30 of the worst deals in professional basketball
The NBA is one of the most fun, entertaining, and thrilling professional sports endeavors on the planet. Above all else, however, the association is a business — one governed by a salary cap and strict financial rules.
Every roster decision matters in basketball. When a front office makes a mistake, particularly on a big name player commanding a huge salary, the effects can be felt for years to come.
So here is every NBA team's current worst contract, ranked from the acceptable to those that will sink their respective franchises. Enjoy.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry, PG
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $12.1 million
Of course, there's nothing intrinsically bad about Curry's deal — except the fact that it's expiring.
Curry's contract was the best in the league, since he initially signed a four-year, $44-million deal when there were still concerns about his ankle injuries. Now, the Warriors are going to have to cough up a max deal. They can afford it, but paying the MVP will mean drastic changes for Golden State's salary cap situation.
Other than that, the Warriors don't have a bad deal on the books.
Atlanta Hawks: Dennis Schroder, PG
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $2.7 million; '17-18 — $15.5 million; '18-19 — $15.5 million; '19-20 — $15.5 million; '20-21 — $15.5 million
You might be surprised to learn the NBA has become significantly smarter over the past few years. A number of teams have made sound decisions with their rosters, which is kind of inspiring.
Count Atlanta among those squads, although Schroder probably won't be able to outperform his new extension, meaning the Hawks don't have much room for excess value on the deal.
John GeliebterUSA TODAY Sports
Brooklyn Nets: Brook Lopez, C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $21.2 million; '17-18 — $22.6 million
Someone free Brook Lopez before he has to spend two more years on a team looking toward the future. Please?
USA TODAY SportsHoward Smith
Charlotte Hornets, Marvin Williams, F
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $12.3 million; '17-18 — $13.2 million; '18-19 — $14.1 million; '19-20 — $15.0 million (player option)
Another team without any significantly onerous deals, the Hornets did pay a tidy sum for Williams' services. He's a versatile player to have, though, so I don't particularly mind this deal in context.
Jeremy BrevardUSA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics: Tyler Zeller, PF
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $8.0 million; '17-18 — $8.0 million
The Celtics are square in that group of teams that don't really have any bad contracts, so we have to pick on poor Tyler Zeller here. He's a solid big man making a solid wage. There's not much else to say.
Robert MayerUSA TODAY Sports
Utah Jazz: George Hill, PG
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $8.0 million
The Jazz have zero bad contracts on the books, other than maybe Alec Burks' three remaining years, so all we can do is criticize the Jazz for acquiring Hill without an extension. Given that he's due for a big raise, though, even that criticism comes up empty.
Denver Nuggets: Kenneth Faried, PF
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $12.1 million; '17-18 — $13.0 million; '18-19 — $13.8 million
There aren't a lot of options in Denver, as Faried is one of only two Nuggets players with contracts beyond next season. His current deal is right about what you'd pay a rebounding big man who thrives on motor and outsmarting his opponents. It's the next one that could be a problem.
USA TODAY SportBrace Hemmelgarn
San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $20.6 million; '17-18 — $21.5 million; '18-19 — $22.3 million (player option)
The Spurs don't do bad contracts, of course, but Aldridge continues to feel like an odd fit in San Antonio. I'd be surprised if the Spurs try to keep him once his current deal expires — and that's as close to a mistake as this team will get.
Sacramento Kings, Rudy Gay, F
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $13.3 million; '17-18 — $14.3 million (player option)
Arron Afflalo is also in the running in Sacramento, but I just can't abide Gay's game. The Kings will be fortunate to see him decline his option and test free agency next season.
Oh, who am I kidding? Vivek and Vlade are going to re-sign Gay to some ridiculous deal, aren't they?
USA TODAY SportsKelley L Cox
Memphis Grizzlies: Chandler Parsons, SF
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $22.1 million; '17-18 — $23.1 million; '18-19 — $24.1 million; '19-20 — $25.1 million
This is a “bad” contract insomuch as there's a significant amount of risk with a lot of money on the line. The Grizzlies have to hope Parsons stays healthy and becomes part of the team's core.
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, SG
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $22.1 million; '17-18 — $23.8 million; '18-19 — $25.4 million; '19-20 — $27.1 million; '20-21 — $28.8 million
Like Parsons and the Grizzlies, injuries are the concern for Beal (left) and the Wizards. This deal looks fine for now, and there's some upside for the 23-year-old. But if he doesn't develop into one of the game's elite wing players, the Wizards are in trouble given the length of the deal and the hefty raises from year to year.
Houston Rockets: Ryan Anderson, PF
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $18.7 million; '17-18 — $19.6 million; '18-19 — $20.4 million; '19-20 — $21.3 million
I love Anderson and his skill set, but this is just too much money to pay a tall man who shoots 3s and doesn't do much else. Still, get that money, Ryno. I'm all for players getting paid as much and as often as possible.
The Associated Press.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Nikola Pekovic, C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $12.1 million; '17-18 — $11.6 million
Realistically, Pek probably should be higher (lower?) on this list. His foot injuries makes his contract essentially worthless, although the Wolves do save some money thanks to insurance.
I just can't bring myself to pile on the big guy. He already has enough going on.
USA TODAY SportsSam Sharpe
Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan, SG
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $26.5 million; '17-18 — $27.7 million; '18-19 — $27.7 million; '19-20 — $27.7 million; '20-21 — $27.7 million (player option)
Paying Kobe Bryant money to a guy who believes he's Kobe Bryant but is actually more like Derek Anderson (check the similarity scores) strikes me as a bad idea.
DeRozan's been scorching to start the year, though, averaging 33.8 points per game headed into Wednesday night. Maybe I'm wrong on this one (but I doubt it).
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Indiana Pacers: Al Jefferson, C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $10.2 million; '17-18 — $9.8 million; '18-19 — $10.0 million
It's not the annual salary with Jefferson, which is more than reasonable. It's the length of the contract. I just don't know if he has a role in the league two years from now.
USA TODAY SporTrevor Ruszkowski
Oklahoma City Thunder: Enes Kanter, PF/C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $17.1 million; '17-18 — $17.9 million; '18-19 — $18.6 million (player option)
Kanter is literally a big part of the Thunder's current rotation, but he's being paid starter's money to come off the bench. While the salary cap continues to increase, Oklahoma City knows better than any team that every dollar matters when you're trying to keep your stars.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Sport
Philadelphia 76ers: Bryan Colangelo, GM
Remaining contract: N/A
The Sixers haven't invested enough salary in any of their players to have an egregious player contract. Instead, this one goes out to all those people who trusted in The Process and are watching Joel Embiid grow into one of the most promising young players in the game. Bring back Sam Hinkie!
Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier, G/F
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $17.0 million; '17-18 — $17.0 million; '18-19 — $17.0 million; '19-20 — $17.0 million; '20-21 — $17.0 million
The Magic paid Fournier for a career season in 2015-16, yet there's no real indication he can be the go-to scorer on a playoff team. The best-case scenario here is Orlando manages to add a star either through the draft or free agency, allowing Fournier to slide into a lesser role on offense.
Getty ImagesRob Foldy
Milwaukee Bucks: Greg Monroe, PF/C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $17.1 million; '17-18 — $17.9 million (player option)
The Monroe deal in Milwaukee will go down as one of the biggest misses in the past 10 years of NBA free agency. On the bright side, it's almost over.
Gary DineenNBAE via Getty Image
Phoenix Suns: Tyson Chandler, C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $12.4 million; '17-18 — $13.0 million; '18-19 — $13.6 million
Chandler's presence was supposed to help lure LaMarcus Aldridge to the valley of the sun. At least the Suns big man is an active part of the community. That's one saving grace, I guess.
USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Miami Heat: Goran Dragic, PG
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $15.9 million; '17-18 — $17.0 million; '18-19 — $18.1 million; '19-20 — $19.2 million (player option)
Unlike some of the guys on this list, Dragic is a fine, All-Star-caliber player. He doesn't want to be in Miami, though, and he cost the Heat valuable draft picks when they first traded for him. The downside to this contract is the potential for drama.
Los Angeles Clippers: Austin Rivers, PG
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $11.0 million; '17-18 — $11.8 million; '18-19 — $12.7 million (player option)
Never doubt the fiscal power of nepotism.
Cleveland Cavaliers: J.R. Smith, SG
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $12.8 million; '17-18 — $13.8 million; '18-19 — $14.7 million; '19-20 — $15.7 million
I get that LeBron loves Earl Smith III. I get that Swish is a big part of Cleveland's chemistry. I get that he matters.
This is just a lot of money to pay a mercurial 31-year-old whom you probably could replace sooner than later. That's all I'm saying.
Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond, C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $22.1 million; '17-18 — $23.8 million; '18-19 — $25.4 million; '19-20 — $27.1 million; '20-21 — $28.8 million (player option)
Drummond better become one of the NBA's very best big men, or Detroit is going to have a catastrophic financial situation on its hands.
Los Angeles Lakers: Timofey Mozgov, C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $16.0 million; '17-18 — $15.3 million; '18-19 — $16.0 million; '19-20 — $16.7 million
I still firmly believe that Mozgov is the best player on the Lakers this year, taking potential and everything else out of the equation. With that said, there's no way I'd want to pay the man $64 million over four seasons. That's crazy talk, Los Angeles.
Getty ImagesHarry How
Portland Trail Blazers: Evan Turner, SG
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $16.4 million; '17-18 — $17.1 million; '18-19 — $17.9 million; '19-20 — $18.6 million
Turner's a tertiary option on a good team, so why are the Blazers paying him like a potential All-Star?
New Orleans Pelicans: Omer Asik, C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $9.9 million; '17-18 — $10.6 million; '18-19 — $11.3 million; '19-20 — $12.0 million
The Pelicans can take some solace in the recent astronomical increases in the salary cap, which make Asik's contract look slightly better than it actually is. In terms of cost per unit of production, it's tough to top this one.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNoah Graham
Chicago Bulls: Dwyane Wade, SG
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $23.2 million; '17-18 — $23.8 million (player option)
If Wade can guide the Bulls back to the postseason, maybe you can make an argument that this contract works out from a strict capital investment perspective. More than any deal on this list, though, Wade's big payday from Chicago represents a team's decision to throw good money after bad.
The Bulls needed to start their rebuild. Instead, they threw millions at an over-the-hill All-Star and hoped for the best.
Dallas Mavericks: Harrison Barnes, F
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $22.1 million; '17-18 — $23.1 million; '18-19 — $24.1 million; '19-20 — $25.1 million (player option)
You won't fool me with a handful of 30-point games, Mr. Barnes. Someone has to score points for the Mavericks with Dirk Nowitzki battling injuries, and you're as good a candidate as anyone. In high-leverage situations, however, counting on Barnes is asking for defeat, no matter what the early results might say.
USA TODAY SportsJerome Miron
New York Knicks: Joakim Noah, C
Remaining contract: 2016-17 — $17.0 million; '17-18 — $17.8 million; '18-19 — $18.5 million; '19-20 — $19.3 million
The odds of Noah playing out the remainder of this contract are about as good as the chances that I could win an election for President of the United States. Noah might not even make it through next season, yet the Knicks still would be on the hook for nearly $40 million after that.
Honestly, the best thing I can say about the NBA's worst contract is that at least it wasn't handed out by Isiah Thomas.
Getty ImagesGetty Images