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Top 5 worst NBA contracts of all time

Former Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons
Former Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons
Miles Lockhart

NBA sides are constantly looking to strike the best deals possible to help them win a championship. However, it doesn't always go according to plan and injuries can get in the way, or sometimes the player just doesn't turn out to be good enough.

The New York Knicks have had their fair share of financial mistakes in the 21st century, although have managed to avoid our list of the five worst contracts offered in league history.

In our top-5, there are players that have cost their franchise considerable sums despite barely having an effect on the team's success. In fact, in some instances, their salary-cap filling contract has had a negative impact on the team's ability to bring in other stars.

Analysing the worst NBA contracts of all time

Across the NBA, there are multiple players who have been brought in on a big deal but have struggled to make an impact. Sometimes, this is through no fault of their own. However, for the franchise, the money spent can be a hindering factor in their pursuit for success.

In this article we will take a look at the five worst NBA contracts of all time and what made them so bad.

#1 Chandler Parsons - Memphis Grizzlies (4 years, $94.5m)

Chandler Parsons was a promising star for the Memphis Grizzlies
Chandler Parsons was a promising star for the Memphis Grizzlies

It's hard to believe that just last season the Atlanta Hawks were paying over $20m to Chandler Parsons, despite the small forward only playing in five games for the franchise. After averaging over 15 points a season in the four years following his rookie campaign, the Memphis Grizzlies offered Parsons a whopping $94.5m contract to pry him away from Dallas in 2016.

The Grizzlies front office will have hoped at the time that Parsons could become an above-average contributor to their plans going forward. As well as his double-digit points, Parsons was an efficient shooter, averaging over 45% of made field-goals in his first five years in the NBA.

However, his NBA career was hampered by injuries and, after signing with Memphis, he played only 95 games for the franchise across three seasons.

Multiple knee surgeries meant Parsons was never the same player again and only averaged 20 minutes a night along with an offensive rating that was below 100 in two of the three years.

#2 Jon Koncak - Atlanta Hawks (6 year, $13m)

Subsequently known as 'Jon Contract', the Atlanta Hawks' $13m deal for Jon Koncak in 1989 has to go down as one of the worst NBA contracts in history.

Despite becoming a regular starter for the franchise, Koncak was never a prolific player. That's why the Hawks' offer was so bizarre in a setting where stars like Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were on less money.

Koncak had only averaged 4.7 points and 6.1 rebounds in the previous season before his deal. In each of the six subsequent years, he could never produce the same numbers again.

#3 Luol Deng - LA Lakers (4 years, $72m)

Luol Deng battles for rebound while in LA
Luol Deng battles for rebound while in LA

When the late, great Kobe Bryant retired, the LA Lakers had a wealth of cap space to spend. However, it wasn't exactly spent wisely, as the likes of veteran forward Luol Deng came in on a $72m contract.

Despite being an effective scorer throughout his years in the NBA and a two-time All-Star, Deng was past his best before he even arrived on the West coast. After his first season with the franchise, in which he averaged 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds, the Lakers realized their mistake.

Deng was effectively left out of the team and only made one appearance in the following NBA campaign. It was clear he wasn't a part of the LA Lakers' long-term plans and so he agreed a buyout in the 2018 season, giving back $7.5m to become a free agent before subsequently joining the Timberwolves.

#4 Bill Walton - San Diego Clippers (7 years, $7m)

Bill Walton struggled with injuries while in San Diego prior to moving to Boston
Bill Walton struggled with injuries while in San Diego prior to moving to Boston

Jumping back in time to the 1980s brings us to the fourth name on our list of the NBA's worst contracts - Hall of Famer Bill Walton. Picked first overall in the 1974 draft, Walton was prolific for the Portland Trail Blazers and led them to an NBA championship in 1977.

Walton then forced a move away from Portland and in 1979 signed for the San Diego Clippers. However, he played only 14 games in his first three seasons with the franchise.

Although he still averaged close to a double-double in the next three years, Walton wasn't the same player who had made two NBA All-Star appearances while in Portland. His foot surgeries ultimately plagued his effectiveness and the financial cost of his contract would have a significant effect on a team that struggled to win in the years he was there.

#5 Gilbert Arenas - Washington Wizards (6 years, $111m)

Former NBA star Gilbert Arenas playing in the BIG3
Former NBA star Gilbert Arenas playing in the BIG3

The last player on our list for the worst NBA contracts is Gilbert Arenas. Washington gave the three-time All-Star a whopping six-year deal, even though he had a knee injury that would plague the rest of his time with the team. Arenas played just thirteen games in the first season and only two in the subsequent year.

Due, in part, to his absence, the Wizards became so bad that they earned the No.1 overall pick in 2010 and brought in John Wall as his replacement. Although he was effective when on the court, Arenas barely saw enough playing time for the Wizards to keep him. During the 2010-11 season, he was traded to the Orlando Magic before he then moved again to Memphis.

Overall, in the five years following the deal, Arenas played in only 183 NBA games out of a possible 410 before moving to play in China.


Edited by Prem Deshpande

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