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Have the massive guaranteed NBA contracts hitting their ceiling?

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  • Have the massive guaranteed NBA contracts hitting their ceiling?

    This year we are finally seeing the "unmovable" NBA player. We've had a peek at them in the past--Kevin love and his $30 mill + long term deal which has had some rumors but very limited interest from anyone due to the size and length of the deal. And the occasional bought out player where team either paid a high price to have a player move on--or acquired someone for assets and then cut them eating a couple of year's salary (think Blake Griffin who is on the Pistons' salary cap for $29.7 mill or Kemba Walker on the Thunder's salary cap for $26.3 mill this year and $27.4 next year while they play elsewhere).

    But 2021-22 is taking it to another level:
    Houston has John Wall on their books for $44.3 mill this year and $47.4 mill next year on a player option. Houston has tried to find trade suitors--to no avail. Wall has no interest in dropping his player option (can you blame him?) but that means he is 100% unmovable to any other NBA team in 2021-22. Nobody is willing to gamble with that much money. Maybe that changes in 2022-23 when he is an expiring deal. Maybe not. In the meantime, Houston has asked him to stay away from the team as they are focused at developing their young roster and building for the future. The question becomes what kind of value or career will Wall have if he truly spends it not playing all season?

    The problems don't stop there:
    Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. He remains unable to play at home due to not having a covid-19 vaccine shot. The team has suspended him full time rather than have him only available part time (on the road) as a team participant. What this means is his $35.3 mill this year and $37 mill player option for next year is a problem. Brooklyn is WAY over the luxury tax and that isn't changing any time soon. So this is basically money being thrown away with no return--even if he forfeits his salary, that doesn't help the team pay the luxury tax penalties.

    A third major star:
    Philadelphia has a problem of their own. Ben Simmons and his 4 year, $33 mill - $38.6 mill contract. This time it was his play and the bad team response to it that caused a riff that has not been able to be repaired. Both sides seem to be taking shots at the other about whose fault their broken relationship is and again fines to the player will only be a salve on the fact that the team is also in luxury tax territory with big deals to the trio of Harris/Simmons/Embiid. One might say the GM never should have signed Simmons to that deal.

    But the problem doesn't stop with the current rosters. Many teams are paying "dead money"--salary cap hits and real cash to players who no longer play on their team. Are teams going to wise up and start scaling back the huge guaranteed contracts they hand out? In the past there seemed to be a confidence that said even if you decide you don't want the player later on, you can find someone to take it from you. But it seems like even that has its limits. And waiving the player doesn't remove the financial burden.

    Teams paying "Dead Money" in 2021-22 (not including players still on the current roster):

    Detroit Pistons - $45,492,507
    Oklahoma City Thunder - $28,374,688
    San Antonio Spurs - $18,404,679
    Memphis Grizzlies - $16,157,252
    Charlotte Hornets - $10,680,972
    New York Knicks - $6,431,666
    Miami Heat - $5,214,584
    Milwaukee Bucks - $5,034,893
    Los Angeles Lakers - $5,000,000
    Brooklyn Nets - $4,450,023
    Houston Rockets - $3,736,421
    Portland Trail Blazers - $2,844,429
    Indiana Pacers - $2,245,400
    Dallas Mavericks - $1,517,981
    Cleveland Cavaliers - $1,456,666
    Philadelphia 76ers - $1,275,491
    Boston Celtics - $1,231,937
    Golden State Warriors - $666,667
    Toronto Raptors - $650,000
    Utah Jazz - $84,414

    Individual players making the most "Dead Money" from a previous team:
    Blake Griffin - Pistons - $29.8 mill
    Kemba Walker - Thunder - $26.3 mill (and next year $27.4 mill)
    Al-Farouq Aminu - Spurs - $10.2 mill



    That's nearly $161 million in salary and salary cap impact for players who are no longer on their rosters. Now if teams look long and hard at this problem and want to avoid more potential issues, these upcoming free agents may find that their next contracts may not come flowing with long-term high paying guarantees unless teams are very serious about them.

    2022 free agents who make over $15 mill/season in 2021-22:

    Gary Harris - Magic - $20.5 mill
    Goran Dragic - Raptors - $19.4 mill
    Zach LaVine - Bulls - $19.5 mill
    Ricky Rubio - Cavaliers - $17.8 mill
    Last edited by f1do; 11-24-2021, 04:03 PM.

  • #2
    Nice write up and very interesting. Are the owners too rich to care or are they just foolish?

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    • #3
      haha detroit. teams almost going to get bumped out of the midwest for cities popping off in the west like Austin and Vegas.

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