The NBA season is just around the corner with training camps set to open in a few weeks time. As has been the case for the last several seasons, the Golden State Warriors appear to be heavy favorites to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy...
However, with LeBron James taking his talents to Los Angeles, the Western Conference will have a very different feel to it in 2018-19. The Houston Rockets, having added Carmelo Anthony, appear hellbent on usurping the Warriors once and for all.
The decision to sign James by no means was a bad one for the Lakers -- the native of Akron, Ohio is the game's undisputed best player and as such, any amount of money spent to acquire his services qualifies as money well spent. But over the past few seasons, including the most recent episode of Free Agent Frenzy, there have been many head-scratching deals signed. Even with the salary cap rising to astronomical levels, hamstringing your team with bad contracts remains possible if a general manager isn't careful.
The cost of signing a bad deal in today's NBA typically amounts to one or more first-round draft picks. Many general managers find themselves having to part ways with valuable draft day currency in order to rid themselves of past contractual mistakes. One too many of these costly errors can lead to GMs being relieved of their duties. After all, it's never been a job that comes with a ton of security, to begin with...
Here are 20 of the NBA's worst contracts, heading into the 2018-19 season. Some are nearing their end while others have only begun. Either way, calling them bargains would be a gross miscalculation.
20 John Wall
John Wall is an elite point guard in the NBA -- his speed and ability to create in the open floor is perhaps only surpassed by Russell Westbrook.
Wall, for the 2018-19 season, is slated to earn just under $20 million. However, he recently inked a four year $170 million extension that will kick in at the start of the 2019-20 season. That equates to an average annual value of $42,500,000!
Wall is good, but not THAT good. It's hard to imagine him and new teammate Dwight Howard clashing, much like Wall and Marcin Gortat did a season ago. Perhaps Washington, upon losing out on landing hometown hero, Kevin Durant, felt compelled to spend all their money anyway? John Wall happened to be in the right place at the right time.
19 Serge Ibaka
Prior to the commencement of the 2017-18 season, Masai Ujiri signed Ibaka to a three-year contract worth $65 million. The Congolese-born power forward was paid big money to be the third member of Toronto's Big Three. It did not go according to plan in year one...
In his first full season with the Raptors, after being acquired via trade the previous year, Ibaka appeared in 76 games, averaging 12.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. In terms of blocks it was Ibaka's lowest output of his career, meanwhile, his rebounding production was the worst since his rookie season. It got even worse in the playoffs -- Ibaka, in 10 playoff games, managed a total of 87 points (8.7 per game) and posted the lowest playoff field-goal percentage of his career (41.7).
The team's new head coach, Nick Nurse, will look to get much, MUCH more out of the soon-to-be 29-year old PF/C.
18 Ryan Anderson
Ryan Anderson is a stretch four -- a power forward capable of consistently knocking down outside shots. In today's NBA, such players are highly coveted. As a result, Anderson inked an $80-million contract in 2016.
The Houston Rockets, much like Ron Burgandy when he jumped into a bear exhibit, "immediately regrett[ed] the decision..."
Anderson fell out of favor in Houston during the two seasons spent there, after spending the previous four in New Orleans. He is now a member of the Phoenix Suns, along with Rockets teammate, Trevor Ariza. Perhaps the move will help spark Anderson's career.
The Suns, meanwhile, profile as an intriguing team heading into this season but remain huge longshots to make the playoffs in the Western Conference.
17 Mike Conley
Conley has been a steady, borderline all-star point guard for the better part of his career. But when Memphis signed the former Ohio State standout to a five-year, $152.6 million contract, it left many in the basketball community scratching their heads...
Once again, a short-sighted signing in the crazy summer of 2016.
Healthy for the majority of his career, Conley was limited to just 12 games in 2017-18 and has already come out and said he is bracing for an "awkward" season in Memphis this year. Conley has long been critical of the Grizzlies inability to attract big-time free agents...
At 30 years of age, Conley has three years left on his mega-deal that will pay him the following amounts:
2018-19: ~$30.5 million
2019-20: ~$32.5 million
2020-21: ~$34.5 million*
*2020-21 has an "Early Termination" clause, but ~$22 million becomes guaranteed if Conley plays 55 games in 2018-19 or 2019-20.
Conley needs to stay healthy and play better to justify his contract. Alternatively, management certainly has not done their part in selling the franchise and city to prospective free agents.
16 Blake Griffin
The Los Angeles Clippers miraculously managed to trade away Griffin's contract, sending him to Detroit. Imagine going from LA to the Motor City... yeah, I probably just wouldn't show up for my flight.
With four years remaining on his contract (player option in the final season) and an AAV of ~$34 million, Griffin is one of the highest priced players in the league. Does he deserve to be? Absolutely not.
Griffin is a very good player, but he, under no circumstances, was worth the $171-million contract that the Clippers gave him last offseason. They even mimicked a jersey retirement!
Too much all around.
15 Nicolas Batum
Another beneficiary of the 2016 spending craze, Nicolas Batum signed a five-year, $120M contract with the Charlotte Hornets.
Batum is a two-way player who is undoubtedly versatile in terms of what he brings to the floor. In saying all that, the price the Hornets paid for his services is wildly high given his career resumé. In Batum's first season playing under that contract, he posted the worst three-point percentage of his career -- he still managed to score 15.1 points-per-game which qualified as a career-high.
Still...is that worth an average of $24,000,000 per year? My gut tells me no.
Batum, in order to justify this contract, has to do A LOT more in Charlotte.
14 Timofey Mozgov
Mozgov signed a four year $68-million contract with the Lakers in 2016 (what a summer, eh?!)...
Now a member of the Orlando Magic, Mozgov will be on his third team since signing the deal, having spent last season in Brooklyn. With the NBA prioritizing mobility and versatility in big men, Mozgov's skillset is vastly outdated.
Mozgov's best season came with Cleveland, as a teammate of LeBron James. In 2014-15, Mozgov averaged 10 points and nearly seven rebounds per night.
Once this contract expires, expect the big Russian to either retire or play on veteran minimum contracts until such time that he calls it a career.
13 Zach Lavine
The Kings offered restricted free agent Zach Lavine a four-year, $78 million contract this past offseason. Apparently, back-to-back dunk titles are worth $19,500,000 per year... Foolishly or not, the Bulls matched the offer and kept his services.
Lavine has dealt with injuries the past two seasons, playing only 71 games combined the last two years. He's never averaged more than 19 points per game in a season and, apart from being a crazy-impressive dunker, does little else. His jump shot is inconsistent and he lacks defensive consistency.
12 Chris Paul
Chris Paul is a future Hall of Famer. First ballot. No doubt.
Despite that reality, his $160 million, five-year deal is only going to get worse with time. Paul is due $44 million at age 36. LeBron James will not be worth that at that age.
Many contracts these days are signed for the early years rather than the late years, and that is precisely what Paul's deal is. He remains an elite NBA point guard but won't be for much longer.
Entering 2018-19, Paul will be 33 years old. His reputation will continue to help him on game nights, but sooner rather than later, age will catch up to him and in the process, make his contract one of the league's biggest cap anchors.
11 DeAndre Jordan
The big center declined his player option with the Clippers, electing instead to sign a one-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
Now, in terms of length, this is not a bad deal for Dallas but the fact remains Jordan is very one-dimensional and lacks a consistent offensive game. If he's not cramming alley-oop passes, he's probably not scoring. And I'm sorry, any professional basketball player who can't consistently make a free throw needs to be subject to an intervention...
Mark Cuban's Mavericks will almost certainly miss the playoffs for a third straight season in 2018-19. Ultimately, acquiring Jordan cost them nothing should he sign somewhere else after this season.
10 Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
The Cavaliers were essentially forced by LeBron James to sign Tristan Thompson to a five-year, $82 million dollar deal in 2015. Thompson is a tenacious rebounder and little else...
The Canadian-born center lacks any type of perimeter shot and while he's a capable defender, he's not making an All-Defensive Team anytime soon. Still, he's owed more than $35 million over the next two seasons.
Meanwhile, LeBron bolted Cleveland, leaving them to deal with the albatross contract he coerced them into all those years ago. The King does as he pleases...
With Cleveland entering a full-scale rebuild, look for them to shop Thompson this season.
9 Bismack Biyombo
Biyombo became a fan favorite in Toronto, playing so well that he priced himself out of a possible return to the place that embraced him, unlike any other NBA city.
The Orlando Magic elected to reward Biyombo with a four-year $72 million contract. The last year of the deal is a player option which I assure you, Biyombo will exercise when the time comes...
In two seasons with Orlando, Biyombo played every game except one and came exactly as advertised -- a big, physically imposing shot blocker / defensive wizard with a supremely limited offensive arsenal. The Magic quickly realized, as good defensively as Biyombo was, he'd never be capable of justifying his annual price tag ($17,000,000).
This past offseason, Orlando was able to move the contract, sending Biyombo back to his first NBA home, in Charlotte. Now it's their problem.
8 Norman Powell
Norman Powell signed a four-year, $48 million contract after having a coming out party in the 2016 playoffs. Unfortunately, Powell, since signing the deal, has found himself buried on the Raptors bench. When he has gotten playing time, he's appeared hesitant and lost.
Powell, a second-round pick in 2015, plays with a California-sized chip on his shoulder every single night. He remains a promising young talent who more than likely will turn out to be quality player in the league for a long time.
That said, it might not be in Toronto. The Raptors, desperate to shed salary ahead of the 2019 summer, will likely move Powell if given the opportunity to do so.
7 Jrue Holiday
The Pelicans signed Holiday largely because they had no other options. As a result, they had to grossly overpay for his services.
Holiday is a quality point guard, but he's not worth $100+ million...not even close.
He still has four years remaining on the deal, the last being a player option he will likely exercise when the time comes. New Orleans, as a city and franchise, should be able to attract free agents in the future, however, if they keep handing out truckloads of money to undeserving parties, they won't have any funds available to give worthy candidates if and when they come knocking.
6 Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons, perhaps more than anyone else, has failed miserably in his attempt to justify a BIG MONEY contract...
The Memphis Grizzlies committed nearly $100,000,000 to Parsons in 2016, and two years in the ROI has been laughably bad.
Parsons has appeared in only 70 games (across two seasons), averaging seven points-per-night and shooting worse than he ever has his entire career. If Parsons was an office employee, in a more conventional industry, he would've received his pink slip long ago.
It's hard to find somebody more in need of a change of scenery than Parsons. Get this man a plane ticket out of Memphis!
5 Joakim Noah
Noah's New York tenure has been nothing but a disaster. He got suspended 20 games prior to last season and wound up only appearing in seven games...
As a Bull, Noah's unique skill set made him a valuable piece to Chicago's overall style of play. The Knicks elected to pay him over $70 million when he hit free agency but have never deployed him properly. Also, Noah has failed to keep himself healthy and in game shape.
Team and player are heading for an inevitable divorce and Noah's contract will long be remembered as one of the worst deals signed in the summer of 2016.
4 Omer Asik
Asik, in 2015, inked a five-year contract worth $58 million...that amounts to over $10 million per season. Omer Asik makes more per year than Sidney Crosby...
Asik holds career averages of 5 points and 7 rebounds per game. At seven feet tall, he doesn't even average one block per game.
It's pretty clear Asik is not worth the contract he was given all those years ago. With two years remaining on the deal, the Bulls could terminate Asik's contract after this season. It holds a dead cap hit of $3,000,000 but would still wind up saving Chicago approximately $8M in cap space.
Seems like a no-brainer to me.
3 Evan Turner
By now, you have probably noticed a lot of these bad contracts came were conceived in the summer of 2016. Evan Turner can be added to the list...
Turner, in 2016, signed a four-year, $70 million deal with Portland. Having just finished the second year of the contract, Turner has failed to average double-digit points in either season.
A versatile player by most accounts, Turner's contract has become a blemish on the Trail Blazers ledger. He simply does not impact the game on a level that justifies the money being paid to him.
Look for the Blazers to try and move Turner this season, or more likely, next year when he has one year remaining.
2 Ian Mahinmi
Ian Mahinmi, like so many others, cashed in during the spending frenzy that was Summer Sixteen (If that Drake reference is lost on you, it's another way of saying "The Summer of 2016").
Mahinmi signed a four-year, $48 million contract. He would appear in only 31 games in year one, battling multiple knee injuries during the 2016-17 season. He returned in 2017-18 and played 77 games so perhaps his health concerns are a thing of the past.
Still, the big, paint-imprisoned center is close to 32-years old and on the books for over $15 million the next two seasons. That's an expensive price tag for a backup center since Washington signed Dwight Howard this past offseason.
In a perfect world, the Wizards would move Mahinmi's contract but the price to do so would likely be steep. Teams are less and less keen on parting with draft picks as a means to move bad contracts. Mahinmi would likely require Washington to divorce from one, possibly two draft picks in any deal.
1 Kevin Durant
WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?! HOW CAN YOU LABEL KEVIN DURANT AS A "DISAPPOINTMENT"?!
Hear me out...
No part of me believes the Warriors' decision to re-sign Durant was a bad one. However, the basketball fan in me would've preferred it if Durant had pulled a fast one on Golden State, and bolted to Los Angeles to play alongside LeBron. LeBron and KD vs. Curry and Co.
The Western Conference would have been absolute fire! Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference would continue to be a battle for the right to finish second, and nothing else.
Instead, Durant stayed in The Bay and we all have to watch the Warriors stroll to another championship trophy. However, the Lakers recently bought out Luol Deng, in the process clearing up enough cap space to target Durant next offseason.