- The Season's Over -

The NBA’s Top 8 Cases of Buyer’s Remorse

January 19, 2010

Gilbert Arenas Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

Right now you’re reading about what might happen with Gilbert Arenas’ monster contract now that he’s been suspended indefinitely. As the NBA trade deadline approaches, you’re going to hear more about salary dumps, expiring contracts, and the fine line that general managers around the league must walk when it comes to gaining and shedding payroll. Once the summer rolls around and all these marquee free agents hit the market, you’re going to see a lot of guys signed to astronomical contracts; some of them will prove to be worth it, many of them will not. GMs can be an overzealous lot, and within their circles, cases of buyer’s remorse, admitted or not, run rampant.

With all of this in mind, a look at eight of the current deals in the NBA that are looking a little dubious at this point. I’m basically looking at longish-term contracts, not ones that expire this year or next, and these are in no particular order.

Gilbert Arenas, G, “Washington Wizards”

Throwing $100+ million at Arenas and severely handcuffing the franchise’s flexibility to improve their top-heavy roster was a colossal mistake even before the recent incident. The funny thing is that at the time this deal was signed–a 6-year, $111 million drop in the bucket in July ’08–the Wizards praised Arenas for actually accepting less than they offered him, reported to be between $125 – $127 million, so that they could have more wiggle room to sign other players. Generous guy, that Agent Zero.

It just boggles the mind that the Wiz were willing to mortgage their present and future, especially since Arenas was coming off a major knee injury that limited him to 13 games the previous season. Sure, you pay your marquee player and hope the injury was a freak thing, but you don’t try to pay him like a Kobe Bryant or a LeBron James. Arenas basically missed the entire 2008-09 season, and after suiting up for just 32 games this year looks to have played his last game in a Wizards uniform. For years Wizards brass has been trying to convince itself that they will eventually win with the core of Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison, but that thinking has been a fool’s errand all along.

This looks to be headed towards a buyout, which means Arenas will be paid something silly–say, $50 million–for doing absolutely nothing for the franchise other than to drive it into the ground, both on and off the court. Yay sports!

Elton Brand, F, Philadelphia 76ers

Thought to be the final missing piece in the 76ers’ renaissance, Brand was signed to a 5-year, $80 million deal in the summer of ’08 with the intention of making him the franchise cornerstone, along with Andre Iguodala, for the next half decade. Brand had enjoyed one of the most consistently productive careers of anybody in the NBA during his first eight seasons (two with Chicago and six with the LA Clippers), but suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in his ninth season that limited him to just 8 games.

The Sixers were undeterred in their optimism that Brand was the answer, but unfortunately, he’s become more of a headache than a solution. Brand played in only 29 games during his first season with the Sixers due to various injuries, and though he’s only missed 4 so far this year, he’s struggled to find his role and has been bumped from the starting lineup. He’s not pleased, the Sixers aren’t pleased, it’s an unhappy marriage that’s probably headed for a divorce. Easier said than done, however, given Brand’s injury risk, dovetailing stats, and the $51 million he’ll make through the 2012-13 season.

Richard Hamilton, G, Detroit Pistons

When the Pistons signed Hamilton to a 3-year, $35 million extension to his existing deal back in November of ’08, the team was still riding high off 6 years of Eastern Conference domination and, with Chauncey Billups also locked up through the 2011-12 season, looked to have its All-Star backcourt wearing Pistons’ blue and red all the way through their respective golden years. Then Billups was suddenly traded, the team shifted gears towards rebuild mode, and Hamilton was left in the lurch, to some degree, as the stalwart veteran used to winning who now had to deal with inexperienced head coaches (Michael Curry and now John Kuester), a young, in-flux roster, and mounting losses.

After the team signed Ben Gordon to a semi-lucrative free-agent deal last summer, Hamilton became largely expendable… and may have already been traded if not for that extension. Few teams are willing to add payroll this year, and though Rip’s production has slipped a little and he’s been battling injuries almost all season long, at 31 years old there’s still plenty left in the tank. No, it’s that $35 million pricetag, once thought to be reasonable, that’s the main obstacle standing in the way of GM Joe Dumars finding a new home for his starting SG who no longer fits the long-term direction the team is moving in. And that’s what makes this contract so cumbersome for Detroit.

Five more cases of NBA buyer’s remorse after the break…

Shawn Marion, F, Dallas Mavericks

It’s hard to believe that after this season, his 11th, Marion still has 4 years and roughly $33 million left on his contract; he’ll be 36 years old. Once known as “The Matrix” because of his insane athleticism and ability to guard anybody and do just about anything on the court, Marion’s production has been on a steady decline ever since he was traded to the Miami Heat midway through the 2007-08 season.

It’s the length of this deal that stands out more than the actual compensation; he’s played for four teams in the past 3 years, and you have to assume Dallas won’t be his last stop either. Through his first 37 games with the Mavericks, Marion is averaging 11.4 points, 6.4 boards, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1 block in 31:30 minutes a night–all are right around career lows.

Rashard Lewis Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Rashard Lewis, F, Orlando Magic

The 6-year, $110 million whopper the Magic laid on Lewis a few years ago was roundly criticized, mostly because the team probably could have had him at a much more reasonable number; they were bidding against themselves. I’ve always felt, though, that if a highly paid player leads his team to a NBA title, the cost would probably be justified, regardless of how ridiculous his compensation was. Lewis and the Magic came this close last year to doing just that and winning it all, but ultimately fell short.

Now, with the team in desperate win-now mode and taking on even more salary (Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat), the pressure mounts on Lewis to excel in his one-dimensional role as the sharpshooter who stretches the floor and opens up space in the middle for Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, the 30-year-old is in the midst of one of his worst seasons in the last decade, so far averaging just 14.3 points (42% FG), 4.7 boards, 1.5 assists, 1 steal, and 2.4 triples per. He’s unhappy with his role, he’s taking more than half of his field-goal attempts from behind the arc, and after collecting $18.8 million this year (9th most in the NBA), the Magic will still be on the hook for another $66 odd million over the next 3 years. You pay elite superstars $20+ million a season, not role players.

Hedo Turkoglu, GF, Toronto Raptors

Kudos, I guess, to Turkoglu, who turns 31 years old in March, for parlaying his clutch performances during the Orlando Magic’s run to the NBA Finals a year ago into a generous 5-year, $53 million deal with the Raptors. Ballsy move by the Raptors, though, and one that’s been panned as a desperate attempt to show impending free agent Chris Bosh that they’re serious about winning. If they were, they might have been better served saving that money and spending it elsewhere.

Turkoglu, like almost all the players on this list, has done some impressive things on a NBA court. At 6-10 and capable of playing both point guard and power forward in a pinch, he’s a versatile inside-outside threat that can present serious matchup problems. Still, he’s not a guy who should be paid over $10 million a season when he’s in his mid-30s, especially when you cut out his recent big-game successes with the Magic, truly admirable as they were, and look at the bottom line: in 10 NBA seasons, Turkoglu averages 12.4 points (42% FG), 4.2 boards, 2.8 assists, 1.3 three-pointers (on 38%), 79% from the free-throw line, and 0.8 steals per.

Emeka Okafor, C, New Orleans Hornets

The second-overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft is what he is: a strong post player whom the Hornets can pencil in for somewhere around 12 points, 10 boards, and a blocked shot or two a night. Fine. I’m guessing most teams want an Okafor on their roster… but they probably wouldn’t want him at this price and on their books through the 2013-14 season, the final year of a 6-year, $72 million deal the Charlotte Bobcats signed him to in ’08. It was the most lucrative contract the franchise ever gave, which means Okafor also became its most expensive player they’ve ever traded. Again, Okafor is a fine player, but there’s no upside here.

Luke Walton, F, Los Angeles Lakers

It’s not that Walton’s salary is that ridiculous: he’ll make just under $22 million for the next four seasons, all of which are guaranteed. It’s that after 6 1/2 NBA seasons, Walton has thoroughly mediocre career per-game averages of 5.6 points and 3.2 rebounds and has steadily regressed in each of the past three seasons. He’s been rather handsomely rewarded for a few hustle plays here and there, as well as for being Bill Walton’s son. Well done, Luke. I can think of 10 D-Leaguers who can do what Walton does, and do it better, at a fraction of the cost. Crazy that he’s guaranteed a spot in this league until at least 2013, when he’ll be 33.

13 Comments »Posted by Brian Spencer on Jan. 19, 2010 at 6:00 am in NBA

13 Responses

This is a horrible article. The painfully obvious and some all around stupid thoughts.

Posted by: Fost on January 19th, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Hey Brian,

Enjoyed the article quite a bit, just hope as a Raptors fan you would lessen the blow by correcting Turkoglu’s contract value. He actually signed for 5 yrs, $53 million.

At either price it’s still an albatross of a deal though!

Posted by: Matt on January 19th, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Matt, thanks for reading, and for the catch; it’s been corrected.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on January 19th, 2010 at 5:14 pm

good article, i’ve always scratched my head at the dollars some of those above average players were given, along with contracts over 5 years. And as a Laker fan, I’m thrilled that someone has actually written about what a waste of a contract Luke Walton got based on a few national broadcasters (who only see him play a couple times a year) throwing around the “high IQ” label on someone who is no better than your average d-leaguer.

Posted by: joel on January 19th, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Laker fan here. Trust me when I tell you that I was one of the biggest complainers regarding “fLuke” Walton’s contract when he first got it. My complaints were seemingly justified for several years, especially in the ’07 season when this slow player came back even slower and far less effective from injury.

That changed last season, and now that he is back this season from back surgery, I and a lot of other Laker fans are extremely happy. Why? Because when healthy, Luke is one of the best play makers on the team, and has been the glue that keeps the ball flowing with the 2nd unit.

He knows when to pass, cut, post up, and even drive far better than Fisher, Farmar, Odom, Brown, Sasha, Bynum, etc. Walton even has a solid mid-range jumper that doesn’t make me wince when he attempts it. You say that tn D-Leaguers can do what he does, but they’ve never had to work in the Lakers’ triangle offense before.

I wouldn’t trust Luke’s role to 90% of the bench SFs in the league, let alone a D-Leaguer. His salary is jusified, and any comments you hear from the Lakers’ coaching staff about his contribution to the team will strongly agree with me.

Posted by: joeblow on January 19th, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Your stupidity befuddles me.

“Kudos, I guess, to Turkoglu, who turns 31 years old in March, for parlaying his clutch ”

” Still, he’s not a guy who should be paid over $10 million a season when he’s in his mid-30s”

Do you expect to be taken seriously? I was actually enjoying this article untill u lost me forever. Good luck hope you improve your journalistic skills.

Posted by: irfan on January 20th, 2010 at 1:52 am

As joeblow mentioned, Luke’s value is primarily as a playmaker/glue-guy on a Laker bench that could really use some quality depth.

As for his contract, yeah, I agree it’s a bit on the expensive side, but context is important: when Luke signed his contract, the Laker rotation featured Kwame Brown, Smush Parker, Brian Cook, and Chris Mimh, so Luke looked like an absolute All-Star on that team after Kobe!

Posted by: Tony on January 20th, 2010 at 4:41 am

It’s a reference, my dear irfan, to Turk’s salary a few years down the road… when he’s in his mid-30s. He’ll make $10.6 million in 2011-12 (33 years old), $11.4 million in 2012-13 (34 years old), and $12.2 million in 2013-14 (35 years old). Thanks for reading.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on January 20th, 2010 at 8:34 am

I’m sorry, but you are flat out wrong about marion—he’s been the mavs best defensive player this season, which saw them make a leap in their defensive ranking—the mavs also knew what they were getting for their money—and for being the player that he is this year, the paycheck is about right—the length of the deal is long, yes, but isn’t it one of those decreasing deals? Buyer’s remorse involves going into a deal with eyes wide shut—the mavs knew what they were going to get, and paid him according to what they felt the value of that was

Posted by: Molotov whacktail on January 20th, 2010 at 9:56 am

Molotov: Fair enough. Marion has, indeed, been a nice fit defensively this year for the Mavs. It’s a fairly good deal for this season and next–assuming Dirk returns next year, and I’m almost positive that he will–but after next season, I do feel like his deal becomes a little silly. It actually escalates by year: $6.6 this year (very reasonable), $7.3 next, then $7.9, $8.6, and finally, $9.3. All are guaranteed.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on January 20th, 2010 at 10:04 am

Brian, I liked the article. I just have one question: What exactly is the worth of a 6’7″ SG who has scored 18 per game over his career on 45% shooting? I think the deal continues to be reasonable until Rip stops producing consistently (likely to be through injury as opposed to age). Joe Dumars also has a track record of moving worse assets than Rip Hamilton. I think it’s presumptive to say Rip is the one to be dealt instead of Ben Gordon or that either gets dealt at all. Just my two cents.

Posted by: Michael on January 20th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

How is Michael Redd not mentioned in this article? He is the 10th highest paid player in the NBA right now and he has been terrible when he has played, plays no defense whatsoever and has been injured for the last 2 years.

Posted by: Chuck on February 10th, 2010 at 1:16 pm

[...] over an article of the worst current player contract decisions, and you will see names like Luke Walton of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Shawn Marion of the Dallas [...]

Posted by: NBA Players: Swallow your pride and play ball! | basketballogy.com on November 6th, 2011 at 9:27 pm

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