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.)

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Much Ado About Nothing: The 5 Biggest Trade Deadline Teases

You can blame it on the Grizzlies.

Ever since they traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers for a bag of peanuts and some slightly used underwear, NBA teams have become more and more fickle about pulling the proverbial trigger. With the state of the economy, and some owners desperately trying to cut payroll before the cap and luxury tax thresholds decline, it’s a buyer’s market out there. And those buyers are looking for Gasol-type deals. On the flip side, Chris Wallace took all kinds of grief over that trade and general managers around the league don’t want to follow in his footsteps.

After two or three weeks of covering all of this trade chatter, the biggest deal to speak of is the Shawn Marion/Jermaine O’Neal swap and that happened almost a week ago. Sure, guys like Brad Miller, Andres Nocioni, John Salmons, Rafer Alston, Larry Hughes, Tim Thomas, Chris Wilcox and Drew Gooden changed zip codes, but I doubt any fans out there are sporting wood at the idea that one or more of these players is joining their team.

This year’s trade deadline was mostly about teams setting themselves up financially for the next two summers of free agency. Even though there were a number of big names bandied about, the Marion/O’Neal deal is the only semi-blockbuster trade of the season. And, barring some last-minute, late-breaking deal, we have these five teams to blame…

5. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs were in talks with the Nets about acquiring Vince Carter and also spoke with the Bucks about Richard Jefferson. Either of those players would have been a nice addition, but the Spurs just don’t have the pieces (or the balls) to pull off a trade like that. They were willing to trade for Carter, but they didn’t want to give up Roger Mason or George Hill. So they offer the Nets Bruce Bowen and Fabricio Oberto. Great, the numbers don’t even add up. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t really think that the Spurs should have given up Mason and/or Hill to acquire Carter. They’re arguably the second-best team in the West and their current lineup, if healthy, is likely to give the Lakers fits if the two teams meet in the playoffs with a less-than-100% Andrew Bynum. Plus the Spurs are notoriously conservative when it comes to messing with their chemistry. Jefferson wouldn’t have been a problem in that area but Carter might have been. So the Spurs stand pat. Shocker.

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Dissecting the Larry Hughes trade rumor

Larry Hughes to the Nets? It’s a possibility, according to

The Nets and Bulls have discussed a deal that would bring veteran shooting guard Larry Hughes to New Jersey for Bobby Simmons and Maurice Ager, league sources said. Sean Williams was offered instead of Ager, but Chicago wasn’t interested.

Both sides are considering it, although the Bulls are talking to many teams about Hughes, who is signed through next season.

The Nets are weighing whether the deal makes them that much better and if it’s financially smart. The additional salary next season would be more than $3 million.

Every time I hear a trade rumor, I ask myself the following questions…

1. What is Team A (or B) trying to accomplish?
2. What are the salary cap ramifications?
3. Is this is a good idea?

Larry Hughes is one of the most overpaid players in the league. He has another year left on his deal at the tune of $13.6 million. This season, he is an average shooting guard (PER: 14.68) which is an improvement over his performance in the two previous seasons.

Since his contract expires in 2010, this trade wouldn’t affect the Nets’ ability to woo LeBron James or any other big-name free agent that summer, so the Nets are apparently trying to get better in the short term with this deal. Bobby Simmons hasn’t been the same player since his foot injuries he suffered with the Bucks, and since it looks like Hughes has a little left in the tank, it wouldn’t be a bad move for the Nets. He plays the same position as Vince Carter, but since the league is getting smaller, Carter could play a little small forward as well. It’s possible that the Nets are giving themselves a backup plan at off guard if they decide to trade Carter away.

For the Bulls, Hughes has been complaining about his lack of minutes and has been somewhat of a distraction. It would appear that the main benefit for Chicago would be to rid itself of that headache.

So, from that point of view, it looks like a good idea for both teams. The Nets get a little better, they don’t threaten their ability to sign a free agent in 2010 and they give themselves a backup at shooting guard if they trade Carter away. The Bulls rid themselves of a headache, create a happier locker room, and save a little money.

It seems like a fair trade to me.

Larry Hughes unhappy with limited role

Larry Hughes is averaging 19 minutes in the four games he’s played in since returning from injury, and he’s not happy with his role.

“I don’t want to play like this,” Hughes said. “I’m not comfortable with 15-20 minutes. Something has to change.”

“You have to understand that situation and I do,” Hughes said. “We have a lot of guys at one position. Somebody has to come off the bench and you accept that role. But I’m not expecting 15-20 minutes, and I don’t want to deal with that.”

Hughes, a former All-Star and starter for an NBA finalist, said he would accept coming off the bench as long as his minutes increased.

“We all understood the situation going in,” he said. “I want to give it a little time, but being put in a situation not to succeed doesn’t do me or the team any good.

“I have a lot to offer as far as helping guys out. I want to be a positive influence. But not being out there in crucial times, I don’t see the benefit.”

Where do I start?

Hughes is shooting 38% from the field in four games and he’s demanding more minutes? His dreadful FG% would not be a big deal if he had a history of being a solid shooter, but he shot 38% last season and 40% the year before, so it’s not like he’s going to suddenly light it up.

Speaking of lighting it up, Derrick Rose is the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors while Ben Gordon is averaging 20.6 points on the season, so it’s not like Hughes can argue (with a straight face) that he should get more minutes at their expense.

Then there’s the issue of Kirk Hinrich coming back from injury. I’m afraid that Hughes is only going to see his minutes decrease when that happens, so he should be making the most of the playing time he’s getting now instead of complaining about it to the press. If he were more productive, the Bulls might be able to trade away Hughes and the two-years/$26 million remaining on his contract to a team that would be able to give him more minutes.

As it stands, it looks like Hughes will remain a Bull, and an unhappy one at that.

2008 NBA Preview: #17 Chicago Bulls

Offseason Movement: The Bulls were relatively quiet this summer, but they did manage to sign Luol Deng to an extension. They were unable to sign Ben Gordon to a long-term deal, so it looks like he’s on his way out of town. He’ll be motivated for his next contract and would be a good candidate for an in-season trade. The team also signed Vinny Del Negro as its head coach.
Keep Your Eye On: Derrick Rose, PG
The #1 overall pick should see lots of action in the backcourt with Kirk Hinrich sliding over to shooting guard. Physically, he’s ready to play in the NBA and has the makings of an impact point guard not unlike Chris Paul or Deron Williams. He needs to work on his jumper, but once he gets that going, watch out.
The Big Question: When is this team going to fulfill its potential?
For the last few seasons, the Bulls have seemingly been on the verge of putting together something special. They shot themselves in the foot when they (way) overspent on Ben Wallace and sent Tyson Chandler to New Orleans where he’s now emerging as a star. With a starting lineup of Rose, Hinrich, Deng, Drew Gooden and Joakim Noah, along with a bench that includes Andres Nocioni, Larry Hughes and Ben Gordon, the team has the talent to compete with anyone in the East. The question is chemistry.
Outlook: The same old same old. Once again, Bulls fans look at their team’s roster and see a group of very good players. Deng is the closest that the team has to a star, so in a way, the Bulls lack an identity. Until someone emerges, whether it’s Deng or Rose (or someone else), the Bulls will be a mediocre team with the potential to be a contender. It’s not clear what Del Negro will bring to the table in his first season, so come April, it seems likely that the Bulls will be fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch in the weaker Eastern Conference.

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