It took a bitter, drawn-out battle that interrupted the 2011-12 season in order to stop front offices from blowing all of their money on a single player, and to prevent further careless spending. Before then, however, bad contracts were prevalent: $100 million deals to anyone that could be considered an All-Star and role players that wound up being traded or waived two years later after signing a $50 million deal.
It’s not the fault of the player. Entire front offices have to agree on a deal that they believe will point them in the right direction. But it’s easy to get careless with spending. In the summer of 2010, teams went wild attempting to take advantage of the free agent class that featured a plethora of All-Stars and role players who could fill out rotations. What we got as a result were a handful of good signings and a number of contracts that were never fulfilled by the player and the team.
You’ll notice in the following list of the 20 worst contracts in the NBA that many of them are running out and a majority of the contracts either only have a year or two left on them. However, the recent decrease in spending may have to deal more with saving towards 2014, which will replicate the 2010 free agency pool.
There will be nine-figure deals coming, and you can’t guarantee that at least a few of those deals are going to end up backfiring, whether it’s for injuries or the player just not panning out.
They’ll wind up in the 2016 edition of the 20 Worst Contracts.
Instead of worrying about who will be the next borderline star to earn a deal that exceeds their actual worth, we’ll dwell over those with deals that serve as a message to future contracts.
Amnesty casualties included
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20. RICHARD JEFFERSON – $11 million/1 year
Original deal: $38,892,000/4 years
The deal the San Antonio Spurs offered Richard Jefferson will long be considered one of the most questionable deals from a franchise that has usually prided itself on bringing in players whose talent is maximized within the system.
That never came to fruition with Richard Jefferson, who signed a $39 million deal with the Spurs back in 2010, a deal that has found a way to be moved twice.
The first move came when he was traded to the Golden State Warriors for Stephen Jackson. Jefferson’s numbers, specifically the 2012-13 season, were historically deplorable as he finished the season playing in 56 games and averaging only 3.1 points and shooting 31 percent from beyond the arc.
But that was enough for the Jazz to not just take on his expiring deal, but that of Andris Biedrins as well. To be fair, though, Utah is in complete rebuild mode and did receive four draft picks, including two in the first round, as a part of the deal.
Jefferson is now averaging 10.3 points, but is doing so on 37 percent shooting and with a PER of 8.6. That PER is somehow lower than what he had last year when he was averaging only three points per game and averaging 10 minutes worth of playing time.
19. KRIS HUMPHRIES – $12 million/1 year
Original deal: $24 million/2 years
Coming to Boston in the blockbuster deal of the 2013 summer, Kris Humphries is yet another example of how a bad contract can be moved if under the right circumstances.
The Nets signed Humphries to a deal that would pay him $24 million over a two-year period. It was the double-double that trapped them. You see, Humphries had just averaged a double-double for two consecutive seasons and that obviously means a huge deal must be made or lose Kris Humphries.
It’s not appearing to be the best of deals, even if it did bring in a new-look team that will probably contend for a spot in the playoffs.
Humphries is a strong rebounder, but it’s a bonus any time he’s able to put the ball through the basket. He has no touch around the rim, seen by his 57 percent shooting around the rim, and was a 35 percent jump shooter last year.
His minutes and overall stats were cut in half following the 2011-12 season and he lost his starting job, as well. By the start of the 2013-14 season, he was in a new uniform and will most likely be on his third team in three years next season.
18. BEN GORDON – $13 million/1 year
Original deal: $58 million/5 years
Was there anybody who bought into the “hype” when the Detroit Pistons signed Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon to ridiculous deals?
Those two were given a heavy amount of minutes to achieve less than mediocrity and they’re still getting paid for it. Fortunately for the Pistons, they were able to rid themselves of one of those deals when they traded Ben Gordon to Charlotte for Corey Maggette and his equally bad contract.
Gordon now wallows on Charlotte’s bench as they move in a different direction, one that doesn’t include 30-year-olds that were once unstoppable when it came to getting hot from the perimeter. That used to be Gordon’s career. He was downright terrifying in some instances when he would start to make the type of shots from low-percentage areas that nobody had any right making. Even after the irrelevancy that has enveloped his name, Gordon is still shooting 40 percent from three for his career. Excluding this season, Gordon has shot at least 40 percent from three in seven of his nine years in the league.
He’s played one game this season. Charlotte will be paying a lot of money to a sharpshooter who will continue to see no time as they give minutes to younger options in Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions and Gerald Henderson. Once Gordon’s off the team, he’ll surely receive a deal that will fit his game. Until then, however, he’s one of the most grossly overpaid players in the league.
17. ANDREW BYNUM – $24 million/2 years
Was there something the Cleveland Cavaliers knew that we didn’t? Maybe they’re just keeping Andrew Bynum under wraps until they make the playoffs only to have him average 20 and 10 in a championship run. It’s still early. Really early. We’re only three weeks into the season and Bynum has been featured in seven of Cleveland’s first 11 games, even starting in two of them. He responded to his starting duties with an 11-point, 6-rebound game in a loss against Chicago and then followed that up with a dud in Washington where he scored six points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Bynum now appears to be the offical starter and has played in at least 20 minutes in the past two contests. He made his return opening night against the Brooklyn Nets, playing seven minutes and shooting 1-of-5.
He’s started off the season shooting 34 percent. Still, he is returning after taking an entire year off to the dismay of the Philadelphia 76ers, so any playing time should be appreciated. He’s played in 60 games or less in six of his eight years in the league.
Cleveland fans will argue not all of this money is guaranteed — and there’s still a very decent chance they cut him before paying the full amount — but still, it’s a lot of money to pay for a guy who is a shell of himself and is openly talking of retirement.