The NBA has recently enjoyed television deals that have allowed player salaries to significantly increase. We are at a point where a good bench player can pull in $10-15 million dollars a season.
The increase of salaries is linked to the increase of each teams salary cap. The 2015-2016 salary cap was $70 million dollars, but this past season that number sky rocketed to $94.1 million dollars. With more money for organizations to throw at their targeted free agents, a big difference between the good teams and bad teams are the contracts they make with the players. Sometimes a team can make good signings where they get the production they paid for out of a player, and sometimes the team gets the short end of the stick.
Most teams that avoid making the bad deals are usually playing their seasons into the months of April, May and June. The ones who make the bad deals usually have their season end after the fourth quarter of their 82nd game.
We are going to take a look at eight players who are not playing to the contracts they signed and also take a look at seven team friendly contracts of the NBA.
15. Not Worth Price Tag: Luol Deng ($72,000,000)
The Lakers went into the 2016 off-season without Kobe Bryant and a lot of money to entice a big free agent to come play in LaLa Land. After losing out on the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, someone thought Luol Deng was a good plan B. Deng has been a solid NBA player over his 13 year career up to date, but this contract would have made sense when he was a two time all-star with the Chicago Bulls. Prior to signing with the Lakers he played in Miami and in 32 minutes per game he averaged 12.3 points. At this stage in his career he is a good addition to any bench and his veteran presence would be valuable to a very young Laker team, however the Lakers seemed to be in a bidding war with the Lakers. At 31 years old and in his first season with the team, Deng played in just 56 games due to injuries and averaged 7.6 PPG on 38% shooting from the field. By the way, the Lakers finished this season with a record of 26-56.
14. Bargain: Michael Beasley ($1,710,138)
Considered a draft bust as the overall number two pick by the Miami Heat in the 2008 NBA draft, Beasley has showed flashes of being the scorer he was projected to be. After improving in each of his first three seasons and averaging a career high 19.1 PPG in that third year, he suddenly regressed. The following three years his scoring went way down, bottoming out at 7.9 PPG. He signed a one year deal with the Shandong Golden Stars in China in 2015 and won league Foreign MVP. The Houston Rockets signed him to a two year deal for cheap in March of 2016 where he averaged just about 13 PPG and 5 RPG in 20 games. The team then traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks and he was a good fit for the young up and coming team. As a reserve most of the season Beasley averaged 9.4 PPG and 3.4 RPG shooting an impressive 53% from the field. He hits free agency this off-season where he can get a nice contract off of those numbers.
13. Not Worth Price Tag: Wesley Matthews ($70,060,026)
Wesley Matthew’s signed with the Mavericks in the 2015 off-season. He played his previous five seasons with the Portland Trailblazers along side superstar Damian Lillard. Matthews established himself as a decent three point shooter, connecting at a 39% rate. Halfway through his deal with Dallas it looks like he is missing playing next to a guard like Lillard. He never was a player to create his own offense and the Mavericks have lacked a good point guard since Matthew’s arrival. Expected to be a key shooter for an offense that has been stagnant the last couple of seasons, Matthew’s has been less than that, shooting a dismal 36% from deep over his two years for the Mavericks. That’s just not gonna cut it when your primary job is to knock down trifectas. The Mav’s are a combined 75-89 in the two seasons since signing Matthews.
12. Bargain: Sean Kilpatrick ($2,252,852)
With the Brooklyn Nets having traded three first round picks to Boston in 2013 for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry they need to find good players that are under the radar. Sean Kilpatrick may be getting his opportunity because the Nets can’t build through the draft but he is making the most of it. Playing as the teams sixth man he was the third leading scorer with 13.1 PPG and was a source of offense the team relied on. He filled in nicely at point guard with Jeremy Lin missing a significant amount of games due to injury and can shoot from deep at a decent percentage of 34%. For a guy who made just six figures each of the last two seasons, that is a pretty good return on the investment. He can become an even better scorer next year and still be a bargain at $1.5 million for next year.
11. Not Worth Price Tag: Dwyane Wade ($47,000,000)
A three time NBA champion with the Miami Heat (including one without LeBron James), Dwyane Wade is going to be a Hall of Famer without question. Pat Riley, president of the Miami Heat, saw that Wade was a deteriorating player and refused to sign him for the $50 million per year Wade was looking for. Riley was willing to still pay $20 million per year which would have been a nice “Thanks for what you’ve done here” deal, but Wade’s hometown team Chicago Bulls came in with their offer of $47 million over two years. Maybe the Bulls were willing to shell out that money because the story of Wade going back home would sell tickets, because he is no longer a player who should be making almost $25 million per year. Over the past six seasons Wade has missed 134 games due to various injuries and rest, including 22 games this past season with the Bulls. He put up solid numbers, 18.3 PPG in 30 MPG, but the Bulls are looking at rebuild in the near future despite making the playoffs this year and a first round exit as the eighth seed. As for attendance, the Bulls actually saw about 6,000 less people at the United Center this year as opposed to last.
10. Bargain: T.J. McConnell ($2,414475)
The Sixers were a fun team to watch this season as they were actually competitive for the first time in a long time. While most of the credit and attention goes to the greatly skilled big man Joel Embiid, T.J. McConnell was the heart of this team. He plays hard and executes all the hustle plays that don’t show in the stat sheet, and he developed good chemistry with the Sixer big man. McConnell started the season on the bench, but his hustle and surprising play making ability forced his coach to make him the teams starting point guard. Averaging 6.9 PPG and 6.6 APG he even caught the eye of the champion Cleveland Cavaliers who wanted to make a trade for him, but Philadelphia denied. McConnell was a fun player to watch this year is set to make $1.4 million next year.
9. Not Worth Price Tag: Timofey Mozgov ($64,000,000)
The Lakers were repeat offenders this past off-season signing Mozgov to an annual salary of $16 million per year. It’s as if the front office doesn’t do their homework, because his season prior to signing this deal doesn’t support the logic behind this deal. Playing for the champion Cleveland Cavaliers, he fell out of the mix after his strong performance for the team in the 2014 finals. His last year in Cleveland he played 17.4 MPG and just averaged 6.3 PPG and only 4.4 rebounds. After the Lakers gave him the best deal he could have ever asked for, he rewarded them with 7.4 PPG in roughly 20 minutes per contest. He did miss a quarter of the season to injury, but he ultimately lost his starting position to rookie to Ivica Zubac.
8. Bargain: James Johnson ($4,000,000)
James Johnson had himself a really productive season for the Miami Heat. In eight seasons he has already played for five teams, but the 29 year old forward must have liked South Beach. He did a little bit of everything this past season averaging career highs in points (12.8), assists (3.6) and rebounds (4.1). The Heat started the season at 10-31, but then had one of the best records in basketball going 31-10 to finish at .500 and Johnson was a key contributor to the turn around. The 6’9 forward creates match-up problems and he is also a pretty good defender averaging a block per game for his career. Johnson is another free agent this off-season and he should get a multi year deal with a team.
7. Not Worth Price Tag: Chandler Parsons ($94,438,523)
The Grizzlies have been one of the better defensive teams in the league the last several years, as well as one that has been inept offensively. Teams will over compensate to fill a need from time to time, but the Grizzlies are paying Parsons superstar money to a guy who has yielded numbers barely that of an all-star and has now had three knee surgeries in three consecutive years. He only appeared in 34 games for Memphis before losing the rest of his season to a knee injury, but his prior two years in Dallas ended the same way. When Parsons has been healthy, his numbers don’t add up to the tune of making over $20 million annually. His career high in PPG is 16.6 and he has shot over 40% from three just one time in his six seasons in the league. Hopefully he can fully recover from his knee surgery and try to live up to his contract, but the chances of that are about the same as Memphis winning a title next year.
6. Bargain: Nikola Jokic ($4,075,500)
After a stellar rookie year, Jokic broke out this past season as a centerpiece for the Denver Nuggets to build around. A big man with exceptional passing ability and a dynamic scorer, Jokic put himself among the best young players in the league. His stat line for this past season was 16.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG and 4.9 APG. His versatility helped him put together six triple doubles which was the fourth most in the NBA. He is also very confident in his game, saying after he dropped a line of 16/10/7 against LeBron and the Cavs when asked about LeBron guarding him in the post, “That’s a mismatch for us”. He is under contract through next season and the Nuggets have a team option in 2018 for $1.6 million which they will definitely pick up.
5. Not Worth Price Tag: Allen Crabbe ($74,832,500)
Allen Crabbe just may be a beneficiary of the new salary cap, but he did get this contract in part because the Brooklyn Nets made this initial offer and the Blazers were allowed to match. The Blazers really like this kid and he has improved each year since they drafted him in 2013. Primarily a reserve, Crabbe averaged 10.7 PPG in his first year of the deal, however his shooting percentage from the field was an impressive 46% and 44% from behind the arc. Maybe in the next three years he gets more shots in the offense, but its hard to picture that with the dynamic duo of Lillard and McCollum in Portland’s back court. Had he signed with the Nets he would have been a starter for sure and way more shots every night. IF he can become the top 6th man in the league than maybe that can justify the dollars, but Portland may have over payed for a decent bench player.
4. Bargain: Klay Thompson ($68,979,450)
Klay Thompson is a three time All-Star, World Champion and maybe the second best shooter in the NBA behind teammate Steph Curry which makes him a great bargain for the Warriors. With an annual average salary of $17.24 million it allowed Golden State to sign Durant to a two year deal with an average salary of $27 million and almost guaranteeing two trips to the finals. As of now there are 46 players with a bigger contract than Klay, most of them you would not choose in a pickup game before the other half of the Splash Brothers. Just a few names that have a bigger contract are Al Horford, Nicholas Batum and Andre Drummond. Not to knock those guys but they all have contracts valued well over $100 million. What sweetens the deal for the Warriors is Klay’s contract still has 2 more seasons on it, maxing out at just under $19 Million for the 2018-19 season. Thompson holds the record for points scored in a single quarter, dropping 37 points in one period against the Sacramento Kings.
3. Not Worth Price Tag: Derrick Rose ($94,314,380)
When the Bulls signed Derrick Rose to this monster contract extension after the 2011 season, it was the logical move to make. Rose had become the youngest MVP ever in 2011 and led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals, averaging 27 PPG in the playoffs. Unfortunately for both Rose and the Bulls, in the first round of the playoffs the following season after signing the extension Rose tore his ACL. He would miss the entire season for 2012-2013. When he returned the following year, he tore his meniscus in his right knee which ended that season for him after playing in only 10 games. Sadly D-Rose has never been able to quite regain the explosiveness that made him one of the best guards in the league. Even after coming back from a second knee surgery he struggled to stay healthy in Chicago and the Bulls ultimately traded him to the Knicks. Sometimes injuries can derail a a promising players career, and that is always a risk when a team signs any player to a big deal.
2. Bargain: Isaiah Thomas ($27,000,002)
If you were to root for any player to get a max contract it is Isaiah Thomas. Standing at 5’9 he is by far the best bargain in the NBA, making an average salary of $6,750,001. He was the LAST pick of the 2011 NBA Draft! If you re-draft that class he would easily be in the top five if not the top three. The Kings and Phoenix Suns have got to be kicking themselves over trading Thomas for the likes of Marcus Thornton and Alex Oriakhi. With the Celtics this past season, Thomas has become the NBA leading scorer averaging 28.9 PPG and a top three finalist for MVP. He led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals amid his sister tragically getting killed in a car accident during the first round. He somehow was able to play through it and he played very well. He is also a humble guy, recently saying he does not mind playing out the final year of his contract without an extension this off-season because he would rather have the team sign players that can help them get to the finals. For all the work he has put into his game to get where he is at now, he deserves to get the big bucks when his time comes to sign a new deal.
1. Not Worth Price Tag: Joakim Noah ($72,590,000)
Phil Jackson might go down as one of the worst executives in recent NBA history, and the contract he gave to Joakim Noah might be exhibit A. Noah spent his first nine season in the NBA with the Bulls and was the emotional leader of that team. He laid it all on the court and was such a good passer that the Bulls at times can run their offense through him. In the 2015-2016 season, his last with the Bulls, he missed 53 games due to due to a left shoulder injury and had a surgery done on it. The Knicks kicked caution to the wind and signed the veteran to this big deal when literally no other team was in a bidding war with them. This past season in New York, Noah played in only 46 games averaging 5.0 PPG and 8.7 RPG. He had to get his knee scoped in February which cost him about a month of playing and in April tore his left rotator cuff which will again require surgery. Adding insult to injury he got hit with a 20 game suspension for violating the leagues anti-drug policy, a suspension he can’t begin to serve until he is healthy enough to play. The Knicks got totally burned on this deal already and there is still three years left on it.
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