As teams complete their roster moves and start to look forward to the 2017-18 NBA season, here are the worst contracts for every team in the East.
A few weeks ago I wrote an article outlining the worst contracts for every team in the Western Conference. This is a follow up that article with the worst contract for every team in the Eastern Conference, and how the deals might affect those teams and players going forward.
Atlanta Hawks – Kent Bazemore: 3 Years, $54.3 million remaining
The past 12 months have been rough for the Hawks. The entire starting five of the 60-win team from three years ago is gone and the team has slowly purged itself of nearly all of their veteran players. Atlanta signed Bazemore to his deal last summer when they still had hopes of competing in the playoffs, but now they are gunning for little more than a spot in the lottery.
There was hope Bazemore would take a big step forward after his payday, but he really remained the same player he’s always been. He still plays solid defense and provides moderate scoring, but he was often asked to do too much with the second unit, contributing to his net rating of -9 per 100 possessions. He has value as a sixth or seventh man on a good team, but when asked to contribute as a starter he has fallen short.
Boston Celtics – Al Horford: 3 Years, $86.8 million remaining
When Boston signed Horford last summer, they brought him in to lead a team a year or two away from competing. But now that their assets have started to kick in, Isaiah Thomas has become a star, and Gordon Hayward has come over from Utah, Boston’s endgame has arrived quicker than expected.
While he is still a very solid, well-rounded center today, as Horford ages and Boston’s younger assets improve, his nearly $30 million a season will only become more costly. As Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart hit free agency, his price tag could force the Celtics to make some tough decisions. It isn’t unrealistic to think that in a year or two he could be Boston’s fourth or fifth best player while getting paid like an All-Star.
Thearon W. Henderson - Getty Images
Brooklyn Nets – Timofey Mozgov: 3 Years, $48 million remaining
In the Lakers’ slot for the West’s version of this list, I mentioned Luol Deng only became the obvious choice once Mozgov was traded to Brooklyn; therefore, it only makes sense that Mozgov would be Brooklyn’s representative now.
While injuries and age have diminished Mozgov’s already limited value, he isn’t completely useless. He’s no longer a valuable rim-protector, but he’s a big body that can soak up some minutes for the Net’s shallow bench. Any positives Mozgov can bring is a bonus considering his salary dump brought D’Angelo Russell along with him, but there is no chance he lives up to his ludicrous contract.
Charlotte Hornets – Marvin Williams: 3 Years, $42.3 million remaining
Williams is still an okay player even at the age of 31, but his role will likely be diminished going forward for the Hornets. Though he can still reliably score and is an above average shooter for his position, he is a complete defensive liability and routinely gets exposed on that end of the court.
He would be a fascinating small-ball center if he could stay in front of anyone on defense, but he should be used more situationally over the next couple seasons. With players like Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky ahead of him on the depth chart, it is hard to see him living up to his $14 million a year price tag Charlotte owes him.
Chicago Bulls – Dwyane Wade: 1 Year, $23.8 million remaining
The future Hall-of-Famer opted into his player option this summer just days before the Bulls traded away Jimmy Butler and fully entered rebuilding mode. You almost feel bad for Wade wasting away on a lottery team, but then you remember he’s being paid nearly $24 million to play in his hometown. I’ll think he’ll be okay.
He gon cry in the car!!! https://t.co/CyRQVN1QCI— DWade (@DwyaneWade) August 1, 2017
Wade’s days of being the best player on even an average team are done, although he’ll still show the occasional flashes of the fantastic player he’s been for the past decade. The Bulls had to pay someone and an aging Wade isn’t a terrible choice. He will not be anywhere near a good value for the Bulls this season, but if he helps Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn improve as professionals, he will have earned at least part of his deal.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Tristan Thompson: 3 Years, $52.4 million remaining
Right now, in his current role, Thompson isn’t a good value for the Cavs but one they’re willing to pay. He’s not really worth $17 million, but he does all of the things Cleveland needs alongside LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. He’s averaged at least nine rebounds per game in four of the past five seasons and finishes about two-thirds of his shots in the paint.
While the deal is manageable now, in the event that Irving is traded and LeBron leaves next summer then those little things Thompson does instantly become less valuable. Dan Gilbert can accept paying a role player $17 million if the Cavs make the Finals, but if they’re in the lottery he will start having second thoughts.
Gregory Shamus - Getty Images
Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond: 4 Years, 105.1 million remaining
Drummond’s physical talent and rebounding skills are undeniable, but in today’s pace-and-space era, his strengths are becoming less valuable while his weakness more damaging. Drummond will out-rebound just about anyone and is one of the more athletic seven-footers in the league, but he can get run off the court by quicker big men.
His historically abysmal free-throw shooting makes him a liability at the end of games and he hasn’t shown the ability to lead a team beyond a first round playoff exit. His potential has translated into statistical achievements but nothing close to sustained team success. The Pistons gave him $100 million in the hopes he would develop into that franchise cornerstone, but at this point, the chances of that happening seem pretty slim.
Indiana Pacers – Thaddeus Young: 2 Years, $28.8 million remaining
Now that the Pacers have traded away Paul George and started rebuilding around Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo, many of the players they’ve signed over the past couple seasons have become bad deals. The good news for Indiana is that many of them are non-guaranteed beyond this season, but unfortunately, Young’s is not.
We know what we are getting from Young this far into his career. He’s an efficient scoring forward, a solid rebounder, and somewhat consistent three-point shooter, but he was far more valuable when the Pacers were actually trying to win games. As the Pacers rebuild it’s hard to see the value he brings to the franchise anymore. The good news is that with just two more seasons on his deal, it isn’t a long-term albatross and won’t devastate the Pacers going forward.
Miami Heat – James Johnson: 4 Years, $60 million remaining
Johnson’s breakthrough 2016-17 made him an extremely fun player on a team that finished the year as strong as just about anyone. He scored 12.8 points per game, shot a career-best 34% from three, and was always capable of exploding for dunks like this.
It seems positive so far, but in context, there are problems with his deal. In four years when the deal expires, Johson will be 34-years-old. Maybe he can improve upon this past season and become a reliable wing, but it seems more likely that he returns to his norms from his first seven seasons in the league. The Heat have over $100 million committed through 2019-20, and it seems likely that Johnson will hurt their flexibility over next few seasons.
Milwaukee Bucks – Matthew Dellavedova: 3 Years, $28.8 million remaining
I honestly had to do a double-take when I saw that Delly is entering just his fifth season in the league, but at this point, he may struggle to stay in it much longer. It seems that once he leaves Cleveland he returns to his human form, he doesn’t have much, if any, value in the league.
Last season, Delly was actively the worst player on a team filled with exciting, young talent. The Bucks had a net rating of -12 with him on the court, and he finished dead last in the entire league with a VORP of -1.4 last season. Delly’s deal didn’t look great when he signed it last summer, but with his horrendous play last season and the emergence of ROY Malcolm Brogdon, he very quickly has turned into an expensive bench player.
New York Knicks – Joakim Noah: 3 Years, $55.6 million remaining
It’s remarkable to think that even with the Knicks signing Tim Hardaway Jr. to the worst deal of the summer, he isn’t even the worst contract on their team. In the 46 games Noah appeared in when he wasn’t injured or suspended, he actually committed more fouls than made baskets and looked like a shell of the elite defensive player he once was. I imagine Noah’s look at this shot is pretty similar to Knicks fans’ reactions when they think of having to pay him for three more seasons.
SCREAMING at this Joakim Noah airball FT and his reaction pic.twitter.com/8Tjpxcu10L— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 24, 2017
Orlando Magic – Bismack Biyombo: 3 Years, $51 million remaining
Biyombo will be the co-highest paid player on the Magic this season, but it is hard to envision him as more than a role player. He can provide energy off the bench, but at 6’9” he consistently gets pushed around by stronger centers. With much more promising forwards in Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac on the roster, Biyombo should really only see small bursts of play time this season and beyond.
Philadelphia 76ers – Jerry Bayless: 2 Years, $17.6 million remaining
The Sixers are one of the few teams in the East without a noticeably bad contract on their books. While both JJ Redick and Amir Johnson were both overpaid this summer, the money had to go somewhere and they aren’t bad options. The remainder of the team is on their rookie deal or minimum contracts, leaving the slightly overpaid Bayless as the highest paid player going into next season. Viewing Bayless as a backup and mentor to Markelle Fultz helps excuse the $9 million, but he’s still the closest thing to a bad deal for the Sixers.
Matt Ellentuck - Getty Images
Toronto Raptors – Serge Ibaka: 3 Years, $65 million remaining
With Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan already locked up for three more seasons, Toronto was in a tough position with Ibaka. They need as much talent on board as possible to compete with the likes of Cleveland and Boston, and had they let Ibaka walk they wouldn’t have had cap room to sign anyone of note to replace him.
While Ibaka can still show glimpses of the athletic monster he was in Oklahoma City, a career full of wear and tear has taken its toll. He blocked fewer shots and completed the fewest dunks per game since he was a rookie, and likely will only lose more athleticism going forward. A price of $21 million a year is rough to pay Ibaka now, but if he continues to decline and Toronto falls back in the East, this could quickly become one of the worst deals in the league.
Washington Wizards – Ian Mahinmi: 3 Years, $48 million remaining
Mahinmi is yet another inexplicable overpay from the summer of 2016. The Wizards needed big men, but giving Mahinmi $16 million a year was a ridiculous solution as soon as it was announced. He was plagued by injuries last season, but even when he was on the court we saw exactly what we expected. He is a solid rebounder and rim-protector, but as long as he’s on the court you are playing four-on-five offensively. Already at the age of 30, this horrible contract will only get worse going forward for the cap-strapped Wizards.
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