After gregarious expenditure over the past couple of seasons, NBA teams have been careful with their money than a season ago when Los Angeles Lakers threw four year deals worth $64 million and $72 million to Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng respectively.
It is the main reason behind this offseason’s free agency market having less money to splash around particularly on second and third tier players. For players like Jonathon Simmons who looked to cash in after their rise in stature, the right amount didn’t exactly come their way forcing them to make due with the ones that did.
Simmons signed a three year deal with Orlando Magic worth $20 million which is still a significant drop off considering Evan Turner signed a four year deal worth $70 million with Portland Trailblazers last season. The decline of the salary cap which spiked a few seasons back has got managers back to the days of crunching numbers to keep a lid on spending.
However, the frantic numbers game amounts to almost nothing with several of last season’s beneficiaries still on the books. Making matters worse is the difficulty associated with handing extensive minutes to such players which effectively makes them at best Sixth Men in the league. With enormous sums to be made while playing limited minutes, here are the NBA’s most overpaid bench players:
Enes Kanter, New York Knicks
Kanter was one of the first to benefit from the salary spike by inking a surprise four year, $70 million deal with frugal small market Oklahoma City Thunder after arriving from Utah Jazz midway through the 2014-2015 season. Played behind Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant, Kanter’s contribution as a top scoring Center off the bench is very good but definitely not worth $17 million per season. The pinch of having the defensively liable unathletic low post player will be felt more this season as a new member of New York Knicks.
Kanter and Doug McDermott got traded to the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony in the offseason which hardly puts him in a position to justify his huge wage considering New York has a jammed frontcourt with very little time to share. Once Joakim Noah returns to the roster after his 10 game suspension, he is likely to start games with Kristaps Porzingis with the likes of Willy Hernangomez and Kyle O’Quinn backing them. That possibly means, the Knicks could paying a player close to $20 million to play 15-17 minutes a night.
Ian Mahinmi, Washington Wizards
The Wizards intended to pair four year, $64 million signee Mahinmi with Marcin Gortat in its frontcourt ahead of the past season. However, Mahinmi’s limited ability to run the floor and provide spacing meant he had to play from the bench to allow Markieff Morris play at Power Forward and space the team out on offense for John Wall and Bradley Beal to drive at the basket. In his debut season in Washington, Mahinmi averaged 17.9 minutes registering 5.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in that stretch.
With the Wizards return the same starting unit thanks to deals for Wall and Otto Porter Jnr., the Frenchman will start from the bench but his hefty price tag could have been divvied up and spent on role players to make Scott Brooks bad bench tick.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
The experiment was tested several times but it failed particularly when it mattered most against Golden State Warriors in the Finals. Pairing Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love works against the Cavs against elite teams so the addition of Swingman Jae Crowder was just what the doctor ordered. Playing Crowder in a Small Forward role gives Coach Tyronne Lue a lot of options to disrupt the Warriors and beat them since LeBron James has demonstrated from his time at Miami Heat that he thrives best in a front court role as a Forward or Center- albeit in stretches.
Thanks to super agent Rich Paul, Thompson inked a lucrative deal like Mahinmi’s but with a reduced role in the foreseeable future, Khloe Kardashian’s boyfriend is flat out ripping off Cleveland with a $16 million wage in a season where a drop from 19.5 minutes, five points and six rebounds is very likely.
Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
You would think a two time Champions wouldn’t be on this list but former Philadelphia Sixers man Iguodala makes the list due to the three year $48 million contract Golden State handed to him. While Iggy’s contributions have been vital to the team’s success in four seasons, signs are clear he is breaking down to the point he can hardly be relied on to be around when needed. Shelving $16 million to a 33 year old in decline jumps out of the page more so to the fact Iggy is likely to see less time on the court with Nick Young and Jordan Bell on the roster.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter