With the salary cap about to get even higher pretty soon, general managers in the NBA will be able to pay their players even more than they are right now. This means that superstars will finally be paid what they are really worth. The fact of the matter is, if there were no salary cap restrictions, LeBron James would be getting two or three times the amount that he is making right now.
At the same time, this also means that some players will get far more than they should be appropriately paid. Of course, there are some very good and fiscally responsible contracts in the league, but by in large, most players are going to be severely overpaid in the new few years.
Some players might even get paid for doing nothing, simply because they help make the salary cap work between both teams. Others will get some kind of max contract simply because of the potential that they supposedly have.
Now, it would be unfair to directly correlate someone’s salary to strictly their numbers. For example, Bruce Bowen rarely put up the types of numbers that would stand out on the box score. Yet, he was one of the best defensive players in the league for at least five years. From a numbers perspective, he probably was not worth more than $3 million per year, but from an advanced-advanced metrics scale, he was easily worth $7-$8 million per year.
The following list of players were severely overpaid by their general managers and one of the reasons why these smart basketball minds may have been duped is because they focused more on superficial statistics than anything else. In contrast to their current salaries, this is a list of what these overpaid players really should be making.
6 Andrea Bargnani - $11.5 Million, Should Be Paid $6 Million
The former number one pick in the 2006 Draft was supposed to be the next Dirk Nowitzki. Instead, Bargnani has been the brunt of jokes and mockery his entire career. The sad thing is that if Bargnani was not the number one pick and paid strictly based upon his potential, he would be a solid role player that any team would value. However, because of his draft status and his contract, the expectations are just too high for someone like Bargnani to handle.
Last year, Bargnani averaged 13.3 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, and 1.2 blocks per game. Those numbers are actually quite solid for any NBA player, but those numbers are really for a player that makes closer to $6 million per year than $11.5 million per year. The idea that Bargnani is even a stretch four or a stretch five is also a bit of a misnomer. Last year, Bargnani only averaged 27.8% from downtown. This is not exactly the percentage of a sharp shooter, but really the percentage of a big man that thinks he is an outside shooter because he does not want to bang in the paint anymore.
5 Gerald Wallace - $10.1 Million, Should Be Paid $3 Million
In the past four years, veteran forward Gerald Wallace has played on three different teams: Portland Trailblazers, New Jersey / Brooklyn Nets, and the Boston Celtics. Last season, Crash played in 58 games for the Boston Celtics and only averaged 5.1 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, and 2.5 assists per game.
During Wallace’s younger days with the Sacramento Kings, he was one of those types of players that was still very raw, but his greatest strength was his unending motor. However, that motor has now died. If Wallace was really assessed for his worth, he would be closer to $3 million than $10 million.
4 Rudy Gay - $19.3 Million, Should Be Paid $13 Million
Last year, Rudy Gay was traded from the Toronto Raptors to the Sacramento Kings, yet his personal numbers were not hurt at all. And that has always been the problem with Rudy Gay; he is sort of the type of player that is always out for his own numbers without the ability to make his teammates better.
Gay averaged 20.1 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, and 3.1 assists per game in the 55 games that he played with the Sacramento Kings last season. Those numbers are good enough to make an All Star Team, but unfortunately, those numbers were not good enough for Gay to lead his team to the playoffs. And a strong argument can be made that if a player is making north of $17 million per year, he should at least have the ability to lead his team to the playoffs.
In reality, Gay is only capable of being the third best player on a Championship team instead of the first or second best player like he is often utilized. If that is the case, it drops his salary closer to $13 million instead of the $19.3 million per year he's making this year.
3 Eric Gordon - $14.8 Million, Should Be Paid $7 Million
In the past two seasons, Eric Gordon has only played in 42 games his first season and only 64 games last season. When healthy, Gordon is one of the most dynamic players in the league, however, that has always been a big if. What makes Gordon such a rip-off in terms of his contract is the fact that you won’t get more than half a season with him. And even when he is playing, he is always playing hurt, so he is never quite 100%.
Furthermore, because of his injuries, Gordon really has not developed other parts of his game. At this point in his career, Eric Gordon is nothing more than a spot up shooter that occasionally puts it on the floor and drives it in. But as far as rebounding, passing, and defense, he is still very poor. With the way that Gordon currently plays, he is really worth closer to $7 million per year.
2 Carlos Boozer - $13.5 Million, Should Be Paid $5 Million
The Los Angeles Lakers were able to pick up Carlos Boozer off the waiver wire in a silent auction after he was amnestied by the Chicago Bulls. The Lakers won the right of Boozer with a bid of $3.25 million per year. Last season he averaged 13.7 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game, and 0.3 blocks per game. These are very respectable numbers for a power forward. However, more often than not, Boozer found himself at the end of the bench during the fourth quarters. The reason for that is because Boozer has never really been known for his defense prowess, as evidenced by his 0.3 blocks per game.
While Boozer is certainly not worth the $13.5 million he will be collecting, he is certainly not worth the $3.25 million that the Los Angeles Lakers won him for. In reality, he is probably worth somewhere around $5 million per year.
5. Ben Gordon - $4.5 Million, Should Be Paid $1.5 Million
The fact that Ben Gordon made $13.2 million last year is an atrocity. Last season, Gordon only played 19 games with the Charlotte Bobcats where he averaged 5.2 points per game, 1.4 rebounds per game, and 1.1 assists per game.
Sadly, Gordon has not been relevant since 2008-2009, when he did justify getting a contract of this type. But at 30 years of age, and his prime way past over, the fact that Gordon was able to land a mid-level contract is a bit of an enigma. At this point of Gordon’s career, he is only worth $1.5 million per season, instead of the two-year deal worth $4.5 million per season that he will be getting.
4. Josh Smith - $13.5 Million, Should Be Paid $10 Million
Before the Josh Smith experiment even began, most people knew that there was no way that Josh Smith could be a genuine small forward that could co-exist with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. However, the Pistons believed that Smith could hit the long ball from downtown. Unfortunately, Smith shot a paltry 26% from the three-point line last year.
Because of this, Smith is highly overpaid if he is going to continue to play small forward. If Smith returns to his natural position as a power forward, than this contract is not too bad at all. Unfortunately, what this means is that Smith could end up on the bench as a sixth man, which would mean that his contract is skewed once again. And even if he did start, he has not shown the capability of co-existing with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond quite yet.
Perhaps it is a bit premature to say that the Josh Smith experiment in Detroit has failed, but the numbers don’t lie. Smith is really a $10 million player that is great on defense, but still lacks a lot on the offensive end.
3. Kobe Bryant - $23.5 Million, Should Be Paid $15 Million
When you have the highest salary in the entire NBA and you are about to turn 36 years of age, are coming off of an Achilles injury, and an ACL surgery, you should not be making anywhere near $25 million. In fact, it is a miracle that you are even playing basketball in the NBA at all, let alone at a $25 million level.
Last season, Kobe Bryant only played in 6 games and averaged 13.6 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, and 6.3 assists per game. The fact that Kobe was averaging over 6 assists per game shows you that he was not totally healthy. At this point in his career, Kobe is really only worth $15 million as a basketball player. Now, if you want to talk about all the revenue that he brings to the Lakers as a franchise, that is an entirely different conversation.
2. Joe Johnson - $23.1 Million, Should Be Paid $9 Million
Believe it or not, this 7-time All-Star is now 32-years-old. Clearly, Smooth Joe’s prime is beyond him as he resembles a Slow Joe more than anything else. At his peak in 2006-2007, Joe Johnson averaged 25.0 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, and 4.4 assists per game. In almost LeBron-like fashion, Smooth Joe held on to these types of numbers for five consecutive seasons.
Last year, Joe Johnson averaged 15.8 points per game, 3.4 rebounds per game, and 2.7 assists per game. He also shot a respectable 40% from the 3-point line. However, these are not exactly the types of numbers that someone making over $20 million should be putting up. If anything, his salary should probably be cut in half, and then some. At this point in Joe Johnson’s career, a prudent general manager would not pay him more than $9 million per year, which is still a very respectable contract for someone that is beyond his prime.
1 Amar’e Stoudemire - $23.4 Million, Should Be Paid $3 Million
Amar’e really has to be commended for trying to make a comeback with his career, but that still does not justify the type of money that he is making. Last season, Amar’e averaged 11.9 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game. To his credit he did play in 65 games, which is the most he has played in three seasons. However, at this point in his career, Amar’e is only a shell of himself and probably only worth $3 million.