NBA Players Who Won't Live Up to 2019-20 Contracts

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterOctober 9, 2019

NBA Players Who Won't Live Up to 2019-20 Contracts

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    News flash: NBA players make a lot of money.

    While a salary cap and max salaries limit the extent of income a player can pull in, a continuously rising cap assures the financial well-being of today's stars, benchwarmers and everyone in between.

    To help identify those whose salaries far exceed the worth of their on-court numbers, we'll use FiveThirtyEight's CARMELO NBA player projections. Part of the CARMELO system is a five-year market-value projection of how much a player will be worth to their team.

    Since we're only looking at players who won't likely live up to their 2019-20 contracts, only the average annual market-value projection will be used and subtracted from the player's actual salary.

    Those who are likely to miss the entire 2019-20 season due to injury (Kevin Durant, John Wall) weren't included.

    Given this projection system and likely role on their team, these seven players won't live up to their contracts this season.     

Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2019-20 Salary: $27.3 million

    Projected Value: $13.3 million

    Difference: $14.0 million

    The good news? Andrew Wiggins is far from the NBA's most overpaid player and carries the highest ceiling of anyone on this list.

    The bad news? 2014's No. 1 overall pick is making over twice his projected worth and still has four years and $121.2 million left on his deal.

    Wiggins remains an inefficient shot-taker who does little else to justify his contract or career 36.0 minutes per game. His 2018-19 true shooting percentage of 49.3 was the worst of his five-year career and ranked 245th out of 258 qualified players. 

    Blessed with some of the league's best athleticism, Wiggins does little to capitalize on it, resulting in disappointing defensive performances as well.

    The Minnesota Timberwolves would have to attach draft picks or young talent just to offload Wiggins' remaining money, and the team has to hope for some serious internal improvement to have any chance at the postseason.

    As the Timberwolves' second-leading offensive option next to Karl-Anthony Towns, Wiggins has to improve his scoring efficiency and begin contributing in other areas to even come close to living up to his massive contract.     

Tyler Johnson, G, Phoenix Suns

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    2019-20 Salary: $19.3 million

    Projected Value: $4.7 million

    Difference: $14.6 million

    The Phoenix Suns were desperate for anyone who could dribble and pass last season, meaning Tyler Johnson got to start at point guard for 12 of his 13 games with them.

    Now with the signing of veteran floor general and FIBA World Cup MVP Ricky Rubio, Johnson is returning to a reserve role, where he's spent most of his career.

    "His comfort level is coming off the bench," Suns head coach Monty Williams said, via Kellan Olson of "That's where he excelled."

    While there's nothing wrong with being a sixth or seventh man, Johnson is being paid like high-level starter.

    The 27-year-old North Dakota native signed a four-year, $50 million offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets in the salary-cap-spike summer of 2016, a deal that the Miami Heat matched.

    Since then, Johnson has averaged 12.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and shot 36.2 percent from three in 28.5 minutes per night.

    Now sharing a backcourt that includes Devin Booker, Rubio, rookie Ty Jerome and occasionally Mikal Bridges, Johnson may be reduced to the third point guard before his deal turns into cap space this summer.      

Hassan Whiteside, C, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Sam Ortega/Associated Press

    2019-20 Salary: $27.1 million

    Projected Value: $10.0 million

    Difference: $17.1 million

    Hassan Whiteside still brings eight-figure value to the Portland Trail Blazers, even if his actual salary is over twice as high as the production he's expected to post.

    His trade to the Trail Blazers was a welcome split for both sides, as Whiteside had been benched for a lack of effort and says the Miami Heat system was holding him back. 

    "It's funny, you play with one team and (people) get a perception, they think that's how you play," Whiteside said via Sean Meagher of The Oregonian, "but that's just the system I was in."

    Going from a team that lacked an All-Star last season (aside from Dwyane Wade's honorary nod) to one that could have two in its backcourt, Whiteside likely won't play more of an offensive role. A whopping 86.6 percent of his shots came within 10 feet of the basket last season, and while footage exists of his knocking down threes in practice, he's attempted just 18 for his career.

    If he can become a reliable third scoring option while Jusuf Nurkic recovers from a broken leg, he'll be worth far more than his projected $10 million, especially given his appetite for rebounding.

    For now, expect the 30-year-old center to fall well short of his actual salary while he serves as a reliable seat warmer until Nurkic can return.    

Nicolas Batum, SF, Charlotte Hornets

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    2019-20 Salary: $25.6 million

    Projected Value: $7.8 million

    Difference: $17.8 million

    Following a career-best 2015-16 season for Nicolas Batum, it was hard to blame the Charlotte Hornets for handing him a five-year, $120 million contract. From scoring, passing, defense and rebounding, Batum looked like a multi-dimensional star in the making.

    Now at age 30, he doesn't fit a rebuilding Charlotte squad, and few if any teams should be willing to take on his salary for this year and the $27.1 million player option he holds for next season, either.

    Batum's scoring and assist numbers have dropped in each of the past two seasons, and his offensive real plus/minus of minus-0.15 ranked 144th overall. With Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb and Tony Parker all gone, the Hornets need Batum's scoring and playmaking more than ever.

    As bad as things could get in Charlotte this season, Batum could still turn out to be one of the team's best players despite his massive salary. His projected difference between salary and actual value isn't even the worst on the team, either.

Bismack Biyombo, C, Charlotte Hornets

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    2019-20 Salary: $17 million

    Projected Value: -$3.5 million

    Difference: $20.5 million

    With yet another contract signed in 2016, Charlotte's Bismack Biyombo originally cashed in with the Orlando Magic following a strong playoff showing with the Toronto Raptors.

    Looking like the next great defensive big man, Biyombo has been a major disappointment with his marginal rim protection and lack of anything resembling an offensive game.

    In three years under his four-year, $72 million contract, Biyombo has averaged 5.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists and 1.0 block in 18.8 minutes per contest, starting 84 of his 217 games. The 27-year-old rarely ventures out of the paint and has no jumper.

    While his salary isn't as hefty as Batum's, Biyombo projects to have a rare negative value, pushing his salary difference past that of Batum. 

    He'll likely stick in the league as a rebounding backup center for a few years, but Biyombo remains nowhere close to producing at his paycheck level.       

Chandler Parsons, F, Atlanta Hawks

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    2019-20 Salary: $25.1 million

    Projected Value: $740,000

    Difference: $24.4 million

    The Atlanta Hawks traded for Chandler Parsons and his expiring contract for the sole purpose of dumping two bad contracts (Miles Plumlee, Solomon Hill) for one, to open a roster spot.

    While Parsons used to be a 6'10" athletic, slashing small forward with a sweet outside shot, constant injuries have wrecked his promising career.

    In three seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies after he inked a four-year, $94.4 million contract, Parsons played in just 95 total games with averages of 7.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists while shooting 39.3 percent from the floor. 

    At best, the Hawks might be able to use Parsons as a stretch 4 in limited minutes, as he uses his three playoff trips to help spread knowledge and experience to the young core.

    With a PER of just 8.5 and box plus/minus rating of minus-4.3 with the Grizzlies last season, Parsons won't likely make much of an impact with his new team this year.

Gordon Hayward, F, Boston Celtics

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    2019-20 Salary: $32.7 million

    Projected Value: $8.1 million

    Difference: $24.6 million

    Kudos to Gordon Hayward for bouncing back last season following a gruesome ankle injury in 2017-18, but his production still doesn't come close to matching his salary.

    The Boston Celtics paid Hayward to be the 21.9-point, 5.4-rebound, 3.5-assist all-around wing he was with the Utah Jazz, when he played well on or off the ball and brought tough defense every night.

    Instead, Boston may have to settle for the 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists they received per game a season ago, which included a drop in outside shooting (33.3 percent) and the natural decline in defensive ability that follows a major leg injury.

    Naturally a wing, Hayward spent 59 percent of his court time at power forward last season, something he may have to do again with so many young guards and small forwards in Boston.

    On a young Celtics team desperate for veteran production and leadership, Hayward still holds value—just not $32.7 million worth.


    Greg Swartz covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.