Every Sunday, HOOPSWORLD’s analysts weigh in on an NBA-related topic. Get in on the debate by leaving your thoughts in a comment. Here’s this week’s Sunday Topic.
Over the years, NBA teams have handed out some terrible contracts. Vin Baker inked a seven-year, $86 million deal with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1999 and then promptly disappeared. Raef LaFrentz signed a seven-year, $70 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks in 2002 and the team had buyer’s remorse almost immediately. In 2005, Jerome James signed a five-year, $30 million deal with the New York Knicks and then did little more than warm the bench and count his money.
More recently, Rashard Lewis signed a six-year, $118 million deal with the Orlando Magic and Gilbert Arenas signed a six-year, $111 million deal with the Washington Wizards. Lewis and Arenas were considered untradeable after inking these deals, until they were swapped for one another in December of 2010. Ugly contracts like these are why the last two collective bargaining agreements have included amnesty clauses, a one-time provision that allows executives to admit a mistake and dump a contract.
However, there are still some pretty bad contracts around the league, which brings us to today’s topic:
“Who has the worst contract in the NBA?”
“Andris Biedrins. In the new collective bargaining agreement, the NBA gave each team an escape clause to jettison a bad contract. The Golden State Warriors decided to use this one-time tool to get rid of Charlie Bell, save a few million dollars and make a run at DeAndre Jordan in free agency.
Of course, Golden State could have opened up even more room had they amnestied Biedrins, a 26-year-old center who’s getting paid $9 million a season even though his game has all but disappeared.
Andrew Bogut and rookie Festus Ezeli will get minutes this season before Biedrins, who is still owed $18 million over the next two years. There are plenty of overpaid players in the NBA, that’s nothing new, but most can at least contribute. Some have even been All-Stars before declining and being labeled overpaid. Biedrins averaged 1.7 points and 3.8 rebounds as a starter, playing 15.7 minutes per game. He shot 11.1 percent from the free throw line last season.
What’s insane is not just Biedrins’ contract, which is a burden on the Warriors’ payroll (which is now slightly over the luxury tax), but that they could and should have golden parachuted him via amnesty.
It remains one of the most puzzling non-moves in recent NBA history.” – Eric Pincus
“Joe Johnson. The easy answer here is also one that absolutely cannot be overlooked. Simply put, the contract that Johnson signed with the Atlanta Hawks in 2010, a six-year pact worth $119 million, signified the beginning of the end of his tenure with the team.
Johnson is a great player, one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, but he had also already shown the team that he was a second-round player at best. He wasn’t going to take the Hawks further than the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
It was only a matter of time before the Hawks, who struggle to sell tickets, had to unload that contract.
Johnson’s payday will not be as big a deal in Brooklyn, where the Nets have been spending without regard to salary cap or luxury tax. It’s just the cost of keeping up with the Joneses, or in this case the Dolans.
Perhaps with the expensive pool of talent around him, Johnson can become a Conference Finals player, which might serve to further obscure the discussion of his contract.” – Bill Ingram
“Ben Gordon. During the summer of 2009, the Detroit Pistons quickly – and perhaps desperately – snatched up two of the top ranked players off the free agency board. Over the course of 24 hours, the Pistons dumped nearly $100 million in salary to snag the rights to Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.
No doubt the Pistons wish that they could turn back time and pass on those two underachieving additions.
Looking at Gordon’s salary for the 2012-13 season, the eight-year NBA veteran is set to make $12.4 million. In comparison, just last season in Detroit, Gordon averaged 12.5 points per game for the 25-41 Pistons before being traded to the Charlotte Bobcats this summer. So, if Gordon’s scoring average holds steady over the course of next season, Charlotte will be paying Gordon roughly $1 million per point scored a contest.
At 29 years old, Gordon has just one season left on his contract after this year but, unfortunately for the Bobcats, it’s a player option at $13.2 million that he almost assuredly will opt into. Gordon is no doubt a solid NBA vet, but the paycheck he collects every other week during the NBA season far out grosses his worth on the court.” – Derek Page
“Carlos Boozer. Admittedly, Boozer probably isn’t the worst contract in the NBA because, despite declining numbers, he’s still a relatively productive player for the Chicago Bulls. Considering Boozer’s body of work in Cleveland and Utah, averaging 15 points and 8.5 rebounds is not particularly good, and considering those numbers are costing the Bulls over $15 million a season the next three years, it’s not difficult to imagine ways in which that money could be better spent. But those are still semi-respectable numbers for a starting power forward, and unlike some other bad contracts in the league, Boozer is producing.
That said, Boozer was paid a hefty sum in the summer of 2010 to supplement Derrick Rose because LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire were not particularly interested in coming to Chicago, and thus far Boozer has not lived up to his expectations. He shoots poorly, is a turnstile defensively and is outplayed most nights by his backup, the considerably less expensive Taj Gibson.
With Rose sidelined for a large chunk of the season, the Bulls are forced to pay some luxury tax for the first time ever, and Boozer’s deal is one of the major reasons behind that. On the bright side, Boozer is one of the few players left eligible to be cut via amnesty, but thus far the Bulls have opted to pay him to play for Chicago rather than somebody else. They’d love to kiss him goodbye, but for now, they’re stuck. This wouldn’t be half as bad if the Bulls had learned their lesson in signing an over-the-hill frontcourt player before (Ben Wallace). Now, it’s deja vu all over again.” – Joel Brigham
“Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu never lived up to the five-year, $53 million contract he signed as a free agent with the Toronto Raptors in 2009. The deal wasn’t completely outlandish at the time as Turkoglu was coming off a very successful stint in Orlando. One could say his late-game contributions were instrumental in the Magic flying through playoff rounds en route to a Finals appearance in 2008-09. In those last two years in Orlando, he averaged 18.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the regular season and 16.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists in both postseason years.
Obviously, things didn’t work out so well in Toronto. There was plenty of finger-pointing from both sides, but the bottom line is this: in retrospect, that was a lot of money to spend on a player who averaged just 11.3 points per game and failed to take the Raptors to the playoffs. The Phoenix Suns elected to acquire Turkoglu via trade in 2010 despite the significant dollars and years left on his contract. That union didn’t work out either (9.5 points per game). After 25 games, Turkoglu landed back with Orlando where he’s been since mid-2011. Unable to recapture that once-held offensive magic, he averaged 10.9 points last season plus a three-point percentage (.353) and rebounding rate (3.8) lower than we’ve seen in years.
From the moment the Raptors contract was signed through the end of last season, the decrease in his production across the board has been measurably steep. “Mr. Fourth Quarter” was a short-lived nickname.
Now entering the third year of his contract, Turkoglu, who turns 34 in March, is owed roughly $11.8 million this season (highest-paid on the team) and $12 million in 2013-14 (of which $6 million is guaranteed). The Magic found no takers for his contract during the Dwight Howard trade talks. Turkoglu’s contract pays him more in 2012-13 than Tim Duncan, Joakim Noah and Kevin Garnett will earn. Digest that.” – Susan Bible
“Amar’e Stoudemire. For the first half of the first season of Stoudemire’s $100 million contract with the New York Knicks, it appeared he would be worth every penny. Over the first 50 games of the 2010-11 campaign, Stoudemire was a legit MVP candidate, averaging 26.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.
Unfortunately, that seems like a lifetime ago, as injuries have reduced Stoudemire to second-fiddle status.
The principal ailment last season was a bad back, which eviscerated Stoudemire’s explosiveness on the offensive end and turned an average-at-best defender into a liability on defense. After rehabbing his back all summer, Stoudemire’s latest issue is a knee injury that is threatening to sideline him for at least the first few weeks of the upcoming regular season. He’s currently in Phoenix looking for a second opinion on the severity of his injury.
The major issue for the Knicks isn’t necessarily the points or rebounds they’ll have to find elsewhere with Stoudemire sidelined. Instead, it’s $64.9 million. That’s the total amount of guaranteed money Stoudemire is owed over the next three seasons. With just three players (Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Stoudemire) set to account for a combined $53 million in 2012-13 – and a combined $57.2 million the following season – New York’s salary concerns are glaringly apparent. It’s not that you can’t have two or three superstars clogging your cap, you just have to make sure those superstars are terrific two-way players, who can stay healthy.
The reason the Phoenix Suns declined to offer five years and $100 million guaranteed was because they were worried Stoudemire’s body wouldn’t be able to hold up. Unfortunately, it looks like the Knicks’ gamble may be exceedingly costly on the backend of Stoudemire’s deal. “ – Tommy Beer
“Tyrus Thomas. Many of the players mentioned were significant contributors at one point, but then fell off. Even Andris Biedrins averaged a double-double for a season, putting up 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds during the 2008-09 campaign. Thomas, on the other hand, hasn’t done much for the Charlotte Bobcats since signing a five-year, $40 million deal two years ago.
Last season, Thomas had the second-highest salary on the Bobcats while averaging just 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He was incredibly inefficient and regressed significantly. When Charlotte signed Thomas to that long-term deal in 2010, they were banking on his potential. They were hoping he would develop into a franchise cornerstone. Instead, he has been sidelined by a number of injuries and, when he has been on the court, he’s gotten worse each year.
The Bobcats are better when he’s not on the court due to his poor decision making and tendency to settle for jumpers – and miss almost all of them. Last season, Thomas’ Player Efficiency Rating was 9.06, which ranks twelfth on the Bobcats. That’s right. On the worst team in NBA history, there were 11 players who were more productive than Thomas.
Keeping that in mind, remember that Thomas is owed more than $26 million over the next three years.
If Thomas’ poor play wasn’t enough to scare teams off, Thomas has killed any remaining trade value he had left with off-court issues. He had a physical confrontation with former Bobcats head coach Paul Silas. He has also developed a reputation for being lazy and for having a bad attitude, which is apparently why the Chicago Bulls were willing to part ways with him earlier in his career. When the Bobcats were shopping the second overall pick in this year’s draft, they tried to package the selection with Thomas. They couldn’t find any takers.
The Bobcats will likely have to use the amnesty clause on Thomas, especially if he continues to regress and cause problems in the locker room. Charlotte is hoping that new head coach Mike Dunlap can help get Thomas back on the right track, but it remains to be seen how the 26-year-old will respond to the disciplinarian. If Thomas’ contract isn’t the worst in the NBA, it’s certainly up there.” – Alex Kennedy