There have been some truly ridiculous contracts handed out in NBA free agency so far. In fact, it might be one of the weirdest offseasons I’ve seen in a long time in any sport. There have been several lopsided trades and signings that made absolutely no sense.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the five worst contracts given out in NBA free agency this year.
Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat: Four years, $50 million
I have no idea what the Heat were thinking here. Kelly Olynyk has never been anything but an average rotation player who occasionally had a good game. He’s a 7-footer who can shoot a bit, but isn’t a great rebounder and never really cracked the starting lineup for the Boston Celtics. In 278 career games, the 26-year-old has started just 36 and has averaged 20.7 minutes per game for his career.
Looking at the numbers, it’s not like Olynyk had a big year in 2016-17 that would lead you to believe more is on the way. He averaged 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.4 blocks in 20.5 minutes. His PER dropped to a near-career-low 15.32, he ranked 105th in win shares (4.1) and 109th in value over replacement player (1.0). He had one big performance against the Washington Wizards in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semis, but that’s really it. In that game he poured in 26 points and added four boards and four assists, but that’s been nothing near the norm from him.
Olynyk is and always will be a reserve. You don’t hand out an average of $12.5 million over four years for a guy like that. This is the kind of contract Miami will be begging someone to take off their hands in a year or two.
Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks: Four years, $71 million
The 25-year-old posted career-highs in points (14.5), rebounds (2.8), assists (2.3), steals (0.7) and minutes per game (27.3) in 2016-17. He also had a career-best PER of 15.26. The problem comes when you look deeper into his advanced stats. He ranked 78th in win shares (4.8), 140th in win shares per 48 minutes (.107), 153rd in box plus/minus (-0.3) and 126th in value over replacement player (0.9). Nothing in there makes him look like a guy you can build around.
I’m not even going to go into the joke of how the Knicks wound up bringing Hardaway back after drafting him, then shipping him to Atlanta for virtually nothing in return. The fact is, the Hawks would have been willing to match a four-year, offer in the $45 million range for Hardaway as a restricted free agent. The Knicks went way above that to get a guy who hasn’t shown he’s any more than a glorified rotation player. Now they’ll be paying him an average of $17.7 million for the next four years.
The names and faces may change, but the Knicks stay the Knicks.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: Five years, $173 million
Woof, this contract. I’ve been on the record bashing it numerous times, so let me just quote myself here:
(The Clippers) signed the oft-injured Blake Griffin to an insane five-year, $173 million deal. Look, Griffin is a nice player, but he’s 28, hasn’t been able to stay on the floor consistently over the past few years and his scoring (21.6 per game) and rebounding (8.1 per game) numbers have dropped off from his peak in 2013-14. His shooting percentage also dropped to a career-low 49.3 percent in 2016-17.
Yep, still feel that way. Griffin is set to average a ridiculous $34.45 million over the next five seasons, culminating in an absurd $39.2 million during the 2021-22 campaign. That’s the kind of deal the Clippers will be trying to get out from under before it’s half over. Griffin has averaged just 54.3 games played over the past three seasons and there’s no indication he will stay healthy long term.
This is just a truly awful deal.
James Johnson, Miami Heat: Four years, $60 million
This contract wouldn’t be bad in and of itself, but on top of the other deals the Heat handed out, this adds to what was an awful offseason. Miami gave Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Olynyk a combined $162 million over the next four years. None of that trio is a franchise-changing talent that will put the Heat anywhere near the top of the Eastern Conference. This was simply a case of a team having a ton of cap space and being convinced it had to use it, not save it. It was short-sighted management.
As for Johnson, sure he’s a nice, versatile forward who can do some things. In 2016-17 he averaged career-highs in points (12.8), rebounds (4.9), assists (3.6) and minutes (27.4) per game and hit a career-best 34 percent from beyond the arc. But he’s already 30, his 17.03 PER wasn’t a career high, he was 121st in win shares per 48 (.117), and he shot just 47.9 percent from the field.
While Pat Riley has suggested after re-signing Johnson that he could move into the starting lineup next season, he only started five games this season. Again, giving a versatile potential starting forward an average annual salary of $15 million for the next four years isn’t egregious, but Johnson was signed after Waiters and Olynyk. At that point this contract was moronic, and horrible for the future of the franchise. Not to mention, they almost certainly could have gotten him cheaper.
George Hill, Sacramento Kings: Three years, $57 million
I’ll be honest: I really like George Hill and what he brings on and off the court, but I don’t like him for this much money. And I really don’t like him for that much money and that number of years for the Sacramento Kings.
Hill is a nice two-way guard who had a really good year with the Utah Jazz. He scored a career-high 16.9 points per game, hit 40.3 percent from beyond the arc and added 3.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. But he also only saw the floor in 49 contests thanks to various injuries.
Hill is being brought in ostensibly to be a mentor for the Kings’ young backcourt players. But by giving him an annual average of $19 million for three years, the have either ensured he’ll play a lot for those years, or be a complete waste of cash in the long run. Buddy Hield is already a starter, and De'Aaron Fox is raw and won’t develop unless he sees ample time on the floor as a rookie. If this was a one-year deal it’d make sense, but by giving Hill three years, Sacramento is likely preventing the Hield-Fox tandem from playing big minutes together. Hill could also take minutes from Frank Mason III, who is ready to play in the NBA already.
The Kings are in full-on rebuild mode, and signing guys like Hill, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph could wind up preventing a full-scale tank that would greatly benefit the franchise. I appreciate the desire to have some veteran influence for the team’s young guys, but those vets will also steal minutes from the players that truly need them.