them this list of mediocre players getting paid.
12. Kevin Love: $19.7 million
The fun aspect of this selection is realizing Kevin Love made an uncharacteristically tremendous defensive stop by shutting down Stephen Curry in the final seconds of Game seven during the NBA Finals. Love had a terrible postseason, failing to contribute on the offensive end in the Finals and struggling defensively. Things finally changed when he made the defensive stop on a crucial play, helping the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the NBA Championship.
Love stepping up in the best possible time isn’t enough to excuse him from being one of the most overpaid players in the league. The Cavaliers basically carry him with the superb play of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Love is lost on both sides of the court and struggles to perform at a consistent level for a max contract player. Curry has to text expletives to his agent any time he is reminded that Love is making more money than him.
11. Nene: $13 million
Life is just unfair. God forbid Stephen Curry suffers a career ending injury, he will have made less money than Nene. The Washington Wizards signed Nene to a long term contract that would see him earn $13 million per season. Nene was at his peak and many thought he was a star caliber big man at the time. Washington took the bait and ended up regretting the contract.
The veteran has declined consistently over the past couple of seasons and scored just 9.2 points per game in under 20 minutes last season. Washington chose to let him go to the Houston Rockets in the offseason and definitely won’t miss him. At this stage, Nene is best served as a backup power forward or center. The Wizards paying him more than Golden State paid Curry last season has to sting, but we all make mistakes. Some of the upcoming names on the list are worse.
10. Kobe Bryant: $25 million
Kobe Bryant is an absolute legend in Los Angeles Lakers history and they were forced to pay him anything he wanted, but his contract was a joke. His drastically declined through injuries and the aging process over the past few years. Bryant failed to lead the Lakers to success and they were among the worst teams in the NBA last season. The large contract of Bryant and inexperienced young talents made up the ragtag group struggling to survive.
We did get treated to one of the coolest moments ever with Bryant scoring 60 points in his final game before retirement. The memory will last forever, but it was not worth $25 million. Stephen Curry made less than half of what Bryant made in a season that saw him play at least three times better. The reputation and legendary career ending makes you want to give Kobe a pass, but this is definitely one of the more ridiculous contract differences from the prior season.
9. DeMarre Carroll: $13.6 million
NBA contracts have been on the rise over the past two offseasons due to the television rights deal allowing the ability to offer more money. One player to wisely cash in with his value at a high last summer was DeMarre Carroll. The Atlanta Hawks shockingly won 60 games and went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals with Carroll playing an important role in the team’s success.
The role player used his value and the market to get a great contract, receiving over $13 million per season from the Toronto Raptors. Carroll became another mediocre talent to pass Stephen Curry in the salary rankings. The sad part is Carroll missed a good chunk of the season with injuries and barely played a role in the playoffs. Curry has to scratch his head reading the news of new contracts until he can finally upgrade next summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
8. Amir Johnson: $12 million
This is not a joke. Amir Johnson had a larger salary than Stephen Curry in the 2015-2016 season. The Boston Celtics signed Johnson to a contract that earns him $12 million per season. Johnson is the ideal role player. He can contribute in many ways, always plays hard and sacrifices personal achievement for the betterment of the team. It is great that Johnson has an impressive contract to thank him for all he does and this isn’t to take away from that.
The fact remains that a player like Johnson is not in the same stratosphere as Curry, so we naturally question the discrepancy in contracts. Johnson deserves respect for everything he can do for a team but a team needs players like Curry to dictate the game for him to get opportunities. The Celtics desperately want a Superstar or two, but they likely won’t be able to find a bargain as great as the Warriors have for the past few seasons.
7. Enes Kanter: $16.4 million
The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Enes Kanter at the trade deadline in 2015 and ended up having to overpay him in the offseason. Kanter is a talented offensive asset in the paint but his game is rather weak defensively. The scoring and rebounding makes up for it but doesn’t necessarily impact the game as much as someone with his contract should. Oklahoma City went over $16 million per season for him with the hopes of contending for a championship in Kevin Durant’s final season before free agency.
We all know the story. The Thunder choked away a 3-1 series lead over the Golden State Warriors. Durant left in free agency to join the same Warriors team. Oklahoma City is in a tough spot going forward and Kanter’s contract looks even worse. Stephen Curry was the best player in the Western Conference Finals. Kanter would not have made the top five. That alone shows the drastic difference in talent despite Curry being paid much less.
6. Danilo Gallinari: $11.5 million
Danilo Gallinari only makes a few hundred thousand more than Stephen Curry. That isn’t too much in the NBA world of contracts, but you have to give it a double take to truly process it. Gallinari may actually be underrated as a good scorer and shooter to have on your team, but he’s the personification of a marginal NBA talent. The skills make him slightly above average comparative to his peers, but he has a contract better than Curry’s, which makes no sense.
Many NBA fans would struggle to remember Gallinari is still a member of the hapless Denver Nuggets franchise but he made more than Curry. The memories of Curry dominating the regular season and falling just one win shy of repeating as champions put it in perspective of how hilarious the salaries were in the 2015-2016. Gallinari did his best to put up points, averaging almost 20 per game, but the contract is still unbelievable when you compare it to Steph’s.
5. Dwight Howard: $22.4 million
His final season with the Houston Rockets was a nightmare on the court for Dwight Howard, but it was an overwhelming financial success. Howard scored the original contract when he was one of the most dominant big men in the league and raked in $22.4 million last season. Houston struggled to make the playoffs and disappointed with an eighth seed before getting eliminated in the first round by the Golden State Warriors.
Howard grew frustrated with his lack of importance in the Rockets system and had a falling out with James Harden. While the situation wasn’t ideal, Howard clearly showed a huge decline. The big man continues to deal with nagging injuries and just couldn’t dominate on the defensive end like we were used to. Howard’s offensive game continues to get worse as well. The NBA world laughs any time the realization sets in that he was paid twice as much as Stephen Curry during the latter’s MVP season.
4. Joe Johnson: $22.3 million
Regarded as one of the worst NBA contracts in recent history, Joe Johnson saw his own personal lottery victory end this season. The woeful Brooklyn Nets owed him over $22 million for one more season and it was naturally his worst since coming over to the team. Johnson received the contract from the Atlanta Hawks back in 2010 and was traded to the Nets. Brooklyn decided it was time to rebuild and reached a buyout agreement with Johnson.
It is unknown exactly how much money was paid to Johnson by the Nets for the season but it was definitely much more than what Golden State paid Stephen Curry. Johnson got to have his cake and eat it too. Brooklyn paid him the big bucks and he signed with the Miami Heat for the playoff run. The agent of Johnson deserves to be credited among the best in his field and Curry should give him a call before next summer.
3. Javale McGee: $13 million
The world just doesn’t make sense. Javale McGee signed a ridiculous contract with the Denver Nuggets a few years ago that saw him earn $13 million per season. Denver eventually traded him along with a first-round draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers just to get rid of his contract. This made no difference to the 76ers because they were in tank mode. Money had to be spent somewhere, so the $13 million paid each season McGee was worth it for the pick.
McGee ended up getting waived but still ended up getting paid the rest of his contract. The Dallas Mavericks would pick him up but he barely played and struggled to contribute. That’s right. A completely irrelevant player to fail with three teams since signing his contract made more money than the best point guard in the game. Deron Williams and David Lee technically both also raked it more than Stephen Curry due to similar situations.
2. Eric Gordon: $15.5 million
There was once a time when the potential of Eric Gordon felt like fair trade compensation for Chris Paul. The New Orleans Pelicans franchise acquired Gordon and gave him a huge contract that ended last season. Gordon earned an unbelievable $15.5 million leaving us all in disbelief that he actually made more than Stephen Curry. The shooting guard is a fine scorer, but makes no impact on the game and may be a hindrance due to his defense.
New Orleans was the biggest disappointment all season and the lackluster play of Gordon is a major factor why. Gordon only played 45 games due to injury but failed to deliver when he was on the court. The Pelicans let him walk in free agency to sign with the Houston Rockets. Hopefully the new beginning suits him well and he becomes known for more than just being a guy on a list for shamefully making more than superior players.
1. Roy Hibbert: $15.6 million
The absolute worst story of a player making more money than Stephen Curry last season has to be Roy Hibbert. Indiana gave him a massive contract when he was one of the best centers in the league and helped lead the Pacers into contention in the East. Hibbert had one of the most bizarre declines in recent NBA history and saw his stock hit rock bottom. Indiana traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers but he failed to make the most of the promising opportunity.
Hibbert made over $15 million last season but could not manage to muster more than 23 minutes per game. The big man averaged a pathetic 5.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game on the worst team in the Western Conference. It is almost impressive to play that poorly on such a bad team and make that much money. Hibbert’s sole accomplishment of the season was somehow making more than Curry.
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