Bad business: Ranking the 20 worst NBA contracts
Glenn James / National Basketball Association / Getty

When a player signs a contract with an NBA team, their salary is almost always guaranteed for the life of the deal - whether they exceed or fall well short of expectations.

In the latter case, certain bloated contracts end up handcuffing the teams that signed them for years to come.

With that in mind, here are the 20 worst contracts in the NBA today, with regards to the remaining terms of the deal. Consideration was given to the age of the player, their current abilities, their injury history, and of course, the length and dollar amount of their deal. Contracts that expire next summer were generally not included, as even the worst among them have some value in the form of soon-to-be available cap space - which some teams will inevitably use to sign yet another bad deal.

20. Pau Gasol, Spurs

Age Year Salary
38 2018-19 $16M
39 2019-20 $16M*

* Partially guaranteed for $6.7M

Unless Gasol submits an all-time great season for a 38-year-old in 2018-19, the Spurs will likely cut bait before the following campaign, effectively making this deal a one-year, $22.7-million contract - slightly more palatable overall.

19. Gorgui Dieng, Timberwolves

Age Year Salary
28 2018-19 $15.2M
29 2019-20 $16.2M
30 2020-21 $17.2M

Before signing this deal, Dieng performed like an above-average two-way power forward - and got paid like one. However, the Timberwolves also decided to make 32-year-old Taj Gibson the starter with a two-year, $28-million contract, relegating Dieng to the status of overpaid backup power forward.

18. John Wall, Wizards

Age Year Salary
28 2018-19 $19.2M
29 2019-20 $37.8M
30 2020-21 $40.8M
31 2021-22 $43.8M
32 2022-23 $46.9M*

* Player option

Of everyone on this list, Wall stands out as the best player in terms of present-day ability, but there are reasons to be concerned if you're a Wizards fan:

  • He missed half of last season due to injury
  • Much of his game is predicated on speed, a trait that hasn't aged well historically
  • He's shot 34 percent on threes over the past five years in a league that practically demands elite shooting from backcourt stalwarts
  • His contract is set to skyrocket after 2018-19

Of course, the Wizards' hands were tied when they signed Wall to this deal, as losing him would've signaled a return to the draft lottery. On the other hand, an annual salary above $40 million could make sense for a handful of players who can keep any team in contention, but there's little indication Wall is capable of that on his own.

17. Hassan Whiteside, Heat

Age Year Salary
29 2018-19 $25.4M
30 2019-20 $27.1M*

* Player option

Whiteside's player option means that if he underperforms this coming season, the Heat will be locked into a massive financial commitment to the cantankerous big man. But if Whiteside lives up to his star-level contract, there's a possibility he declines his option and aims for a lucrative long-term deal instead. Neither situation is great for the Heat.

16. Tyler Johnson, Heat

Age Year Salary
25 2018-19 $19.2M
26 2019-20 $19.2M

After paying Johnson just $5.7 million on average over the first half of this contract, that average salary will nearly quadruple in Year 3 - a product of a "poison pill" that the Brooklyn Nets put into an offer sheet for Johnson when he was a restricted free agent.

15. Serge Ibaka, Raptors

Age Year Salary
29 2018-19 $21.7M
30 2019-20 $23.3M

The Raptors took a calculated risk when this deal was signed before last season - specifically, overpaying Ibaka on an annual basis, but being able to get out from under the deal in just three years. Regardless, it's still a bad contract for a player who's regressed significantly from the shot-blocking defender he once was.

14. Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves

Age Year Salary
23 2018-19 $25.3M
24 2019-20 $27.3M
25 2020-21 $29.3M
26 2021-22 $31.3M
27 2022-23 $33.4M

Wiggins has averaged 19.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists through four seasons, but hasn't lived up to his pre-draft billing as an elite two-way player. Tying the next half-decade to a player whose game seems to have plateaued could prove costly for Minnesota, especially because having both Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler in the fold should give the team a window of contention right now.

13. James Johnson, Heat

Age Year Salary
31 2018-19 $14.7M
32 2019-20 $15.3M
33 2020-21 $16M*

* Player option

Like they did with so many players who were instrumental to their 30-11 finish to the 2016-17 season, the Heat rewarded Johnson's career year with a big deal last summer. The $16-million player option for the final season only adds further uncertainty to Miami's outlook, as the team's books are crammed with multi-year, eight-digit contracts.

12. Bismack Biyombo, Hornets

Age Year Salary
26 2018-19 $17M
27 2019-20 $17M*

* Player option

Biyombo's whopping four-year, $68-million contract is only half over, while the team that signed it (Orlando) has already cut bait. And unless he miraculously extends his shooting range beyond the length of his arm, it's almost certain the defensive center will exercise his 2019-20 player option.

11. Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers

Age Year Salary
27 2018-19 $17.5M
28 2019-20 $18.5M

Thompson played a pivotal role in the Cavaliers' run to their first NBA title in 2016. Years 4 and 5 of his original $82-million contract are steep, but it's still a relatively small price to pay as collateral for the strongest period in team history.

10. Brandon Knight, Suns

Age Year Salary
26 2018-19 $14.6M
27 2019-20 $15.6M

Still just 26, Knight has some work to do after missing all of last season due to an ACL tear. At his best, he might be able to provide the bench-scoring spark of a prototypical sixth man.

Of course, the Suns can't feel great about Knight's contract after watching two-time Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams sign a three-year extension with the Clippers for just $24 million total - with only $1.5 million partially guaranteed for the final year.

9. Timofey Mozgov, Magic

Age Year Salary
32 2018-19 $16M
33 2019-20 $16.7M

Having been traded from the Lakers to the Nets to the Hornets to the Magic since last June, Mozgov is living proof that no contract - no matter how onerous - is truly untradeable.

8. Blake Griffin, Pistons

Age Year Salary
29 2018-19 $32.1M
30 2019-20 $34.5M
31 2020-21 $36.8M
32 2021-22 $39M*

* Player option

Griffin comes with the same concerns as Wall. The Pistons forward is past his car-hopping, above-the-rim athletic prime, and has missed 107 regular-season games over the past four years.

You can justify Detroit's investment given the franchise's struggles to lure stars, but the final years of Griffin's deal could prove catastrophic if his health or on-court production continues to slip. He even has a $39-million player option for his age-32 season.

7. Evan Turner, Trail Blazers

Age Year Salary
29 2018-19 $17.9M
30 2019-20 $18.6M

The Trail Blazers' chances of winning a title while playing in the same conference as the Golden State Warriors have always been slim, but a four-year, $70-million contract for Turner has not helped their cause.

6. Ryan Anderson, Rockets

Age Year Salary
30 2018-19 $20.4M
31 2019-20 $21.3M

It should be noted that Anderson averaged 26.1 minutes per game across 66 appearances for a Rockets team that led the league with 65 wins last season. That said, floor-spacing big men (who struggle defensively) aren't as difficult to find as they used to be. For example, Anthony Tolliver, who shot 43.6 percent on 4.6 attempts per game from deep in 2017-18, just signed a one-year, $5.7-million contract with Minnesota.

5. Ian Mahinmi, Wizards

Age Year Salary
31 2018-19 $15.9M
32 2019-20 $15.5M

Mahinmi has averaged five points and 4.3 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game since joining the Wizards two seasons ago. His remaining contract is bad on its own, but since Washington is currently $12.6 million over the luxury-tax threshold for 2018-19, it's also a huge reason why the team is set to pay a $22.9-million tax bill.

4. Danilo Gallinari, Clippers

Age Year Salary
30 2018-19 $21.6M
31 2019-20 $22.6M

Gallinari has already lost 322 regular-season games to injury in his career, and hasn't suited up at least 70 times in a season since 2012-13. The Clippers will have to ride out the final two years of his deal with minimal expectations that he'll ever be able to stay healthy.

3. Chandler Parsons, Grizzlies

Age Year Salary
29 2018-19 $24.1M
30 2019-20 $25.1M

Though lingering injuries were a concern during Parsons' time with the Rockets and Mavericks, the Grizzlies were willing to back up the Brinks truck in an attempt to maximize the waning primes of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. However, Parsons has played only 70 games - and just 19.5 minutes per night when he's taken the court - through the first half of his lucrative deal. His body just can't take the pounding of a full season

2. Luol Deng, Lakers

Age Year Salary
33 2018-19 $18M
34 2019-20 $18.8M

We're going to assume that you - yes, you - did not play in the NBA last season. That means you played just 13 fewer minutes than Deng, who's now more likely to appear on the side of a milk cartoon under the headline "Missing" than in a Lakers uniform.

Leading the league in minutes per game in 2011-12 and 2012-13 with the Bulls - a product of Tom Thibodeau's ludicrously short rotations - seems to have finally caught up to Deng.

Speaking of Thibs ...

1. Joakim Noah, Knicks

Age Year Salary
33 2018-19 $18.5M
34 2019-20 $19.3M

What were the Knicks thinking? There were red flags everywhere.

Prior to New York signing Noah to four-year, $72-million contract, the former Defensive Player of the Year had missed an average of 16.6 games per season during a nine-year run with Chicago. In his final year with the Bulls as a 30-year-old, Noah was held to 21.9 minutes per game while making just 29 regular-season appearances. Regardless, the Knicks offered him a contract in line with his prior performance - and now they're stuck paying for his present and future.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Bad business: Ranking the 20 worst NBA contracts
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