NBA rosters are small. The amount of players who make a significant impact on each and every game is even smaller. Still, there is a large amount of money for each team to spend and many different philosophies about the perfect way to build a team. These factors can lead to a number of questionable contracts.
Sometimes a contract isn’t bad because the player doesn’t live up to expectations. Injuries happen all the time and can really affect a player going forward. With the NBA being a salary cap sport (since 1985), teams have to avoid these bad contracts in any way possible. These are the worst contracts in NBA salary cap history.
Jon Koncak – 1989 – $13.1 Million
Koncak was a pretty good defender for the Hawks but didn’t offer much offensively. He landed one of the first major contracts in NBA history and was paid more than players like Magic Johnson. The deal was so famous that his derisive nickname became Jon Contract.
The 1970’s and 1980’s aren’t littered with awful NBA contracts because players just didn’t make the kind of money that could hamstring a team. Koncak’s contract, though only $13 million was memorable as it set a familiar pattern for terrible NBA contracts. Centers with potential will nearly always get paid.
Chris Webber – 1993 – $74.4 Million
Chris Webber isn’t on this list because he was a bad player. Webber was a wonderful player who had a borderline Hall of Fame career. He is on this list because of a terrible clause in his contract. While the Golden State Warriors gave the Power Forward a 15-year deal, they also included an opt-out clause.
Webber did not get along with Coach Don Nelson and used this clause to force a trade to the Washington Wizards. The Wizards weren’t able to keep Webber happy either. He was traded to the Sacramento Kings and there he achieved much of his success.
Jim McIlvaine – 1996 – $33 Million
The Seattle SuperSonics were riding high following the 1995-96 season. The team had won 64 games that season and felt that they could achieve more if they could just add a Center who could rebound and play defense. They decided that guy was Jim McIlvaine, a part-time player for the Washington Bullets.
McIlvaine was a limited player offensively and only averaged 2.7 PPG and 3.1 RPG over the course of his career. Worse yet, the size of his contract angered some of the Sonics established stars and led to a trade of Shawn Kemp.
Shawn Kemp – 1997 – $107 Million
Early in his career, Shawn Kemp was an utterly jaw-dropping NBA player. He had size, speed, and power. He was an excellent rebounder, a tenacious defender and a ferocious dunker. The sky seemed to be the limit for Kemp and Hall of Fame Sonic’s teammate, Gary Payton.
But it all seemed to go wrong after the team signed Jim McIlvane. Angered over his low pay, Kemp forced a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had 2 1/2 Kemp-esque years with the team before falling into drug and weight issues. He kicked around the league until 2003 but was never the same player again.
Joe Smith – 1998 – $1.75
This will certainly be the lowest contract number on the list. And he more than outplayed this contact for the Minnesota Timberwolves as he averaged PPG and RPG for the team during the 1998-99 season. This contract was a disaster though, for the deleterious effect it had on Minnesota’s future.
The team’s contract offer to Smith came along with a wink-wink sort of agreement on the back end. The Wolves told Smith he would sign with a low cap number that allowed them to pursue other players and that they would play him later. This sort of agreement was illegal and the Timberwolves lost five 1st Round draft picks due to their deception.
Bryant Reeves – 1998 – $65 Million
Bryant Reeves became a phenomenon at Oklahoma State. “Big Country” was a bit beefier than most other NBA players, but also uncommonly skilled and athletic. The Vancouver Grizzlies were desperate for players who wanted to make long term commitments to the team.
After two successful years in Vancouver, the Grizzlies offered Reeves a long term deal. After getting his money, though, Reeves began to encounter weight issues. These weight problems led to more injuries and Big Country’s play significantly declined. He was out of the league by 2001, two years before his deal ran out.
Vin Baker – 1999 – $86 Million
Vin Baker was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks out of the University of Hartford in 1993 and became a near-immediate NBA star. Baker made his first All-Star game during the 1995 season and proceeded to make the next 4 games. He was traded to the Sonics in 1997 and after a great season, signed a long term deal with the team.
Baker, however, had severe alcohol problems. Though he remained in the league until 2006, he never regained his early-career form. Baker has gotten his life back on track and now works as an Assistant Coach for the Bucks.
Allan Houston – 2001 – $100.4 Million
Allan Houston was drafted by the Detroit Pistons and played his first three seasons there. Following the 1995-96 season, he signed with the New York Knicks and became a star-level player. Following the 1999-00 season that saw the team make the NBA Finals, the Knicks rewarded the Shooting Guard with a $100 million deal.
While he was able to make it onto the court, Houston played at a high level. The problem was, he had a debilitating knee condition that would eventually end his career. Houston was not only unable to stay on the court, but his huge deal also prevented the Knicks from signing other players. Today, Houston works in the Knicks’ front office.
Adonal Foyle – 2004 – $42 Million
Adonal Foyle, born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, may very well be the smartest player on the list. He not only went to Colgate, but he graduated from the school magna cum laude. He also had some defensive and shot-blocking abilities.
Golden State was betting on his upside when the signed him to a 6-year deal. The deal worked out poorly for the Warriors. Foyle spent much of his time with the team either injured or glued to the bench. He has used his smarts in his post-playing career, starting a political organization called Democracy Matters.
Rashard Lewis – 2007 – $118 Million
Standing at 6-10 with a tremendous jump shot, Lewis was a man born about ten years too early. It is easy to picture him as a savvy 3 and D player for a contending team. He was pretty good in his era too, averaging 22.4 PPG with efficient shooting percentages the year before he signed this deal.
It only worked out for about two years for the Magic. By year 3, he was in obvious decline. By year 4, he was traded to the Wizards for another problem contract in Gilbert Arenas. Knee injuries eventually took down his career and he was out of the league by 2014.
Andray Blatche – 2007 – $35 Million
Andray Blatche spent the entirety of his career as a perfect example of untapped potential. The athletic big man entered the draft out of High School and lasted until the 49th pick. At times, the Wizards thought they got a steal as Blatche oozed with athleticism and potential.
He had trouble tapping into that potential, however, due to some serious maturity issues. Washington chose to bet on the upside and gave Blatche a long term deal. He had some bright moments but eventually talked himself out of town and onto the Brooklyn Nets. His NBA career ended in 2014 and he now plays in China.
Gilbert Arenas – 2008 – $111 Million
Drafted with the 31st pick in 2001, Arenas almost immediately developed into Agent Zero with the Golden State Warriors. Due to his draft slot, Arenas was able to become a free agent after year two and he moved over to the Wizards. He took his game to the next level in Washington, leading the league in scoring in 2005-2006.
With everything going well, the Wizards had no problem giving him a massive extension in 2008. In 2009, Arenas pulled a gun on teammate Javaris Crittendon. Everything went downhill from there. Arenas was suspended, then dealt to the Orlando Magic. By 2012 he was out of the league.
DeMarre Carroll – 2015 – $58 Million
Drafted in the 1st Round in 2009, Carroll was on his 5th team during the 2014 season. The Atlanta Hawks, to their credit, figured out how to unlock his potential. Carroll became the prototype 3 and D wing, providing suffocating defense and a smooth jump shot.
The Toronto Raptors landed Carroll in 2015 with a deal that seemed like a bit of a bargain. By year 3 of the deal, the Raptors were looking to dump his salary and traded him, along with two draft picks for Justin Hamilton.
Ian Mahinmi – 2016 – $64 Million
NBA free agency was poised for drama in 2016. The league was flush with cash and there just weren’t enough good players for teams to spend it on. Mahinmi was a talented French player who saved the best play in his career for the year before he hit free agency.
The Wizards saw the potential in the big man and inked him to an expensive 4-year deal. Despite making $16 million a year, Mahinmi has never started a game for Washington. The Wizards will be happy to be rid of this contract at the end of next season.
Bismack Biyombo – 2016 – $72 Million
Born in Congo, Biyombo began to play professionally in Spain at the age of 16. He landed solidly on NBA scouts radar when he recorded the first triple-double in Nike Hoops Summit tournament history. He began his career in Charlotte as a raw project with big potential.
The potential began to show out during his 2016 playoff run as a member of the Toronto Raptors. Intrigued, the Magic signed him to a big deal. It worked out poorly for the team as Biyombo has infrequently resembled the player from that playoff series. Biyombo is back in Charlotte, now as a member of the Hornets.
Joakim Noah – 2016 – $72 Million
For the first 8 years of his career, Joakim Noah was a tenacious defender, ferocious rebounder, a slick passer, and team leader. He was the kind of player every General Manager in the league hoped to get their hands on. Injuries reared their ugly head in 2014-2015, though and Noah was limited to 29 games.
The Knicks, undaunted by the injuries and looking to build around Kristaps Porzingis offered Noah a long term deal. The deal fell apart almost right away with Noah often injured and admitted to partying too much in his hometown of New York City. The Knicks eventually used the stretch provision to remove the Center from their roster.
Ryan Anderson – 2016 – $80 Million
Power Forward Ryan Anderson does a lot of things that NBA teams in this modern era look for. He is a true stretch four who can pull defenses out of alignment with his deadly jump shot. The Houston Rockets liked him so much they thought he might be the perfect complement to James Harden.
After they signed him though, the Rockets nearly immediately began trying to trade him. Anderson is a talented player but just falls short from being the 2nd or 3rd option on a championship level team. Anderson was eventually moved to the Phoenix Suns and then over to the Miami Heat.
Chandler Parsons – 2016 – $94 Million
Chandler Parsons is an affable and well-liked teammate who also possessed a lights out jump shot. Prior to signing this mega-deal with the Grizzlies, though, Parsons had hurt his right knee. Undeterred and looking for a player with his ability, Memphis offered him this contract.
The knee, unfortunately, has never quite gotten better for the sharpshooter. Parsons has spent the majority of this contract either in street clothes or playing ineffectively. Memphis finally rid themselves of the deal this offseason, trading Parsons to Atlanta.
John Wall – 2017 – $170 Million
A healthy John Wall is quite a sight to behold. Few players in recent memory moved up and down the court faster. A five-time All-Star, Wall is also an excellent passer who regularly averaged over 10 assists per game. Giving him the supermax extension was a no-brainer for Washington.
That is until Wall injured his heel. He then suffered a devastating Achilles injury from which he has not yet returned. The league doesn’t know what kind of player he’ll be when he comes back and his contract runs until the end of the 2023 season.
Andrew Wiggins – 2017 – $148 Million
If this was the 1980’s or 1990’s, Andrew Wiggins would be considered an NBA star with very few questions asked. But this is the analytical age and Wiggins high volume, low-efficiency scoring is not something that is valued in the modern NBA game.
That’s not to say he isn’t a talented player. And the Wolves may have felt they had little choice but to extend him. If this offseason was any indication, though, Minnesota is having sincere feelings of buyer’s remorse. Wiggins has reportedly been on the trade block as the team attempts to build around Karl Anthony Towns.