National Basketball Association player contracts can be scary things for team owners and general managers. Unlike in the National Football League, NBA player deals comes with massive amounts of guaranteed money tied to them, meaning that a club is on the hook for that cash regardless of how well or how poorly the player associated with that contract performs in games. Just because the NBA does not utilize a system that contains a hard salary cap does not mean that billionaire owners are keen on throwing away millions upon millions of dollars on athletes who cannot get the job done on the court.
Athletes get overpaid in every top-tier professional sport. Sometimes, it is a scenario of a team taking a chance on a free agent who simply is not as good with his new club as he was with his previous side. In other cases, unfortunate injuries can burn a player and a team, leading both of those entities and also fans left wondering what might have been had luck not been so harsh. The amounts of money and also the fact that the teams involved in the contracts can do nothing but either pay the salaries or hope that the players involved accept discounted buyouts are what make the NBA stand out from other North American sports leagues.
The ten men that Forbes decided to shine a spotlight on early in 2015 have all, in one way or another, let their teams down during the current NBA season. One is an individual who has Hall-of-Fame talent but who likely will never get to that elite level of his career because he cannot survive an entire campaign. Another is a man who was arguably the best player of his generation, a living legend of the game who cashed in on one final massive contract in the final days of a career that may come to an end without him stepping foot onto a court as an active NBA star a final time.
10. Dwight Howard – Houston Rockets: $21.4 million salary
The Houston Rockets are legitimate contenders for the NBA title heading into the spring, but the club may have to prepare to not have Howard for a significant amount of the postseason. A lingering knee injury has kept Howard sidelined as of late, and it is possible that he will not be ready to return to in-game action until at least April. Don’t look now, but the Rockets are not necessarily missing the big man who has been a player in the league for over a decade. It has, in fact, been suggested by some that Houston is a better team with Howard not in the starting lineup.
9. Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks: $22.5 million
Why the New York Knicks thought it wise to give Anthony a contract that literally no other NBA team was set to offer him at the same time that the club was on the verge of a rebuild that is going to take years – plural – to complete remains a mystery months after the ink on the paper has dried. While Anthony cannot and should not be blamed for the current status of the Knicks, that he chose to shut it down for the remainder of the season after appearing in the NBA All-Star game that was played in New York was somewhat of a back-hand to diehard fans who spend their money to watch the club live and in-person.
8. Jeremy Lin – LA Lakers: $14.9 million
The days of Jeremy Lin being the Tim Tebow of the NBA and the era of “Linsanity” were all great fun to behold, especially for sports fans living in the New York City region, but they passed away, likely for good, long ago. Lin was a revelation for the Knicks after being given a chance to start in 2012, emerging seemingly out of nowhere and becoming the league’s must-watch player who hit game-winning shots and who became the team’s most popular player. Lin, as anybody else in his position would have, cashed in on a contract with the Houston Rockets, but he has never again played at the level that he did when he was the king of New York.
7. Al Jefferson – Charlotte Hornets: $13.5 million
While the Charlotte Hornets are on their way to being on the outside looking in come postseason play, Jefferson checking in here may be a bit harsh when you consider the other options out there. Jefferson was sidelined by a groin injury during the campaign, but he is nevertheless averaging over 30 minutes per regular season game. He is right on-par with his league average of 17 points per game. Just as is the case with Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks, Jefferson is not the main reason Charlotte is a below-.500 side. That team has issues other than the veteran center.
6. Chris Bosh – Miami Heat: $20.6 million
How quickly things can change. It was only a year ago when Bosh was part of the most feared “big three” in all of pro basketball, one that also included Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. That all came to an end in the summer of 2014 when James emotionally announced via a piece that was posted on SI.com in July that he was returning to northeast Ohio and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bosh, an undeniably talented player, immediately became an overpaid star due to the state of the Miami Heat, while James is on the verge of leading the Cavaliers to the playoffs and possibly to a championship.
5. Tony Parker – San Antonio Spurs: $12.5 million
Parker is an instance of a player being paid for what he has contributed to his team in the past as much as for what he can do for the club at this stage of his career. Parker suffered a hamstring injury in December of 2014, and he has, by his own admission, not been his old self since that time. A cornerstone of those multiple San Antonio Spurs championship rosters, Parker is having his worst NBA season in a decade, and he is one of several players on that squad who is closer to calling it a career than to his rookie season in the league.
4. DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors: $9.5 million
It remains possible that DeRozan could play himself off of this list by the time the playoffs roll around. He missed nearly seven weeks of regular season play because of a torn tendon in his groin, but he has since returned for the Toronto Raptors and he has found his healthy form. Toronto is right near the top of the Eastern Conference standings as of the posting of this piece, and the Raptors are seen as one of the only teams in the conference capable of hanging with the Cleveland Cavaliers in a playoff series. Toronto will desperately need DeRozan were such a series to occur this coming spring.
3. Nick Young – LA Lakers: $5 million
Remember, before overreacting, that Forbes put this list together based on “salary per win produced” and not by overall yearly salary. After missing the first ten games of the current campaign because of an injury, Young has merely been a member of a Los Angeles Lakers side that has been a complete disaster in 2014-15. Young is making headlines these days more so for a feud he is having with an ESPN personality than for what he does on the court. That right there is a perfect summary for where Young and the Lakers are as the end of winter draws near.
2. Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls: $18.9 million
Even casual sports fans are aware of the story regarding Rose. The Chicago Bulls star has Most Valuable Player talent when he is healthy, but he has been betrayed by his body time after time. Rose is currently recovering from yet another knee injury, and it is, at this point, wishful thinking and not much more to hope that he will ever again be able to play an entire season from start to finish. While it is difficult to feel sorry for a man who has made millions upon millions of dollars since being drafted by the Bulls, basketball fans are missing out on what could have been a special player had Rose remained healthy.
1. Kobe Bryant – LA Lakers: $23.5 million
Bryant was a joy to watch during his prime, playing at a level that had him mentioned amongst the greatest players in the history of the NBA. Injuries and also the physical punishments that come with playing nearly two decades in the league have made Bryant a non-factor as of March 2015, and there are some whispers that he could choose to retire during the upcoming offseason. That would be good news for the Lakers, as the team would owe the aged superstar $25 million guaranteed were he to play. Knowing that he will never again get a similar NBA contract, it is a safe bet that Bryant will do whatever possible to be on the court next fall.
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