Every NBA Team's Worst Contract This Season

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2022

Every NBA Team's Worst Contract This Season

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    When it comes to bad NBA contracts, everything is relative.

    Think of it this way: If you have three luxury condos in Hawaii, one of them technically has to be the worst investment. Keep that in mind on some of these "worst contract" nominations. Several teams have been so wise with their spending that their worst deal is pretty good from an objective standpoint.

    We'll hit these from the team perspective, focusing on what the organization is getting for its money right now while trying to price in what the expected return on investment should be going forward. Long, big-money contracts are automatically subject to more scrutiny. Franchises don't cripple themselves by giving $8 million to a player who falls out of the rotation; they do more damage by spending max cash on sub-max talent.

    Let's see which contracts aren't returning enough bang for the buck.

Atlanta Hawks: Danilo Gallinari

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Danilo Gallinari is still doing most of the things the Atlanta Hawks need him to—spacing the floor with a three-point hit rate just a smidge under 40 percent and providing a nightly bailout bucket or two when the offense bogs down. Gallo generates more than half of his two-point looks without the benefit of an assist.

    Good teams, even ones with Trae Young doing most of the orchestrating, need someone who can get his own shot in an emergency.

    With that said, the 33-year-old is logging only 22.2 minutes per game. At $20.5 million this season and $21.5 next year (only $5 million of which is guaranteed), that's a pricey per-minute rate.

    If Gallinari were giving the Hawks any defensive help (he isn't) or if he were deployable against anything but the softest opposing frontcourt lineups (again: he isn't), maybe he would have avoided this spot.

    The Hawks get outscored when Gallo is on the floor, and his defensive limitations make him a harder player to trust in the playoffs. Bogdan Bogdanovic ($18 million per season through 2023-24) has a worse PER, but his playmaking in non-Trae minutes is too valuable to land him here.

Boston Celtics: Juancho Hernangomez

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Somebody is bound to clamor for Al Horford here, but the Boston Celtics are getting 11.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the $27 million they're paying him this season. The veteran big man also happens to sit second among Boston rotation players in box plus/minus.

    Horford isn't what he once was, but who is in an age-35 season?

    Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are worth their hefty contracts, and even if Marcus Smart's shooting remains substandard, the Celtics are once again much better when he's on the floor than off.

    That leaves reserve center Juancho Hernangomez, a player whose $7 million salary is sixth-highest on the team, but whose minus-8.7 box plus/minus is by far the worst of any Boston player who's seen action in at least 15 contests.

    Hernangomez is good for multiple DNP-CDs per week, and he's shooting 18.5 percent from the field with more personal fouls committed than baskets made. The Celtics are probably glad to know the $7.5 million they owe him for 2022-23 is non-guaranteed.

Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    For the first 35 games of the 2021-22 season, the Brooklyn Nets got absolutely nothing from Kyrie Irving, but they were still writing him checks for the $35.3 million he's due this season.

    This isn't a hot take if we all agree that we're talking about production-to-dollars.

    Irving is among the most offensively gifted point guards in league history. His handle is second to none. His scoring flair and creativity are unparalleled. If he's on the floor, he's worth a max contract. Full stop.

    But even prior to this year's vaccine-mandate-fueled absence, Irving wasn't a reliable on-court presence. He played 54 games last season, and 20 in the year prior. In 11 seasons counting this one, Irving has suited up for over 70 games only three times.

    You could make the argument that even as a part-time contributor for the rest of this year, Irving might not be overpaid. If he were to win Brooklyn a few playoff contests en route to a title, it will have been worth it to pay him more than $1 million per game played.

    But there's no denying he's been of little help to this point, and the fact that he can opt out and sign a new megadeal elsewhere this offseason means the Nets might not even get the chance to offset this year's poor return with full Irving seasons in the future.

Charlotte Hornets: Gordon Hayward

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    This list is getting loaded up with talent in a hurry, as Gordon Hayward is one of only 39 players currently averaging at least 16 points, four rebounds and three assists per game. Were he on a team that demanded more from him, those figures would all be larger with little decline in efficiency.

    Hayward is better than average at basically everything you'd want a big wing to do, and he brushes up against the elites at his position as a passer and foul-drawer. Ultimately, though, Hayward isn't a star. He's a connector—someone who makes the right decisions, keeps the ball moving and doesn't take anything off the table.

    That's the description of a terrific role player, but Hayward is earning superstar scratch. He has $29.9 million coming his way this year and a total of $66.6 million guaranteed over the next two.

    The Hornets' net rating is in negative territory when he's on the floor, and Hayward's defense has slipped, according to Dunks and Threes' estimated plus/minus.

    Miles Bridges has probably surpassed Hayward as Charlotte's second-best player, with LaMelo Ball occupying the top spot. Combined, those two are making less than half of Hayward's salary this season.

Chicago Bulls: Nikola Vucevic

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    If this were a normal Nikola Vucevic season, the worst contract on the Chicago Bulls could have gone to Patrick Williams. The 20-year-old's wrist injury will keep him out for the season, effectively setting his $7.4 million rookie-scale salary on fire.

    But Vooch has been a disappointment in surprising ways.

    Long among the NBA's most offensively productive bigs, the 31-year-old center is in line to post his worst true shooting percentage since his rookie season. Surrounded by more offensive talent than ever before, Vucevic should be feasting on easy looks against defenses more concerned with the Bulls' other weapons.

    Instead, he's on pace to be the first center to attempt at least 400 shots in a season with a true shooting percentage under 50 percent...since he did the same thing in 2016-17.

    Some portion of DeMar DeRozan's fringe MVP case owes to Vooch's spacing. The Bulls shred defenses with those two on the floor together. That doesn't change the fact that Chicago is paying $24 million this year and $22 million in 2022-23 for an offense-first center who isn't giving it any offense.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love

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    Nick Cammett/Associated Press

    Kevin Love has been awesome in a limited role this season, rediscovering his shooting stroke and passing verve for a Cleveland Cavaliers team that needs his spacing and smarts. The season-long losses, first of Collin Sexton and then Ricky Rubio, created playmaking voids Love has ably filled.

    If Love were playing 36 minutes per game, he'd be an All-Star. But years of injuries and his career-long struggles on defense mean he's merely the first big off the bench for the surprising Cavs. The 14-year vet can't be counted on for more than the 21.6 minutes per game he's logging.

    That's what makes his $31.3 million salary (with another $28.9 million guaranteed next year) Cleveland's worst.

    This is career-resurrection stuff we're watching from Love, albeit in a smaller, pick-your-spots role. He is no longer in the conversation for the worst contract in the league, but it still earns that distinction on this team because $31.3 million is way too much for a reserve big who can't guard anyone.

Dallas Mavericks: Kristaps Porzingis

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    José Luis Villegas/Associated Press

    Kristaps Porzingis is a 20-point scorer who defends the rim—better than a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, to hear Anthony Edwards tell it—and theoretically stretches the floor on offense.

    Yet for him, as with so many players in this exercise, skill and production that would make most of his peers jealous aren't enough. 

    Porzingis is the second-best player on a Dallas Mavericks team that has hovered around .500 most of the year and has yet to win a playoff series during his tenure. That isn't good enough for $31.7 million this year, plus another $69.8 million through 2023-24 (player option on that final season).

    And it's especially underwhelming considering Dallas' best player typically operates at a level that gets him MVP consideration. Luka Doncic hasn't been quite that good this season, but few second options have an attention-grabbing, defense-warping teammate as dangerous as the one alongside Porzingis. He should be positioned to succeed.

    Dallas gave up a pair of first-round picks to get KP back in 2019, when he was on a rookie-scale contract. Now, the Mavs might have to surrender a first to move off Porzingis' max deal. 

Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr.

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    An ill-timed injury is the surest way to turn a reasonable, market-rate expenditure into an albatross. It's still early, but that may be where the Denver Nuggets are eventually headed with Michael Porter Jr.

    Fresh off a ruthlessly efficient 2020-21 that marked him as a serious threat for the next 10 scoring titles, Denver inked MPJ to a five-year max extension worth up to $207 million. After only nine games in which he was a shell of himself, Porter's 2021-22 season was over. In December, he underwent his third back surgery since 2017.

    Porter won't make an All-NBA team this season, which would have escalated his contract to the full max of $207 million. Don't expect the Nuggets to be happy they only have to pay him $172 million, though. They would surely rather have forked over the extra cash if Porter had earned it with his play.

    This many operations at such a young age on a notoriously tricky part of the anatomy clouds MPJ's future. While it's not a given that he'll be compromised upon his return next season, it's hard to avoid pessimism.

    "You'd be forgiven, though, if a look at the list of players who had multiple disc-related procedures—names like Rudy Fernandez, Quentin Richardson, and Martell Webster—left you wondering whether what seemed like a surefire ascent to All-Star contention might now be anything but certain," The Ringer's Dan Devine wrote.

Detroit Pistons: Blake Griffin

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    There's a reason buyouts are a last resort for a team with a contract it can't trade. Blake Griffin, currently on a minimum salary with the Brooklyn Nets, is still on the Detroit Pistons' books this year for a whopping $29.8 million.

    This is a sneaky way to get around choosing someone from the Pistons' roster, which is otherwise very short on onerous contracts. Jerami Grant is the team's highest earner at $20 million (with $21 million coming his way in 2022-23), but he's among the hottest commodities on the trade market for a reason: He's playing better than that number and would fit on almost any team.

    After that, you've got Kelly Olynyk and the $37.2 million he's owed through 2023-24 (non-guarantee on the final year). Olynyk is out with a sprained MCL, but he's a useful rotation big when healthy and isn't grossly overpaid. Nobody other than top pick Cade Cunningham is making eight figures, and Killian Hayes is the Pistons' fourth-highest-paid player at just $5.5 million.

    So it has to be Griffin.

Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Klay Thompson was an indispensable part of three championship teams in five years, and there's a good case to be made that the Golden State Warriors would have won a fourth ring in 2019 had Thompson not torn his ACL in the Finals.

    It will never cease to amaze that he jogged back out onto the floor, hit two free throws and lobbied to stay in the game with that injury.

    One of the greatest three-point shooters ever and a plus defender against everything from point guards to power forwards, Thompson was perhaps the most portable, plug-and-play All-Star in the league. Good luck finding the team that doesn't need a 6'7" wing with a lights-out stroke, no-fuss attitude and killer defense.

    With that said, the Dubs signed Thompson to a five-year, $189.9 million contract and paid him $68.1 million across 2019-20 and 2020-21. He played precisely zero minutes in that span, sidelined first by the ACL and then a torn Achilles. Nearly half of this season elapsed before Thompson returned to the floor, meaning that prorated portion of his $37.9 million salary also went to a guy who didn't suit up.

    None of this is Thompson's fault, and all of that cash could reasonably be viewed as backpay for his integral role in a dynasty. But we're talking about almost $90 million paid to a non-participant over the last two-plus years. Add to that the uncertainty of Thompson's performance post-injury, and the remaining seasons on his deal are likely to be bad dollar-for-production bargains as well.

Houston Rockets: John Wall

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    Carmen Mandato/Associated Press

    The Houston Rockets must dream about John Wall opting out of the $47.3 million he's due in 2022-23, but they have to know he isn't going to do so.

    Wall, who was named to all five All-Star games between 2014 and 2018, hasn't seen the floor this season. He's ostensibly healthy, but he and the team agreed it was best for both parties if he stayed on the shelf.

    So, barring a change, Wall will earn $44.3 million this year, the third-highest salary in the league, without entering a game. And then he'll collect next year's checks, too.

    Houston and Wall have essentially decided neither has a use for the other, and it's clear that no reasonable trade possibilities exist. If the Rockets could have moved Wall without surrendering heaps of picks as sweeteners, they would have already done it.

Indiana Pacers: Caris LeVert

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The Indiana Pacers habitually sign players to reasonable deals, so none of the contracts on their books are objectively bad. The only way to get this done is by process of elimination.

    Domantas Sabonis is a two-time All-Star on the way to averaging at least 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for the third straight season. He's properly paid in the second season of a four-year, $74.9 million deal.

    Myles Turner is in line to win his third blocks-per-game crown and his added three-point volume has him in the 73rd percentile at his position in points per shot attempt. At $18 million this year and next, he's underpaid and a constant trade target for teams that need a floor-spacing, rim-protecting big...which is almost all of them.

    Malcolm Brogdon has played more than 70 games only once in his career, which makes the $22-plus million per season he's owed through 2024-25 a little dicey. But he's a clear above-average starter who can slide between both backcourt spots, defends ably against larger matchups and shoots 37.8 percent from deep for his career. The market-rate Pacers strike again!

    This flies in the face of on-off data that show him to have the highest net-rating boost on the team, but Caris LeVert is our winner. He's a ball-dominant, inefficient scorer who doesn't defend any position particularly well.

    LeVert hasn't been above the league average in two- or three-point percentage in either of the last two years, and this is the first season since 2016-17 that his team hasn't dipped in performance on D with him in the game.

    Though he's only making $17.5 million this year and $18.8 million in 2022-23, LeVert's high-usage, low-efficiency contributions are replaceable at much lower cost. You can't say that about any of Indy's other pricey players.

Los Angeles Clippers: Eric Bledsoe

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    Much of the same logic that earned Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Klay Thompson "worst contract" nods for their teams could apply to Kawhi Leonard, an unquestioned superstar who will earn $39.3 million while missing most or all of this season and then begin the downside of his career (2022-23 will be his age-31 season) with a torn ACL in his rearview.

    That's to say nothing of the quad injury and subsequent load management that have limited Leonard since 2017-18.

    Kawhi is an MVP-caliber talent, though, and he's proved his worth as the best player on a title-winner. Irving, Love and Thompson can't claim that.

    So, the Los Angeles Clippers' worst contract belongs instead to Eric Bledsoe, whose deal isn't even that bad because it's non-guaranteed for 2022-23. Still, for $18.1 million this season, the Clips are barely getting double-digit scoring and a negative box plus/minus.

    Reggie Jackson has been even worse from an efficiency and advanced metrics standpoint, but he's cheaper and a bit younger than the 32-year-old Bledsoe.

Los Angeles Lakers: Russell Westbrook

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Russell Westbrook is on pace to lead the NBA in total turnovers for the second straight year (and the third in the last five). His waning athleticism is resulting in more grimace-inducing rim-check dunk attempts and missed layups, and he's converting around the basket at his lowest rate (relative to the league average) since 2009-10.

    He's on pace to produce the worst estimated plus/minus of his career, is a lock to post a true shooting percentage below the league average for the fifth straight season, and the Los Angeles Lakers get annihilated whenever Russ is on the floor without LeBron James. Also, this happens pretty often.

    Oh, and every shortcoming and limitation in Russ' game is magnified in the playoffs.

    Westbrook is collecting $44.2 million for his work, with another $47.1 million in the queue for 2022-23 (player option).

    There's no close second here.

Memphis Grizzlies: Kris Dunn

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Your first reaction is correct: Kris Dunn isn't on the Memphis Grizzlies' roster.

    However, he is being paid $5 million for nothing. The Grizz waived the defensive-minded guard back in mid-October.

    Wasting money is a bad look for any team, but small-market organizations can afford it least. When you have to offer over the asking price just to get a free agent's rep to return your call, every dollar counts. Memphis is squandering five million of them.

    Steven Adams is built (and moves) like a granite statue, and his $17 million salary is the highest on the team this season. He's the leader among Grizzlies' bigs in on-off differential, though, and the veteran center's passing has quietly become a key to the team's offensive flow. Adams ranks in the top 10 percent of bigs in assist-to-usage rate.

    He's limited, but Memphis is getting real production at a pay rate that fits a solid starter. 

Miami Heat: Duncan Robinson

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The concept of paying a 36-year-old Jimmy Butler $52.4 million in 2025-26 is terrifying on its face. But Butler, 32, just keeps getting better at an age when most players show serious signs of decline.

    He made his second straight All-NBA team and led the league in steals last year. The two highest true shooting percentages of his career? The top one came last season, and he's on pace to post his second best this year.

    If you're going to bet on a player aging well, Butler looks like a good candidate. Durability is a concern, but like Kawhi Leonard, we know Butler can be the best player on a Finals team. It's hard to overpay someone like that.

    Duncan Robinson is the pick, mainly because he has to shoot the ball at a truly elite level to return any value at all. He's been cold this season (until recently) after signing the richest deal ever for an undrafted player, a five-year, $89.9 million agreement that will only be worth it if Robinson drains at least 40 percent of his treys at extremely high volume.

    If Robinson isn't sprinting nonstop around screens and burying tons of contested threes at rates most guys would be happy to match on open looks, he doesn't do enough as a playmaker or defender to help his team. His minutes per game decline in the playoffs, an indicator of how opposing teams target Robinson and exploit his weaknesses.

    At 35.9 percent from deep this year, Robinson hasn't showcased the skill that got him paid. Nobody's saying Robinson will hit threes at a league-average rate going forward, but the fact that he's posting a negative EPM so far illustrates how small his margin for error is.

    In fact, Robinson has produced a negative box plus/minus in three of his four NBA seasons. Even last year, when he drilled 40.8 percent of his 8.5 long-range tries per game, he was in the red in BPM.

Milwaukee Bucks: Brook Lopez

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The Milwaukee Bucks have three max- or near-max-salaried stars (one of whom is a two-time MVP) taking up most of their cap, so they don't have the luxury of overspending anywhere else on the roster. And Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday led Milwaukee to a championship and look capable of doing it again, so you can't really consider any of their contracts here.

    Brook Lopez is similarly integral to the Bucks' makeup. He's a stretch big who defends the rim and proved he can hold up against the more complex schemes of the postseason. Drop-coverage centers sometimes get played off the floor, but not Lopez.

    Unfortunately for Lopez, Antetokounmpo's dominant work as a center this season changes things.

    Milwaukee incinerates opponents with Giannis at the 5, and the team's performance is actually better on defense than offense. Lopez, out following back surgery and playing his age-33 season, might not be as indispensable as he once seemed.

    At $13.3 million this season and $13.9 million in 2022-23, Lopez is far from overpaid. But the Bucks are short on options. Pat Connaughton is the team's fifth-highest-paid player, and he only makes $5.3 million. It's BroLo by default. 

Minnesota Timberwolves: D'Angelo Russell

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    Matt Strasen/Associated Press

    It isn't always fair to make things this simple, but D'Angelo Russell has the 15th-highest salary among guards this season. He's 29th in box plus/minus among backcourt players, which is the first clear indicator he's making more than he ought to.

    Russell has never had a true shooting percentage above the league average, but his efficiency has taken a real dive this year. He's on pace to finish below 40.0 percent from the field for the first time in his career. 

    Some of it has to do with sample size and opponent shooting luck, but Russell's plus-17.1 on-court net rating leaps off the page. He's put forth more consistent effort on defense and has cut his turnover rate to a career low.

    With that said, it isn't a great sign that the Minnesota Timberwolves have a $30 million player who now sits below two others—Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards—in the offensive pecking order.

    Only 25 and toting an expiring $31.4 million salary next season, Russell won't be as hard to move as some of the other pricey names we've covered. The Wolves aren't "stuck" with him like the Rockets are with Wall or the Lakers with Westbrook. But Minnesota is paying cornerstone salary to a guy who probably profiles best as a high-usage bench weapon.

New Orleans Pelicans: Tomas Satoransky

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    It's almost impossible for an expiring contract to qualify as a team's worst, but it's also almost impossible for a player to be less productive than Tomas Satoransky has been for the New Orleans Pelicans.

    The co-headliner coming back in the Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade with the Chicago Bulls (yikes!), Satoransky has stumbled through a brutal age-30 season. His offensive game has disappeared, and terrifyingly low conversion rates (37.0 percent on twos and 16.7 percent on threes) have turned an already hesitant shooter into one who not only won't fire away, but shouldn't.

    His 51.4/35.6 shooting splits from 2020-21 feel like they happened 1,000 years ago.

    New Orleans is only on the hook for $10 million in salary before Satoransky hits free agency this summer. Meanwhile, his disappointing play has him considering returning to Europe next season. It's hard to blame him for wanting a fresh start.

New York Knicks: Evan Fournier

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Some New York Knicks fans will want Julius Randle's name to appear here, and it's true that last year's Most Improved Player has fallen short of expectations—and the four-year, $117 million extension he signed last August. However, Randle averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists while drilling 41.1 percent of his threes a year ago.

    All those numbers are down a bit this year, but Randle's 30-point, 16-rebound, four-assist effort on Jan. 4 in a win over the Pacers was a good reminder of why he's worth an average of just under $28 million over the next five years.

    Evan Fournier makes less than Randle at an average of $18 million per season until a $19 million team option in 2024-25, but he's also producing less. Comparing him to Randle isn't even the issue; Fournier is getting outplayed by Alec Burks, who's only earning an average of $10 million per season on a three-year deal.

    And please don't be a prisoner of the moment. Fournier's 41 points against the Celtics on Jan. 6 don't outweigh the rest of the season.

    Despite playing fewer minutes per game, Burks has Fournier beat in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks per contest. He also turns it over less frequently, is hitting a higher percentage from deep (40.4 percent to 38.1 percent) and crushing Fournier in advanced metrics like EPM.

    Fournier's contract isn't a cap-crusher, but a much cheaper player at the same position is highlighting how little the Knicks are getting for their money.

    *Note: New York is paying Joakim Noah $6.4 million. He hasn't played for the team since January 2018. No argument here if you think that's a worse expenditure than Fournier's contract.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kemba Walker

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The pick-hoarding and otherwise tight-fisted Oklahoma City Thunder can afford to waste cash with no active player making more than Derrick Favors' $9.7 million this season.

    That's exactly what they're doing in the wake of buying out Kemba Walker.

    Walker gave up $20 million to leave OKC, but the Thunder still have a mountain of dead salary on the books. Their cap sheet includes $26.2 million this year and $27.4 million in 2022-23, leftovers from the massive contract Walker originally signed with the Boston Celtics.

    The Thunder got a first-rounder in the deal that sent Al Horford to Boston for Walker, and they parlayed that into two future firsts on draft night. From their pick-obsessed perspective, the exchange ultimately registers as a win. But all of Walker's dead money on Oklahoma City's balance sheet makes this an easy call.

Orlando Magic: Markelle Fultz

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    This was originally a toss-up between Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, a pair of former lottery picks who've fallen short of expectations largely due to poor health.

    Fultz, 23, is making $16.5 million this year and next, with a bump up to $17 million in 2023-24. Isaac, 24, has $17.4 million guaranteed every year through 2024-25. Those salaries are roughly what you'd pay a solid starter, and both could achieve that status once their bodies cooperate. The difference, and one reason Fultz's shorter contract is worse than Isaac's, is that Isaac has already played at that level before.

    At a ridiculously mobile 6'11", a healthy Isaac looked like a potential Defensive Player of the Year. When last we saw him in 2019-20, Isaac was the only player in the league to average at least 1.6 steals and 2.3 blocks. Anthony Davis is the only other guy to post those averages in the last decade.

    It's not difficult to imagine how Isaac could perform like a star in the future. With Fultz, a point guard who has never shot better than 28.6 percent from long range, stardom is basically impossible without a major and unlikely skill upgrade. Shooting is a prerequisite at all five positions these days, but primary ball-handlers who don't scare defenses from deep can't be difference-makers on winning teams.

    Both must get healthy and stay that way, but Fultz would have to exceed expectations to justify his contract. Isaac could play slightly worse than he did prior to his latest injury, and Orlando would still get its money's worth.

Philadelphia 76ers: Tobias Harris

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Look, if all it took to designate a bad contract was getting booed at home by Philadelphia 76ers fans, nearly every player who'd ever worn the jersey would qualify here. At least the Sixers faithful didn't throw any batteries at Tobias Harris; that's kind of their thing.

    Harris, the target du jour of Philly fans' ire, is the pick here. He's collecting $35.9 million this season, $37.6 million and $39.2 million in 2023-24—superstar money for someone whose game screams "third option on a good team."

    Harris' numbers—18.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists—are fine, even if his three-point percentage has hovered too low, around the 30 percent mark for most of the year. But he suffers from what might best be called Andrew Wiggins syndrome.

    At $20 million per season, Harris' contract would be among the league's better bargains. But at almost twice that amount, being a high-end role player isn't enough.

    Ben Simmons was a consideration here, and it might seem unfair to pass on him after including so many guys making a ton of money for not playing. But Simmons' contract would be easily movable for positive value if the Sixers weren't asking for an All-NBA player, 19 first-round picks and the naming rights to opposing executives' first-born sons.

Phoenix Suns: Dario Saric

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    We can be honest with each other, right? This is a safe space?

    OK, good. Here's the truth: I got nothin'.

    The Phoenix Suns are paying Chris Paul and Devin Booker north of $30 million per season, but those two just led the team to the Finals. By definition, that's (big) money well spent. Maybe paying Paul that much in his age-38 season in 2023-24 is a little worrisome (2024-25 is non-guaranteed), but the guy is still operating at a level that should earn All-NBA consideration. He could slip and still be worth it.

    If anything, Phoenix might regret the contract it didn't give Deandre Ayton. But matching rights in restricted free agency mean holding off on that deal probably won't come back to bite the defending West champs.

    Jalen Smith has shown signs of progress this season, so we'll go with Dario Saric, who's out after tearing his ACL last postseason. He's only collecting $8.5 million in 2021-22, plus $9.2 million next year, and he'd be worth that money if healthy.

    Things are good in Phoenix.

Portland Trail Blazers: CJ McCollum

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    Damian Lillard's contract runs a year longer than CJ McCollum's, and the six-time All-NBA guard is owed $76.2 million more from 2022-23 through the end of his deal than McCollum is.

    Still, Lillard has been the reliable driver of an elite offense for most of his career, while McCollum is merely a good second option.

    Dame has carried the Blazers to top-10 finishes in offensive efficiency in six of the last eight full seasons. He's battled an abdominal issue this year, but even during his struggles, Portland has depended heavily on him to keep the scoring faucet on.

    Lillard's deal could look scary in 2024-25 when he's making $48.8 million at age 34. But trade value is a good indicator of a contract's quality, and Lillard's worth is still far greater than McCollum's in that regard.

    If you're going to pay exorbitant rates for a guard, it's better to do it on one that has generally guaranteed top-notch play on offense.

Sacramento Kings: De'Aaron Fox

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Among Sacramento Kings, De'Aaron Fox still has the best chance to become a cornerstone star. But five years into his career and playing in his age-24 season, he's trending in the wrong direction.

    Fox is making less than a quarter of his threes, which is an impossibly poor conversion rate for a lead guard. Even worse, his long-range attempt rate is down to levels not seen since 2018-19. Couple that troubling development with a concurrent dip in free-throw attempt rate, and Fox is doing real damage to his team's offensive efficiency.

    The lefty guard is averaging fewer points per shot attempt than he has since a quietly dreadful rookie season. His disinterest in defense also persists, even though he has the quickness and length to be a menace on the ball and in passing lanes.

    Buddy Hield's deal isn't great, but he's an elite shooting specialist on a contract that declines in annual value—one that'll only pay him $40.5 million total over the two seasons after this one. Fox is in the first season of a five-year, $163 million max contract.

    The Kings' franchise player has yet to validate that pay rate, and at 24, it's getting a little late in the game for him to rectify that.

San Antonio Spurs: Al Farouq-Aminu

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Derrick White is in the first season of a four-year deal that could be worth a maximum of $73 million if he hits incentives. That salary is on the lower end of what you'd pay for a decent starter on the wing, and the 27-year-old should finish out that contract just at the end of his physical prime.

    Though his shooting has been a disappointment (29.4 percent from deep after 34.6 percent on 6.8 tries per game last season), White has made strides as a playmaker, averaging a career-high 5.5 assists.

    White has the costliest deal on a Spurs team that doesn't have any bad long-term money on the books, but he's a good player on a reasonable salary. This spot can't go to him.

    It can go to Al-Farouq Aminu. The Spurs waived him in October, but they're still committed to paying him $10.2 million this season.

Toronto Raptors: Goran Dragic

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    This time a year ago, Pascal Siakam might have occupied this space. But 2018-19's Most Improved Player is back to performing like an All-Star, spending time at center in small-ball looks, punishing mismatches in the post, facilitating at an elite rate for a big and hitting just enough threes to concern defenses after last year's dip in accuracy.

    He's worth the $33 million he's earning this year, and it's now easier to be optimistic about the $73.3 he'll pull in across 2022-23 and 2023-24.

    Fred VanVleet is second on the Toronto Raptors at $19.7 million this season, but he might be the most underrated guard in the league. No way is he the pick.

    Goran Dragic, though? At $19.4 million in the last year of his deal? Yeah, that'll do it.

    Dragic may still have something in the tank, but he's played only five games this year, and the Raptors haven't found a suitable trade partner. That will probably change as the deadline approaches, but it seems unlikely the Raptors will get back a first-rounder of any consequence for him.

    We've slapped the "worst contract" label on unproductive, expiring deals worth far less than this. So Dragic has to be the guy.

Utah Jazz: Jordan Clarkson

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Donovan Mitchell will get All-NBA consideration, Rudy Gobert is once again a DPOY short-lister, and Mike Conley has never shot the ball better inside or outside the arc. Those three own the Utah Jazz's biggest contracts.

    Gobert is in the first season of a five-year, $205 million pact. Mitchell's will pay him $163 million through 2025-26. Conley is making $21 million this year, $22.7 million in 2022-23 and has a partial guarantee on his $24.4 million in 2023-24.

    While each deal could age poorly (with Mitchell's being the least likely to trigger regret), all of them look just fine for now. Utah is a contender, and that trio of talents is the reason.

    That's bad news for Jordan Clarkson and his career-low 51.0 true shooting percentage.

    The bench gunner and reigning Sixth Man of the Year is still putting up points, but he's doing it less efficiently than ever. The Jazz's offense is actually worse with him on the floor, which isn't what you want from a guy whose entire job is to score against reserves.

    Clarkson is in the second season of a four-year, $51.5 million contract. That wasn't an objective overpay given what he's done in the past, but it's bad enough in relative terms to take this spot on a Jazz team that has mostly spent wisely.

Washington Wizards: Davis Bertans

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    If three-point shooting is the reason you're on a roster, you just can't get away with hitting those treys at a below-average rate. That's what Davis Bertans is doing for the Washington Wizards by making only 34.1 percent of his long-range attempts in year two of a five-year, $80 million contract.

    Last season, the frontcourt sniper with unusually deep range hit 39.5 percent of his 7.5 three-point tries per game. That's about what Washington expected for an average of $16 million per year.

    This season, Bertans has played less, shot less and, as you can tell from that 34.1 percent figure, succeeded less. But his pay remains the same.

    Specialists who aren't special anymore quickly become bad investments.

    Spencer Dinwiddie is on notice. He's hitting under 40 percent of his shots from the field and has yet to mesh with Bradley Beal. His three-year, $54 million deal was also part of a sign-and-trade that hard-capped Washington.

    That exchange got Russell Westbrook off the roster, so it's still a net gain. But Dinwiddie has been a major disappointment relative to expectations and his contract.


    Stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference and Cleaning the Glass. Accurate through Jan. 9. Salary info via Spotrac.