Every NBA Team's Best and Worst Contract as 2023 Trade Deadline Looms

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Every NBA Team’s Best and Worst Contract as 2023 Trade Deadline Looms

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    PORTLAND, OREGON - JANUARY 14: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers guards Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks during the first quarter at Moda Center on January 14, 2023 in Portland, Oregon. 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 Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    To gauge the value of NBA contracts, you first half to understand the NBA economy.

    Essentially, all salary sizes are, to us common folks, absolutely enormous. So, when identifying each team’s best and worst contract values, it’s critical to remember that these dollar amounts are relative.

    Since we’re spotlighting good and bad values for each team, these assessments are also relative to each organization’s financial picture. Some clubs don’t really have bad money on the books, while others lack obvious bargains. The latter is particularly true for young, rebuilding teams, since this exercise won’t include any rookie-scale wages.

    So, saying a player has a bad contract doesn’t necessarily mean the player is bad. His production just doesn’t measure up to his pay grade, or at least comes the closest to doing that of anyone on his team.

    Last thing: for simplicity’s sake, we’ll include this season’s full wages as part of each player’s contract. So, when you’re seeing contract amounts listed, just know that this season is included.

    Now, from no-brainer bargains to head-scratching sums of money and everything in between, let’s lay out the best and worse deals on every team’s ledger.

Atlanta Hawks

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    ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 19: Dejounte Murray #5 talks to John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks during the game against the Houston Rockets on October 19, 2022 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 2022 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Dejounte Murray (two years, $34.3 million)

    Murray is a 26-year-old with an All-Star appearance and an All-Defensive honor on his resume. If you think his body of work resembles that of a max-contract candidate, you aren’t wrong.

    Luckily for the Hawks, he locked this deal in place back in 2019, when he was coming back from a torn ACL and hadn’t elevated his offensive production yet. Now, he’s a nightly source of 20.6 points (on 45.5/36.4/84.0 shooting), 6.1 assists and 5.5 rebounds, making him one of basketball’s best bargains.


    Worst contract: John Collins (four years, $102 million)

    Collins’ contract isn’t egregious, especially if you think his statistical decline is more circumstantial (he has dropped more than a few pegs on Atlanta’s offensive pecking order) than anything. Still, the money and years left on his pact are seen as a “hindrance in the trade market,” per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, which probably explains why the rumor-mill regular remains in Atlanta.

    Collins is a good player on offense—though he was better before his outside shooting tanked this season (career-worst 24.4 percent)—but he’s a tricky fit on defense, since he isn’t a great shot-blocker or an ideal option to switch on to perimeter players.

Boston Celtics

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 9: Robert Williams III #44 of the Boston Celtics walks on to the court prior to the game against the Chicago Bulls on January 9, 2023 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Robert Williams III (four years, $48 million)

    Williams’ lengthy injury history plays into his contract amount, and if he never shakes the injury bug, it could really hinder the value of this deal. Still, he’s such an asset on the defensive end that the pay rate looks good even if he makes annual trips to the sideline.

    A healthy Williams is a legitimate difference-maker who’s compensated like a role player. He creates all kinds of havoc on the defensive end, and on offense, he pairs elite finishing with sneaky-good passing.


    Worst contract: Malcolm Brogdon (three years, $67.6 million)

    Boston’s well-balanced books don’t do Brogdon any favors, as his deal wouldn’t even enter this discussion on a lot of different teams. Going a step further, the Celtics’ depth isn’t helping, either, since it has him operating as a reserve for the first time since 2017-18 and logging a career-low 23.8 minutes.

    Add some previous injury issues to the mix—he hasn’t topped 65 games since his rookie season—and his deal becomes the worst (least good, really) on the payroll.

Brooklyn Nets

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 04: Brooklyn Nets Center Nic Claxton (33) looks on during a NBA game between the Brooklyn  Nets and the Chicago Bulls on January 4, 2023 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Best contract: Nic Claxton (two years, $17.3 million)

    Claxton is an elite rim protector (NBA-best 2.7 blocks) and a shape-shifting stopper who can switch on to virtually any assignment. If that’s all he brought to the table, he might still qualify as Brooklyn’s best value.

    What closes this case, though, are the strides he’s made on offense. His 12 points, 2.5 offensive rebounds and 1.5 assists are all career-highs, and his 72.9 field-goal percentage is this season’s best.


    Worst contract: Ben Simmons (three years, $113.7 million)

    The fact that Simmons is playing again and flying around the floor defensively at least means he’s coming closer to earning his keep.

    Still, his total lack of offensive aggression settles any debates about the worst deal in Brooklyn. He has played 32 games this season and finished 15 of them with zero free-throw attempts. For someone who can be such a devastating downhill attacker, that number is unforgivable.

Charlotte Hornets

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    Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr., left, talks with forward Gordon Hayward, right, during warm ups before an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

    AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

    Best contract: Kelly Oubre Jr. (one year, $12.6 million)

    It’s possible this is the only payroll in which Oubre’s contract would be seen as the most valuable. He’s a pretty mediocre player (career 13.2 player efficiency rating), but a mediocre starter who logs better than 32 minutes a night is probably worth this amount.

    Still, the best thing he has going for him in this discussion is the age of this rebuilding roster. A huge batch of Buzz City hoopers aren’t eligible, since they’re still on their rookie deals.


    Worst contract: Gordon Hayward (two years, $61.6 million)

    Injuries continue piling up for Hayward, who has played more than 52 games once since 2017-18.

    However, his many medical maladies aren’t solely to blame for this dubious distinction. The 32-year-old is finally showing signs of slowing down. Throw out his five-minute cameo in 2017-18, when he suffered a gruesome (and season-ending) leg injury on opening night, and he’s posting his worst true shooting percentage (51) and second-lowest PER (11.1).

Chicago Bulls

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    LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 15: Alex Caruso #6 and Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls react to a play during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on November 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

    Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

    Best contract: Alex Caruso (three years, $28.4 million)

    Caruso is the kind of player who makes you want to speak in cliches, praising him for things like “playing the right way” or making “winning plays.” He won’t often post big numbers, but he makes a big impact. His teams always fare better with him than without, and that difference has landed above plus-7 points per 100 possessions in four of his six NBA seasons.

    Prior to this season, in which Caruso has added more than six points to his three-point percentage (from 33.3 to 39.5), FiveThirtyEight projected his five-year worth at $93.2 million. This contract, which features only a partial guarantee on the final season, is an absolute steal.


    Worst contract: Lonzo Ball (three years, $61.4 million)

    This a bummer, because a healthy Ball is worth at least this much. His two-way connectivity was Chicago’s secret sauce last season. The Bulls had an Eastern Conference-leading 27-13 mark when he suffered a torn meniscus last January. They limped to a 19-23 finish from that point forward.

    One year and two knee surgeries later, he still hasn’t returned to action, and it’s anyone’s guess when that will happen. He recently started running again but said to reporters, “There’s still some discomfort and some hitching in there.”

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 31: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers high fives Jarrett Allen #31 against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at United Center on December 31, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. 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 Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Best contract: Jarrett Allen (four years, $80 million)

    A lot of non-spacing centers might struggle to warrant this kind of cash in the modern NBA, but Allen is one of the exceptions.

    He is an elite rim-runner, who protects the basket at one end and consistently finishes around it at the other. He made his first All-Star appearance last season and has nearly matched that production this time around.


    Worst contract: Kevin Love (one year, $28.9 million)

    The fact Love’s deal surfaces here shows Cleveland has no bad deals on the books, since his contract is expiring and he fills a helpful role on one of the East’s better teams.

    Still, someone has to be selected, and Cleveland’s near-$30 million investment this season is yielding 8.7 points per game on 38.2 percent shooting.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Dallas Mavericks forward Davis Bertans, left, Mavericks guards Spencer Dinwiddie (26), Luka Doncic, second from right, and Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) huddle up during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

    AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

    Best contract: Luka Dončić (five years, $215.2 million)

    Yes, Dončić makes Monopoly money, but would anyone suggest he isn’t worth it? FiveThirtyEight pegged his five-year worth north of $400 million. Because of collective bargaining agreement limits, the Mavs will barely pay him half of that.

    His (league-leading) 33.7 points and 49.7 field-goal percentage are both personal bests. He’s also on course to join Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook as the only players to average 30 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.


    Worst contract: Dāvis Bertāns (three years, $49 million)

    Bertāns’ contract, which originally spanned five years for $80 million, seemed like an overpay from the start, since he was never more than a shooting specialist.

    With his shot going cold (after hitting 40.7 percent of his threes in his first five seasons, he’s down to 34.5 since the start of last season), this contract has cemented itself among the Association’s true albatross pacts. And no, the fact that the final season is only partially guaranteed isn’t nearly enough of a saving grace.

Denver Nuggets

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    DENVER, CO - JANUARY 9: Nikola Jokic (15) of the Denver Nuggets gingerly grazes the wrist of teammate Michael Porter Jr. (1) after Jokic earned an assist on a Porter Jr. three pointer during the first quarter at Ball Arena in Denver on Monday, January 9, 2023. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

    AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

    Best contract: Nikola Jokić (six years, $304.5 million)

    Making a supermax seem super-valuable shouldn’t be easy, but as with most things hoops-related, the Joker pulls off this magic act with ease.

    He is the reigning two-time MVP, and you’d have a hard time seriously arguing against his candidacy for a third straight crown, a feat only previously pulled off by Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird.


    Worst contract: Michael Porter Jr. (five years, $179.3 million)

    Porter’s appeal is easy to see. He’s a 6’10” scoring machine. For his career, he’s been good for 20.5 points per 36 minutes on 50.8/41.6/79.0 shooting.

    Unfortunately, his biggest flaw is even more evident: He can’t stay healthy. Back problems wiped out most of his one-and-done college season, what should have been his rookie campaign and nearly all of his 2021-22 campaign. This season, he lost a full month to a heel injury.

Detroit Pistons

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    DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 15:  Alec Burke #5 of the Detroit Pistons shoots a drives to the basket during the game against the New York Knicks on January 15, 2023 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. 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 Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Alec Burks (two years, $20.5 million)

    There aren’t a ton of options in Detroit, where most everyone makes rookie-scale money, but this isn’t the only city in which Burks would have the best deal.

    He is, at worst, rock-solid on both ends and quietly becoming one of the league’s best long-range shooters. Among the 256 players with at least 100 triples since the start of 2020-21, Burks’ 41.7 percent connection rate ranks seventh-best.

    If all of that wasn’t convincing enough, the kicker is Burks’ final season is a $10.5 million team option.


    Worst contract: Marvin Bagley III (three years, $37.5 million)

    The shortage of eligible contracts in the Motor City doesn’t help Bagley, but neither does his track record. Injuries and inconsistency have limited him to fewer than 50 games in all but his rookie season, and a hand fracture is threatening to do the same.

    More worrisome, it remains uncertain how good he actually is. He sometimes scores and rebounds in bunches, but he isn’t a shooter, a shot-blocker or a great switcher on defense, making him an awkward fit in the modern game.

Golden State Warriors

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    TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 29: Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney of the Golden State Warriors at the team photo as part of 2022 Japan Games at Tokyo Tower on September 29, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan. 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 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Kevon Looney (three years, $22.5 million)

    Looney is the main reason the Warriors haven’t rushed to the trade market despite James Wiseman’s failure to launch and a general lack of size on the interior. Anything short of a blockbuster deal—which would be almost impossible to orchestrate on Golden State’s trade budget—probably wouldn’t bring back a better big to the Bay than it already has in Looney.

    In last season’s star-studded Finals, Looney led everyone with a plus-48 over his 130 minutes. This season, the Dubs have fared 11.8 points better per 100 possessions with him than without.


    Worst contract: Klay Thompson (two years, $83.8 million)

    Evaluating Thompson is tricky, because you want to give him the benefit of the doubt just for working his way back from two consecutive devastating leg injuries.

    However, those ailments (first a torn ACL, then a ruptured Achilles) didn’t lower his pay rate, meaning he has to be evaluated as a $40 million-plus player. He may have been that caliber of a contributor before, but he’s not anymore. While his three-ball is back, his field-goal percentage has never been lower (42 percent), and he’s lost a step defensively.

Houston Rockets

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16: Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets dribbles the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 16, 2023 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California. 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 Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Jae’Sean Tate (three years, $20.6 million)

    I’ll admit that Tate barely edged out my alternative, which was just the shrug emoji. A huge batch of Rockets remain on their first contract, and it’s too soon to tell how Kevin Porter Jr.’s extension will play out. He puts up big scoring numbers, but his efficiency, defense and distributing all leave tons to be desired.

    So, Tate gets the nod, even though an ankle injury cost him better than two months this season. He’d be more interesting with an outside shot, but his activity level is consistently high, he passes and communicates well—and the final season of this contract is non-guaranteed.


    Worst contract: Eric Gordon (two years, $40.5 million)

    There are myriad reasons why Houston is a bad fit for Gordon, and this is one of them. Because so many of his teammates are on their rookie deals, his bloated (but far from egregious) pact looks worse than it would elsewhere. The final season of it isn’t even guaranteed.

    It also doesn’t help that his shooting rates have really backtracked from last season. He went from hitting 47.5 percent of his field goals and 41.2 percent of his threes to now connecting on only 42.7 and 34.8 percent of those shots, respectively.

Indiana Pacers

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    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 13: Buddy Hield #24 of the Indiana Pacers reacts after making a shot in the first quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on January 13, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. 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 Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Best contract: Buddy Hield (two years, $39.1 million)

    Indiana’s roster largely falls in one of two bins: those making reasonable money and those making rookie wages. That complicates this type of exercise.

    In most situations, Hield’s contract value wouldn’t rise above the rest, as he’s essentially a shooting specialist. Still, he’s such an elite shooter that it’s fair to think he’d command slightly more on the open market. He not only leads the league with 176 triples, but he also has the highest connection rate of the category’s top 25 at 42.4 percent.


    Worst contract: Daniel Theis (three years, $27.3 million)

    As with Hield’s contract, I’m not sure Theis’ deal would stand out in most situations, but it stands as the Pacers’ worst overpay regardless.

    Theis, who turns 31 in April, posted his first below-average PER last season (13.2) and has had this season’s debut delayed by a November knee surgery.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 17: Los Angeles Clippers Guard Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts to a turnover during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers on January 17, 2023 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Best contract: Terance Mann (three years, $23.9 million)

    The Clippers have a ton of smart contracts on the books, so picking the best of the bunch wasn’t easy. What made settling on Mann even more complicated is that this dollar amount includes two contracts, since this season is the last of his rookie deal, so this kind of feels like cheating.

    But, hey, when you make the rules, you’re allowed to bend them, right?

    Even if you evaluated Mann solely on the two-year, $22 million extension he’ll start next season, that still reads as great value. He offers significant versatilty at both ends—he has played everywhere but center—and that helps him consistently find a fit with L.A.’s consistently evolving rotations.


    Worst contract: Kawhi Leonard (three years, $136.9 million)

    This isn’t at all comfortable, since a healthy Leonard still factors into the best-two-way-player discussion. If he was reliably available, no one would bat an eye at the money he’s making.

    However, he’s made all of 21 appearances since the start of last season, and they haven’t exactly lived up to his mega-star standards. His 20.9 PER is his lowest since 2013-14, his 4.0 box plus/minus is the third-worst of his career and his 0.147 win shares per 48 minutes are the fewest he’s ever generated.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 15:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball during the second half of a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Crypto.com Arena on January 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Best contract: Thomas Bryant (one year, $2.1 million)

    The Lakers front office can’t count many victories with the roster it has assembled, but getting Bryant for the veteran’s minimum has been a massive win.

    He’s averaging 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in only 21.8 minutes per night while shooting 64.2 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three.


    Worst contract: Russell Westbrook (one year, $47.1 million)

    The only positive spin you can put on Westbrook’s astronomic salary is that it’s at least expiring. Still, that’s not enough to move him without sacrificing at least one future first-round pick—or two if the Lakers hope to fetch anything worthwhile in the exchange.

    His offensive game keeps devolving into a mountain of bricked shots and bad decisions, and his defense was never much to begin with. He’s never had a higher turnover percentage (18.3) or fewer win shares per 48 minutes (0.028). FiveThirtyEight categorized him as a “scrub” while pegging his five-year worth at just $6.5 million.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - DECEMBER 31: Jaren Jackson Jr. #13 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at FedExForum on December 31, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. 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 Justin Ford/Getty Images)

    Justin Ford/Getty Images

    Best contract: Jaren Jackson Jr. (four years, $104.7 million)

    Going with Jackson here instead of 23-year-old MVP candidate Ja Morant requires a few leaps of faith. The first involves Jackson avoiding the injury issues that plagued him in the past (and delayed his start to this season). The second requires the big man to continue making positive strides on the offensive end.

    Still, I’m comfortable taking that plunge. Fingers-crossed on the health front, but if his availability isn’t in question, then neither will be his ability to outperform his pay rate.

    His 11.3 block percentage would shatter the current all-time mark of 7.9, and Memphis’ defense has been 8.6 points stingier per 100 possessions when he plays. On offense, he’s shooting a career-high 51.3 percent from the field while posting his second-best marks in points (16.5) and three-point shooting (36.8).


    Worst contract: Danny Green (one year, $10 million)

    Memphis’ ledger looks remarkably clean, which isn’t great news for Green.

    If healthy, he might be worth $10 million, but he’s 35 years old and working his way back from a torn ACL. He also didn’t have a great 2021-22 campaign, averaging his fewest points in over a decade (5.9) and shooting just 39.4 percent from the field.

Miami Heat

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    MIAMI, FL - APRIL 5: Duncan Robinson #55 talks to Caleb Martin #16 of the Miami Heat during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on April 5, 2022 at FTX Arena in Miami, Florida. 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 2022 NBAE (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Caleb Martin (three years, $20.4 million)

    Miami’s stars are paid accordingly, which allows a support player like Martin to snag the honor of having the best contract on South Beach.

    The Heat entrusted Martin with filling the void created by P.J. Tucker’s free-agency departure, and so far the wager is working out. In addition to posting a career-high 10.3 points per game and shooting 39.7 percent from deep, Martin has a plus-7.4 net rating differential, which nearly triples Tucker’s mark of plus-2.7 from last season.


    Worst contract: Duncan Robinson (four years, $74.4 million)

    Kyle Lowry nearly landed in this spot, as it’s increasingly difficult to imagine Miami seeing a positive return on the two years and $58 million still owed to him. At least Lowry offers some utility, though, as a communicator, ball-mover and defender.

    Robinson is a shooter (and nothing else) who can’t find his jumper. His field-goal and three-point percentages are down for the third consecutive season, but they’ve officially dipped low enough to raise all kinds of red flags. He’s down to 36.8 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from three, which effectively renders him useless, since shooting is his only NBA skill.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    MILWAUKEE, WI - JANUARY 6: Pat Connaughton #24 and Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks high fives during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on January 6, 2023 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 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 2022 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images).

    Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Giannis Antetokounmpo (four years, $188.9 million)

    Milwaukee’s contracts mostly seem reasonable across the board. Nothing stands out as either a tremendous value or a problematic overpay.

    So, why not side with the in-prime superstar who has a good chance to remain at his peak for the duration of this deal? Antetokounmpo’s efficiency has sagged a touch this season, but the entire offense has been a little off-kilter without Khris Middleton. Plus, Antetokounmpo reached such an enormous height that even this “down” year has him averaging 31 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists.


    Worst contract: Pat Connaughton (four years, $34 million)

    Because they aren’t any bad contracts on the Bucks, then nitpicking is a must to choose the least-good one of the bunch.

    If you could guarantee a clean bill of health for Connaughton, then his contract wouldn’t enter the discussion. Unfortunately, you can’t. He has topped 70 games once in his eight-year career, and he won’t hit that mark this time around, since he missed the campaign’s first 15 contests. He has also really struggled to find his touch, as he’s toting around an unsightly 36.0/32.4/59.1 shooting slash.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN -  DECEMBER 31: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during the game against the Detroit Pistons on December 31, 2022 at Target Center 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

    David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Kyle Anderson (two years, $18 million)

    For the sixth time in the last eight seasons, Anderson’s team plays better with him than without. That might be the best way to sum up a player who will never wow you with huge numbers or wild athleticism but uses his smarts, skills and versatility to make an impact.

    Anderson has never had a wider gap between his assists (4.1) and his turnovers (1.4), has his best field-goal percentage in four seasons (49.5) and is posting his personal-best percentage from three (41.3).


    Worst contract: Karl-Anthony Towns (six years, $294.1 million)

    Holy cannoli, that’s a lot of cash.

    And yet, there are moments at which Towns seems worth it. When he has it rolling, he’s a walking mismatch with the perimeter skills to torture bigger defenders and the post game to bully smaller ones on the block. That was almost enough to save Towns from this spot and give it to Rudy Gobert or D’Angelo Russell instead.

    But at least Gobert and Russell are playing. Towns is once again battling injuries (this time a calf strain that has sidelined him since late November), and this trend must be troubling the Timberwolves. Towns topped 50 games once in the previous three seasons, and he’ll have to heal up soon to avoid falling short again. He’s also never been a great defender and remains without a postseason series win.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 19: Larry Nance Jr. #22 embraces Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans after Round 1 Game 2 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs against Phoenix Suns on April 19, 2022 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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 2022 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)

    Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Larry Nance Jr. (three years, $31.3 million)

    Admittedly, Nance doesn’t have the clearest health history, but that is seemingly baked into this price. Good luck finding another roughly $10 million player who touches as many stat categories as he does.

    Nance’s per-36-minutes averages speak to that versatility: 12.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks. He’s also hitting career marks from the field (61.6) and from three (38.5) while sitting third on the team in net differential (plus-8.0)


    Worst contract: Brandon Ingram (three years, $101.5 million)

    New Orleans has no awful overpays, so you’re really deciding between the two of its oft-injured max players. While Zion Williamson arguably carries the greater health concerns, he also has a higher ceiling. Give me the superstar potential if those are my options.

    Ingram hasn’t played since late November, and his inability to shake this toe injury might be rubbing people the wrong way. After playing 79 games as a rookie in 2016-17, he hasn’t topped 62 appearances since. And while he’s a dynamic scorer and capable secondary playmaker, he’s never become the defender that his physical tools say he should be.

New York Knicks

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    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 14:  Jalen Brunson #11 and Evan Fournier #13 of the New York Knicks high five during the game against the Washington Wizards on October 14, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. 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 2022 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Jalen Brunson (four years, $104 million)

    The Knicks took a good amount of risk in signing Brunson to this deal last summer, since last season was his first true breakout campaign, and even then it only featured per-game averages of 16.3 points and 4.8 assists. The only way for New York to see a positive return on investment was by coaxing continued growth out of him.

    The fact he now qualifies as the best contract value on the team shows how smashing of a success this has been. His production has perked up nearly across the board, to the point he’s now one of only 11 players averaging 22 points and six assists. Among that group, comprised largely of All-Star regulars, he has the second-best three-point percentage (39.8) and third-most win shares (5.0).


    Worst contract: Evan Fournier (three years, $55.9 million)

    If not for Fournier’s uncharacteristic shooting woes (35 percent overall, 31.3 percent from deep) and subsequent banishment from the rotation, this section might serve as a raised eyebrow toward the four-year, $107 million extension RJ Barrett signed last offseason.

    Instead, this can just point out the obvious: Fournier is paid like a decent starter or high-end reserve, but he’s racking up healthy scratches like someone making minimal money and clinging to a team’s last roster spot.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 13: Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Luguentz Dort (5) looks on during a NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls on January 13, 2023 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Best contract: Kenrich Williams (five years, $29.2 million)

    If you’re looking at a list of the league’s best contracts, and it doesn’t have a mention of Williams, it’s probably time to find a new list.

    He’s the kind of role player every modern team needs. He’s a shape-shifter on defense and a low-maintenance, capable contributor on offense. He doesn’t take a ton of shots, but he is cashing better than 53 percent of his field goals and 43 percent of his threes for the second time in the last three seasons.


    Worst contract: Luguentz Dort (five years, $82.5 million)

    I considered going with a “no bad deals detected” cop-out. Only three players have eight-figure average annual salaries. One is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is 24 years old and authoring an MVP-caliber campaign. One is Chet Holmgren, who isn’t eligible for this exercise and is merely a matter of months removed from being the No. 2 pick.

    If you haven’t sleuthed this out yet, Dort is the other, so he gets singled out by default. His wages feel a bit rich for a defensive specialist, but he keeps dropping hints that he’s more than a suffocating stopper. His 41.2 field-goal percentage and 35.3 three-point percentage are both career-highs, and his 110 offensive rating easily beats his previous best.

Orlando Magic

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    SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 13:  Wendell Carter Jr. #34 of the Orlando Magic drives to the basket during the game against the Utah Jazz on January 13, 2023 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. 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 Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Wendell Carter Jr. (four years, $50 million)

    Carter is a 6’11”, 270-pound glue guy, and that’s intended in the most complimentary way possible.

    Everything he does—and he does a ton—nudges his club closer to victory. From anchoring the interior on defense to running the gamut on offense (post scoring, perimeter shooting, distributing, glass-cleaning), he does it all.


    Worst contract: Jonathan Isaac (three years, $52.2 million)

    Isaac tore his ACL on Aug. 2, 2020. He hasn’t played an NBA game since. No more analysis needed.

    His contract is only partially guaranteed, but that’s not enough to spare him here. Even before the knee problem, he had a few run-ins with the injury bug. His first three NBA seasons lasted an average of only 45.3 games.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Tobias Harris #12, De'Anthony Melton #8, and Tyrese Maxey #0 of the Philadelphia 76ers react against the Phoenix Suns in the second half at the Wells Fargo Center on November 7, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Suns 100-88. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Best contract: De’Anthony Melton (two years, $16.5 million)

    The Sixers parted with a first-round pick (and Danny Green’s expiring contract) to pluck Melton out of Memphis on draft night, so it’s not like Philly got him for cheap. Still, looking back on the deal, it’s starting to give off larcenous vibes.

    He’s been so good that he supplanted Tyrese Maxey—he who shall not be mentioned in any fake Philly trades—from the starting lineup. Melton is a dogged (and impressively versatile) defender, who’s also scoring at a career clip (11 points per outing), more than doubling his turnovers (1.4) with assists (2.9) and posting his second-best shooting rates from the field (42) and outside (39.3).

    Next season is a partial guarantee


    Worst contract: Tobias Harris (two years, $76.9 million)

    Harris is a good player who’s paid more like a great one.

    Maybe he could level up elsewhere, but he’s a fourth option in Philly who lacks standout skills beyond scoring.

Phoenix Suns

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Mikal Bridges #25 and Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns in action against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 7, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Suns 100-88. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Best contract: Mikal Bridges (four years, $90.9 million)

    Bridges’ evolution from three-and-D wing to two-way star isn’t quite complete, but he’s never been closer to pulling it off.

    Phoenix’s myriad injury issues have cost Bridges a bit of efficiency (his 46 field-goal percentage is the lowest since his rookie season), but it has forced him to become more aggressive as a scorer and playmaker. As a result, he’s up to 15.8 points and 3.4 assists (both personal-bests) while still playing some of the best on-ball defense in the business.


    Worst contract: Deandre Ayton (four years, $132.9 million)

    It’s been a strange calendar year for Ayton, from his benching in the Suns’ elimination game to his restricted free agency to a December sideline spat with skipper Monty Williams.

    Ayton’s counting categories are solid (17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds), but his impact is non-existent. Phoenix’s net rating drops 10.6 per 100 possessions when the big fella hits the hardwood.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    PORTLAND, OREGON - OCTOBER 21: Anfernee Simons #1 and Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers high five against the Phoenix Suns during the second quarter at Moda Center on October 21, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. 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 Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    Best contract: Anfernee Simons (four years, $100 million)

    Some forward projecting is needed to spin Simons’ pact from a good deal to Portland’s best, but that feels like a safe wager.

    He’s 23 years old, in his first season as a full-time starter and already one of 13 players averaging 20 points, four assists and three triples.


    Worst contract: Damian Lillard (five years, $258.7 million)

    Lillard is worth max money now, but with his 32nd birthday behind him and injury issues becoming more frequent, how much longer can Portland expect that to remain the case?

    His age-35 season features a $58.5 million salary. His age-36 campaign has a $63.2 million player option. Both numbers are hard to stomach already.

Sacramento Kings

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    SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 13: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings celebrates during the game against the Houston Rockets on January 13, 2023 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. 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 Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Domantas Sabonis (two years, $37.9 million)

    Sabonis has top-20 marks in RAPTOR (15th) and box plus/minus (11th). Estimated plus/minus puts him in the 94th percentile.

    He is, by all advanced metrics, an elite player. He just so happens to be paid more like a solid starter. If he winds up being the key to snapping Sacramento’s historic playoff drought, this fanbase may forever regard him as priceless.


    Worst contract: Richaun Holmes (three years, $36.1 million)

    Holmes’ pay rate seemed relatively reasonable when he was holding down a starting spot, but now that he’s been moved to the fringes of coach Mike Brown’s rotation, it muddles up Sacramento’s otherwise mostly sunny financial picture.

    Holmes has a great motor and soft touch around the basket, but he’s not a great shot-blocker, and he almost never launches threes anymore.

San Antonio Spurs

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 31: Doug McDermott #17 and Keldon Johnson #3 of the San Antonio Spurs high fives during the game against the Dallas Mavericks on December 31, 2022 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. 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 2022 NBAE (Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Keldon Johnson (five years, $77.9 million)

    The exodus of veteran talent out of the Alamo City has hurt Johnson’s efficiency but upped his volume. The suddenly super-sized responsibility he’s saddled with should help his development in the long run.

    This dollar amount looks better for the fact this season is the final one on his rookie deal, but the four-year, $74 million extension he inked last summer is still a great value—especially since his salary declines over the life of the deal.


    Worst contract: Doug McDermott (two years, $27.5 million)

    In almost any other situation, McDermott’s deal wouldn’t factor into this discussion. But since he’s actually the Spurs’ highest-paid player this season, the relative value is the worst of the lot.

    He’s a dead-eye shooter from distance (career 41 percent), but that’s often the extent of his on-court contribution.

Toronto Raptors

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 16: O.G. Anunoby #3 of the Toronto Raptors celebrates his shot during the second half against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 16, 2023 in New York City. The Toronto Raptors defeated the New York Knicks 123-121 in overtime. 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 Elsa/Getty Images)

    Elsa/Getty Images

    Best contract: O.G. Anunoby (three years, $55.9 million)

    Maybe Anunoby isn’t the second coming of Kawhi Leonard, but he is the Association’s best perimeter stopper and a perpetually improving player on the opposite end.

    He’s set to post another career-high in scoring, as he has every season, and he’s never been better at getting to the free-throw line (3.2 attempts per game) or converting from there (82.3 percent).


    Worst contract: Khem Birch (two years, $13.7 million)

    Even in the NBA’s warped economy, shouldn’t this kind of coin get you someone who can actually play?

    Birch has had a few solid stretches north of the border, but he’s now an afterthought in this rotation. He hasn’t heard his number called since the calendar flipped to the new year.

Utah Jazz

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    SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 18: Lauri Markkanen #23 of the Utah Jazz talks to the media after the game against the LA Clippers on January 18, 2023 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. 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 Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

    Best contract: Lauri Markkanen (three years, $51.8 million)

    You can probably count the number of players having a better season than Markkanen on one hand. There are myriad ways to praise his production, but this might be the simplest: Only six players have generated more win shares than his 6.1.

    Markkanen is pairing his career-high 24.8 points per game with a 52/42.2/87.3 slash line that features personal-best marks at every level. He’s also generating a wildly efficient 1.41 points per possession on isolation plays, which is the NBA’s best mark among players with 25-plus isolations.


    Worst contract: Mike Conley (two years, $47.4 million)

    You want to give Conley some credit for his on-court leadership and calming presence. He’s an expert offensive organizer and a willing (if not always able) defender. As an added bonus, the final season of his contract is only partially guaranteed.

    All of that said, you’d need a time machine to find a point at which he was less threatening on the offensive end. His 10.5 points per game are his fewest since his rookie season, and his 39.6 field-goal percentage bests only his connection rate from 2017-18, when injuries limited him to a dozen appearances.

Washington Wizards

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    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 18: Kyle Kuzma #33 and Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards celebrate after an overtime win against the Miami Heat at Capital One Arena on November 18, 2022 in Washington, DC. 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 Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    Best contract: Kyle Kuzma (two years, $26 million)

    The bad news is the Wizards can’t soak up the savings, since Kuzma’s contract includes a $13 million player option for next season. If he takes more than a half-second to decline it, he should seek new representation.

    The good news is that for the remainder of this season, Washington has an All-Star candidate making (relative) peanuts. Kuzma’s 21.7 points, 4.0 assists and 45.7 field-goal percentage are all career-highs.


    Worst contract: Bradley Beal (five years, $251 million)

    The best thing you can say about this deal is that it’s not all automatically owed to Beal. Unfortunately, it might as well be, since there’s zero chance he’ll decline his $57.1 million player option for 2026-27, his age-33 season.

    Paying anyone this kind of cash in a contract carrying them well into their 30s is risky. Doing it for Beal, a high-volume scorer who isn’t always an efficient shooter or engaged defender and has a lengthy injury history, exponentially ups the danger.


    Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference, NBA.com, FiveThirtyEight and Dunks and Threes and accurate through Wednesday. Salary information via Spotrac.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.