Though we have yet to complete the first quarter of the NBA season, there is already fierce speculation about the status of certain big name free agents, as teams attempt to seduce high profile players with the prospect of a record-setting, lucrative contract. Speculation has been rampant, for example, about the interests that many teams have in free agent to be Kevin Durant. But Durant is not the only All-Star player on the brink of free agency. The NBA enters a big contract year for many of its most talented players. This leaves GMs across the league scrambling to decide which players deserve the big money contracts and which ones to avoid. This is the battle every year, and one that often makes or breaks the careers of professional sports executives. Some, of course, have been more successful than others.
Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers was named the 2015 executive of the year after making some key personnel decisions that aided in the Warriors' NBA championship run. And he may be in line to garner the prize again, as his offseason signing of Draymond Green to a new deal (5 years, $82 million), slightly under his potential max, is already paying huge dividends. The Warriors had a historic start to this season and Green is putting up All-Star caliber numbers. This seems to be the perfect example of a smart free agent signing.
Consider, in contrast, the Dallas Mavericks' signing of Wesley Matthews. Coming off of a brutal, season-ending injury last year, Dallas signed the shooting guard to a 4 year, $70 million contract and it is fair to say that he has failed to meet expectations. Though the season is still young, Matthews is failing to match his career average in literally every statistical metric. The Mavericks are certainly not the first team to make a poor free agent signing, and this particular contract probably won't go down as their worst decision. To demonstrate, I've chosen to look at the worst contract decision in the history of each NBA franchise. Who paid the biggest bucks for the worst output? I've sorted the list alphabetically by team, so you can judge for yourself which decision ranks as the worst of all time.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view
31 Atlanta Hawks - Jon Koncak
A six-year, $13 million contract doesn't necessarily seem very outrageous by today's standards, but when the Hawks gave this 7-footer the extension in 1989 it was a pretty sizable deal. Consider, for example, that, at the time of the signing, his per-year contract was higher than that of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The fact that you have probably never heard of Koncak is a tribute to his mediocrity. This $13 million man failed to average even five points-per-game during the six years of his contract.
30 Boston Celtics - Travis Knight
At seven years, $22 million, Knight's 1997 contract signing seems eerily similar to that of Koncak and, unfortunately for the Celtics, so do his statistical averages. To his credit, Knight averaged 6.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game after his big contract signing. However, those numbers proved to mark the best season of his career. Knight bounced around, from Los Angeles to New York and had the final year of his contract bought out, ending his "illustrious" NBA career.
29 Brooklyn (New Jersey) Nets - Jayson Williams
Unfortunately for Williams fans (are there really any out there these days?) this selection is a no-brainer and, perhaps, one of the top 10 worst contract decisions of all time. Williams actually had promise, slowly developing into a solid big man and all-star. His 7th and 8th seasons in the league he average a double-double, prompting the Nets to sign him to a huge extension in 1998: six years, $86 million. Unfortunately, his career came to an abrupt end in 1999 when he suffered a major leg injury that forced him into retirement. As "fans" might know, his life just went downhill from there.
28 Charlotte Hornets (Bobcats) - DeSagana Diop
The current Hornets franchise doesn't have a long history and have been one of the league's bottom feeders for much of their existence. For this incarnation of the Hornets, we'll have to go back to their days as the Bobcats and go with DeSagana Diop's two-year, $14 million deal. Diop was mostly used as Kwame Brown's backup, and barely ever played a prominent role. Luckily the Hornets seem to be turning the corner as a franchise.
27 Chicago Bulls - Ben Wallace
Wallace is another candidate for one of the worst contracts in NBA history, let alone the Bulls. While he had an impressive career in Detroit, representing the Dennis Rodman of his time (phenomenal rebounding and blocks numbers), the Bulls scooped him to a fout year, $60 million deal. Big Ben just wasn't the same player in Chicago, where he failed to average 10 rebounds or 2 blocks per game, something he eclipsed all six previous seasons. Just two years into the deal, Wallace was shipped off to Cleveland in exchange for, in part, the next guy on this list.
26 Cleveland Cavaliers - Larry Hughes
An unwitting future trade partner of Chicago, the Cavs managed their own high profile free agent signing in 2005 when they inked Larry Hughes to a five year, $70 million deal. Hughes was a lottery pick in the 1998 draft and showed flashes of All-Star quality play that just never fully materialized. After averaging 22 points-per-game in Washington, the Cavs made the investment, but his numbers steadily (and rapidly) declined during his time in Cleveland before they shipped him to Chicago in 2008. While a $70 million deal may not seem ludicrous for a guy that averaged just over 14 ppg for his career, consider that the reigning NBA MVP, Stephen Curry, is only halfway through a four-year, $44 million deal.
Honorable mention: Shawn Kemp's not-so-sensible seven year, $107 million deal in 1997.
25 Dallas Mavericks - Erick Dampier
This was a tough choice because the Mavericks have a knack for making some ill-advised big ticket purchases. As noted above, Wes Matthews isn't exactly giving Cuban his money's worth thus far, but his penchant for signing very average big men to above average deals really stands out. Dampier inked a seven-year, $73 million deal in 2004, just two years after an inexplicable seven year, $70 million deal for Raef LaFrentz. Dampier managed averages of just 6.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in six seasons. LaFrentz only managed numbers of 9.7 and 5.5 respectively, but at least Dallas got rid of him early into his contract.
24 Denver Nuggets - Kenyon Martin
If we had to choose just one reason why Denver resides among the franchises without an NBA title, perhaps it would be the brilliant decision-making of their executives. K-Mart was a no.1 overall pick in a relatively weak draft year, and while he had one All-Star season in New Jersey, it probably didn't justify the seven year, $92 million deal to come to Denver in 2004. Martin managed decent averages (12.3 points, 7 rebounds per game) over his seven seasons in Denver, but certainly not good enough to justify the big price tag.
23 Detroit Pistons - Charlie Villanueva
Villanueva was a star in college at the University of Connecticut, where he won a National Championship in 2004. He was a fairly successful big man in the NBA for his first several seasons, posting double-digit points-per-game numbers in Toronto and Milwaukee. Then the Pistons signed him to a five year, $37 million contract and things went downhill rather abruptly. Villanueva only started 27 games in a Pistons uniform and was averaging a career-low 4.6 points-per-game before he was moved to Dallas in 2014.
22 Golden State Warriors - Adonal Foyle
The Warriors drafted Foyle 8th overall in 1997 and, for some reason, decided to keep him for a decade in spite of his consistent sub-par performance. The 6-foot-10 big man never really gave the team much offensive production but had a few seasons averaging over 2 blocks per game. Perhaps this was the justification for the four year, $42 million contract they gave him in 2004. Unfortunately for the Warriors, his career high averages in points, rebounds and blocks per game all happened prior to this contract signing.
21 Houston Rockets - Scottie Pippen
After years of incredible success with the Bulls, Pippen signed a five-year, $67 million deal with Houston in 1998. Little did Houston know that Pippen simply would never again be the player he was while winning multiple championships in Chicago. He posted his worst career averages in 10 years over just 50 games with the Rockets. He openly voiced his displeasure with the organization and his teammates, and he was promptly traded to Portland in 1999. Certainly not the savvy veteran that Rockets executives had hoped would bring a championship back to Houston.
20 Indiana Pacers - Jermaine O'Neal
O'Neal is another example of a very talented player that peaked near to (or just after) signing a huge deal. He helped anchor the Pacers' frontcourt for several seasons, earning All-Star accolades while posting very respectable numbers. Then Indiana inked him to a seven-year, $126 million deal in 2003. To his credit, he had his best season in 2004, but was plagued by injuries thereafter and saw his points-per-game average plummet nearly 10 points over the next couple of seasons before leaving for Toronto in 2008. Granted, Indiana got a few good years out of their investment, but they paid MVP dollars for a guy that didn't play 70 games in any season after 2004.
19 Los Angeles Clippers - Baron Davis
Baron Davis had great success playing in the Bay Area for the Warriors before signing a five-year, $65 million contract to move to L.A. in 2008. Davis signed under the assumption that he would be teaming up with Elton Brand, but days later Brand signed a big deal with Philadelphia, leaving Davis as the lone star on a mediocre Clippers team. "B-diddy" saw his points-per-game and shooting percentages dip significantly in L.A. and the Clippers basically gave Cleveland an unprotected first round pick (which ended up being Kyrie Irving) to take Davis off their hands in early 2011.
18 Los Angeles Lakers - Steve Nash
This was a tough decision because one could easily argue that the last few Kobe Bryant contracts haven't exactly been paying dividends. Still, the Lakers' attempt to get some quality "golden years" out of Nash ultimately represents a worse investment. After a Hall of Fame worthy career in Dallas and Phoenix, the Lakers signed Nash to a three-year, $28 million deal in 2012. Injures sidelined the point guard, who only played 65 total games, averaging career lows in basically every statistical metric. Even worse, Nash did not play a single minute in the 2014-15 season but the Lakers still paid out over $9 million.
17 Memphis/Vancouver Grizzlies - Bryant Reeves
"Big Country" Reeves had a stellar college career at Oklahoma State before Vancouver made him the centerpiece of their new franchise. In 1997 they signed him to a lucrative, six-year, $65 million deal. Though he gave them some decent minutes early in his career, he suffered a series of injuries that limited his playing time and he was forced to retire before playing out his contract.
16 Miami Heat - Brian Grant
Brian Grant was always a solid power forward that put up above average rebounding numbers, but somehow the Heat felt that this made him deserving of a seven-year, $86 million deal in 2000. He put up a few solid years in Miami but his numbers took a noticeable dip in 2003 and he was shipped off to Los Angeles the following year. Luckily for the Heat, that deal brought Shaquille O'Neal to Miami, and helped the Heat earn their first championship.
15 Milwaukee Bucks - Bobby Simmons
Simmons is a strange story. He had one good season with the Clippers and Milwaukee dropped a four-year, $47 million deal in his lap. I suppose we can applaud the Bucks for taking a risk on a player that may have finally started to show his true potential. Unfortunately they were wrong. Simmons never matched his numbers from the 2004 season and left Milwaukee after just two seasons.
Honorable mention: Tim Thomas and his absurd six-year, $67 million deal in 2000.
14 Minnesota Timberwolves - Michael Olowokandi
"The Kandi Man" already goes down as one of the biggest draft busts in league history. Taken by the Clippers with the no.1 pick of the 1998 draft, he was expected to be a dominant big man for years. However, his performance never caught up to his hype. This didn't seem to stop the T-Wolves from signing him to a three-year, $16.2 million deal in 2003. He put up even less impressive numbers in Minnesota and was shipped off to Boston in early 2006.
13 New Orleans Pelicans - Eric Gordon
Gordon is another case of a guy getting paid for his potential rather than consistent performance. The shooting guard could be a 20 point a night scorer, but has only reached that average twice in his seven year career. The Pelicans paid him a max offer 4-year, $58 million deal in 2012. Gordon has missed nearly half of New Orleans' games since signing the deal and his poor shooting has finally resulted in his removal from the starting lineup. At this point, the Pelicans can't get rid of him fast enough.
12 New York Knicks - Stephon Marbury
Selecting just one bad contract is difficult for a team that has, arguably, FIVE of the worst deals in NBA history. Marbury represents one of the many contract gaffes. He was a baller for several years, making All-Star games while playing in both New Jersey and Phoenix, but the Knicks grabbed him right as he began his slide into obscurity. Marbury signed a four-year, $76 million deal in 2003 and was shipped off to the Knicks. They started paying that deal in 2005 but injuries and age limited his play time and his consistent 20+ per game numbers took a nosedive. Now he's collecting checks as a "professional basketball player" in China.
Amar’e Stoudemire – 5 years, $99 million
Jerome James – 5 years, $30 million
Eddy Curry – 6 years, $56 million
Alan Houston - 6 years, $100 million
11 Oklahoma City Thunder (Seattle SuperSonics) - Vin Baker
Vin Baker was a very talented big man early in his career, putting up 20 and 10 numbers in Milwaukee. The Sonics inked him to a 7-year, $86 million deal in 1999 (a huge contract for the time) and things took a turn for the worse. His playing time and numbers both declined steadily until he left for Boston in 2002. Apparently his financial planning began to match his poor play. He blew his multi-millions and now works at a Starbucks.
9 Orlando Magic - Rashard Lewis
Rashard Lewis had a few really good seasons in Seattle and was rewarded with a superstar sized contract. The Magic gave him a huge 6-year, $118 million contract. You read that right. They paid $118 million for a guy that would see his points-per-game numbers drop from over 20 to under 12 over the 3.5 years he would play in Orlando. That's what we call a very poor return on investment.
8 Philadelphia 76ers - Elton Brand
Brand was an All-Star forward for the Clippers before opting to leave Los Angeles for Philly in 2008. In retrospect, 2008 may go down as the worst contract year in NBA history. Brand took a five-year deal worth nearly $80 million and responded by giving the 76ers career lows in points and rebounds. His deal is solid evidence against paying big bucks for a guy entering his tenth year in the league.
7 Phoenix Suns - Penny Hardaway
Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway had all the hype and, generally delivered during his time in Orlando. Then the Suns opted to lure him to Phoenix with a max deal of seven years, $86 million. Penny averaged nearly seven points per game fewer in Phoenix than during his time in Orlando, he missed a ton of games due to injury, and he just never seemed to be able to consistently flash that swagger he had during his time with the Magic. He left the Suns halfway through his fifth season.
6 Portland Trailblazers - Darius Miles
If this was a post about the biggest disappointment for each team you would obviously be reading about Greg Oden right now, but Miles takes the cake here for getting overpaid for solid - but not great - play. This is tricky because the best game of his career came during his three-year stint in Portland. Still, his six-year, $48 million deal was way too much for a guy that ended up playing a total of 137 games over three seasons before ending his career.
5 Sacramento Kings - Francisco Garcia
In 2008 Sacramento tried to lock up Garcia to a five-year, $30 million extension, thinking he would be a key piece to lead the team back to the playoffs. Unfortunately, he had only one good season before losing a bunch of time due to injuries. His averages dropped across the board and, by the end of his career in Sacramento, he was playing under 20 minutes a game when he was actually healthy enough to play.
4 San Antonio Spurs - Richard Jefferson
The age-defying Jefferson is one of the only players on this list still active in the NBA. Jefferson had a very successful career in New Jersey (and a year in Milwaukee) before the Spurs signed him to a four-year, $30 million contract. It's rare that you see a bigger money deal for a 30-year-old who just posted his worst career averages the season prior to signing. Jefferson's numbers continued to decline and he left San Antonio in only his second year of the deal.
3 Toronto Raptors - Antonio Davis
Davis is another big man that had several years good years, averaging nearly a double-double. Then Toronto signed him to a five-year, $60 million deal in 2001 and, shockingly, his play began to consistently drop over a lackluster three-plus years with the Raptors. By the end he was averaging lows (with the franchise) in both points and blocks per games. He was unable to put up a 10 rebound average after signing the deal.
2 Utah Jazz - Andrei Kirilenko
"AK-47" was a fairly consistent stat-filler playing the small and power forward positions for Utah. In 2004, he signed a six-year, $83 million max extension but never really elevated his play to justify the enormous contract. While he played all six years of the deal, he only averaged over 12 points-per-game in one of this seasons. The Jazz have generally been fairly savvy with their contracts, but this one seems to be a bad return on their investment.
1 Washington Wizards - Gilbert Arenas
Coincidentally, this last contract may very well be the worst in NBA history. Arenas was an outstanding, All-Star player for several seasons and had one of the most abrupt exits from the league in NBA history. The Wizards offered him a six-year, $111 million conract in 2008 and things all went downhill. He was suspended by the NBA, had a series of (potentially faked) injuries, and set personal records for futility before being shipped off to Orlando two years later. To seal the deal, even Arenas admitted (in an interview) that his deal may have been the worst contract ever.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!