If you were to take a look at the list of contracts handed out to National Basketball Association players this past offseason, you would say that league general managers need to have their collective heads examined. After all, these GMs were throwing cash suited for solid starters at backups and other depth players.
Several players received way more money than their numbers indicate they deserve and it was a bloodbath in terms of teams having a sense of fiscal responsibility. Some—or in my estimation, most—of these contracts will leave teams in financial ruin and handcuff them for years to come when said contracts don't pan out. It is inevitable given the amount of expectations that come with big-money contracts in sports.
The biggest reason for the epic increase in salary for these players is a result of the payroll increase NBA squads are seeing. Thanks to a television deal with networks ESPN and TNT that totals $24 billion, NBA teams had more money to work with this past offseason and will see yet another increase for the 2017-18 campaign.
Such an increase has caused salaries to balloon and even some bottom-of-the-barrel players are getting close to star money. It's the new reality in basketball contracts today and not a single team will be able to avoid it.
15 Nicolas Batum
Maybe I'm wrong, but Nocolas Batum doesn't seem like the kind of player who should be making north of $100 million. Regardless of what I think, the Charlotte Hornets feel differently and handed over a five-year deal worth $120 million to the shooting guard, good enough for the 18th highest salary in the NBA for the 2016-17 season.
The 27-year-old averaged 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for Charlotte in 2015-16. Clearly Batum is a guy who can contribute all around on both sides of the ball, however he isn't exactly a franchise-changing player as his contract would indicate. He isn't a particularly good shooter and he doesn't offer a lot in terms of individual ability.
Batum is the highest-paid player on the Hornets and will be making an astounding $27 million in the final year of his deal. He isn't even the best player on his team and it's even more absurd to think he's getting more money than guys like Kawhi Leonard, John Wall and LaMarcus Aldridge.
14 Eric Gordon
Injuries and disappointment have been the crux of Eric Gordon's career in the NBA, as the 27-year-old moved on to his third team when he and the Houston Rockets agreed to a four-year, $53 million deal.
Not only has Gordon's production dropped mightily since averaging a career-high 22.3 points per game in 2010-11 with the Los Angeles Clippers, but Gordon has also been an injury waiting to happen. The shooting guard has not played in more than 64 games in any season since his rookie campaign.
Things aren't likely to get better for Gordon in Houston. He'll have to run a fast-paced offense with head coach Mike D'Antoni at the helm and that won't serve his already brittle body any good. Gordon is no better than a backup at this point in his career and that's exactly what he'll be sitting behind James Harden all season—that is, if he can stay healthy.
13 Luol Deng
Up first on the list of desperate moves by the Lakers is the signing of Luol Deng, who inked a four-year, $72 million deal this past offseason in Los Angeles. The normally injury-prone Deng was actually able to keep himself together long enough to play in 74 games for the Miami Heat last season.
Deng's offensive output was stifled quite a bit last season even though he was a starter. Deng averaged a career-low 12.3 points per game, while matching his career low with 1.9 assists per contest. The amount of minutes Deng logged per game were also his lowest since his rookie season.
After turning 31 and having dealt with a multitude of injuries during his career, Deng is crossing into a serious danger zone at this late stage. Injuries will only become more prevalent and that's a major issue for a guy already declining offensively. Things could go south very quickly for Deng in the bright lights of LA.
12 Evan Turner
Evan Turner is one of the more overrated players in the league, so it comes as no surprise that some team fell for it and overpaid to get him. That team was the Portland Trail Blazers and the contract was for four years and $70 million.
The 27-year-old's career has been up and down, but now Turner has been relegated to backup duty on a full-time basis. In 2015-16, Turner started just 12 of the 81 games he played in, averaging 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per contest. Not bad numbers for a guy coming off the bench, however the price tag is far too high.
The best Turner will do this season is be a backup, with starter and rising star C.J. McCollum in front of him. Also of note was the signing of Allen Crabbe--who will appear later on this list--because he and Turner are both backups for the same position making a combined total of $145 million over the course of their respective deals. What a disaster.
11 Austin Rivers
When looking at Austin Rivers' new three-year, $35 million deal with the Clippers, you have to wonder just how much having his dad as the head coach helped his contract situation. Of course, the Clippers are coached by Doc Rivers, Austin's dad, and the father-son duo began working together during the 2014-15 season.
The former No. 10 overall pick isn't a good shooter, he doesn't pass well (he plays point guard) and he only averaged 8.9 points per game last season. On top of that, Rivers has struggled to play an entire season, thus bringing questions about his durability. Everything about Rivers screams mediocre at best, and that's what the Clippers will be paying over $11 million for during the next three years.
The 24-year-old isn't even the best backup point guard on his team and will compete with Raymond Felton for playing time. It just goes to show you how much the Clippers really thought of Rivers given the fact that they signed Felton just three weeks after inking Rivers.
10 Bismack Biyombo
Bismack Biyombo has proven to be a solid interior defender and rebounder during his career, but I'm not sure throwing $17 million per season at him was the right thing to do—especially when it's the Orland Magic, a team flush with talent in the front court with Nikola Vucevic and Serge Ibaka on the roster.
The Magic brought Biyombo in to be the primary backup to those two, however the big man from Zaire is a pretty one-dimensional player. He will block shots and grab rebounds (he had a career-high 8.0 per game last season), but Biyombo won't contribute a lick offensively.
That's probably why the Toronto Raptors gladly let him walk for that kind of money. The Magic didn't need to move mountains in order to give Ibaka and Vucevic support, but that's exactly what the organization did in bringing in Biyombo. He was more than Orlando needed, and cost more money than it needed to spend.
9 Tyler Johnson
The Heat have been depleted thanks to free agency and Chris Bosh's blood clot issue, but it was still surprising to see Pat Riley and company throw caution to the wind by signing Tyler Johnson to a four-year, $50 million deal despite how unproven he is.
Johnson doesn't do anything particularly well and he'll be tasked with replacing a Heat legend in Dwyane Wade, who moved on to play in Chicago for the next two seasons. To be fair, Johnson doesn't have anywhere near the skill-set to replace a guy like Wade, even at the veteran's deteriorated state.
Johnson averaged just 8.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season. Apparently that's worth $15 million per year to at least two teams, with the Brooklyn Nets initially making the same offer only to have it matched by the Heat. A situation like this makes you ask yourself one thing: what is this world coming to?
8 Ryan Anderson
Another dud from The Lonestar State, the Rockets spent big money and successfully (or should I say, unsuccessfully?) brought in Ryan Anderson on a four-year, $80 million deal this offseason. Not exactly the kind of money you want to spend on a soft big man who can't do much more than shoot.
Anderson averaged 17 points and six boards per game last season for the Hornets as a bench player. Anderson has always been noted for his solid shooting, however he had his second-worst season from behind the arc last season, while playing in just 66 games.
Not only is Anderson soft as an interior defender, he's also an injury-prone player and has played in just 80 games or more once. Other than that, Anderson has never topped 66 games in a season and it will only get worse as the 28-year-old approaches his thirties.
7 Allen Crabbe
I know, who?! Somehow the Blazers thought it was a good idea to give this man a four-year, $75 million deal that will pay him on average nearly $19 million per season. To make matters more bizarre, the Nets once again thought that a nominal player like Allen Crabbe was worth this much.
As a backup for the Blazers last season, Crabbe posted career-highs in points, assists and rebounds per game; although that wasn't difficult considering he had nowhere to go but up. Now Crabbe is being shoveled a ton of money to remain as the team's backup, and even after the team also brought in the aforementioned Turner this offseason.
Not only does Crabbe not deserve that ridiculous sum of money, the Blazers are foolish for giving that much to him when he'll barely get playing time behind C.J. McCollum and with Turner on the team. After all, how many high-priced backup guards do you need when you have a dynamic backcourt in the starting lineup already?
6 Chandler Parsons
Apparently the Grizzlies just love throwing boatloads of cash at guys who don't deserve it, with Parsons being the franchise's first example on this list. The Grizz paid Chandler Parsons a max (that's right, I said max) amount of money in free agency, giving him a four-year, $94.8 million deal, despite the small forward's production trending down.
Parsons' 13.7 points per game in 2015-16 were the lowest output he's had since his rookie season, and he posted career lows in both rebounds (4.7) and games played (61). Parsons' health should be a concern moving forward, as the 27-year-old has only topped 70 games twice and has missed a combined total of 37 games over the past two seasons.
You can begin to understand why the Dallas Mavericks weren't too keen on keeping him. Parsons got much more money than a player of his caliber and injury history should get, which seems to be par for the course in NBA free agency.
5 Solomon Hill
Looking for help at small forward, the Pelicans agreed to terms on a four-year, $52 million contract with Solomon Hill. The only problem for New Orleans is that Hill won't be much help to the team in the talent department and he may need a kick or two in the rear to get himself motivated.
Now that Tyreke Evans won't be ready for the start of the season, the normally inconsistent Hill has been given an opportunity to start for the foreseeable future. Still, that doesn't mean Hill will produce and if his 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game last season are an indication of anything, it's that Hill won't be able to fill Evans' shoes by a long shot.
Exactly where is the value here? Hill is a backup player making $13 million a year coming off a season in which he saw his minutes from one year prior cut in half. An already bad player, Hill is still managing to trend downward and somehow the Pelicans decided to set him up for life.
4 Joakim Noah
Knicks president Phil Jackson was looking to add some much-needed help to the team's front court after dealing center Robin Lopez during the offseason, so he threw a bunch of money at the injury-prone Joakim Noah. The New York native signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Knicks after spending the first nine years of his career with the Bulls.
While Noah was certainly a top defender in the NBA and a big key to the Bulls' defensive success under head coach Tom Thibadeau, the 31-year-old has never been able to stay healthy. He has played in 80 games in a single season just twice, 74 games once, and other than that Noah has never played in more than 67 games.
Last season, the center played in just 29 games during another injury-riddled season. Noah is a great defender, solid rebounder and good passer, but none of that matters if he can't stay on the floor. The Knicks overpaid badly here and it will only become more evident when Noah's aging body continues to break down.
3 Timofey Mozgov
Next up on the list of desperation moves by the Lakers was the signing of Tomofey Mozgov, who is practically stealing $64 million over four years. Well, I guess it isn't stealing after the Lakers foolishly and willingly gave it up to him.
The move to sign Mozgov was the Lakers' poor attempt to make an impact move, but it will end up being impact money spent for a guy who won't impact much. Mozgov looked primed to revive his disappointing career after joining the Cavaliers during the 2014-15 season. He posted a career-high in points with 10.6 per game and added 6.9 rebounds in 46 games (45 starts).
The next season Mozgov saw his role shrink with Cleveland and his playing time dropped by eight minutes per contest. Granted, the Cavs have a very competitive roster that's tough to crack night in and night out. However, Mozgov still didn't do enough with his playing time to warrant $16 million per season. A mediocre rebounder with limited offensive ability, Mozgov will never live up to his deal.
2 Bradley Beal
How Bradley Beal landed his five-year, $128 million deal from the Wizards is beyond anyone's comprehension. The 23-year-old is still young and has time to develop, but his injury history and average numbers are just a few red flags.
Beal has proven to be a good shooter with the Wizards and is a nice compliment to point guard John Wall on offense. The problem is that Beal's 17.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game last season don't exactly show a well-rounded player. Furthermore, Beal has never played more than 73 games in a season and has totaled 56, 63 and 55 games in each of his other three seasons.
The relationship between Wall and Beal has been on shaky ground in the past. Wall even admitted that he and Beal have to work on not disliking each other on the court for various reasons. It's troubling talk for the Wizards' backcourt and it's just another reason why Beal's contract is a joke.
1 Mike Conley
Mike Conley's contract is easily the most egregious from the NBA free agency period, as the Memphis Grizzlies re-signed their point guard to a five-year, $153 million contract in the offseason. The max deal was the largest total value contract in NBA history.
While Conley is a nice player for Memphis, he is nowhere near worth the biggest contract in NBA history with his average numbers. For his career Conley is only averaging 13.6 points and 5.6 assists per game, and his scoring production has steadily declined in each of the past two seasons after a career-high 17.2 in 2013-14.
The kind of contract the 29-year-old received is the likes of which a NBA superstar should receive, not an average point guard like Conley, who is outside the top-20 in player efficiency rating. To make matters worse, Conley is only getting older and only played in 56 games last season due to injury. This one has all the makings of the biggest contract gaffe in NBA history.
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