Every NBA Team's Worst Free-Agent Signing of the Past Decade
The past 10 years of NBA free agency have delivered some of the best and worst contracts in league history.
For Part 1 of this two-part mini-series, we'll be focusing on the worst deals of the decade, meaning contracts that were signed from 2010-2019.
Each team's section will be broken down into three parts: the total contract (years and money), the amount of the contract (years and money) that the player actually ended up serving with the team that signed him, and the cost per win share (money the team ended up paying the player divided by total win shares while under contract with said team).
Here's the contract from the 2010s that each team would like to have back.
Atlanta Hawks: Joe Johnson
Contract Signed: Six years, $123.7 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $34.4 million
Cost per Win Share: $3.2 million
In a star-studded 2010 free-agent class headlined by LeBron James, Joe Johnson pulled in the biggest payday.
Since Johnson had already spent five seasons with the Hawks, Atlanta was willing to overpay to him. He was an All-Star and a 20-plus point-per-game-scorer who was averaging 5.5 assists per game with the team.
Had he maintained that level of production, the deal wouldn't have looked so bad. However, Johnson's scoring (18.5 points) and assists (4.3) both dropped immediately after he signed the megadeal, and his 29.7 percent mark from three in 2010-11 was his worst at the time since his rookie season in 2001-02.
Two years into his six-year contract, the Hawks traded him to the Brooklyn Nets for a collection of role players and a pair of draft picks.
Boston Celtics: Gordon Hayward
Contract Signed: Four years, $127.8 million
Contract Spent with Team: Three years, $93.6 million and counting
Cost per Win Share: $9.3 million
Gordon Hayward has been terrific for Boston this year, averaging 17.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists while shooting a career-best 50.2 percent from the floor.
However, the fractured ankle he suffered five minutes into his Celtics career in 2017 effectively wrecked his chances of living up to his massive contract.
That injury forced Hayward to miss the remainder of the 2017-18 season, and he spent the 2018-19 campaign trying to work his way back to All-Star form. He averaged only 11.5 points per game while coming off the bench in 54 of his 72 appearances.
Hayward holds a $34.2 million player option for next season, which he'll almost certainly pick up. While his production doesn't quite match his salary, the Celtics should be comfortable paying a healthy Hayward for one more year.
Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams
Contract Signed: Five years, $98.8 million
Contract Spent with Team: Three years, $82.8 million
Cost per Win Share: $4.5 million
While Gerald Wallace's four-year, $40 million deal was a flop, the Nets ended up paying more for Deron Williams in the long run.
Coming off three straight All-Star seasons, Williams passed on the Dallas Mavericks to re-sign with the Nets, who could offer him the biggest contract and had just traded for Joe Johnson.
After signing a nearly $100 million deal, Williams lasted only three seasons in Brooklyn. He never received another All-Star nod, as the Nets' trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce ultimately sunk the franchise.
The Nets and Williams agreed to a buyout of the final two years of his contract, with Brooklyn choosing to stretch the remaining money owed to him over five seasons. The Nets are still paying Williams nearly $5.5 million this year even though the now 36-year-old hasn't played in the NBA since 2017.
Charlotte Hornets: Tyrus Thomas
Contract Signed: Five years, $40 million
Contract Spent with Team: Three years, $40 million
Cost per Win Share: $40 million
As awful as Nicolas Batum's five-year, $120 million contract looks now, the 31-year-old at least produced as a starter for three seasons and has racked up 12.3 win shares for Charlotte since signing that megadeal.
Tyrus Thomas signed a $40 million deal with Charlotte in 2010, as the 2006 No. 4 overall pick looked ready to break out following a trade from the Chicago Bulls.
Instead, Thomas started only 34 games over the following three years, averaging 7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists and shooting 40.8 percent overall.
His contract was so bad, the Hornets (then known as the Bobcats) used their one-time amnesty clause to wipe Thomas' contract from their salary cap, although they still had to pay him the full amount. Registering negative win shares in two of his three seasons with the team, Thomas contributed an estimated one total win over his $40 million deal.
Chicago Bulls: Dwyane Wade
Contract Signed: Two years, $47 million
Contract Spent with Team: One year, $38.8 million
Cost per Win Share: $11.4 million
Well past his prime at the age of 34 and put into an awkward backcourt fit alongside Rajon Rondo, the Wade experiment in Chicago lasted only a year.
Right before the start of the 2017-18 season, Wade agreed to give back nearly $8 million of his $23.8 million salary if the Bulls would agree to a buyout. That paved the way for him to join LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Bulls wound up paying Wade just under $39 million to play 60 total games. He averaged 18.3 points with the Bulls, which was his lowest amount since his rookie year at the time.
Cleveland Cavaliers: JR Smith
Contract Signed: Four years, $57 million
Contract Spent with Team: Three years, $45.7 million
Cost per Win Share: $21.7 million
Keeping a championship team together can be costly, as the Cleveland Cavaliers learned when they overpaid starting shooting guard JR Smith in 2016.
Smith broke his thumb his months after signing his big deal, which forced him to miss half of the 2016-17 season. He averaged only 8.6 points on 34.6 percent shooting during the 41 games in which he did play.
While Smith's time in Cleveland featured memorable highs, the rebuilding Cavs sent him home in November 2018 when it seemed a rebuild was inevitable. They eventually waived him last July and will be paying out the remainder of his guaranteed salary through the 2021-22 season.
Dallas Mavericks: Brendan Haywood
Contract Signed: Six years, $55 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $28.6 million
Cost per Win Share: $5.1 million
A six-year deal with the Mavericks quickly turned into two, as Dallas waived Brendan Haywood with the amnesty provision before the start of the 2012-13 season.
Those two years consisted of a benching in favor of Tyson Chandler in 2010-11 and averages of 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in 54 games as a starter in 2011-12.
Dallas would have been forced to pay the entire contract (minus a non-guaranteed $10.5 million option in 2015-16) had it not been for the Charlotte Bobcats winning the bid for Haywood after he was waived.
Still, the Mavericks ended up paying Haywood nearly $30 million for two seasons and a combined 5.6 win shares. It ended up being the last NBA contract he would sign.
Denver Nuggets: Al Harrington
Contract Signed: Five years, $34 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $12.0 million
Cost per Win Share: $2.3 million
The Nuggets haven't made many bad signings in the 2010s, and many of their recent draft picks (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Bol Bol) seem like home runs as well.
Al Harrington's five-year, $34 million deal was even reasonable before knee surgery in May 2012 essentially ended his career.
In the two years he spent with the Nuggets, Harrington primarily came off the bench as a floor-spacing power forward, averaging 12.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 137 total games.
Harrington would play only 44 more games in his career following the trade and surgery, averaging 6.3 points for the Magic and Washington Wizards over two seasons. The Nuggets moved him at the perfect time.
Detroit Pistons: Josh Smith
Contract Signed: Four years, $54 million
Contract Spent with Team: 1.5 years, $54 million
Cost per Win Share: $41.5 million
The Josh Smith experiment in Detroit did not last long.
In the second season of his four-year deal, the Pistons waived Smith right before Christmas. He played only 28 games for them in the 2014-15 season.
Letting Smith go meant eating more than $30 million, a figure the Pistons chose to spread out over five years. That made Smith the eighth-highest paid player in Detroit this year even though he hasn't played for the team since 2014.
Caught between forward positions, Smith possessed all of the athleticism and highlights a team could ask for, yet he shot only 26.2 percent from three on 2.9 attempts per game while with the Pistons.
Golden State Warriors: Andre Iguodala (2017)
Contract Signed: Three years, $48 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $30.8 million
Cost per Win Share: $4.2 million
Andre Iguodala signed a pair of $48 million deals with the Golden State Warriors. While the four-year, $48 million contract he signed in 2013 turned out to be a great deal for Golden State ($2.2 million per win share, 2015 NBA Finals MVP), the second wasn't nearly as much of a bargain.
Wanting to retain a 33-year-old Iguodala on a core that still had Kevin Durant along with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors had to overpay to keep the veteran in Golden State.
Iguodala averaged 5.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 0.9 steals from 2017-2019 while earning $30.8 million. When Durant left to sign with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency this past summer, the Warriors salary-dumped Iguodala on the Memphis Grizzlies so they could sign-and-trade for D'Angelo Russell.
Houston Rockets: Chris Paul
Contract Signed: Four years, $159.7 million
Contract Spent with Team: 1 year, $35.7 million
Cost per Win Share: $5.4 million
The Rockets have handed out some questionable contracts over the last decade ($80 million for Ryan Anderson, $75.6 million for Eric Gordon), but Chris Paul's was the worst due to the massive size of the deal.
Giving a 33-year-old point guard an average of $40 million per season quickly backfired on Houston, who had to attach multiple first-round picks just to flip Paul for Russell Westbrook.
It isn't as though Paul had a bad season for the Rockets after signing his megadeal, as he averaged 15.6 points, 8.2 assists and 2.0 steals. However, chipping in only 6.6 win shares while making $35.7 million isn't a positive return on value.
While Paul bounced back with an All-Star appearance while guiding the Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs this season, he's owed $41.4 million next season and has a mammoth $44.2 million player option in 2021-22.
Indiana Pacers: Monta Ellis
Contract Signed: Four years, $44 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $32.3 million
Cost per Win Share: $6.0 million
Monta Ellis came to the Pacers following a successful stint in Dallas, yet his role quickly diminished from starting shooting guard to bench scorer. A trade for Victor Oladipo in 2017 ultimately led to his release.
Averaging only 8.5 points in 27.0 minutes per game in 2016-17, Ellis' play was already declining at the age of 31. Wanting the cap space instead, the Pacers used the stretch provision to eat the remainder of his guaranteed money, meaning Indiana will still be paying him through the 2021-22 season.
For a team that's primarily relied on smart drafting and some key trades, this was a rare financial mistake from the Pacers.
Los Angeles Clippers: Spencer Hawes
Contract Signed: Four years, $23 million
Contract Spent with Team: One year, $5.3 million
Cost per Win Share: $4.4 million
While the Clippers didn't make a huge financial investment in Hawes, his poor play deserves a spot on this list.
Coming off an impressive year split between the Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers (13.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 blocks per game with 41.6 percent shooting from three), Hawes seemed like the perfect stretch big for a league quickly falling in love with the three-ball.
Signed to add some spacing next to Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan for spurts, Hawes instead shot a career-low 39.3 percent from the field and just 31.3 percent from three. He lasted only one season in L.A. and was traded along with Matt Barnes to the Charlotte Hornets for Lance Stephenson in the summer of 2015.
Los Angeles Lakers: Luol Deng
Contract Signed: Four years, $72 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $64.5 million
Cost per Win Share: $71.7 million
While Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) and Deng were both some of the worst contracts handed out by any franchise over the last decade, there's a clear winner (loser?) here.
The Lakers ended up paying Mozgov $14.5 million per win share, an absolute bargain compared to Deng. While L.A. was able to trade the big man in a deal that sent D'Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and Kyle Kuzma, the small forward was eventually waived and stretched.
Playing just a single game for the Lakers in 2017-18, Deng was essentially paid $17.2 million to stay home that season while the team worked on developing its young core.
These two signings led to a complete overhaul of the Lakers front office, with Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak being replaced by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Deng will continue to earn nearly $5 million per year from the Lakers through the 2021-22 season.
Memphis Grizzlies: Chandler Parsons
Contract Signed: Four years, $94.8 million
Contract Spent with Team: Three years, $69.3 million
Cost per Win Share: $53.3 million
Memphis wanted to add some much-needed shooting to its core in 2016, and the signing of Parsons seemed like a good fit since the former Houston Rocket and Dallas Maverick had just averaged 13.7 points per game on 41.4 percent shooting from three.
Instead, injuries ravaged Parsons during his time with the Grizzlies, with knee problems limiting the small forward to just 95 total games in three years.
Things got so bad between the parties that Parsons spent six weeks away from the franchise in 2018-19 while Memphis searched for a trade. The Grizzlies eventually found a partner in the Atlanta Hawks last summer, swapping Parsons' final year for the expiring contracts of Solomon Hill and Miles Plumlee.
Miami Heat: Dion Waiters
Contract Signed: Four years, $52 million
Contract Spent with Team: Three years, $30.8 million
Cost per Win Share: $23.7 million
Tyler Johnson comes to mind as a bad Miami signing, but the Heat actually traded him to the Phoenix Suns before his salary spiked from $5.8 million to $19.2 million. James Johnson (four years, $60 million) would qualify, as well.
Waiters' contract, which saw him play just 77 games over parts of three seasons, went bad due to a combination of injuries and suspensions. He was suspended by the Heat three times for a total of 17 games this season alone for reasons ranging from eating an edible during a team flight to posting pictures of himself on a boat after previously telling the team he was sick.
Waiters was eventually traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in the Andre Iguodala deal, with Memphis immediately buying out the remainder of his contract.
Milwaukee Bucks: Matthew Dellavedova
Contract Signed: Four years, $38 million
Contract Spent with Team: Three years, $21.9 million
Cost per Win Share: $12.2 million
A championship in 2016 and a jump in the salary cap helped Dellavedova land a $38 million deal as the Bucks' starting point guard, a job he wouldn't end up keeping for long.
While Dellavedova played well replacing an injured Kyrie Irving in the 2015 NBA Finals, the Australian guard was awful during the 2016 postseason. Over 20 games, he averaged just 3.9 points on 35.1 percent shooting from the field, eventually playing himself out of the team's rotation.
Dellavedova would average 6.0 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 38.2 percent from the field in parts of three seasons with the Bucks before he was traded back to Cleveland in a cap space-saving move that would also net Milwaukee a new point guard in George Hill.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Nikola Pekovic
Contract Signed: Five years, $60 million
Contract Spent with Team: Four years, $48.4 million
Cost per Win Share: $6.9 million
Pekovic was a bruising throwback center who became a talented low-post scorer and rebounder next to Kevin Love with the Wolves.
A $60 million deal seemed reasonable for someone coming off a season in which he averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds, especially for a Minnesota team trying to finally put together a playoff outfit around Love.
After a strong initial season in 2013-14 (17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game), Pekovic suffered numerous injuries, primarily to his foot and ankle. He would play just 97 total games after signing the deal, eventually being released by the team in 2017.
New Orleans Pelicans: Solomon Hill
Contract Signed: Four years, $52 million
Contract Spent with Team: Three years, $35.7 million
Cost per Win Share: $11.2 million
While some bad contracts at least made sense at the time, Hill getting $52 million was head-scratching from day one, even in a salary-cap-spiking year.
With the Pelicans desperate to add talent around Anthony Davis, Hill was signed to be the team's new starting small forward following three years with the Indiana Pacers in which he averaged just 6.0 points per game.
The results in New Orleans were predictably disastrous. Hill averaged 5.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists and shot 37.6 percent from the field in 25.3 minutes per game. His expiring 2019-20 contract has since been traded three times, going from the Pelicans to the Miami Heat with stops in Atlanta and Memphis in between.
New York Knicks: Joakim Noah
Contract Signed: Four years, $72 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $72 million
Cost per Win Share: $31.3 million
Even though Joakim Noah was coming off two injury-plagued seasons, the Knicks still thought it wise to hand him a massive four-year deal prior to his age-31 campaign.
Even by Knicks standards, this one was bad. Noah played just 53 total games over the four-year deal, averaging 4.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 19.9 minutes per contest.
New York would waive Noah in 2018, paying his season salary while stretching the final year of his contract into $6.4 million annual payments through 2021-22.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Andre Roberson
Contract Signed: Three years, $30 million
Contract Spent with Team: Three years, $30 million
Cost per Win Share: $13.6 million
A ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee sidelined Roberson for two-and-a-half years, and the 28-year-old only recently returned to play in the Florida bubble.
Playing just 41 games to date on a $30 million contract has resulted in only 2.2 win shares, 1.3 of which have come on the defensive end.
While the Thunder have been smart about handing out big contracts (Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo), a major injury to Roberson unfortunately hurt this investment. Here's hoping for a strong playoff run in Roberson's return to the court.
Orlando Magic: Bismack Biyombo
Contract Signed: Four years, $72 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $34 million
Cost per Win Share: $5.9 million
Biyombo recorded eight double-digit rebounding games in the 2016 playoffs, including a 26-board effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers that also saw him block four shots in a Toronto Raptors win.
Looking dominant in spurts, Biyombo cashed in with Orlando during the offseason, hoping to recapture his postseason magic. While putting up the occasional big performance, he unsurprisingly hovered around his career averages with 5.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game over two seasons in Orlando.
While he should enjoy a long career as a backup center, Biyombo is far from the $17 million-per-year player the Magic paid him to be.
Philadelphia 76ers: Al Horford
Contract Signed: Four years, $109 million
Contract Spent with Team: One year, $28 million and counting
Cost per Win Share: $5.5 million
Although his massive contract declines in value each year, Horford is already 34 and has put a ton of playoff mileage on his body throughout his career.
It's become clear that signing Horford (especially with three others on $100 million-plus deals) was a mistake for Philly, and now it becomes a matter of finding his best role or flipping him for another bad contract (Harrison Barnes? Eric Gordon?) that fits better.
With another three years and $81 million left, Horford's contract is quickly becoming one of the NBA's worst.
Phoenix Suns: Brandon Knight
Contract Signed: Five years, $70 million
Contract Spent with Team: Three years, $38.2 million
Cost per Win Share: $19.1 million
Knight's first season in Phoenix after signing his deal in 2015 actually went quite well, with the former Kentucky star averaging a career-high 19.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.2 steals in 36.0 minutes per game.
Seeing his role diminished with the emergence of Devin Booker caused Knight's numbers to plummet, and a torn ACL suffered in the summer of 2017 caused him to miss the entire following season.
Knight would never play for the Suns again, traded to the Houston Rockets in 2018 in a bad-salary swap for Ryan Anderson.
Portland Trail Blazers: Allen Crabbe
Contract Signed: Four years, $75 million
Contract Spent with Team: One year, $18.5 million
Cost per Win Share: $4.4 million
Following a third season where he averaged 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and shot 39.3 percent from three primarily off the Blazers bench, the Brooklyn Nets signed Crabbe to a $75 million offer sheet, one Portland would match.
While teams typically match offer sheets, this is one the Blazers should have let go. Even though Crabbe would shoot 44.4 percent from three in 2016-17, Portland didn't have a starting job for him, and his salary was deemed too pricey for a reserve.
The Blazers traded Crabbe to the Nets as soon as the one-year restriction had passed, getting forward Andrew Nicholson in return. This was simply a money-saving move for Portland, as the Blazers waived and stretched the remaining $20 million on Nicholson's three-year deal.
Sacramento Kings: Zach Randolph
Contract Signed: Two years, $24 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $20 million (estimated)
Cost per Win Share: $13.3 million
While other players like Harrison Barnes and George Hill have signed for greater dollar amounts, Randolph was essentially paid to do nothing for the entire 2018-19 season.
After averaging 14.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game as a starter for the Kings in 2017-18, Randolph's services were no longer needed after Sacramento selected Marvin Bagley III second overall in the 2018 draft. The Kings honored his contract until trading him to the Dallas Mavericks along with Justin Jackson for Barnes in February, where Randolph would later retire after being immediately waived by the Mavs.
Playing one year but getting paid for two? It worked out well for Randolph, who has since agreed to join the BIG3.
San Antonio Spurs: Tiago Splitter
Contract Signed: Four years, $36 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $19.3 million
Cost per Win Share: $2.3 million
When your worst free-agent signing over the last 10 years has cost less than $3 million per win, that usually signals a front office that knows what it's doing.
San Antonio has always preferred the draft over free agency, so bad contracts have been few and far between for a franchise that's even gotten stars to take pay cuts late in their careers.
Splitter averaged 8.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.6 blocks primarily as the Spurs' starting center from 2013-2015 after signing his new deal, production that didn't quite live up to the figure he was being paid. San Antonio traded him to the Atlanta Hawks in a salary dump in 2015, signing LaMarcus Aldridge to a four-year, $80 million deal the same summer.
Toronto Raptors: DeMarre Carroll
Contract Signed: Four years, $60 million
Contract Spent with Team: Two years, $27.7 million
Cost per Win Share: $5.5 million
Carroll carved out an impressive role as the starting small forward on some good Atlanta Hawks teams before cashing in with the Raptors in 2015.
Something got lost crossing the border, however, as Carroll's averaged dipped to 9.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists and a 39.6 percent shooting mark overall.
Looking to get off his contract just two years in, the Raptors gave the Brooklyn Nets 2018 first- and second-round picks just to swap Carroll for additional cap space.
Utah Jazz: Ed Davis
Contract Signed: Two years, $9.7 million
Contract Spent with Team: One year, $4.7 million and counting
Cost per Win Share: $11.8 million
While the Jazz certainly won't be hamstrung by Davis' deal, what looked like a bargain at the time of signing has become a blemish on the team's cap sheet.
Davis has mustered 0.4 win shares for a good Jazz team this season, averaging career lows with 1.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and a 41.2 percent shooting mark overall. After becoming one of the league's best backup centers with the Brooklyn Nets, that kind of drop in production has been surprising.
A trade or buyout seems likely this offseason.
Washington Wizards: John Wall
Contract Signed: Four years, $170 million
Contract Spent with Team: One year, $37.8 million
Cost per Win Share: N/A
The only player on this list who has yet to log a stat under his new contract, Wall should be ready to return next season following his recovery from an Achilles injury.
For now, he was paid nearly $38 million to rehab this season, and he will average $43.8 million over the next three years.
Given his massive contract, his age when the new season will begin (30) and his serious injury, it's safe to say Wall's contract is the worst in the NBA. As a five-time All-Star who has recorded as many as 8.8 win shares in a single season, here's hoping Wall can return to at least most of what he was pre-injury.