5 Worst Performers Against Current Salary at Every NBA Position

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 1, 2017

5 Worst Performers Against Current Salary at Every NBA Position

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    Just imagine Scrooge McDuck lounging around with his ridiculous reserves of money. 

    Once that image is firmly in your head, you'll be in a far better place to appreciate the gaudy nature of these 25 contracts. We've already covered the best five deals at each of the traditional positions, so it's time for the unfortunate partner: the worst of the worst. 

    We're interested only in what's taken place during the 2017-18 season, and how much money they're making in salary this year. Again, all that matters is salary and production during the current season. Contract length is not considered. Players are judged in terms of efficiency, statistical production and minutes played.

    The featured players at this stage of the season may play their way into more respectable territory by the end of the year.

    Of course, two noteworthy caveats must be addressed. 

    First, we're avoiding players who have endured significant injuries. Joakim Noah might otherwise have shown up, but anyone who's missed too much time can't be properly and objectively evaluated. Secondly, players must make over $7 million to be eligible—a number chosen because it's slightly above the max a contributor can make on a rookie-scale contract before the third-year option kicks in. 

    With that out of the way, plug your noses. These contracts stink. 

5-3 Point Guards: Mills, Schroder, Teague

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    5. Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs ($10,714,286) 

    When the San Antonio Spurs re-signed Patty Mills to a four-year, $50 contract with an escalating structure this offseason, it seemed like a sound decision. And it may still become one in time, since this model organization so rarely misfires. 

    But to this point in 2017-18, Mills hasn't justified that faith, instead regressing heavily during a time in which he was expected to pick up the proverbial slack while Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard were both missing action with quadriceps injuries. 

    Mills has never been a strong defender, so his lack of stopping ability shouldn't be even remotely surprising during his age-29 season. But the diminished shooting output is concerning, since the career 43.2/39.1/83.8 shooter is currently slashing 36.3/33.6/91.3. 

    That last number is encouraging, since his success at the stripe should serve as an indication that regression to the mean (meant in a positive way) is coming. He's eventually going to begin connecting on his triples and finishing more plays at the rim. And when that happens, he'll no longer seem like he's on one of the NBA's worst deals. 


    4. Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks ($15,500,000)

    After the offseason departures of Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap, the Atlanta Hawks unquestionably belonged to Dennis Schroder. And that's been both a good and bad thing for the franchise quickly sinking toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference, since his speedy moments of brilliance haven't popped up frequently enough to prevent strong odds for the No. 1 pick in the star-studded 2018 NBA draft. 

    Schroder remains a devastating threat in isolation who can use his quick first step to blaze by many defenders. But inconsistency still reigns supreme, likely driven by his enduring inability to knock down triples. He's making 34.9 percent of his 3.5 attempts per game in 2017-18, and that's actually close to the career high he set back in 2014-15 (35.1 percent on 1.9 tries per contest). 

    The German point guard's scoring acumen and ability to hit open teammates while crashing toward the hoop are beneficial. They just don't outweigh his range limitations, turnover problems and unwillingness to stop gambling on the defensive end. That last part is especially problematic, since ESPN.com's defensive real plus/minus gives only Emmanuel Mudiay a worse score among the 89 qualified 1-guards. 


    3. Jeff Teague, Minnesota Timberwolves ($19,000,000)

    The 29-year-old Jeff Teague has been fine for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    His three-point shooting has provided necessary spacing for the offensive stalwarts playing alongside him. He's continued to look like one of the league's more gifted distributors, finding time to rack up 7.5 assists per game (though an uptick to 3.3 turnovers per contest is problematic). And while he's not finishing close-range shots like he once did for the Hawks, his speed when penetrating into the teeth of a defense does demand respect. 

    But the 'Wolves aren't paying him to be "fine." That's not what $19 million should buy, and they're on the hook for the same price tag each of the next two seasons, assuming he picks up a player option in 2019-20. Were that long-term element factored in, Teague's contract would currently look even worse in this analysis. 

    Until he starts finishing more of his two-point attempts and gains some semblance of comfort in head coach Tom Thibodeau's defensive schemes, he simply won't provide enough value to justify the expenditures. 

No. 2 Point Guard: George Hill, Sacramento Kings ($20,000,000)

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    Even though so many point guards have fallen off after celebrating their 31st birthdays in the past, no one could have predicted such a precipitous fall from grace for George Hill. The Sacramento Kings certainly couldn't, since they handed him a three-year deal worth $57 million to provide on-court production and simultaneously help improve the quality of play from the many youngsters on a roster featuring a hybrid of youth and experience. 

    And yet, here we are. 

    Hill has looked uncomfortable at every turn, struggling to figure out whether he should function as an attacking guard with a nose for scoring or as a primary distributor. That's led to extreme levels of passivity at times and left him unable to produce much of value even while he knocks down a scorching 46.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. 

    A point guard making $20 million simply shouldn't be averaging only 9.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He shouldn't be regressing to the point that he's grading out as a net negative on both ends of the floor in NBA Math's TPA and ESPN.com's RPM. He shouldn't be refusing to attack the basket and instead deferring to his younger, less impactful teammates. 

    Hill could still break out of his slump, but this contract, even set up with a declining structure, could quickly grow rather unpalatable. 

No. 1 Point Guard: Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans ($25,686,667)

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    Jrue Holiday is coming off a campaign in which he excelled whenever he was healthy and in the lineup. He's still only 27 years old and should have a number of prime seasons left in the tank. He has enduring chemistry from his previous time spent with Anthony Davis. 

    Considering all that, the New Orleans Pelicans really can't be blamed for doing whatever it took to retain their incumbent talent, inking the point guard to a five-year contract worth a staggering $126 million back in July.

    It just...hasn't worked out. 

    Up to this point in 2017-18, Holiday simply doesn't look like a strong fit alongside both Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. The Pelicans are asking him to change his preferred playing style too drastically, no longer allowing him to probe defenses in pick-and-rolls and instead setting him up in catch-and-shoot situations while the All-Star bigs go to work with possession of the rock. 

    Last year, 50.7 percent of Holiday's play-ending ventures fell into the pick-and-roll ball-handler classification, while he served as a spot-up shooter 11.4 percent of the time. During the current season, those numbers stand at 23.2 and 19.6 percent, respectively. He's simply not playing the same game any longer, and it's affecting his performance on both ends of the floor. 

    Holiday's three-point percentage has plummeted. He's no longer racking up assists, since that requires actually having the ball in his hands more frequently. He's even been more disengaged defensively, no longer looking like one of the NBA's better on-ball stoppers.

    He simply hasn't been a good fit. 

5-3 Shooting Guards: Burks, Redick, Rivers

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    5. Alec Burks, Utah Jazz ($10,845,506)

    Is it time to pull the plug on whatever's left of the Alec Burks hype train? 

    The Utah Jazz are still waiting on a breakout from the 26-year-old shooting guard, who's now operating on the penultimate go-round of the rookie-scale extension he signed prior to the 2014-15 season. And while injuries and opportunity have held him back, it remains troubling that he's playing 17.5 minutes per game, hasn't started a contest since December 2015 and flat-out isn't performing well. 

    He's shooting 37.4 percent from the field, 38.6 percent from downtown and 90.9 percent at the charity stripe—the latter two numbers admittedly serving as indications that he does still have that jump-shooting talent. He hasn't developed whatsoever as a facilitator, and his defense is still merely adequate in small doses. 

    Does that sound like someone who should be making eight figures?


    4. J.J. Redick, Philadelphia 76ers ($23,000,000)

    In J.J. Redick's defense, some aspects of his contributions to the Philadelphia 76ers can't be quantified. Take this from Lee Jenkins' excellent profile of Ben Simmons for Sports Illustrated, as one example: 

    "In a guard-guard screen, the [Utah] Jazz flared out the screener and J.J. Redick shouted 'Red,' meaning that Simmons should switch, but he stayed with his man. At the ensuing timeout, Simmons told Redick he called the Red late. 'Ben,' Redick replied. 'I know when I call the Red late. I didn't call the Red late. But it's not about who's right or wrong. It's about making sure we don't f--k it up next time.'"

    That type of veteran mentorship is huge for a youthful Sixers squad, and it doesn't hurt that defenders still respect Redick's jumper and grant him an extreme gravitational pull. Even without hitting as many triples (he's at "just" 38.9 percent from beyond the arc), the Duke product is a viable offensive presence showing off hidden skills as a facilitator on a regular basis. 

    But that doesn't make him a good value at this price tag, especially when he continues to struggle immensely on the defensive end. Philadelphia shouldn't be surprised to find him featured in this countdown, since it overpaid drastically to land him on a one-year balloon deal. It was willing to accept what it surely knew would technically be a bad contract just to get him on the roster. 


    3. Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers ($11,825,000)

    Austin Rivers does some things well. 

    He's a legitimate threat in isolation and can hold his own defensively with some pesky on-ball work. But he shouldn't be tasked with serving as anything more than a first guard off the bench or complementary backcourt player, since a bigger role forces him to expose some of his many bad habits. 

    And unfortunately, that's exactly what the Los Angeles Clippers have done (perhaps out of sheer, injury-derived necessity) by playing him 33.5 minutes per game and allowing his usage rate to remain in the 20s for the second consecutive season. Despite taking far more shots than ever before, he's hitting only 38.1 percent of his looks from the field and hasn't grown enough as a facilitator to justify the increased exposure. 

    The Clippers have actually been 0.9 points per 100 possessions worse with Rivers on the floor, which is particularly troubling when he's spent nearly all his minutes alongside Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. 

No. 2 Shooting Guard: Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets ($12,943,020)

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    Don't be fooled by the reigning Sixth Man of the Year's scoring average. 

    Sure, Eric Gordon is putting up 19.1 points per game and chipping in with another 2.7 assists during his typical appearance, just for good measure. But those numbers mask the fact he's shooting 39.4 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from beyond the arc. Over his last seven outings, he's even slashed a putrid 32.6/19.6/77.8. 

    The sheer volume of Gordon's output has allowed him to remain a slight offensive positive alongside James Harden and Chris Paul, both of whom depend upon the spacing the mere threat of his perimeter stroke provides. But it hasn't been nearly enough to make up for his woeful defense. 

    Gordon ranks in the 58.3 percentile as an isolation defender, but most opponents know better than to attack him in that manner. They'd rather expose him in off-ball scenarios, waiting until he falls asleep watching the primary action. That's the main reason his minus-0.68 DRPM sits at No. 59 among shooting guards and cancels out so much of his offensive value.

    To be clear, Gordon hasn't been "bad." He's actually continued to serve as a valuable presence for the red-hot Houston Rockets. 

    But given his salary, that's not enough.  

No. 1 Shooting Guard: Dion Waiters, Miami Heat ($11,000,000)

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    Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to hand a mercurial shooting guard a four-year, $52 million deal just because he looked like an improved player over a stretch that didn't even last through an entire season. Dion Waiters did appear to have turned the corner, if you'll forgive that cliche, while leading the Miami Heat back into last year's playoff picture. But betting on a half-season resume superseding the entire body of work compiled over the previous four campaigns was always a risky endeavor. 

    Now, Waiters has regressed...and hard. 

    The 2-guard is averaging 15.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists, but he's shooting 39.9 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from downtown. His drive-and-kick success is gone, replaced by a desire to force up deep attempts and score at the expense of everything else. He's playing woeful defense. Miami's net rating even drops by 2.3 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor. 

    According to NBA Math's TPA, only Paul Zipser, De'Aaron Fox, Tyler Ulis and Josh Jackson have provided less value during the current campaign; not because he's been one of the NBA's five worst players, but because he's played so many minutes at a below-average level. ESPN.com's RPM isn't quite so negative, though Waiters' score is still surpassed by 36 other players at his position. 

    The 25-year-old still has three more years to turn around the narrative, but this isn't looking like a sterling investment in South Beach. 

5-3 Small Forwards: Kidd-Gilchrist, Chandler, Middleton

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    5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Hornets ($13,000,000)

    To his credit, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has begun drilling some mid-range shots. He still hasn't made a three-pointer (and only has one attempt), but he's connecting on 57.1 percent of his tries between 10 and 16 feet, as well as 38.7 percent of even longer twos. 

    It's not enough. 

    Kidd-Gilchrist remains a defensive ace who can body up against a variety of positions. His offensive limitations just hold him back, preventing him from playing more than 25.2 minutes per game for the Charlotte Hornets and making it tough for them to find as much success while he's on the floor. 

    At first glance, Kidd-Gilchrist's presence seems vastly beneficial, since the Hornets score 6.3 more points per 100 possessions when he's playing. But that effect largely stems from his time spent alongside Kemba Walker in the starting lineup, since Charlotte's net rating, per PBPStats.com, falls to a putrid minus-6.9 when he plays without the All-Star point guard. 


    4. Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets ($12,016,854)

    Age and nagging injuries seem to be catching up to Wilson Chandler. 

    The Denver Nuggets have been forced to overextend their versatile forward because he's one of the few players on the roster comfortable lining up at the 3, and the taxing nature of that role hasn't allowed him to maintain his previous levels. His perimeter stroke has disappeared, and he's routinely overmatched on the defensive end. 

    Unfortunately, the 30-year-old forward no longer has the foot speed to consistently keep up with mobile small forwards, and banging around in the post with bigger players hasn't treated him too well. Rather than serving as a do-everything standout, he's fallen into the dreaded "tweener" category, and his RPM reflects that. 

    Last year, he stood only at minus-1.24, with his offensive mark dragged down by his defensive shortcomings. Now, he's a two-way negative, sitting at No. 74 among small forwards with a score of minus-1.77


    3. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks ($14,100,000)

    This might seem strange after Khris Middleton logged his second 40-point performance of the season, but those showings are outliers right now. Remove those two games from the record books, and the swingman would be averaging 16.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists. 

    Those still seem solid numbers, right?

    Problem is, Middleton would also be shooting only 42.4 percent from the floor and 29.5 percent from beyond the arc. And therein lies the biggest issue: With a few notable exceptions, his shooting stroke has virtually disappeared in 2017-18. 

    Last year, he knocked down enough catch-and-shoot jumpers to produce a 63.6 effective field-goal percentage. But that number is now down to a disappointing 53.0 percent, which hampers his overall efficiency levels and makes it concerning that he's shooting so frequently without positive results. This should be an early-season fluke, but he still hasn't justified the expenditures while also struggling to find his footing on the defensive end. 

No. 2 Small Forward: Evan Turner, Portland Trail Blazers ($17,131,148)

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    "Portland Trail Blazers backup wing Evan Turner has some game. He defends well enough, takes pretty good care of the basketball and can run the offense while Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum rest," Frank Urbina wrote for HoopsHype while calling Turner's contract the most untradeable on the Rip City roster. "But he can't shoot threes and is a career 43.1 percent shooter from the floor overall. Plus, even by today's standards, $17.5 million is a lofty amount of money for a non-starter."

    He's right. 

    Turner isn't a bad player. Don't let that be your primary takeaway from his featured status in this particular article. He has tangible skills on the basketball court, and head coach Terry Stotts knows how to use them—hence Portland posting a positive net rating while he's on the floor, even if 2.8 is lower than the 5.1 when he's off. 

    He's just not worth slightly more than $17 million. 

    Turner's strengths have remained intact this year, and his defense has been a crucial part of the Blazers' unexpected ascent up the point-preventing ladder. But his shooting percentages—38.5 percent from the field and 21.1 percent from downtown—are unabashedly terrible and have held back the offense when he's on the floor. 

    A return to his career slash line (43.0/29.4/78.4) would be welcome, but even that might not remove him from these rankings entirely. 

No. 1 Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City Thunder ($26,243,760)

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    Surprised? You shouldn't be. 

    Carmelo Anthony hasn't fully accepted his role with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he's been actively detrimental to their efforts. Even though he's scoring in volume, he's been an inefficient shooter and has shown little inclination to buy into the team-wide defensive improvements. 

    All this can be fully encapsulated in two sets of numbers. 

    During the 2016-17 season, his final with the New York Knicks, Anthony saw 15.2 percent of his offense come via spot-up attempts, and he scored 1.23 points per possession to finish in the 93.8 percentile. This year with OKC, 22.7 percent of his offense falls into the spot-up spectrum, and his 0.94 points per possession place him in the 42.3 percentile

    Not only is he failing to hit the looks the kick-out feeds of Paul George and Russell Westbrook grant him, but he's not willing to play the necessary style. A higher percentage of his offense (25.3 percent) should not be coming in isolation than these off-ball situations given the construction of this Thunder roster. 

    According to the regression we're using for these rankings, Anthony's salary would need to be quite a bit lower in order to match his value output. How much lower? Well, he'd actually have to be paying the Thunder $16,167,729 for the privilege of wearing their uniform rather than accepting any money from them.

5-3 Power Forwards: Anderson, Randolph, Faried

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    5. Ryan Anderson, Houston Rockets ($19,578,455)

    Ryan Anderson is a valuable presence for the Houston Rockets, but that doesn't mean he's worth nearly $20 million. Specialists aren't supposed to come that close to hitting the elusive monetary benchmark, and a specialist is exactly what he's become during his age-29 season. Really, he's been one for a while.

    The power forward doesn't do much on the glass, where his 6.9 boards per 36 minutes are the 11th-lowest mark among the 79 qualified players 6'10" and taller. He's a negative on the defensive end, limited by a lack of vertical tools and foot speed that hold him back against all types of assignments. He doesn't do much passing, either, and is on pace to average more turnovers than assists yet again. 

    But Anderson can knock down triples with the best of 'em. 

    His 41.1 percent shooting on 7.3 deep attempts per game ensures he keeps racking up minutes for head coach Mike D'Antoni, and that spacing is so crucial for James Harden and Chris Paul's drives into the teeth of the half-court set. It also helps when he functions as a transition trailer. 

    Nevertheless, shooting alone isn't going to be worth $20 million. 


    4. Zach Randolph, Sacramento Kings ($12,307,692)

    Kudos to Zach Randolph for attempting to expand his game. He's taking 1.8 three-pointers per contest during his first season with the Sacramento Kings; that would be a career high if not for the 1.9 long-balls he threw up during his 2008-09 outing with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers. 

    Unfortunately, he's hitting only 35.3 percent of them, and the time spent operating around or behind the arc has taken him away from two of his primary strengths. He's averaging a career-worst 2.4 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes and taking just 4.2 post-up possessions during his average appearance, which is a substantial decline from last year's 3.7 and 5.1, respectively. 

    Randolph has never been much of a defensive presence, and that hasn't changed in Sacramento. He's also bouncing back a bit on offense by knocking down so many more mid-range jumpers and experiencing a slight increase in post-up proficiency. 

    But that's not enough when the 36-year-old's salary actually jumped from $10,361,445 last year to its current figure. 


    3. Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets ($12,921,348)

    Let's circle back to November 2014, when ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz wrote the following about Kenneth Faried and the Denver Nuggets:

    "Several sources around the league insist the Nuggets' hand was forced with regard to Faried. After the signing of [J.J.] Hickson to a three-year, approximately $16 million contract soon after [general manager Tim] Connelly's arrival, the sense was the bouncy big man was insurance against Faried's departure in free agency in 2014. Faried was a fan favorite in Denver, but multiple sources with knowledge of the Nuggets' thinking maintain the team "isn't crazy about him," particularly [former head coach Brian] Shaw. But with Faried's boffo showing last summer with Team USA and a loyal following in Denver, the media-conscious Nuggets caved, adding yet another imperfect 4-man to their lot."

    Arnovitz has more about the strange sequence of events leading to Faried's four-year, $50 million extension throughout the piece, but the point here is simply that questions emerged from the get-go. In the second-to-last year of the contract, they haven't gone away. 

    Faried remains a valuable role player because of his infectious energy and rebounding prowess, but he hasn't grown enough to earn the money. His shooting is still far too limited, he's an undisciplined defender who becomes virtually unplayable against stretch 4s and he's logging only 12.6 minutes per game.  

No. 2 Power Forward: Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors ($20,061,729)

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    For Serge Ibaka to justify the three-year, $64 million contract he inked over the summer to remain with the Toronto Raptors, he has to do two things: knock down threes to space the floor and protect the interior of the defensive schemes. 

    He's done neither. 

    Ibaka is taking 4.3 attempts per game from downtown, but he's finding twine on a meager 32.5 percent of those launches, which is a drastic departure from last year's 39.1 percent clip. Perhaps the shots will eventually start falling, but it's worth noting the Congolese power forward had only hit 35.5 percent of his career heaves before the start of the 2016-17 campaign. 

    Even more troubling, he's been rather porous around the basket. Opponents are shooting 66.3 percent against him when he's the primary defender at the rim, which is happening 4.4 times per game. He's one of 46 players squaring off against at least four shots per contest in such situations, but he's been stingier than only the following men:

    • Andrew Wiggins: 77.3 percent on 4.0 attempts per game
    • Zach Randolph: 69.1 percent on 4.3 attempts per game
    • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: 67.6 percent on 4.1 attempts per game
    • Kevin Love: 67.3 percent on 5.2 attempts per game
    • Marcin Gortat: 66.9 percent on 6.2 attempts per game
    • Nikola Vucevic: 66.7 percent on 6.1 attempts per game

    That's it. And that's not exactly a club of defensive aces. 

    The Raptors aren't supposed to be paying a poor-shooting version of Ibaka to post a negative score in DRPM that leaves him No. 67 among the 93 qualified contributors at his position. 

No. 1 Power Forward: Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks ($23,112,004)

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    Harrison Barnes is a solid player who can excel as a scoring option and hold his own defensively against both small forwards and power forwards. But that doesn't mean he's worth over $23 million on this Dallas Mavericks squad. 

    Were he able to serve as a complementary option, that might change. His skills are best leveraged in a smaller role where he can play more to his strengths. Instead, he's been forced into overextending himself on offense, attempting to do too much in pursuit of victories and diminishing the energy reserves he has left for the defensive side. Perhaps he'll get there if Dennis Smith Jr. improves rapidly, since the forward still has another two years remaining on this contract (assuming he picks up a player option for $25.1 million in 2019-20). 

    But right now? He's not even close to providing the value necessary to justify these expenditures.

    He ranks No. 440 in NBA Math's TPA with a score of minus-31.29 (74.26 shy of the break-even point provided by the regression used for these rankings). RPM, which lists him as a small forward, has him superior to only the outputs earned by Dwayne Bacon, Josh Jackson, Justin Jackson and Paul Zipser at the position. Factoring in the entire NBA, just 21 players have inferior scores. And even those numbers will look good when you see this next part. 

    With Barnes off the court, the Mavericks have played to a 14.5 net rating (which, to be fair, is probably at least in part the product of small samples and garbage-time scenarios against opposing backups). But when he plays, the net rating plummets to minus-13.8. That's the worst differential on the team. 

    The cap climate under which he signed this contract might have helped provide a bit of a reprieve here. Nonetheless, this deal still looks pretty darn putrid. 

5-3 Centers: Chandler, Mozgov, Lopez

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    5. Tyson Chandler, Phoenix Suns ($13,000,000)

    Tyson Chandler remains a nightly double-double threat and dominant roll man, but the limitations put in place by Father Time are becoming even more apparent as his career progresses.

    He's no longer a game-changing defensive presence and, despite his excellent work preventing second-chance opportunities, actually has a negative defensive box plus/minus for the first time in his 17-year career. The blocks and steals aren't there, and his work around the basket isn't a saving grace. Maybe he hasn't been quite as ineffective as Ibaka, but he's still letting opponents shoot 59 percent when he's protecting the rim. 

    Perhaps Chandler could validate his earnings on a competitive squad by filling a key role off the bench. But that's not going to happen with the downtrodden Phoenix Suns, especially given the plethora of big men waiting for opportunities. 


    4. Timofey Mozgov, Brooklyn Nets ($15,280,000)

    Already, Timofey Mozgov is losing minutes. As the New York Post's Brian Lewis points out, "[Trevor] Booker (6'8", 228 pounds), [Quincy] Acy (6'7", 240) and Jarrett Allen (6'10", 246) are all better equipped to deal with stretch bigs. But there's also the matter of the pick-and-roll—not just guarding it, but Mozgov's fumbling of passes while running it."

    Head coach Kenny Atkinson has made his center aware that the shrinking minutes are intentional. Per Lewis: "We have to give it to him in better positions, but yes, he's fumbled a few. He's got to improve in that.

    The good news is that Mozgov took the news professionally. As Atkinson explained, also per Lewis, "He's a soldier. He understands we're still trying to figure it out. I know that's not easy for him. It's not easy for any player...I told him before shoot-around [Tuesday], 'Listen, we're starting Trevor.' He said, 'Fine, whatever you need coach.' He's that type of guy...What we're trying to do is figure out his role. All of them—him and Tyler and Jarrett."

    That about says it all. The Nets only acquired this center because absorbing his salary helped them land D'Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers. But they still presumably didn't want to see him justifiably lose minutes this soon into his Brooklyn tenure. 


    3. Robin Lopez, Chicago Bulls ($13,788,500)

    Robin Lopez might be the best player on the Chicago Bulls right now, but that's actually a bit problematic.

    He has no business serving as the leader of any squad, since he's far better as a complementary piece who can chip in with some touch shots around the basket and hard-nosed defense. Asking him to score too frequently can backfire, especially when it depletes the energy typically reserved for the preventing side. 

    Plus, one other issue pops up: Lopez isn't even playing like the best player in the Windy City.

    He can't when his newfound perimeter proclivities take away from his rebounding, depress his field-goal percentage and make it harder for him to clean up with creative finishes on the interior. He's also struggled against the excessive amount of dribble penetration allowed by his guards. He's giving up 59.1 percent shooting while protecting the rim 4.6 times per game, thanks to a hapless roster bound for one of the best picks in the 2018 draft.

    His current role is far from the best allocation of his enduring talents.

No. 2 Center: Dwight Howard, Charlotte Hornets ($23,500,000)

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    Why do you think the Atlanta Hawks were so eager to get rid of Dwight Howard? 

    No matter how impressive Marco Belinelli has looked on the offensive end, he and Miles Plumlee weren't the prizes Atlanta was looking for when dealing the big man to the Charlotte Hornets. It was instead seeking to offload salary, since Howard was still on the books for $23,500,000 in 2017-18, then $23,819,725 in 2018-19.

    Given the current state of Howard's game, that number feels astronomical. The Hawks had to overpay him to lure him into their talons, but they were always forking over far too much money. Now, the Hornets are quite literally paying the price and realizing just how hard it is to blend his limited game into offensive schemes. 

    Howard remains valuable on defense, where he's physically dominant and has picked up little tips and tricks over the years. This season, he's unveiled a new tendency to drop back slightly and bump players off their cutting courses before recovering into proper positioning. 

    However, that skill can't overcome the woeful free-throw shooting, which makes it tough to validate keeping him on the court at the end of contests. It can't mitigate the damage his limitations have on a team's spacing, as well as his stubborn insistence on taking post-up touches at the expense of more advantageous offensive sets. 

    Usually, you don't want $23.5 million men to have flaws this glaring and detrimental. 

No. 1 Center: Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic ($17,000,000)

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    Let's assume Bismack Biyombo ends up playing in all 82 games for the Orlando Magic and continues performing at this exact level. At that rate, he'd make $13,220.22 per minute played. Better still, he'd earn a whopping $48,521.02 per point scored. 

    For the sake of comparison, James Harden is tracking toward $10,947.74 per point scored—less than a quarter of the big man's earnings. Even Dwight Howard, who Biyombo narrowly edged out for the top spot in this ignominious countdown, is on pace to collect "only" $18,429.93 per scoring tick.

    Of course, scoring isn't everything. 

    That's especially true for Biyombo, who the Magic seldom trust with the ball. Playing with him on the floor is basically like operating in a constant four-on-five situation, which helps explain why Orlando's offensive rating decreases by 12.9 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor. 

    Biyombo's defense is fantastic, and he's able to remain impactful even when he isn't blocking shots. But it's not nearly enough to cancel out the non-factor that is his offensive game, which is why the Magic have still only been able to rationalize playing him for 15.7 minutes per contest. 

    Orlando's decision to sign Biyombo for four years and $70 million during the 2016 offseason may not have seemed like an overpay at the time, in large part because he'd just looked so devastatingly effective in the playoffs for the Toronto Raptors. RealGM.com's Christopher Reina and Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver both game Orlando a B-plus for that move, as two examples. 

    That's no longer the case. 


    Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from Basketball Reference, NBA.com, NBA Math or ESPN.com and are current entering Nov. 30.


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