We all knew, as it was happening, that NBA owners and general managers had gone a bit daft in the summer of 2016. They were flush with TV-money cap space and spent it like drunken sailors. That was good for the players who were free agents then, but now comes the hangover — those contracts are going to chew up considerable cap space for the next three summers. In compiling our annual list of overpaid players, seven of the top 10 are on contracts given out in 2016.
(Note: Injured players are given a reprieve from the list. Players must play at least 41 games to qualify.)
1. Luol Deng, Lakers
Deng is slated to make more than $17 million next season, and if he can’t improve on the numbers he put up last season, his albatross contract is likely to top this list clear into 2020. He played 56 games, in part because of injury and in part because the Lakers were tanking, but the numbers he posted indicated a seriously sharp decline from Deng: 38.7 percent shooting, 7.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists. At age 32, it is unlikely that Deng is going to bounce back, but he needs to be somewhat more productive.
2. Evan Turner, Trail Blazers
Four years and $70 million never really sounded like a good idea for Turner, but the way he played last season compounded the mistake that Portland made in giving him that contract. He had been a valuable sixth man in Boston, mostly by playing within himself, attacking the glass, serving as an added playmaker and rebounding his position well.
In Portland, that all changed. He had the worst rebound rate of his career, and his assist percentage fell from 30.0 three years ago to 23.9 two years ago to 18.0 last year. For some reason, he fancied himself more of a perimeter option, and took 21.4 percent of his shots from the 3-point line. Bad idea: Turner shot 26.3 percent from the arc, and averaged just 9.0 points.
3. Timofey Mozgov, Nets
Brooklyn will be shelling out $15.3 million next year for Mozgov, and can’t be quite sure what it will get for that money — even if Mozgov had a career year, he likely would not be worth that payday. He has averaged double-figure scoring just once in his career, and his top rebounding year was 7.3 per game.
He had some value as a defensive presence at one point in his career, but he didn’t offer much at that end with the Lakers. He only played 54 games as the Lakers shut him down as part of their tanking ploy, but he is 31 now. Even when he’s in the lineup, it’s unclear what he can contribute.
4. Joakim Noah, Knicks
Noah appeared in 46 games last year, barely qualifying for this list, but given the way things have gone for him since his banner 2013-14 season, this is what Knicks fans can expect over the course of his four-year, $72 million contract he signed with in the summer of 2016. On a per-36-minute basis, Noah still has value — he hustles, he rebounds and he is an excellent passer.
But at 32, his body has broken down to the point that he can’t much be relied upon, and he’s not going to give you 36 minutes. In fact, he has topped the 30-minute mark only 10 times in the past two years.
5. Bismack Biyombo, Magic
The Magic got what they paid for — a defensive-minded backup center who has virtually no impact on the offensive end. But they paid him $70 million over four years, and that’s a deal that will weigh down the team’s new front office as it tries to rebuild.
With a new team and a big contract, it would be expected that Biyombo might have seen a boost in minutes last year, but those stayed the same (22.1), and the Magic quickly figured out that Biyombo is not a starter. Playing for a bad defensive team, Biyombo’s skills in the middle were wasted, and his rebounding rate actually dropped. The final numbers — 6.0 points, 7.0 rebounds — were rough, and are not likely to improve.
6. Kent Bazemore, Hawks
You don’t need analytics to know that 3-pointers and shots at the rim are the most valuable field-goal attempts in the game, which makes Bazemore’s 2016-17 season strange because he took fewer shots at the rim and 3-pointers (as a percentage of his total shots) last year than any year since he was a rookie. His true shooting percentage (50.4) dropped to its lowest level since his rookie year, too.
It was not entirely Bazemore’s fault — the Hawks lost Jeff Teague and Al Horford last year, and their offensive ability helped create open looks for Bazemore. The problem is, the Hawks gave him $70 million in 2016, and he is slated to make $17 million this year. Bazemore was a nice bargain, 3-and-D player for most of his career, but he is being paid like a No. 1 option now, and he’s not up to that role.
7. Reggie Jackson, Pistons
The good news for the Pistons is that the money they’re giving Jackson this year — $16 million of a five-year, $80 million deal he signed in 2015 — might not look so bad by the end of the season, if he regains his old form. But last year was a disaster. Jackson had a knee procedure to start last year, missed 21 games and was never right after that. His value rests in his pick-and-roll ability, but Jackson struggled as a finisher around the rim last year, shot 41.9 percent from the field as a whole and his assist percentage dropped from 36.0 to 30.3.
8. Carmelo Anthony, Thunder
Anthony is 33 and over the course of last season, it was clear that, though he is still a good scorer, he has become a slightly above-average small forward. He scored 22.4 points per night, but his shooting and efficiency left much to be desired, he does not give much on the defensive end and his rebounding percentage (9.3) was his worst in a decade. He also took only 12.7 percent of his shots at the rim, the lowest rate of his career.
Shelling out $26 million to an above-average wing is just too much. Now, there is a chance things change in Oklahoma City, should Anthony make the adjustment to playing more power forward, but it will require that he work harder for shots in the paint and fight for more rebounds. Until he does that, he’s not proven he is up to his contract.
9. Wesley Matthews, Mavericks
The Achilles’ tendon injury Matthews suffered two years ago obviously affected him in his first year with the Mavericks in 2015-16, but the hope was that he would get back to his old self in 2016-17 — a very good defensive player and efficient all-around scorer, especially from the 3-point line. He is still a good defender and just about an average 3-point shooter, but Matthews shot 39.3 percent from the field last year, averaging 13.5 points. For nearly $18 million per season, that is just not enough.
10. Victor Oladipo, Pacers
Oladipo should get a boost in his numbers playing for the Pacers because he did not have the ball in his hands all that much playing with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, where his assist percentage dropped to a career-low 12.5 percent as his 3-point percentage rose to a career-high 36.1 percent.
But even at his best, Oladipo is just a good combo guard and solid NBA wing, a guy who can fill a role next to star players. The Pacers will have him on the books at a star-player salary, though — $21 million per year. That number will eat up their cap for the next four seasons.
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