15 NBA Players Who Must Turn It Around to Live Up to Contract

Roy Burton@thebslineContributor IJuly 25, 2012

15 NBA Players Who Must Turn It Around to Live Up to Contract

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    To the surprise of absolutely no one, the NBA is littered with those who haven't quite lived up to the terms of their contract, much to the chagrin of their employers.

    In most cases, it has little to do with their actions off of the court. Simply put, a number of players who cashed in over the past few summers have yet to even remotely approach the numbers that got them the lucrative deal in the first place.

    So while general managers around the NBA hope that their recent signees don't eventually wind up on this list, here's a look at 15 players who need to turn it around soon if they hope to live up to their respective contracts.

15) Kendrick Perkins, Thunder

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    While Kendrick Perkins is the starting center for the Western Conference champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder, he isn't the same imposing figure that patrolled the middle for the Boston Celtics two seasons ago.

    His $8 million-per-year salary is a large sum of money committed to a player who is really only suited to do the dirty work on the low blocks. And with Perkins earning more than $25 million over the next three seasons (after averaging just 5.1 PPG in 2011-12), he'll make it that much more difficult for the Thunder to re-sign both James Harden and Serge Ibaka once they become free agents next summer.

14) Shawn Marion, Mavericks

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    Age catches up to all of us at some point, and that point is now for the man that they used to call "The Matrix."

    Shawn Marion's 10.6 PPG scoring average in 2011-12 was the lowest since his rookie season, and the 34-year-old simply doesn't have the otherworldly explosion that he showed during his younger days with the Phoenix Suns.

    Two years and $18 million isn't a bitter pill for the Mavericks to swallow, but as Marion is the second-highest paid player on the team, Dallas would love to see him return to the form that he had five seasons ago.

13) Kevin Martin, Rockets

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    If Kevin Martin was an efficient scorer, then the $12.9 million due to him this season would be somewhat justifiable. However, the 6'7" guard is purely a one-dimensional talent who hasn't shot 44 percent or better from the field since 2007-08.

    It will be near impossible for Martin to land a deal remotely close to the five-year, $55 million contract that he's currently finishing up. That said, players typically go all out when free agency is on the horizon, so if Martin can boost his scoring average by four or five points per game, he may be able to cash in again next summer.

12) Trevor Ariza, Wizards

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    The remainder of Trevor Ariza's deal isn't an albatross (two years, $15 million), but his production over the past few seasons hasn't been commensurate with his salary.

    Ariza shot 41.7 percent from the field last season: a disappointing number until you consider the fact that it was the first time that he finished better than 40 percent from the floor since he originally signed his $33 million deal back in 2009.

    Now that he's with the Wizards, Ariza will be joining his third team in four seasons—a sobering fact for a player who was one of the hottest names on the free agent market just three years ago.

11) Marvin Williams, Jazz

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    Marvin Williams has had a decent NBA career, but for a player who was drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft, "decent" is not good enough.

    Williams does a lot of things well, which is why the Atlanta Hawks signed him to a five-year, $37 million deal back in 2009. However, since he agreed to that extension, his production has fallen off quite a bit (although he has become a better three-point shooter).

    With his recent trade to Utah, Williams now has the chance to assert himself offensively on a Jazz team that likes to push the tempo on offense (99.7 PPG last season, fourth in the NBA). If Williams can finally live up to the potential that he showed during his one season at North Carolina, he could be in line for a hefty pay raise.

10) Tyrus Thomas, Bobcats

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    With all due respect, Tyrus Thomas was able to parlay one decent run in the NCAA tournament and a healthy dose of ridiculous athleticism into a five-year, $40 million deal back in 2010.

    Thomas has been nothing short of underwhelming during his six years in the NBA. He shot an embarrassingly low 36.7 percent from the floor last year, and was the 10th-leading scorer on a Charlotte Bobcats team that won a grand total of seven games.

    Even though he's one of the most athletically gifted players in the entire league, Thomas is quickly running out of time to prove that he deserves a spot on an NBA roster.

9) Hedo Turkoglu, Magic

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    Three seasons ago, Hedo Turkoglu was a key component in the Orlando Magic's journey to the NBA Finals. These days, the 6'10" forward is no longer the automatic threat that he once was from long range.

    The ongoing Dwight Howard saga probably affected his performance to some degree, but Turkoglu shot only 41.5 percent from the field last year, and turned the ball over at an alarming rate (20.6 turnovers per 100 plays). And with Orlando having already used the amnesty clause on Gilbert Arenas, the team is on the hook for the two years and $23.6 million left on Turkoglu's deal.

8) Charlie Villanueva, Pistons

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    With a boatload of money to spend in the 2009 offseason, the Detroit Pistons decided to go out and sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Upon further review, it appears as though the Pistons went 0-for-2 that summer.

    In Detroit, Villanueva has been nothing like the promising young star that he was in Milwaukee. An ankle injury limited him to 13 games last season, but even when Villanueva was in the lineup, he was far from effective (he shot 38.5 percent from the field last season).

    While many thought Villanueva would be the perfect candidate for the amnesty clause, the Pistons are intent on seeing whether or not the 6'11" forward can turn his career around. 

7) Richard Jefferson, Warriors

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    Richard Jefferson's scoring average has steadily decreased over the past four seasons, yet the 32-year-old veteran still has $21 million due to him over the next two years.

    Jefferson was highly productive during his one season in Milwaukee in 2008-09 (19.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 39.7 percent from three-point range) and was paid accordingly ($13.2 million). Once he was traded to San Antonio that offseason however, he became a markedly different player, deferring to his teammates more than he had in the past.

    With so much firepower in front of him at Golden State, there's little chance of Jefferson becoming a 15-points-per-game scorer once again. The Richard Jefferson that we see now is light-years removed from the man who was a member of the 2004 U.S. Men's Olympic Team.

6) Andris Biedrins, Warriors

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    The agent who helped Andris Biedrins land a six-year, $62 million contract with Golden State in the summer of 2008 should be commended for pulling off one of the greatest heists in history.

    That wasn't the case initially, however. Biedrins had a fabulous 2008-09 campaign in which he averaged 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. But after a spate of injuries over the past three seasons, the 6'11" center is now just a shell of his former self.

    Biedrins averaged a paltry 1.7 points per game last season, even though he started 35 games for the Warriors. It doesn't appear as though Biedrins will ever live up to his hefty deal, but Golden State chose not to use the amnesty clause on him despite multiple opportunities to do so.

5) Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks

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    Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony don't play well together: no less of an authority than Phil Jackson says so. And while Stoudemire was a man on fire before Melo's arrival, he's been highly disappointing since the two linked up in the Big Apple.

    Last season was the first time that Stoudemire didn't average 20 points per game since he underwent microfracture surgery back in 2005. And while Jason Kidd should make things easier for the 6'10" Stoudemire, he's no longer the 25-and-10 threat that he was earlier in his career.

4) Joe Johnson, Nets

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    Any NBA player who will make $89.4 million over the next four seasons should be one of league's top-10 talents. But Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson is no better than the fourth-best NBA player in New York City.

    It isn't Johnson's fault that the Atlanta Hawks signed him to a max contract, but he has to deal with the burden of being one of the league's highest-paid players while averaging less than 20 points per game.

    With an All-Star caliber point guard (Deron Williams), a versatile running mate on the wing (Gerald Wallace) and two pretty decent players in the low post (Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez), Johnson no longer has the burden of having to do everything for his team. And while it will always be hard to justify paying him more than $22 million per year, Johnson has the opportunity to make that contract a little more palatable this season.

3) DeAndre Jordan, Clippers

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    In December, the Los Angeles Clippers matched the four-year, $43 million offer sheet that DeAndre Jordan signed with the Golden State Warriors.

    If $10 million per year for the Clippers 6'11" center seems like a reasonable deal, then consider this stat: in his entire NBA career, Jordan has made a total of twelve shots from outside of nine feet. 

    While Jordan is an efficient scorer who is one of the best shot-blockers in the league, giving that much money to a one-dimensional player is not a sustainable strategy for success. However, if Jordan can refine his offensive game, then that $43 million contract that he signed could soon look like a bargain.

2) Ben Gordon, Bobcats

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    The fact that Detroit was able to trade Ben Gordon and the $25.6 million left on his contract to the Charlotte Bobcats means that every deal in the NBA can be moved.

    Gordon's three-year stint in the Motor City was disappointing: not only did he fail to crack the starting lineup on a consistent basis, but he failed to average 14 points per game for a Pistons team that was (and is) in dire need of a scorer. Perhaps the change of scenery will be good for Gordon, but it looks as though he's already signed the last big money deal of his career.

1) Carlos Boozer, Bulls

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    When evaluated in a vacuum, Carlos Boozer isn't a terrible player (15.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG). Professional basketball is not played in a vacuum, however, and the mildly-athletic Boozer is a below-average defender when compared to his peers.

    On defense, Boozer allowed 0.89 points per possession last season (302nd in the NBA) as opposing bigs frequently had their way with him in the paint. If Boozer could regain the consistency on defense that he showed in both Cleveland and Utah, his $15 million-plus contract wouldn't be much of an issue.