NBA’s Biggest Mistakes: 6 Contracts That Could Burden Teams in 2023 and Beyond

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As the NBA offseason unfolds and teams make significant moves in free agency, it’s essential to analyze the potential impact of these contracts on the upcoming season. While some signings may prove to be valuable investments, others could turn out to be regrettable decisions. In this article, we will predict and discuss the NBA’s worst contracts for the upcoming season, taking into account factors such as player performance, salary, and team expectations.

Just ask Boston Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, who just agreed to the richest contract in league history. Including the money remaining on his current deal, he’s set to collect a whopping $332.2 million over the next six seasons.

  • John Wall :Houston Rockets:
by USA TODAY Sports

John Wall’s contract with the Houston Rockets has been a burden on the team’s salary cap for several years. Despite his talent, Wall has struggled with injuries, limiting his availability and overall impact on the court. With two years remaining on his contract and a significant salary, it is unlikely that Wall will provide the desired return on investment for the Rockets.

John Wall is still a member of the Houston Rockets which means he is still on the Rockets’ payroll. He hasn’t played in over a year, but has still received over 40 million dollars since then.

This has to go down as one of the worst deals in the NBA, but the Rockets aren’t the only ones who have lost out on a blockbuster investment.

  • Karl-Anthony Towns: Minnesota Timberwolves
DENVER, CO - APRIL 19:  Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during the game against the Denver Nuggets during Round One Game Two of the 2023 NBA Playoffs on April 19, 2023 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The way Karl-Anthony Towns sees it, he’s a game-changing talent who has already left an indelible mark on the sport of basketball. In reality, he’s a one-way player who has never impacted winning the way his numbers would make you think.

The 27-year-old might be the best shooting big man of all time, and he has an impressive array of scoring skills and slick passes for a player his size (6’11”, 248 lbs). But he is also an incredibly limited defender who has yet to advance past the opening round of the playoffs and is finding it increasingly difficult to shake the injury bug.

Towns has played more than 50 games just once in the past four seasons. In two of them, he suited up 35 times or less. Since arriving as the top pick of the 2015 draft, he has piloted the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 273-355 record. That’s the sixth-worst winning percentage over this stretch.

He has been the best player on bad teams and the second-best on mediocre ones. What about his resume—other than some enticing per-game averages—would make anyone want to pay him an average annual salary north of $54 million into his 30s?

Between the pay rate, the recent availability issues and the limited impact on winning, that was enough to slot him in the fifth spot and spare some of the other candidates—like Damian Lillard, Michael Porter Jr. and Jordan Poole—this dubious distinction.

  • Rudy Gobert,:Minnesota Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 23: Rudy Gobert #27 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts during the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Target Center on April 23, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It’s usually pretty tricky to boil any NBA player’s season down to a single word, but Rudy Gobert’s first go-round in the Gopher State was one of the exceptions.

Unfortunately for him and the Timberwolves—who paid an eye-gouging price to get him—the word to sum up his season was simple: Yikes.

Everything about it was rough, and that went far beyond the typical growing pains of a team adjusting on the fly. Minnesota, which won four fewer games than it did the season before its all-in trade, struggled in ways that won’t be easily fixed.

None of this bodes well for Gobert’s chances of living up to this costly contract as he advances deeper into his 30s. He was arguably overpaid all along, since he is functionally a defensive specialist, but now he is egregiously so, since his defense is no longer special. He didn’t even crack the top 50 in FiveThirtyEight’s Defensive RAPTOR.

He isn’t the nimblest mover, so teams have had success forcing him to guard on the perimeter. That will only get more challenging as he gets older. The hope is he can offset that limitation by dominating the interior. That simply didn’t happen this past season. He saw big dips in field-goal shooting (71.3 to 65.9), rebounds (14.7 to 11.6) and blocks (2.1 to 1.4). Meanwhile, his shooting percentage allowed at the rim climbed nearly 10 points (49.3 to 58.1).

He is quite possibly already declining, but his salary isn’t. He’s set to collect $41 million this season and $43.8 million the next. His $46.7 million salary for 2025-26—his age-33 season—is technically a player option, but the odds of him declining it are worse than one of us pulling in Powerball’s next jackpot prize.

  • Duncan Robinson: Miami Heat
DENVER, CO - JUNE 11: Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat speaks to the media during 2023 NBA Finals Practice and Media Availability on June 11, 2023 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Dow/NBAE via Getty img

While it’s true the sharpshooter played his best basketball of the season on the sport’s biggest stage, the spotlight took things out of proportion. The story wasn’t about him ascending to new heights, but rather somewhat finding his way out of a precipitous fall. You just can’t find many other instances of a near-$20 million player being praised for averaging 9.0 points over 23 outings.

The redemption tale was merely about the 29-year-old being unplayable to sort of usable in a part-time, reserve role. Credit him for not losing his composure when he lost his roster spot, but Miami had reasons for routinely passing him over in the regular season. It’s hard to play a shooting specialist who forgot how to shoot (32.8 three-point percentage over 42 regular-season contests).

The Heat initially hurt themselves by overspending on a one-note player. In May 2021, they gave Robinson a five-year, $90 million pact, at the time the richest contract ever rewarded to an undrafted player. He started regressing almost immediately, and shortly thereafter, his deal was being regarded as one of basketball’s worst.

“You can argue that, for its length, he has the worst contract in the league,” an Eastern Conference executive told Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney in Dec. 2022. “… The Heat have him signed through 2026, and you just do not know what level he is going to be able to help you at from here on. He has been really bad as a shooter, and we know he can’t defend, so what is he bringing to the table?”

While Robinson’s average annual salary is by far the smallest on these rankings, the fact that his floor drops down to unplayable territory makes him a lock for the top three. The Heat have booted him from the rotation before, and they might have to do so again down the line—all while paying him almost $20 million per season. Ouch.

  • Jerami Grant:Portland Trail Blazers
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

While Jerami Grant is a good player and did well for Portland after being traded there last summer, the team giving him an outrageous five-year, $160 million deal stands as one of the bigger head-scratchers of free agency.

Can Grant be the team’s long-term standout next to Scoot Henderson if the Trail Blazers trade Damian Lillard? Well, Portland will certainly find out.

  • Dillon Brooks: Houston Rockets
AP Photo/Morry Gash

We’re still a bit bewildered that Dillon Brooks went from one of the NBA’s true villains to one of its highest-paid free agents, but here we are.

Houston looks to have gotten a bit desperate here, even if Brooks is a very good defender. A 4-year, $80 million contract is just baffling.

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