Not every NBA contract was built around the value of the player who signed it. In fact, most contracts in the NBA involve timing, fair market value, increases in salary cap, and team needs. Some players get lucky while others end up playing way above their pay grade.
That is how Timofey Mozgov landed his current contract, which he signed in 2016 when the Los Angeles Lakers decided to bring him to LA during a summer in which they failed to land any big name in free agency. It was a desperation move that they made combined with the largest increases in the salary cap in league history. They gave him $64 million on a four-year deal.
On the flip side, there are several players that have signed contracts that they have since played way above in terms of value. That could be because a rookie signed a deal before his true potential was unleashed or maybe he was a role player that finally landed on the right team and exploded into a star.
Let's take a look at the 10 massively overpaid NBA players and the 10 who are underpaid this season.
20 Overpaid: Ricky Rubio, PG, Utah Jazz
Current Contract: 4-Years, $55 Million (Signed w/ Minnesota T'Wolves)
Back in 2015, the Minnesota Timberwolves signed Ricky Rubio to a four year deal worth almost $60 million but just before the third season, they ended up trading him to the Utah Jazz in exchange for a first round draft pick. The move seemed to pay off last year for Utah because he helped lead them to the playoffs.
However, this season, in his final contract year, we are reminded of exactly who Ricky Rubio is. He is an inconsistent scorer that is always looking to pass the ball first, sometimes he even forces it and can get a little wild. This has turned him into a liability that the Jazz do not want to resign next summer.
19 Underpaid: Boban Marjanovic, C, Los Angeles Clippers
Current Contract: 3-Years, $21 Million
The tallest player in the NBA today is none other than Boban Marjanovic, and he has literally taken advantage of his chances. In other words, he has become the league's most efficient scorer, scoring almost as many points per game as he has minutes played. What makes him even more effective is that he is a bench-warmer that gets a few minutes a night.
If the Clippers decide to go ahead and start giving him more minutes, will he continue to be as productive? Or will he become one of the norm and have his numbers take a dive?
As of now, it seems as if he is one of the biggest steals in the league.
18 Overpaid: Allen Crabbe, SG, Brooklyn Nets
Current Contract: 4-Years, $74.8 Million (Signed w/ Portland Trailblazers)
All it takes is one decent playoff performance and you could end up changing your life, overnight. That is the story of Allen Crabbe's career. During the 2016 Western Conference Semifinals, he averaged 12.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and one steal per game while shooting lights out from beyond the arc (52.9% from 3-point range). He only managed to help them get one win from the Golden State Warriors before losing the series but it was enough in the eyes of Portland's front office.
Just a few months later, he was signed for a massive four-year deal worth nearly $75 million. Portland thought they landed on a goldmine and did not want him to leave. But after just one year on his contract, they sent him to Brooklyn where he has remained nothing short of below average.
17 Underpaid: Brook Lopez, C, Milwaukee Bucks
Current Contract: 1-Year, $3.4 Million
The last two seasons have been tough for Brook Lopez, who was once considered one of the NBA's best centers, and even made an All-Star game back during the 2012-13 season. But then he was sent to the Lakers last year to finish out the final year of his contract and his overall production quickly began to decline.
So he decided to take a massive paycut and sign with the Milwaukee Bucks this year as part of a one-year deal where he would fight to prove he is as valuable as he was once before. And at 30 years old, he still has plenty of time left in this league.
16 Overpaid: Evan Turner, SF, Portland Trailblazers
Current Contract: 4-Years, $70 Million
After the debacle with Allen Crabbe, the Portlant Trailblazers found themselves dealing with a second situation involving Evan Turner, whom they also signed to a big deal back in 2016. They had the money and the cap room so they decided to sign him for whatever it takes, expecting him to continue to progress.
However, he has been nothing short of dismal, at best. He struggles from all over the court and his shooting has gotten worse each year since signing the deal. With another season left in the deal, he could wind up being sent to a team looking to beef up their bench, or as a player involved in a packaged deal.
15 Underpaid: Derrick Rose, PG, Minnesota T'Wolves
Current Contract: 1-Year, $2.4 Million
During his first three NBA years, Derrick Rose played in 240 of 246 possible games. He even made a couple All-Star games and was named the MVP in 2011. His career was going great and Chicago Bulls fans were excited to see what he could do next. But then he got injured a few different times in the 2011-12 season, changing the course of his entire career.
Over the next six seasons, he would only play in 255 games (compared to the 240 he played in his first three), and was a huge injury risk. So his emergence this season has been nothing short of amazing and his current contract is less than 87% of the league.
14 Overpaid: Gordon Hayward, SF, Boston Celtics
Current Contract: 4-Years, $127.8 Million
Given that the Boston Celtics signed Gordon Hayward to this deal prior to him going down for the entire 2017-18 season, we give them a little break on the deal today. He wound up not playing anymore last year and did not return until this season.
However, he has returned as a guy that seems afraid of pushing himself anymore. That injury was so severe that it has changed how he handles the ball and how he scores. He has grown into a weaker version of himself and that has also made him nothing more than average. The Celtics are still waiting for him to get back to the player he was before the injury.
13 Underpaid: Spencer Dinwiddie, PG, Brooklyn Nets
Current Contract: 3-Years, $34.4 Million
When we began working on this piece, Spencer Dinwiddie was still playing under a three-year deal worth under $3 million total. But then, on December 14th, the Brooklyn Nets decided they had themselves a future All-Star and gave him an extension he deserves, worth $34.4 million ($11.5 million per season).
So maybe he is not as underpaid, or undervalued as originally thought. But as he continues to progress into one of the leagues best point guards, he will continue to be below the average of what a star point guard in New Jersey deserves to be earning.
12 Overpaid: J.R. Smith, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Current Contract: 4-Years, $57 Million
When LeBron James signed a long term deal to play for the Lakers, J.R. Smith should have retired right then and there. He should have known that he was going to struggle in Cleveland once the King left town. What makes matters even worse is that he is being known for that brain fart during Game one of last season's NBA Finals instead of anything else.
That has turned him into an overpaid benchwarmer that has been earning minutes on the court but has struggled to find the basket. It is almost as if he has given up trying and is now just trying to stay healthy so he can either get traded or cash in on the remainder of his contract.
11 Underpaid: Domantas Sabonis, C, Indiana Pacers
Current Contract: 4-Years, $11.2 Million
It appears that the trade the Oklahoma City Thunder made to land Paul George from the Indiana Pacers was a good one as they are finally starting to play as a team and are looking like a title contender already.
One of the players they traded away to the Pacers was Domantas Sabonis, the son of former NBA great, and a member of the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame, Arvydas Sabonis. His playing time was almost non-existent in Oklahoma but when he got to Indiana, he began to increase his minutes and is now the team's most underrated center, coming off the bench.
10 Overpaid: Nicolas Batum, SG, Charlotte Hornets
Current Contract: 5-Years, $120 Million
Teams around the NBA went on a spending spree during the summer of 2016 after the NBA announced the largest salary cap increase in league history. It caused a massive problem for defining a player's value as the massive deals being signed around the league tipped the pay scale and turned average players into superstars based on their new deals.
Nicolas Batum is one of the best examples of that spending spree. He was a marginal talent, at best, and has almost faded off into oblivion since 2016. As his numbers continue to decline, you should know that he makes more money than most of the NFL and NBA combined.
9 Underpaid: Malcolm Brogdon, PG, Milwaukee Bucks
Current Contract: 3-Years, $3.8 Million
Next summer, Malcolm Brogdon will become a restricted free agent so if any team decides to make an offer for him, the Bucks will get a chance to match it or let him walk. He is going to get offers and might even get one big enough to force the Bucks to let him loose.
But while they still have him under contract, the Bucks are getting a former NBA Rookie of the Year winner who has been getting better each season and is now a legit stud of a guard. He can play both the point and the shooting guard position, making him even more difficult to defend against.
8 Overpaid: Ian Mahinmi, C, Washington Wizards
Current Contract: 4-Years, $64 Million
There is no single way to put this but the Washington Wizards made a deal to sign Ian Mahinmi in 2016 that continues to make us all confused because he has done nothing to justify the deal, not even once in his career.
If you had to tie a value to a player than Ian Mahinmi's would be closer to $16 million instead of $64 million, over the four years. That has to do with how he mostly comes off the bench and even when he does, he is not grabbing too many rebounds or scoring too many points. So what exactly are they paying for?
7 Underpaid: Julius Randle, PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Current Contract: 2-Years, $17.7 Million
It appears that Julius Randle has rediscovered his talent this season after signing with the New Orleans Pelicans last summer on a tiny two-year deal worth $17.7 million. He is putting up the best numbers of his career while playing alongside Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Jrue Holiday.
If he can continue playing at this rate, he is setting himself up for an All-Star appearance and a possible contract extension next year. He is the one player the Pelicans need to keep around as they head into a tough financial situation over the next two years.
6 Overpaid: Bismack Biyombo, C, Charlotte Hornets
Current Contract: 4-Years, $72 Million (Signed w/ Orlando Magic)
Potential goes a long way in the NBA. When a franchise sees potential in an athlete, especially a big man, they tend to overpay for him like a gambler doubling down on a 20 in blackjack.
Bismack Biyombo had potential when he was drafted by Sacramento in 2011. But it has failed to translate into anything that would make him one of the league's most valuable centers. The deal he signed with the Orlando Magic was nearly double the league average salary at his position.
Yet, all he has done is average under five points and around six rebounds per game for his career.
5 Underpaid: Pascal Siakam, PF, Toronto Raptors
Current Contract: 4-Years, $6.4 Million
If you do not root for the Toronto Raptors, or live in Canada, then you probably have not heard much about Pascal Siakam, the NBA's most underrated skill player.
After being drafted by the Raptors late in the first round of the 2016 draft, Pascal has doubled his numbers each of his first three seasons. That makes him one of the most impactful power forwards in the Eastern Conference as he finer tunes his low post game. He isn't the strongest of forwards but neither was Charles Barkley.
Since he is still living off his original rookie deal, Pascal Siakam is worth every penny of the contract. He is a year away from signing a deal big enough to give him the option of picking where he wants to play.
4 Overpaid: Gorgui Dieng, C, Minnesota T'Wolves
Current Contract: 4-Years, $62.8 Million
When it comes to backup centers in the NBA, Gorgui Dieng is one of the better ones. But does that justify giving him a rookie contract extension during the summer of 2016 worth nearly $63 million?
Offensively, there is no player in the NBA that is being paid anything close to what Gorgui Dieng earns as a backup. But his defense is a key part of the Timberwolves wanting to keep him around and his Defensive RPM (Real Plus-Minus) is among the best in the NBA.
However, even with such a highly rated Defensive RPM, his contract does not come close to what he should be making this year.
3 Underpaid: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Utah Jazz
Current Contract: 2-Years, $5.7 Million
When the Denver Nuggets drafted Donovan Mitchell in 2017, they only did it to trade him to Utah for two other players. As it turns out, the trade worked out for both teams, which it rarely does, but it helped the Utah Jazz even more because he helped them turn things around in one year.
Donovan Mitchell has been anything short of amazing since debuting last year and by February, became a legit scoring threat who consistently put up 25 to 30 points per night. His next deal could be a pretty big one and it will happen if the Jazz don't use their club option, which they have in each of the next two years.
2 Overpaid: Chandler Parsons, SF, Memphis Grizzlies
Current Contract: 4-Years, $94.5 Million
When the Memphis Grizzlies decided to sign Chandler Parsons in 2016, they were signing a guy who averaged around 14 points and five rebounds per game over the course of his first five seasons. But it was his scoring that they were attracted to and it helped get him a deal worth almost $100 million dollars.
Since signing the deal, he has only played in 70 games over the past two years in Memphis and averaged just half those numbers. So until he is able to put up MVP caliber numbers, he will not be able to justify earning that kind of cash.
1 Underpaid: Kyle Kuzma, PF, Los Angeles Lakers
Current Contract: 3-Years, $5.01 Million
When LeBron James joined the Lakers last summer, no one was expecting Kyle Kuzma to be the biggest beneficiary of the move. He has quietly turned into the team's second best player behind James. He is a sponge that is learning how to be a better player every single night he steps onto the court.
Many analysts are comparing him to Scottie Pippen but that is a little too bold. However, he has done more for the Lakers, and LeBron James, than anyone else has since Kyrie Irving was still in Cleveland.