The National Basketball Association is different than the National Football League in that the NBA does not have a hard salary cap that restricts how much organizations can and cannot spend on player salaries each and every season. While there are penalties for clubs and owners who go over the cap, those willing to spend and spend big can, theoretically, “buy” rosters capable of contending for championships whenever they want. Add in that the NBA salary caps are expected to only rise over the foreseeable future, and you have the type of atmosphere that is perfect for value deals paid to players who are worth way more than their contracts and also a plethora of players who are paid way too much considering what they offer to their employers as of the spring of 2017.
It should come as no surprise to those who are faithful NBA fans that multiple members of the New York Knicks are spotlighted as players being paid way too much heading into the summer months, free agency and the upcoming draft. The Knicks are a disaster minus one star who, ironically, isn’t being paid enough, but those who continue to spend their money on the club can hang onto the hope that the team will eventually build around that young player who could help lead the team back to the playoffs. Meanwhile, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player continues to be a bargain for his club, although he’s about to be paid what he has rightfully earned for all that he has accomplished over the past several seasons.
15. Too Much: Austin Rivers, $11,000,000 Cap Hit
All jokes aside about alleged nepotism and the fact that Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers plays for his father, head coach Doc Rivers, the 24-year-old is earning above his value when you compare him to other players at the position. One does have to wonder what Rivers’ role would be if he were to find himself playing for a different franchise in the fall of 2017, something he probably doesn’t have to worry about because of his current situation.
Most worrisome of all for the Clippers is that the club is not, on paper, close to competing for a spot in the NBA Finals or even winning a major playoff series. It’s not a stretch to suggest the Clippers could spend this $11 million better sooner than later.
14. Not Enough: Kristaps Porzingis, $4,317,720 Cap Hit
New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis continues to be a bargain and great value for what is, unfortunately, one of the worst franchises in the league at the moment. The good news for those who passionately follow the Knicks is that Porzingis is signed up through the end of the decade, meaning the club doesn’t have to worry about losing or paying him anytime soon.
Porzingis is the future of the Knicks, as he’s a big man who can score underneath the rim and from the perimeter, and he’s also a dominant defensive force. Obviously, the Knicks cannot wait to unload some of the worst contracts currently associated with the club, but we’ll get into those deals later. For now, let’s all focus that we should hail the Lordzingis as the next king of New York basketball.
13. Too Much: J.R. Smith, $12,800,000 Cap Hit
To fully appreciate and understand why the Cleveland Cavaliers pay what the franchise pays for guard J.R. Smith, one must realize that Superstar LeBron James is a big fan of “Swish” and also that Smith has found a true home in Northeast Ohio.
With that out of the way, Smith is a player who is a one-trick pony on the offensive side of the basketball, and also somebody who doesn’t have a reputation for being one of the better defenders in the NBA. There is no question that Smith has silenced critics who may, in the past, have pointed out that he was a headache no longer worth the trouble, but that doesn’t mean he’s not paid too much money for what he’s able to offer the Cavs these days.
12. Not Enough: Klay Thompson, $16,663,575 Cap Hit
It’s possible some, even followers of the Golden State Warriors, manage to take Klay Thompson for granted. Thompson is a steal for the Warriors when you contemplate what he’s able to provide for the club on offense, and he’s arguably the team’s most underrated asset because of the fact that he plays in a lineup filled with All Stars and multiple athletes who will likely be inducted into the hall of fame at some point after 2030 if not sooner.
The day will eventually come when Thompson demands he is paid what he’s worth, and so everybody who loves watching the current Golden State team should enjoy this lineup while they can. Thompson could be the face of an NBA franchise today if he wishes.
11. Too Much: Timofey Mozgov, $16,000,000 Cap Hit
Timofey Mozgov is one of several individuals currently playing in the NBA who owe LeBron James for his contract. Mogzov is a big man who can, occasionally, have a huge game underneath the rim, but the fact that he is somehow on a deal that will see him make a total of $64 million from the Los Angeles Lakers is downright astonishing.
His contract wasn’t all that massive of a setback for the Lakers this past season, as there was never any chance the club was going to compete for a postseason berth during the spring of 2017. In time, however, the Lakers may come to regret this deal if the team is capable of moving up the standings before the end of the decade.
10. Not Enough: Nikola Jokic, $1,358,500 Cap Hit
The Denver Nuggets found a gem when the club acquired center Nikola Jokic in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Denver isn’t anywhere near making life rough for the likes of the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs quite yet, but the Nuggets are moving in the right direction with a star such as Jokic in the lineup on such a comfortable deal.
In a couple of years, Denver will have to pay Jokic what he’s owed, but he may prove to still be a great value-pick when that time comes. Those running the Nuggets can feel great about building around Jokic for the long-term so long as the club continues to make wise decisions in upcoming draft classes and during free agency.
9. Too Much: Dwyane Wade, $23,200,000 Cap Hit
As soon as the Chicago Bulls decided to offer Dwyane Wade a contract worth over $23 million, it felt as if the franchise was, more so, paying a player for his recognizable name and for what he used to be than for what he could do for the team during the 2016-17 season.
There is little doubt in the minds of knowledgeable fans and analysts the Bulls would do well to get rid of this contract as quickly as possible, but accomplishing this will not, on its own, be enough to make Chicago a force in the Eastern Conference standings. Maybe the Bulls could convince LeBron James that he really wants to play with Wade in Cleveland before the two ride off into the sunset and call time on their careers.
8. Not Enough: Isaiah Thomas, $6,587,132 Cap hit
The Boston Celtics appear to be on the verge of giving the Cleveland Cavaliers a real fight in the battle for supremacy in the Eastern Conference, and guard Isaiah Thomas is the main reason why that is the case. Thomas will be paid by the Celtics soon, perhaps even as quickly as this summer if the club wants to show it is dedicated to him remaining happy and in Boston up through the remainder of the next decade.
Even after doing so, the Celtics will still have plenty of assets to build around a guard with MVP-caliber talent who has not yet hit his physical prime and the peak of his skills. Thomas became a household name for many this past season, and his best should be to come.
7. Too Much: Harrison Barnes, $22,116,750 Cap Hit
Much like with Timofey Mozgov, Harrison Barnes is a player who, deservedly, cashed in on a deal largely because he was fortunate enough to find himself on a team that, no disrespect meant, was filled with bigger and better stars. Let’s take a look at what the Golden State Warriors did after Barnes put pen to paper on a deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
Oh, that’s right. Golden State signed a guy named Kevin Durant. It’s nice Barnes can score 30 points every now and again for Dallas, but do not think, for a second, the Mavericks or any other team can realistically hope to build around him and plan on contending. Barnes can, and should, thank his agent and the Warriors he was able to land such a contract.
6. Not Enough: John Wall, $16,957,900 Cap Hit
We’re not sure there’s a way Washington Wizards guard John Wall could be paid too much money in today’s NBA. Wall is, at absolute worst, one of the top-three players at the position in the Eastern Conference, and he’s a player who is set to be on a reasonable deal for the next several seasons until the Wizards or some other team is going to break the bank for his services.
It’s easy to forget Wall will be only 27 years old at the start of the 2017-18 season, and he should, and likely will, only improve over time. We could be only a couple of seasons away from Wall and Isaiah Thomas battling over the Eastern Conference title and a berth in the NBA Finals. That’d be a fun match-up.
5. Too Much: Joakim Noah, $17,000,000 Cap Hit
Maybe it isn’t fair that physical limitations, injury setbacks and the fact that he has had to play at the same time as LeBron James have all prevented Joakim Noah from ever participating in the NBA Finals. With that said, just about every smart basketball mind out there realized the New York Knicks investing so much money on Noah before the start of the 2016-17 season was, at best, a massive mistake.
At this point, it’ll be a luxury if Noah is able to survive through the bulk of a grueling NBA season and ever play in even a single playoff game for the Knicks. That’s the best it’s going to get regarding this contract, as it’s possible Noah will be remembered as one of the worst acquisitions in franchise history.
4. Not Enough: Jimmy Butler, $17,552,209 Cap Hit
There’s little doubt Jimmy Butler is a top-value player for any team in the NBA, let alone for a Chicago Bulls side that needs to do whatever it takes to keep Butler happy for years to come. That may be easier said than done for a variety of reasons even if the salary cap is only going to rise in the future.
The Bulls are not at the end of a rebuilding process, and the harsh truth may be the club is not any better today than it was a year ago. Trading Butler to a contender such as the Boston Celtics could be the press of the figurative reset button the Bulls need even though that move likely wouldn’t sit well with fans. Chicago would retain Butler for at least another couple of seasons in a perfect world, but such a world may not exist for the franchise at the moment.
3. Too Much: Brook Lopez, $21,165,675 Cap Hit
So much about the fact that the Brooklyn Nets are paying this amount of money to Brook Lopez is unfathomable. Admittedly, Lopez deserves better than to play for a team that is only looking toward a future that, more likely than not, will not include him, but that doesn’t mean the Nets are not paying Lopez way too much money at the moment.
The big man is only signed through the end of the 2017-18 season, so it’s possible the Nets could (finally) find a trade partner willing to rent Lopez for a year. Outside of that hope, expect for Lopez to play one final season for a losing club before some other team, hopefully one with a winning record, is willing to spend on him.
2. Not Enough: Stephen Curry, $12,112,359 Cap Hit
We went back and forth on whether or not to include the two-time NBA MVP if only because he’s going to strike it rich and sign a contract that will probably be worth over $200 million in guaranteed money during the summer months. Still, this piece is for the season that is about to conclude, and, thus, Stephen Curry has to be on any list of NBA players who aren’t paid enough money as of the typing of this sentence.
The Warriors never could have guessed the value they would get out of this deal, as Curry as been one of the better steals in all of pro sports over the past several seasons. Truth be told, Curry may still prove to be well worth the money even after he’s paid.
1. Too Much: Carmelo Anthony, $26,243,760 Cap Hit
Anybody out there who wonders if the New York Knicks paid Carmelo Anthony way too much money via his last contract should realize the Knicks are essentially begging him to willingly move on from the franchise, preferably via a trade, during the summer. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see team president Phil Jackson fly to wherever LeBron James spends his offseason to offer James whatever he wants to convince him to convince the Cavaliers to make an offer for Anthony.
James has made it known he wants to play with Anthony before the two retire, and the Knicks need somebody to take him away from the Garden. All things considered, Anthony’s contract has to be up there among the very worst in recent NBA memory.
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