The Five Worst Contracts from the Summer of 2016

The NBA is a league where players are constantly given labels. These labels often define a player’s career. When someone thinks of Joel Embiid, the first words that come to their mind are “injury-prone”. Many to call Mike Conley the most “underrated” player in the NBA. Avery Bradley is the prototypical “three and D player.” Gordon Hayward, Kevin Love, JJ Redick, Kelly Olynyk, Doug McDermott, Chandler Parsons, and Ryan Anderson are all “gritty”, or “deceptively quick.” But the label given out most in the Association is “overpaid”. A single bad contract can hamstring a team’s entire cap situation, and for every bargain deal like Stephen Curry’s 4-year, $44M contract, there is a dozen bad contracts that handicap a team. And with the summer of 2016 came an onslaught of them. Let’s take a look at the five worst contracts from last summer.

#5. Miles Plumlee: 4-year, $50M contract

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There were many things that made the Milwaukee Bucks giving Plumlee, such a hefty sum of money seem odd, but none bigger than the fact that he previously didn’t have any kind of featured roll on the team. Only once in his career has he averaged more than 5.1 PPG for a season. And nothing changed after the signing, as until he was traded in February, he only cracked 20 minutes in a game one time. He was dealt to the Charlotte Hornets for Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert, who both haven’t provided quality performances in years. Once the season ended Plumlee had to pack his bags yet again, as he was part of a multi-player trade for Dwight Howard. Now he’s collecting his paychecks from the Atlanta Hawks, and still hasn’t had a single game resembling a player worth the salary he is being paid.

#4: Evan Turner: 4-year, $72M contract

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When Portland (luckily) missed out on Chandler Parsons last year, they immediately panicked and threw a ton of money at Turner. What makes this signing so bad is the fact that his skillset makes for the worst possible fit with Portland’s cornerstones, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. With two ball-handlers as talented as them, Portland should’ve been looking for floor spacers and defenders around them; guys who don’t need the ball to have an impact. Unfortunately, Evan Turner is a bad defender who can’t space the floor, and needs to have the ball to make an impact. He’s not a bad player, but he’s a terrible fit.

#3: Ian Mahinmi: 4-year, $64M contract

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This signing was an obvious blunder from the start. First, it put the Wizards over the cap, not allowing them to sign any other decent free agents. Mahinmi’s history of knee injuries should have been a red flag from the start, and the Wizards had a rude awakening when he missed much of his first season with the team. The Wizards gave elite-level money to a backup-caliber player, and will pay the price of $16M for each of the next three years.

#2: Luol Deng: 4-year, $72M contract

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There was no possible upside to this signing for the Lakers. Deng is far past the peak of his powers, and as he ages his athleticism is rapidly declining, which hurts his defense. He provides nothing on the offensive end either, as he can’t create plays and is a below-average shooter at this stage of his career. But, no contract in the NBA is worse than…

#1: Joakim Noah: 4-year, $72M

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No matter what way you look at it, this contract is just horrendous. If you focus on Noah’s performance on the court, it’s easy to understand just how big of a blunder this was. If you instead fixate on his inability to stay healthy and consistently be available, it looks just as bad. This was a terrible signing for a plethora of reasons, none more than Noah’s presence preventing Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis from playing the Center position, where he would excel.

Last year’s offseason was a historic one due to the giant jump in cap room, as well as the dozens of surprisingly large contracts such as these. And they have already proven to have many lasting impacts on the future of the NBA. There has been much less recklessness in this year’s offseason, for two main reasons- many teams are incapable of giving away big deals after doing so last year, and the teams who are capable of doing so got scared away from it by the debacles that went down last year. The free agency market hit unprecedented levels of negligence last summer, and now teams are paying for it.