NBA Untouchables: The 15 Most Untradeable Contracts in the League
Money management is an often overlooked skill in the NBA. Every team plays by the same rules and we have all seen what proper and improper management can do to teams.
In recent years some teams that have spent a lot have proven themselves as winners, such as the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Other franchises have far overspent other teams only to find themselves in mediocrity, such as the New York Knicks.
One of the biggest challenges for teams is not only over-paying a player for his performance, but also having an overbearing contract that makes it near impossible to trade him away.
Some players this season are grossly overpaid but are in the last year of their contracts, making them valuable in trades for teams that want to clear salary space. In this way, teams can have extra room to sign top free agents next summer.
Some of the players that fall into this category include Andrei Kirilenko, Yao Ming, Peja Stojakovic, Kenyon Martin, and Jason Richardson.
But then there are other players who have more than one year left on their contacts and have become sort of a thorn in the side of NBA GMs.
This article breaks down the 15 most untradeable contracts in the league.
As always, your comments are appreciated. Feel free to state whether you agree with the choices or if any player was excluded that should have been on this list.
Contract: Three years, $41.7 million
Baron Davis is having a terrible year so far. Reminiscent of recent underachieving years, Davis is only averaging 8.8 points per game and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 32 percent from the field.
He has only played in four games thus far due to a knee injury and he is not due back until after Thanksgiving. Yet, he has been outplayed by backup guard Eric Bledsoe.
En route to a team 1-10 record, all four of the games Davis has played in have been losses.
No matter how one looks at this situation, there is no way one can justify paying Davis nearly $14 million annually for the next three years.
Contract: Three years, $63.4 million (third year non-guaranteed)
The Orlando Magic may have the best record right now in the Southeast Division, but that is about the only thing that is going right for Rashard Lewis.
Through 10 games, Lewis has averaged only 10.3 points per game and shot 36 percent. Never known for being a playmaker or superior defender, Lewis needs to score efficiently to even attempt to justify his contract.
At over $20 million per season, even a non-guaranteed third year (which the Magic will certainly not uphold) cannot make his contract attractive as trade bait.
Any player that is paid $20 million a season should be playing like an MVP candidate. Unfortunately for Orlando fans, Lewis’ play merely resembles that of a bench player.
Contract: Five years, $30.3 million
Amir Johnson is actually not having that bad of a season. In 19.3 minutes per game with the Toronto Raptors, Johnson is averaging 8.8 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 63 percent.
However, Amir has never proved to be a player that is going to be a force in this league. Over his career, he has played a few games as a starter but never performed well enough to keep that rotational spot.
Now in his sixth season, Amir Johnson has averaged just 4.9 points per game in 15.3 minutes per game throughout his career. In addition, he is prone to picking up fouls that make it unlikely that he can consistently average more than 30 minutes per contest.
While most NBA players that make his salary are usually top bench players or can make the starting lineup, Johnson has yet to show he can play any of those roles.
Contract: Three years, $31.8 million
Hedo Turkoglu is getting paid to be a third-option type of player. Unfortunately for the Phoenix Suns, he is the fifth leading scorer on the team at 10.3 points per game in just 26.7 minutes per game.
His shooting percentages are respectable this year, as Hedo is making 47 percent of his three-point attempts and 85 percent of his free throws.
But there is a reason why Toronto wanted to get rid of Turkoglu last year. With Hedo turning 32 this season, it seems unlikely that he will become that leading figure that the Raptors hoped for last season.
Contract: Three years, $51.2 million
Elton Brand is a player who seems to be having a decent season with averages of 16.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, and 54-percent field-goal shooting.
Then when one considers he has three years left on his contract that will average $17 million per season, this seems steep for a player past his prime who will be 34 years old when he gets paid the most.
Some players have been great at willing their teams to victory. Yet, Elton Brand has never been one of those players.
Not surprisingly, the Philadelphia 76ers have just two wins so far this season.
Contract: Six years, $52.3 million
Throughout recent history, the Dallas Mavericks have made it a habit of overpaying for centers. Typically the weakest position on the team, owner Mark Cuban thinks it is somehow necessary to overcompensate by paying a lot to get just average centers.
Brendan Haywood is not necessarily an ineffective player, but he is far from being worth his salary. This season through eight games Haywood is averaging 3.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 0 assists per game.
Yes, you read that stat line correctly. With all the scoring options on his team (Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, and Jason Kidd), Brendan Haywood has yet to hand out even one assist.
If he was averaging 30 points per game on 80-percent shooting, then maybe I could understand.
But does anyone think that 3.4 points per game is worth $6.9 million this season?
Contract: Three years, $16.7 million
The Los Angeles Lakers may be the two-time defending champions, but the team is not without its personnel issues.
The worst contract on the team belongs to none other than Luke Walton.
A shadow of his legendary father Bill Walton, Luke has a meager career average of 5.4 points per game. He has been hampered by injuries the past few seasons.
His latest injury (sore hamstring) has led to Walton appearing in less than half of the Lakers games so far. With averages of 0.6 points, 0.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 11-percent field-goal shooting—Luke Walton is definitely not worth the salary he is getting paid.
And the Lakers will have virtually zero chance at offloading his contract in any trade scenario.
Contract: Two years, $28.4 million
Antawn Jamison represents the classic case of a player getting paid a large salary based on past season performances. Over his career, Jamison has amassed impressive averages of 19.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
This season with Cleveland, he has played a backup role averaging 11.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Those numbers are decent coming off of the bench, but they are certainly not worthy of being paid about $13.4 million this year.
If Jamison was in his last year of the contract, he might be a prime candidate to be traded. However, it appears unlikely that any team would want to trade for an overpaid player past his prime like Antawn Jamison.
Contract: Five years, $33.4 million
Josh Childress has had an interesting career. He came into the league as a promising rookie, being drafted No. 6 in the 2004 NBA draft.
After a few years with the Atlanta Hawks, Childress signed on with the Greek team Olympiacos Piraeus.
While never proving himself to be a star player, Josh Childress now has a contract with the Phoenix Suns paying him $5.8 million this year.
With that salary, he has managed to average just 5.9 points in 18.8 minutes per game. Unless he ever manages to make the starting lineup or become a leading scorer off of the bench, the Phoenix Suns will not be able to trade him away.
Contract: Four years, $20 million
It’s bad enough that Darko Milicic has been considered a disappointment after being drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the 2003 NBA Draft.
Not heeding the warning that the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, and New York Knicks saw, the NBA’s 'smartest' general manager, David Kahn, decided that Milicic was worth $20 million over four years.
Needless to say, Milicic has lived up to everyone else’s expectations. This season he is putting up a whopping 5.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 31 percent.
I don’t think Milicic has to worry about being traded away anytime soon.
Contract: Four years, $80.2 million
Gilbert Arenas has had some impressive accolades during his career. He has made the All-Star team three times and has also been on All-NBA teams three times.
However, that was in the past, before Arenas got into trouble with the gun incident with Javaris Crittenton last season.
This year, Gilbert is averaging a mere 15.2 points and 3.5 assists per game and shooting just 37 percent. Usually a player hits his peak years during the late 20s, but Arenas at age 28 seems to have his best years behind him.
A contract that pays $80 million over the next four seasons usually goes to one of the best players in the league. It’s about time Gilbert Arenas starts performing like one.
Contract: Six years, $123.7 million
Most people would probably agree with the statement that Joe Johnson is one of the top five shooting guards in the NBA today.
Overall, he has displayed a good all-around game this season with averages of 19.2 points and 5.1 assists per game, and 44-percent field-goal shooting.
However, Joe Johnson surprised many this past summer by signing a max contract with the Atlanta Hawks.
Usually these types of contracts go to MVP caliber players. The problem with Joe Johnson is that hardly anyone feels that he plays like an MVP, especially after last year’s dismal playoff performance.
By being so blatantly overpaid, Joe Johnson is going to have a difficult time if he ever wants to leave Atlanta.
Contract: Five years, $30.2 million
Channing Frye is an interesting type of player in the NBA. Usually centers are good at banging down low, rebounding and protecting the basket.
However, Frye is good at none of these tasks.
Instead, Channing Frye is mainly a spot-up shooter who can spread the defenses out to the three-point line. While it’s impressive when big men can shoot the long ball, this exposes his Phoenix Suns team in the middle when shots are not falling and no one is there to grab offensive rebounds.
On top of that, Frye is struggling this year, with averages of 7.7 points per game and 38-percent shooting. For a player that is making over $5 million this year and has four years left on his contract, this simply is not cutting it.
Contract: Three years, $13.8 million
While a Minnesota Timberwolves’ folly was described with Darko Milicic previously, Nikola Pekovic has an even worse contract.
Being paid a similar salary as Milicic’s, Pekovic is producing less with averages of 5.5 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game. While Milicic is averaging over two blocks per game this year, Pekovic as an 6’11” center is swatting away an average of one block for every five games.
To make things worse, Pekovic recently hurt his left foot in last Friday’s win over the Knicks. He did not travel with his team to the past two games against Atlanta and Charlotte, and he may be out for a while longer.
Under-performing and getting injured is hardly the way for Pekovic to earn his salary.
Contract: Six years, $109.8 million
Everyone knew that Chris Bosh’s scoring average was going to take a dip this year, going from the first option on the Toronto Raptors to the third option on the Miami Heat.
However, many NBA pundits predicted that Bosh would become a force on the boards this season, cleaning up misses from Lebron James and Dwyane Wade.
However, Bosh is only averaging 14.5 points per game and six rebounds per game. Playing more like a small forward than a power forward, the Miami Heat have been exposed as a team with a weak interior presence.
Bosh was widely considered one of the top two or three power forwards in the league before the season started.
But with his inability to play effectively off of arguably two of the top four players in the world, Bosh suddenly appears to not be as great of a player as many previously thought.