There are two main reasons for young men to try and become professional basketball players. The first and most obvious is that when guys start playing a sport they love, they unavoidably want to become the best there is at what they do. But when it comes to professional basketball, once you realize that you will never get better than Michael Jordan, your focus tends to change a little bit. And while you are still trying to be the best player you can be, you’re not just aiming for the top spot in the world. You are aiming for a big payday.
All professional basketball players get paid ridiculous amounts of money. But even among their ranks, there are a few guys who get paid tens of millions of dollars to play in each season. Who would not want to be one of those players? Sometimes, in order to get a payday, you will have to give up the chance of being on a top team, but that doesn’t seem to matter for some players. On the other hand, some guys take pay cuts to pursue championships. And since we are in the business of transparency, we decided to put together a little list to show you 10 guys in the NBA who are overpaid and 10 who should be earning a lot more money than they do.
20 Overpaid: Paul Millsap
To start off our list, we must travel all the way to the Rocky Mountains, where the Denver Nuggets decided that it would be a good idea to pay $30 million a year for a guy like Paul Millsap. He was one of the best players available during free agency this off-season, a place that was warranted since Millsap had a great tenure in Atlanta. Just this past season, he averaged 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He also shot better than 44 percent from the field. Many people even thought Millsap could lead a good team to the playoff at 32 years old.
Unfortunately, he did not play well during the 16 games he had with the Nuggets this season, averaging little over 15 points and six rebounds per game.
Now, he is sidelined after a surgery to fix a torn ligament in his left wrist.
19 Steal: Spencer Dinwiddie
If you asked any NBA fan at the beginning of this season who Spencer Dinwiddie was, you would probably find yourself facing a puzzled look. No one knew who this kid was. Drafted all the way back in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons, Dinwiddie never had a shot at showing what he could do in the NBA. He played most of his days in the D League (now the G League) and seemed like he would be one of those guys who make careers there. Here is where we have to give a lot of credit to the Brooklyn Nets. We will burn them further down the list for terrible deals they made, but this one was great.
In the 2016 summer, they signed Dinwiddie to a three-year contract worth less than $3 million.
What no one knew is that this guy would become perhaps the most clutch player in the NBA this season.
18 Overpaid: Otto Porter Jr.
This is one of those contracts we simply could not understand. Otto Porter Jr. is a good player who has contributed well to the Washington Wizards. He is a solid wing defender who has good length and can guard most guys in the NBA. But that is as far as his skills go. His three-point shooting has improved a little, but it is still not reliable enough for you to imagine him being able to win games for you on his own. We would have no quarrel with Porter getting a mid-level contract, but that was not what the Wizards did. No,
they signed Porter to a four-year deal worth more than $106 million.
Oh yes, they also gave him a player option for the final year. That’s giving away too much for too little.
17 Steal: Ben Simmons
We should probably steer away from putting guys who are still under the rookie contracts on this list. Nevertheless, it is impossible to talk about steals in terms of contracts without mentioning Ben Simmons. The number one overall pick of the 2016 Draft was already expected to be a good player. But Simmons has gotten to a point where we find ourselves angered at the NBA for not selecting him to the All-Star Game. Yes, this is how ridiculous Simmons has been during his first year with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The guy hasn’t even been around for one year, and he has already changed the way people look at basketball.
At 6’10”, everyone thought he would be a forward. Instead, Simmons became one of the best guards in the league. The man is averaging 16.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists. And he is still under a three-year contract worth around $18 million.
16 Overpaid: Brook Lopez
If you are someone who doesn’t care about winning, you should consider following the same career path as Brook Lopez. The math here is simple. If you play in a team with a bunch of studs, you will have a hard time getting people to notice you. On the other hand, if you play in a team full of scrubs, you will get the chance to be the hero all the time and score all the points you want. Many players have done that, and Lopez is just one of the most recent examples of this very lucrative career path. A testament to that is that in nine seasons with the Nets, he averaged 18.6 points per game.
Now that he is on a slightly better team, he is only averaging 12 points and four rebounds per game.
Still, Lopez is getting paid more than $22 million this year.
15 Steal: Kemba Walker
It is not every day that you can have an All-Star on your roster and pay him only $12 million every year.
Still, that was the deal Michael Jordan made when he signed Kemba Walker to a four-year deal worth $48 million back in 2015.
This turned out to be one hell of a steal, as Walker has steadily developed into one of the premier guards in the NBA. The Hornets are not a team that will challenge for a championship anytime soon, but Walker is still a point guard who is averaging almost 23 points and six assists per game. He has been with the team since his rookie season, and it was pretty much a given that he would re-sign with them, but the deal turned out better than it looked. Undoubtedly the best move Michael Jordan ever made as a GM.
14 Overpaid: Chandler Parsons
Some guys seem to be lucky when it comes to contracts. The year leading up to your shot at free agency is usually when players really give it their all to get a considerable pay raise during the summer. Chandler Parsons is someone who did that twice. The first time, he had the best year in his career, averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and four assists per game with the Houston Rockets—
a season that earned him a three-year contract worth $46 million with the Dallas Mavericks.
The same thing happened when he was on his way out of Dallas, which got him a four-year deal worth more than $94 million with the Memphis Grizzlies. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, it doesn’t seem like the huge deal was worth it. After all, Parsons has averaged little over seven points per game since arriving in Memphis.
13 Steal: Draymond Green
It is funny how we can find underpaid All-Stars to talk about. That is the case of Draymond Green. He is not the best at anything, but he might just be the best all-around player in the best team in the NBA. This guy does a little bit of everything. He might be shooting terribly from behind the arc, but he makes up for it in so many ways that it is hard to put it on the stats sheet. Talking about the stats sheet, Green is averaging 11.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game.
An All-Star who would surely get a max contract if he was to test free agency anytime soon, Green is getting paid a little more than $16 million a year in Golden State.
If you can’t call that a steal, we don’t know what you can.
12 Overpaid: Jrue Holiday
Paul Millsap might have gotten the biggest payday when it comes to terrible contracts made during this last off-season, but in terms of how costly a deal was for a team, it is hard to beat what the New Orleans Pelicans did when they decided to splash all the cash they had on Jrue Holiday. Don’t get us wrong, Holiday is not a terrible point guard. But,
he is certainly not worth a contract of almost $132 million over five seasons.
Yes, the Pelicans are spending almost $25 million on Holiday during this first season alone. And for what? The guy is averaging a career-high 18.5 points per game. Still, he is a point guard who spends almost 37 minutes on the floor every night and only has an average of 5.3 assists per outing. He is also just shooting 32 percent from behind the arc.
11 Steal: Tyreke Evans
When he arrived in the NBA back in 2009, everyone saw Tyreke Evans as the next big thing in the shooting guard position. And to give him credit, the guy had one hell of a rookie season, averaging 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game during his first year in the league. Nevertheless, it was all downhill from there for Tyreke. That is until he signed with the Memphis Grizzlies for an astounding one-year contract worth a little over $3 million.
Let’s just say that the Grizzlies definitely got more than they thought they would with those $3 million. Evans has risen like a phoenix this year. He is averaging 19.4 points, five rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game in a season that is, by far, his best since that breakout rookie campaign.
10 Overpaid: Nicolas Batum
Nicolas Batum is one of those players that every coach would love to have on his team. A lengthy forward who can play the shooting guard position and stretch the floor if asked to play the power forward spot, this guy was a nightly triple-double threat during a good deal of his time with the Portland Trail Blazers. That was one of the reasons why the Hornets traded for him. And it all would have been a great deal if Batum had only developed. But no, it looks like this guy hit his ceiling very early in his career.
That seems to have misguided the franchise when they decided to extend his contract for five more seasons.
By that, we mean that they severely overpaid Batum by offering him $120 million over those five years.
9 Steal: Michael Beasley
Another guy who seemed like he would be a great player right after he came out of college was Michael Beasley. This guy had everything—size, strength, shooting touch, and everything in-between. To this day, it is hard to tell what the problem with Beasley was. It almost seems like he never clicked and turned on NBA mode during his nine-year career.
That seems to be changing since he arrived in New York to play this season on a one-year contract worth a little more than $2 million.
Beasley has been a surprising contributor to the struggling Knicks. Mostly coming off the bench, he is averaging almost 13 points and five rebounds per game. He is also shooting better than 51 percent from the floor. Beasley won’t be getting a massive contract in the summer, but he is sure worth more than the $2 million that the Knicks are paying for him.
8 Overpaid: Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah is one of those players that fans love to have on their team if the four other guys on the court have enough offensive capabilities to make up for his horrendous shot. Seriously, watching Noah shoot makes you wonder if it really is that hard to get into the NBA. The answer is that it is incredibly hard to get into the league, but some guys just seem to slip through the cracks. No, we would be negligent if we didn’t mention that during his time in Chicago, Noah was the rock that held their defense together. But
once he decided to leave and signed with the New York Knicks, his offensive struggles became so apparent that he is now pretty much exiled from the team,
which is awful since they signed him to a four-year deal worth more than $72 million.
7 Steal: Jeff Green
One of the few good surprises in a rather underwhelming season for the Cleveland Cavaliers has been the play of Jeff Green.
After a bad year in Orlando, where he was paid $15 million for one year of play, Green decided to make a gamble and accepted an offer of $2.3 million for a one-year contract with the Cavaliers.
Let’s just say it turned out to be a great deal for both parties. Green will have a shot at playing for a contender for the first time since he left Oklahoma City in 2011, and he has been solid. Averaging 10.7 points per game and playing a key role in that terrible defense that Cleveland has, he sure has been one heck of a steal for them. This was a gamble that paid off for both player and team.
6 Overpaid: Allen Crabbe
You have to give it up to the Brooklyn Nets. They really seem to have a knack for messing up. Even when they don’t offer huge contracts to terrible players, they trade to get those terrible contracts. That is the only reason we could find to explain why they acquired Allen Crabbe from the Portland Trail Blazers last year.
If the guy was on the last year of his contract, it would’ve made sense if their goal was to free cap space for free agency.
But no, Crabbe was a guy who was averaging little over 10 points per game in almost 30 minutes of play every night for Portland. And he had recently signed a four-year contract worth nearly $75 million. If you want a lesson on how to ruin a business, you might as well just try to get an internship in Brooklyn. They are masters at it.
5 Steal: Rajon Rondo
You never know it with Rajon Rondo. When you sign him for your team, you could either get good Rondo or you could get bad Rondo. Good Rondo is the kind of guy who can dish out 25 assists in a single game, which is exactly what he did against Brooklyn in December. The guy played 30 minutes and dished out 25 assists. That is nothing short of ridiculous. This is the kind of play you could get from Rondo when he wants to play. The problem is that when he doesn’t want to play, he’s capable of destroying a locker room like we have seen him do in Chicago last year.
Nevertheless, when you can sign a guy like this for $3.3 million,
it is worth the gamble—a gamble that seems to have played out for the New Orleans Pelicans so far.
4 Overpaid: Ryan Anderson
We feel bad for putting Ryan Anderson on this list. After all, it is not his fault that he is getting paid as much money as the Rockets are throwing at him. Anderson is one of those guys from whom you get exactly what you pay for. Before they signed him, the Rockets knew exactly what kind of player he was. He is a stretch four who can reliably knock down threes for you. But he won’t do much more than that. Anderson is skinny for someone who is almost 7 feet tall, and he is easily out-muscled by stronger big men down on the block.
Maybe the market was a little inflated during the 2016 summer, but to sign this guy to a four-year deal worth $80 million?
The Rockets should have thought this through a little more than they did.
3 Steal: Jamal Crawford
He might be 37 years old, but talents like Jamal Crawford are hard to come by.
The Minnesota Timberwolves knew that when they decided to sign him over the summer for a two-year deal worth $8.8 million.
Like many of the other deals that turned out to be steals, this was a hefty gamble. Want it or not, $4.4 million a year is a lot of money to spend on a 37-year-old player. Luckily for the Wolves, it seems like Crawford is exactly what they needed to keep their scoring level up when the second unit was on the floor. The guy is ridiculous when it comes to scoring. How he does it at his age is nothing short of baffling. Crawford would not be able to start at this point in his career, but for that kind of money and the impact he has when he is on the floor, this was a steal by Minnesota.
2 Overpaid: Luol Deng
The Lakers have been hitting home run after home run in terms of trades and all kinds of deals since Magic Johnson took the helm. Nevertheless, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they have also made terrible decisions in recent years.
Luol Deng has been a solid player throughout his entire career. Hell, the guy should have probably been an All-Star at some point while he was in Chicago. He managed to make a name for himself as a good scorer who could also defend and rebound at a high level. Put the experience into the mix and that might explain why the Lakers were so keen on signing him in 2016. Unfortunately, it turns out that he did not help a whole lot, and the $72 million for four years that they committed to him might hinder their chances to land multiple big-name free agents this summer.
1 Steal: Isaiah Thomas
Yeah, yeah, we know this will be controversial, but it would be unfair for us not to say that Isaiah Thomas’ contract is a steal. Whether Cleveland fans would like to hear it or not, this is a guy who was an MVP candidate just last season. He is 5’9” tall and averaged 29 points per game while leading his Boston Celtics to the number one seed in an Eastern Conference that had LeBron James. Whether or not his time in Cleveland was terrible and whether it was his fault or not doesn’t matter.
When you have a player who can score almost 30 points a night and you only need to pay him $6.2 million, you have a steal.
Magic Johnson and the Lakers knew it very well when they made a trade that was the best of both worlds, getting a guy who could still help them make a playoff push while getting rid of two big contracts.