The NBA’s 68 worst contracts

The economy is really starting to take its toll on professional sports, and the NBA is no different. Bad contracts are bad even when the economy is pumping, but they really stand out in tough times like these. So I decided to look through the payrolls team-by-team to try to identify the worst contracts in the NBA. I expected to list 15-20 names, but I ended up scribbling down 68. That’s right, there are no fewer than 68 bad contracts in the NBA.

I didn’t include any of the players that are in the final year of their contracts because…well, what’s the point? They’ll be off the books in a few months anyway. Instead, I wanted to focus on those contracts that are going to haunt teams for years to come, so to be eligible, players have to have at least a year left on their current deals.

It’s tough to compare someone making superstar money to an average, everyday role player, so I split these 68 contracts up into three groups: the Overpaid Role Players, the Not-So-Super Stars and the Injury-Prones. I will rank them from least-worst to most-worst with the thinking that I wouldn’t trade the player for anyone further down the list but I would trade him for anyone previously mentioned. So, for example, if a guy is listed #7 within a particular group, I’m not trading him for anyone ranked #6-#1, but I would think seriously about moving him for a guy that is ranked #8+.

So let’s start with the role players and go from there…

(Note: In most cases, I don’t blame the player himself for his outrageous contract. The fault lies with the general manager that inked the guy to the deal. However, this rule goes out the window if the player has a history of only producing in his contract year – I’m looking at you, Tim Thomas.)

Read the rest after the jump...

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Elton left Baron high and dry

In Bill Simmons’ column, “The Day They Didn’t Call It a Day,” Baron Davis discusses what went wrong with the anticipated Davis-Brand combo in L.A.

Baron agreed to terms on July 1, but it wasn’t long before local excitement faded. Whispers soon began about reigning star Elton Brand’s maybe jumping ship. Since Brand had just spent all of June recruiting him, Baron was flabbergasted. “Elton basically begged me to come,” Baron says. “He kept saying, ‘We can do great things!’ And I was with it.”

And Elton’s your friend, right?

“Was a friend,” Baron says. Past tense. Elton ignored Davis’ “What’s going on?” texts for three days, finally responding to say his own negotiations had broken down because the Clippers “didn’t treat him right.” Brand soon landed in Philly. Baron called to wish him well, but they haven’t talked since. When the Clippers played Philly in November, the ex-friends didn’t even make eye contact. “It is what it is,” Baron says.

I was stunned when Brand failed to re-up with the Clippers after they signed Davis. At the time, Brand acted like there was no promise or understanding between the two players, but these quotes from Davis dispel that notion.

Isn’t it fitting that Brand’s first season in Philly has been an absolute disaster?

Elton Brand to miss the rest of the season

The injury bug has bitten Elton Brand again.

Sixers forward Elton Brand is out for the season and will have shoulder surgery as early as Monday, a team source confirmed for the Daily News.

Brand dislocated his right shoulder on Dec. 17 when he spilled to the floor awkwardly after being upended by Milwaukee’s Luc Mbah a Moute. Surgery will be performed by Dr. Craig Morgan, Brand’s personal orthopedic surgeon. Morgan did the surgery to repair Brand’s torn Achilles’ tendon that kept him out almost all of last season.

Are the Sixers playing better without him? Is Brand injury prone?

His career is starting to look like another former Duke star — Grant Hill. Hill was on his way to a Hall of Fame-type career before injuries derailed much of his prime. Last year, Brand missed almost the entire season with an Achilles injury and now he’s going to miss most of this season with a shoulder injury.

Is Elton Brand on the trading block?

The answer is yes, according to Chad Ford’s sources. Here’s exactly what Ford said in a recent chat.

…from what my sources around the league are saying, Brand is available. The question is, given how poorly he’s played this year and his huge contract, does anyone want him?

When asked a different question (about the Heat), Ford also mentioned Brand.

I think they have to see whether they can pry Boozer or Elton Brand for Marion. I think both are possible and both are better long term fits than O’Neal. The one positive for O’Neal is that he’s off the books in 2010. That gives the Heat LOTS of cap space in the summer of 2010. Of all the markets trying to clear cap … Miami is one of the most desirable for NBA free agents. The fact that Wade and Michael Beasley are there won’t hurt recruiting either.

The Heat have seemingly moved away from signing a power forward like Boozer or Brand because they think that it is Beasley’s natural position. Offensively, he can play either forward position, but defensively, he’s going to have a tough time covering opposing small forwards. So that would seem to cross Miami off a list of possible destinations for Brand though the two sides have had a long romance. Brand signed an offer sheet with the Heat when he first became a restricted free agent and the Clippers matched.

Given the way that Brand has played this season (PER: 14.63, #33 amongst power forwards), I’m sure teams are hesitant to take on the four years and $66 million remaining on his contract. The main problem is his accuracy from the field. Brand is a career 50% shooter, yet he has only made 45% of his shots this season. His blocks are down as well, so one wonders if he has lost some of his athleticism. Of course, he’s been injured so he has only appeared in 25 games and the Sixers have been playing pretty well without him.

It will be interesting to see if Philly moves him before the trade deadline. If they do, it will be a 180-degree shift from last offseason when everyone (including me) was praising the franchise for acquiring Brand. For the record, after his Achilles injury, I didn’t see Brand as a “max” player, but the Sixers needed to pony up to pry him away from the Clippers and the Warriors. It looks like they took a risk and it hasn’t paid off, at least not yet.

Now the question is — will someone else roll the dice on Elton?

Couch Potato Alert: NBA Wednesday

There are a few interesting NBA games tonight:

Utah (5-1) @ Philadelphia (2-4)
The 76ers are off to a disappointing start. Offseason acquisition Elton Brand is more than five points per game off his career mark, and Andre Iguodala is shooting a miserable 38% from the field. Second-year swingman Thaddeus Young is lighting things up with a 16.5 ppg average on 52% shooting. This game will feature a great power forward matchup between Brand and Utah’s Carlos Boozer. The Jazz have been without Deron Williams, but Utah still managed to get off to a 5-1 start. He’s expected to make his debut tonight. Too bad the game is only available in local markets (unless you have the NBA League Pass). Game time is 7 PM ET.

Atlanta (5-0) @ Chicago (3-4)
Three of the Hawks’ five wins have come on the road and they hope to extend their unbeaten streak tonight in Chicago. Unfortunately, the high-flying Josh Smith is sidelined with a high-ankle sprain, but Joe Johnson has been doing his best MVP impersonation (25.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.8 apg). For the Bulls, Ben Gordon (20.0 ppg) leads his team in scoring, but it’s rookie sensation Derrick Rose (17.7 ppg, 5.1 apg) who is really turning heads. The game is on locally at 8:30 PM ET.

L.A. Lakers (5-0) @ Dallas (2-4)
The Mavs are off to a slow start, but in Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, they can compete on any given night. They host the Lakers who are coming off a long stretch of down time in their schedule. L.A. is getting great play from Kobe (of course) and Pau Gasol, while Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom have been a little disappointing. Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar anchor a terrific bench. The game is on NBATV at 8:30 PM ET.

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