Bad Business: Ranking the NBA's 15 worst contracts

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The NBA has mostly gotten better at fiscal restraint. Contracts are kept relatively short by design, meaning ascending talents can reach their next payday quicker - and bad money comes off the books a lot faster.

Still, today's front offices aren't above handing out truly egregious contracts, deals that are so bad that fans begin circling dates on the calendar years ahead of time.

With that in mind, here are the 15 worst contracts in the league today, counting only the outstanding years and money left on each deal. Expiring contracts were omitted, as they'll at least be off the books next June, with one exception ...

15. Chandler Parsons, Hawks

Joe Murphy / National Basketball Association / Getty
Age Year Salary
30 2019-20 $25.1M

Parsons' deal is one of the last vestiges of the NBA's notorious summer of 2016, when a rapidly rising salary cap led to several disastrous agreements. Parsons had high expectations, but he never could get his body right and averaged fewer than 20 minutes per game in just 95 total appearances with the Grizzlies over the past three seasons.

14. Dion Waiters, Heat

Age Year Salary
28 2019-20 $12.1M
29 2020-21 $12.7M

Waiters has only managed to average 40 games per season in three years with Miami. For a team looking to build a winner around Jimmy Butler, his money would be better allocated elsewhere.

13. Tim Hardaway Jr., Mavericks

Bart Young / National Basketball Association / Getty
Age Year Salary
27 2019-20 $20M
28 2020-21 $19M*

* Player option

Hardaway will almost certainly decline his option if he enjoys a breakout season and reap the rewards of entering what's projected to be a very weak free-agent class next summer.

And if he underperforms and exercises his option, he'll opt in well above his market value, limiting the Mavericks' ability to add better complementary talents around Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic.

12. Steven Adams, Thunder

Age Year Salary
26 2019-20 $25.8M
27 2020-21 $27.5M

You can justify paying Adams nearly 20 percent of the salary cap when he's a tertiary role player next to Russell Westbrook and Paul George. At that point, you're already so far over the cap that it doesn't really matter. With those players gone, however, Adam's huge salary limits the Thunder's ability to acquire an asset for the hulking big man should they opt for a full teardown.

11. James Johnson, Heat

Abbie Parr / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Age Year Salary
32 2019-20 $15.3M
33 2020-21 $16M*

* Player option

Johnson's scoring efficiency took a step back last year while he recovered from a sports hernia and an injured shoulder. He'll probably exercise his $16-million player option for 2020-21, which would make him the Heat's second-highest-paid player behind Jimmy Butler.

10. Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves

Age Year Salary
24 2019-20 $27.5M
25 2020-21 $29.5M
26 2021-22 $31.6M
27 2022-23 $33.6M

Wiggins' defensive prowess hasn't lived up to expectations, he's not an efficient scorer, and he generally seems disengaged when not directly involved in the play.

It's not too late to redeem his massive contract, of course. The former No. 1 pick will only be 24 when next season begins. But in signing Wiggins to a five-year, $147.7-million extension, the Timberwolves committed to a Wiggins/Karl-Anthony Towns tandem - which has proven incapable of leading the team to the playoffs - for the foreseeable future.

9. Terry Rozier, Hornets

Adam Glanzman / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Age Year Salary
25 2019-20 $19.9M
26 2020-21 $18.9M
27 2021-22 $17.9M

This is the first contract on the list that was inked this offseason. The only good thing about Rozier's deal is that it becomes decreasingly punitive as the years go by. If you're going to hand out a ridiculous contract, you may as well front-load it.

Wait: The Hornets let Kemba Walker leave, but lavished a $56.7-million deal on a career backup who had one hot six-week stretch in 2017-18? How does that make any sense?

There's a reason why Rozier isn't the only Hornet on this list.

8. Gorgui Dieng, Timberwolves

Age Year Salary
29 2019-20 $16.2M
30 2020-21 $17.3M

Dieng started all 82 games for the Timberwolves in 2016-17 and it's been downhill from there. He matched his career low with just 13.6 minutes of floor time per game last year. At least Dieng will have a better shot at playing time without Tom Thibodeau favorite Taj Gibson on the team.

Unless he sees a dramatic uptick this year, there's a good chance Dieng has the last season of his deal waived and stretched.

Speaking of the stretch provision ...

A brief intermission

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Not included in these rankings are players currently being paid to not play for a particular team. The names listed below were waived using the stretch provision. They'll still be paid every cent they're owed, and some will continue to sit on the books as dead money despite being long gone from the NBA.

Player Team Salary Final Year
J. Noah Knicks $6.4M 2021-22
T. Mozgov Magic $5.6M 2021-22
D. Williams Nets $5.5M 2019-20
J. Smith Pistons $5.3M 2019-20
R. Anderson Heat $5.2M 2021-22
L. Deng Lakers $5M 2021-22
J. Leuer Bucks $3.2M 2021-22
A. Nicholson Trail Blazers $2.8M 2023-24
M. Ellis Pacers $2.2M 2021-22
M. Barnes Kings $2.1M 2019-20
K. Singler Thunder $1M 2022-23

Now, back to the main list ...

7. Blake Griffin, Pistons

Chris Schwegler / National Basketball Association / Getty
Age Year Salary
30 2019-20 $34.4M
31 2020-21 $36.8M
32 2021-22 $39M*

* Player option

Griffin just turned in one of his finest seasons in years, recalibrating his game around playmaking and perimeter scoring after being a high-flying dunker for much of his career. If he manages to stay healthy, he'll be worth every remaining penny on his current deal.

That's one big if. Griffin logged 75 appearances in the regular season last year - the most since 2013-14 - but he hobbled into the playoffs, sitting out two of the Pistons' first-round games against the Milwaukee Bucks in what ended up being a sweep.

The reality is that he turned 30 in March and has averaged less than 60 games over the past five campaigns. The Pistons will enter each of the next three seasons expecting their star player to miss extended time at some point in the year.

6. Russell Westbrook, Rockets

Age Year Salary
30 2019-20 $38.5M
31 2020-21 $41.4M
32 2021-22 $44.2M
33 2022-23 $47.1M*

* Player option

Westbrook being traded from the Thunder to the Houston Rockets this offseason is proof that no contract is too large to be moved in today's NBA.

Though he's only two years removed from his MVP 2016-17 season, Westbrook's teams produced first-round exits in each of the past three springs. As things stand, the Rockets will be paying increasingly absurd sums of money for a player whose aggressive, inefficient style of play probably won't age gracefully.

5. Kevin Love, Cavaliers

Dylan Buell / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Age Year Salary
31 2019-20 $28.9M
32 2020-21 $31.3M
33 2021-22 $31.3M
34 2022-23 $28.9M

The extension Love signed last summer kicks in this year. You have to wonder if the Cavaliers would've handed out the four-year, $120.4-million deal had they been able to foresee his injury-plagued, 22-game 2018-19 season.

Love turns 31 in September. A huge, aging, hurting body can be a recipe for disaster. If he doesn't show improved health in 2019-20, it's unlikely any team will see value in his nine-figure contract.

4. Chris Paul, Thunder

Age Year Salary
34 2019-20 $38.5M
35 2020-21 $41.4M
36 2021-22 $44.2M*

* Player option

It turns out that the best (and maybe only) way to move a so-called "untradeable contract" is to take one back in return.

Paul will collect $44.2 million in his age-36 campaign in 2021-22 (he's not turning down that player option). That would represent roughly 30 percent of the team's salary cap for a player who has only averaged 59 games per season from ages 31-33.

At best, Paul will be vastly overpaid for a team not expected to contend anytime soon. At worst, he'll end up being stretched and waived, sitting on OKC's books as significant dead money for years to come.

3. Gordon Hayward, Celtics

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty
Age Year Salary
29 2019-20 $32.7M
30 2020-21 $34.2M*

* Player option

Through no fault of his own, Hayward's devastating injury in Game 1 of his Celtics tenure has made his current contract one of the very worst in the NBA. Halfway through a four-year, $127.8-million deal, the former All-Star has delivered 11.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game, mostly off the bench.

The question is whether his underwhelming 2018-19 season was needed to shake the rust off, or if that's simply his new standard. For a Celtics team in win-now mode, tying up superstar money in a vastly diminished asset could be the difference between an early playoff exit and title No. 18.

2. Nicolas Batum, Hornets

Age Year Salary
31 2019-20 $25.6M
32 2020-21 $27.1M*

* Player option

Batum's five-year, $120-million contract is entering Year 4, and yikes, it continues to age like milk.

Virtually all of Batum's production has dropped from his Year 1 levels despite his playing time and role basically staying the same. The 30-year-old put up 9.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in 31.4 minutes per game last season.

With Kemba Walker being shipped to Boston in a sign-and-trade that netted the aforementioned Rozier, there's a good chance that Charlotte doesn't make a single postseason appearance during the duration of Batum's deal.

1. John Wall, Wizards

Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Age Year Salary
29 2019-20 $38.2M
30 2020-21 $41.3M
31 2021-22 $44.3M
32 2022-23 $47.4M*

* Player option


Wall has been held to just 73 games over the last two seasons and tore his left Achilles after slipping in his home in February. There's a strong indication that the soon-to-be-29-year-old won't see a single minute of NBA action in 2019-20.

Here's something to ponder: Would you give a three-year, $133-million contract to a 30-year-old guard coming off an incredibly devastating lower-body injury whose game relies heavily on athleticism? Because that's pretty much what the Wizards are getting after this coming season.

Westbrook and Paul are both older while making comparable money, but at least they're expected to play in the imminent future. Whether he's able to play or not, Wall already accounts for roughly 42 percent of the Wizards' cap space in 2022-23.

Again, this isn't Wall's fault. No athlete wants to be hurt, but the Wizards are now faced with an albatross contract. Wall's outstanding terms are so bad that it's hard to envision a scenario where the team assembles a legitimate contender in the next four years.

Bad Business: Ranking the NBA's 15 worst contracts
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