As we do each year when free agency winds down, we’re going to cover the 10 worst value contracts teams signed this offseason. Full disclosure: In the opposite of the 10 Best Free Agent and Extension Values, it’s getting harder and harder to find 10 bad or even questionable contracts. More and more it trends towards a “Kind of get it, but don’t like it” thought vs a truly bad deal.
A few notes:
- Unlike the Best Values, you will see max contracts and max extensions here. Some of them are just sort of mind-boggling in terms of committed salary.
- No 2022 Rookie Scale signees will appear here. Even if we think the pick was bad, the contract is what it is with Rookie Scale deals.
- This isn’t necessarily a “worst contracts” list. That’s a different thing. We’re also limiting this to signings made during the 2022 offseason only.
Got it? On to the list!
- Minnesota trading for Rudy Gobert: We’re already breaking the rules! This isn’t a signing of any sort, but that’s how few bad deals there were this summer. Instead, we’re covering a trade!
It’s not that the Gobert trade was really bad, especially not for this upcoming season. It was just…a lot. Five players and essentially five picks went to Utah for Gobert. A 10-for-1 deal! The Timberwolves have to hope this leads to multiple playoff appearances at least, and Finals contention at most. Otherwise, what was it all for?
- Detroit trading for Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel: The Pistons eating contracts is a great use of their cap space. Especially ones that are effectively one-year deals. But Detroit only got two second-round picks in this deal. Why is that a bad return for renting out some cap space? The Knicks HAD to do this trade to clear the cap space to sign Jalen Brunson. The Pistons should have squeezed them for more draft capital.
On to the 10 Worst Free Agent Values of the 2022 Offseason!
- Marvin Bagley III – Detroit Pistons – three years, $37.5 million:
Who were the Pistons bidding against here? This deal came together so quickly, that it seems like the conversation was one proposal by one side and an immediate accept from the other. Bagley played pretty good in Detroit. He may end up being a fine value at $12.5 million for each of the next three seasons. But he would have been even better value at $8-10 million for each of the next three seasons.
- Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers – two-year, $121.8 million extension:
We’re going to hit a couple of veterans in similar boats here. Lillard gets the first nod because of the staggering amount of money this extension is for. $61 million-plus for two seasons? His age-35 and age-36 seasons no less. It’s highly respectable that Lillard wants to make it work in Portland. And, yes, the cap is going to go way up. But this deal is linked to that rise to at least some extent. It’s just staggering to think of a small guard, who has already had several injury issues, making more than $60 million at Lillard’s age in the 2026-27 season.
- Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards – five years, $251 million:
This one is about the money and the extras that Beal got. He now has the NBA’s only true, negotiated no-trade clause. He also has a player option on Year 5 of his new deal. Oh, and he’ll make $50 million per year too, topping out at $57 million in Year 5. This deal runs through Beal’s age-33 season. Like Lillard, it’s respectable he wants to win in Washington. And the Wizards were a little caught here, because Beal is their franchise guy. But the money wasn’t enough? Why include the no-trade clause too?
- Anfernee Simons – Portland Trail Blazers – four years, $100 million:
To start off with, Simons is a terrific and improving young player. He’s also still relatively unproven. Committing $25 million per season, without any sort of team protection, is a lot. The Blazers also just split up their small, score-first backcourt. Now, they’re right back in the same spot. That makes this a bit of a questionable investment when you add it all up.
- Jusuf Nurkic – Portland Trail Blazers – four years, $70 million:
It’s apparently “pick on Portland” time here. But this Nurkic deal screams Bird Rights Trap more than any other this offseason. The Blazers had no other center on the roster. They couldn’t replace Nurkic for a similarly salaried player if he left. So, they re-signed him to a questionable contract. Prototypical Bird Rights Trap. If nothing else, this deal could (should?) have been a descending contract or the final year could (should?) have been partially guaranteed, if not fully non-guaranteed. It’s all just too much for a good, but not irreplaceable player.
- JaVale McGee – Dallas Mavericks – three years, $17.2 million:
We’re at the “Why so much for that veteran?” portion of the list. The good news? Dallas ended up giving McGee about $3 million less than was originally reported. The bad news? It was still a three-year deal for a 34-year-old center on a team that didn’t really need a center all that badly. The worse news? This might push Christian Wood to the bench. That’s just weird, given Dallas just traded for Wood. The worst news? McGee has a $6 million player option the third year, which comes just as the Mavs books clear up considerably for another run at free agents.
- P.J. Tucker – Philadelphia 76ers – three years, $33 million:
Tucker is a nice fit for Philadelphia, but a bit of an odd one. If he starts, Tobias Harris has to play the three. That kind of offsets Tucker’s impact defensively in the starting group. If he comes off the bench, Tucker isn’t really a perfect backup for Joel Embiid. And if Embiid misses time, the Sixers still need a real center to fill in for him. Finally, that $11.5 million player option in Year 3, when Tucker will be 40 years old already looks really bad.
- Dewayne Dedmon – Miami Heat – two-years, $9 million:
This one isn’t bad as much as it is weird. Dedmon seems like a minimum salary big man at this point. The Heat couldn’t even play him by the end of their playoff run. Omer Yurtseven might already be better as a backup for Bam Adebayo. Even with a fully non-guaranteed second season, $4.7 million for this year is a lot for Dedmon. But (there’s always a but with Miami) the Heat were lacking midrange tradable contracts. That’s something to keep an eye on when we get to trade season.
- Mitchell Robinson – New York Knicks – four years, $60 million:
The Knicks current front office has been great about smartly structuring contracts. Their deals generally include some level of team control on the final season, either a team option or a non-guaranteed year. Robinson’s deal has neither of those protections for New York. It is a descending deal, however, and the average salary is fine. The commitment is a bit odd though. Isaiah Hartenstein has less upside, but may be a more reliable player right now than Robinson. And New York made a decent-sized investment in signing Jericho Sims too. That’s a lot of money tied up in the center spot, even if none of it is truly bad money.
- Lu Dort – Oklahoma City Thunder – five years, $82.5 million:
Dort’s deal isn’t actually bad. It’s just kind of long. The last time OKC committed this long of a deal to a non-max player, they ended up waiving and stretching Kyle Singler’s weird contract. Given that the Thunder have a team option on the final year, this is more like $16 million a year over four years. That looks better. But, even then, it’s starting to be a crowded roster in Oklahoma City. And Dort only just barely cracked 40% shooting last year. Will playing time be so easy to come by in Years 2-4 of this deal? If not, that’s a lot of money for a “No-3&D” backup wing.
As you can probably tell by the reluctant inclusions of Dewayne Dedmon, Mitchell Robinson and Lu Dort on this list, it’s getting harder and harder to find bad contracts in the NBA. Teams have been smarter about not committing major money to non-max players. At least in free agency. Most of the questionable money comes from overpaying to keep their own players.
In fact, eight of the 10 deals we picked were re-signings. And they came in all sorts of manners. Extensions, Bird Rights Trap and just plain odd valuations made up that group of eight questionable deals. NBA teams find it hard to let go, even when they probably should.
The real takeaway here: none of these deals are truly bad. They belong in the questionable category, if even that. It seems that the truly bad overpays are now reserved for trades (and that’s before we see what happens with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell), as opposed to signings and re-signings.