As teams complete their roster moves and start to look forward to the 2017-18 NBA season, here is every team in the West’s worst contract.
The NBA’s summer of 2016 may long be looked at as the best time in league history to be a free agent role player. Anyone and everyone got $10 million a season as teams foolishly assumed that the cap spike would keep the money plentiful and destroy the idea of a bad contract.
Now over a year later, nearly every team is now left with at least one albatross contract hanging around their necks. This list identifies that contract for every team in the Western Conference, and how it might affect those players and teams going forward.
Dallas Mavericks – Wesley Matthews: 2 Years, $36.5 million remaining
Harrison Barnes is a popular pick for the Mavs’ worst contract, but even at a higher price point, Barnes was far more valuable than Matthews last season. Dallas with Matthews on the court and Barnes on the bench last season was -7.6 points per 100 possessions. If you flip that around and Barnes was on the court with Matthews on the bench, Dallas was nearly a point positive per 100 possessions.
Barnes’ contract could become problematic if he doesn’t develop into the star that Dallas hopes he will, but his potential still gives him value. Promising guards like Dennis Smith Jr. and Yogi Ferrell should begin to chip away at Matthews’ minutes this season, and as he is used less and less over time his contract will become an even worse value.
Denver Nuggets – Kenneth Faried: 2 Years, $26.6 million remaining
Denver doesn’t have a clearly overpaid player or bad value on their roster so unfortunately for Faried, he gets put on this list. With emerging star Nikola Jokic and 90-million-dollar-man Paul Millsap firmly ahead of him on the depth chart, Faried will likely see an already diminished role limited even further this season.
While his production per 36 minutes stayed steady with his career averages, Faried’s playing time fell to a career-low 21 minutes per game last season. Faried’s rebounding and hustle still give him value in the league even at a high price point, so don’t be surprised if a contender tries to acquire him near the deadline to help make a title run.
Paul Sancya - AP Photo
Golden State Warriors – Andre Iguodala: 3 Years, $48 million remaining
The Warriors were happy to reward Iguodala this summer for everything he’s done for the franchise, but his deal is still the closest thing the Warriors have to a bad value. Right now, Iggy is certainly worth the $18 million he will make this season, but as the deal progresses into year two and three, his value may start to diminish.
Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant both will be free agents next summer and if they re-sign as they are likely to do, the Warriors will soon face the largest tax bill in league history. As the Warriors slowly progress into the repeater tax and Iggy gets older and older, it is easy to see how his $14.6 million in 2019-2020 could become a very expensive pill to swallow.
Houston Rockets – Ryan Anderson: 3 Years, $61.3 million remaining
Anderson is a very good player who fits exceptionally well into his role in Houston’s offense, but is simply not worth $20 million a season. Last summer Daryl Morey foresaw the success Anderson could have alongside James Harden, but, like many other front offices around the league, he fell victim to the salary cap spike.
Houston sits about $17 million over the salary cap and would need to offload Anderson’s contract if they strike a deal for Carmelo Anthony. That has reportedly been difficult to do as Anderson’s contract is seen as onerous by most teams. Anderson may very well stay in Houston next season, and if he does, it will be because the Rockets were unable to get another team to accept his contract.
Los Angles Clippers – Blake Griffin: 5 Years, $172 million remaining
Putting Griffin in this spot is tough, largely because we don’t know what he will be without Chris Paul. Griffin is still a very good player, but without Paul and with his injury history, it is possible he never again reaches the heights we saw from him a few seasons ago. If those injury concerns do persist, the $40 million he is set to make at the age of 32 in 2021-22 could be devastating.
The thing about this deal from the Clippers’ perspective is that they had to make it. After trading Paul, the Clippers couldn’t let Griffin walk and fade back into obscurity as the team they share a building with re-enters the spotlight. The Clippers need star players and, whatever your opinion of him, Griffin is undoubtedly a star. Hopefully, for his and the Clippers’ sakes, he stays healthy and earns his contract; but for risk and length alone, he had to make this list.
Los Angeles Lakers – Luol Deng: 3 Years, $54 million remaining
There is no clearer bad contract in the league today than Luol Deng. After his overpaid cohort Timofey Mozgov was traded to Brooklyn, Deng became the undisputed worst contract in a Laker uniform and maybe the worst in the entire league.
If he isn’t bought out, the Lakers will be paying Deng $17 million each of the next three seasons primarily to sit on the bench and be nice to Lonzo (and probably Lavar) Ball. Deng was barely a replacement-level player last season with a PER of just 10.1, and if he sees the floor over players like Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Kyle Kuzma this year, Laker fans might tear their hair out.
Memphis Grizzlies – Chandler Parsons: 3 Years, $72 million remaining
There are several things that should trouble Grizzlies fans when it comes to Parsons. The fact he is making more than Marc Gasol is one. That he can’t seem to stay on the court is another. And that he scored nearly two fewer points per game than the previously mentioned Luol Deng is a third.
Parsons’ injuries have kept him from making even a modest impact for Memphis since signing his $94 million contract last summer. In the short time he has been on the court, he has looked like a shell of the promising young player he was in Dallas and Houston. It’s possible he regains his health and becomes a solid player for Memphis, but it is far more likely he never comes close to living up to his $24 million a year salary.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Gorgui Dieng: 4 Years, $62.8 million remaining
There isn’t a player on the Timberwolves right now who is egregiously overpaid, but Dieng’s contract could become a problem over the coming seasons. Dieng has value with moderate scoring and solid rebounding, but his salary could become an issue over the coming years as Karl-Anthony Towns’ and Andrew Wiggins’ rookie contracts run up.
Towns, Wiggins, Jeff Teague, and Jimmy Butler will make up the majority of the Timberwolves’ cap once Wiggins and Towns get paid. Even at that point, Dieng will still have two years and over $30 million left on his deal. Minnesota may be forced to choose between Towns/Wiggins and Dieng, and I think it is perfectly clear which side they will take.
New Orleans Pelicans – Omer Asik: 3 Years, $33 million remaining
The fact that Asik is still being paid $11 million for each of the next three years in 2017 is really one of the league’s great mysteries. Even on a team devoid of big men, Asik would have marginal value; but on a team with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, he has hardly any. The one saving grace for New Orleans is that the final year of his deal is non-guaranteed, and after posting just 2.7 points and 5.3 rebounds this past season, it seems unlikely he will earn the entire $12 million.
Mark D. Smith - USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma City Thunder – Enes Kanter: 2 Years, $36.4 million remaining
Kanter is a player with real value as an off-the-bench scorer and rebounder, but his defensive shortcomings mean his current $18 million per season is a large overpay. There are teams that would be willing to overlook his weaknesses and salary, and may be forced to look for trades when salary concerns become important next season.
With Paul George and Russell Westbrook both likely to opt-out and hit free agency next summer, OKC would have to go much further into the luxury tax than ever before to retain both players. Getting out from under Kanter’s salary would help those tax penalties for a team historically hesitant to rack up a huge bill, and it would be surprising not to see trade rumors around him over the coming months.
Phoenix Suns – Brandon Knight: 3 Years, $43.8 million remaining
Knight is a confusing, highly paid player stuck in a backcourt with younger, more promising talent. Phoenix appeared to forget how to play basketball with him on the floor last year, losing over 15 points per 100 possessions with him at the point. Knight himself ended the year with the league’s 10th worst plus/minus of -329. The Suns tried to trade Knight away for just a second round pick last year, but no one was willing to take that deal. At still only 25-years-old, a team may talk themselves into taking a flyer on Knight this season, but if not, he will become a very expensive bench player.
Portland Trail Blazers – Evan Turner: 3 Years, $53.4 million remaining
Much like Ryan Anderson or Chandler Parsons, Turner’s huge contract was a clear result of last summer’s chronic overspending. Turner had some bright moments for Portland last season, but he is making far too much money for a role player with his limitations.
With two ball-dominant guards in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the court the majority of the time, Turner is left with very little opportunity to be the ball-dominant player he needs to be. The flashes of brilliance he showed at Ohio State still appear now and again, but he is still a horrible value for the cap-strapped Trail Blazers.
Sacramento Kings – George Hill: 3 Years, $57 million remaining
Surprisingly, the Kings don’t have a clear bad contract on their books, so Hill gets chosen because of the bad value he may become. Hill is still a very good player and a good signing for a team starving for veteran leadership, but as the young backcourt behind him progresses, his contract could become a problem.
De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are the future backcourt of the Kings and they will hopefully become entrenched starters over the next two seasons. While Hill’s $20 million is acceptable now, if Fox becomes the star he appears ready to be, Hill will quickly become a very expensive backup.
San Antonio – Tony Parker: 1 Year, 15.5 million remaining
Some people might expect LaMarcus Aldridge to be here, but Parker’s $15.5 million for this season is roughly 3/4 of Aldridge’s salary and doesn’t come with the guaranteed production. To be clear, Parker deserves all the money that San Antonio can throw at him, but at 35 and coming off a devastating quad injury, he may not have anything left to give back.
The bittersweet news for Spurs fans is that this is the last year on a really bad deal, but it could potentially spell the end of a legendary, Hall-of-Fame career. In some situations, a team may look to trade an expiring contract like this, but San Antonio will never trade Parker and he will retire a Spur when the time comes.
Utah Jazz – Alec Burks: 2 Years, $22 million remaining
As the final player on this list, Burks was a once-promising prospect who fell almost completely out of Quin Snyder’s rotation. After averaging double-digit points in the three previous seasons, Burks now sits firmly behind Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, and likely even rookie Donovan Mitchell on the depth chart. Going forward, Burks is another potential trade target for teams looking for wing depth, and as Utah may look to offload salary.
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