Handing out max extensions to keep hold of a player is nothing new in the NBA today. Franchises stretch themselves financially to retain stars or talented players with a high ceiling, especially if they're in small markets.
While these deals generally sound reasonable at the time, they don't take performance continuity into consideration. Teams ignore the risk of players failing to reach their potential or falling off their perch for the safety of locking them up long-term.
Overpaid players in the NBA today
Any name can fail to live up to the billing for umpteen reasons. Injuries are generally the biggest inhibitors, but bad organizational fits can also come into play. As a result, many contracts end up becoming bloated with the associated player providing less value to his team than expected.
On that note, let's look at the five most overpaid players in the NBA today.
#5 Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
2020-21 Salary: $34,379,100
Kemba Walker signed a four-year, $140 million extension with the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2019. He looked like a promising candidate to replace Kyrie Irving who joined the Brooklyn Nets. Walker delivered the goods during his first year with the Celtics, but his fitness issues soon started to flare up.
Kemba Walker started the 2020-21 season considerably late due to a knee injury and was barely able to impact winning upon his return. He was never known for his defensive ability, but Walker has also been extremely inconsistent from the field this time. He's averaging 17.8 points per game this season on 39.8% shooting.
More than halfway through the current campaign, Kemba is yet to reach full fitness and is still missing the second night of back-to-backs. Walker was expected to take up an expanded role in a stumbling franchise, but he isn't anywhere near meeting them. He's been unfortunate with fitness, but his contract value has taken a considerable hit nonetheless.
#4 John Wall (Houston Rockets)
2020-21 Salary: $41,254,920
John Wall was at the top of his game back in 2016-17. Arguably the quickest player in the NBA at the time, he averaged a career-high 23.1 points and 10.7 assists per game in the regular season.
John Wall even led the Washington Wizards to the Eastern Conference Semifinals which they lost after a grueling seven-game series against the Boston Celtics. The Wizards rewarded Wall by handing him a four-year $170 million extension that came into play in the 2019-20 season.
Disaster struck the point guard who had to undergo multiple knee surgeries. He missed several games thereon, including the entirety of last season.
Traded to the Houston Rockets in the offseason, John Wall is trying to find his way back but is struggling for consistency. He's averaging 20.5 points and 6.8 assists on one of the worst teams in the league on 40.4% shooting. Wall may end up finding his previous highs, but for the time being, he does seem overpaid.
#3 Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)
2020-21 Salary: $31,258,256
Kevin Love won a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 as part of their big three. For Love, both injuries and a bad front office played a part in making his contract unfeasible.
After Kyrie Irving was traded away and LeBron James left in the summer of 2018, most fans expected the Cavs to hit the reset button. But they ended up handing Love a four-year $120 million extension. He alone wasn't able to prevent the team from losing and Cleveland eventually entered a rebuild.
With the team headed in a different direction, it became imperative for the front office to find a deal for Kevin Love, but they couldn't. Injuries didn't help Love's case either, as the team was more than happy to give him extra time to recover with that extra playing time going to youngsters.
Kevin Love has averaged only 7.9 points and five rebounds through seven games this season. Love is currently in the second year of his deal and a trade isn't foreseeable for him either, unless the Cavs attach multiple picks for him in a salary dump.
#2 Otto Porter Jr. (Orlando Magic)
2020-21 Salary: $28,489,238
Otto Porter Jr. signed a four-year $106.5 million extension with the Washington Wizards back in 2017 as a restricted free agent. The combo forward had all the attributes of an All-Star in the making. He was a three-level scorer who could also guard multiple positions. Unfortunately, Porter was unable to realize his potential.
Porter never took the leap he was expected to and his numbers remained largely the same. The Washington Wizards traded him to the Chicago Bulls midway through the 2018-19 season. He had arguably the best run of his career in the 15 games he played for the Bulls, but a shoulder injury cut his campaign short. He then broke his foot after playing an additional 14 games in the 2019-20 season.
Otto Porter exercised his player option for the 2020-21 season but failed to reach the levels he showcased during his original run with the Bulls. He was traded to the Orlando Magic in the Nikola Vucevic deal. Porter has little value on a tanking Magic team and it's surprising that he hasn't been bought out yet.
#1 Steven Adams (New Orleans Pelicans)
2020-21 Salary: $29,592,695 (includes trade kicker worth $2,064,607)
Steven Adams is arguably the strongest player in the NBA right now. The Kiwi played seven seasons for the Oklahoma City Thunder and made his living as a rim-protecting center who played largely around the post.
After becoming a double-double machine by the end of his rookie deal, Adams signed a four-year $100 million extension in 2017. Unfortunately for him, the league moved in a different direction. The modern game needed big men to be able to stretch the floor, a trait that Adams never learned. He can't guard quicker players either.
Steven Adams was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans this season, with the Thunder deciding to blow things up. Adams was expected to fill in for Zion Williamson defensively while creating space for him on offense.
Zion has bullied opposition defenders anyway and Adams just hasn't been up to the mark as a defender. He's averaging 7.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game while shooting a paltry 44.1% from the charity stripe. The fact that the Pelicans handed Adams a two-year $35 million extension makes him even more difficult to move.