As a companion to 10 Most Tradable Contracts of 2018, here are the 10 Least Tradable Contracts. Like the The 10 Most Tradable, there are a few ground rules:
- No player/contract is truly untradeable. We’ve seen that over the years. But the following players are ones teams would struggle to find suitors for.
- Unlike the Most Tradable Contracts, Max deals can be on this list.
- Also, unlike the Most Tradable Contracts, this list could have easily been 25 deep. There are that many bad contracts around the NBA. This was caused in part by the cap spike in 2016 and 2017, when many teams negotiated deals that are now viewed in a different light with the league back to being capped out.
- No expiring contracts will appear here. Expiring contracts remain very movable. With the league capped out, they’ve even regained some of their value.
10. Nicolas Batum (4 years/$99.1 million, last year Player Option): Like some of his brethren on this list, it isn’t that Batum is a bad player today, it is more about what is to come down the line. He’s 29 years old now and has missed 14 games already this season. Beyond the age and injury concerns, his play on the court has slipped. He’s shooting under 29 percent from behind the arc, while his rebounding, passing and defensive numbers have all fallen off. Danny Leroux is fond of saying “Years, not dollars”, but the Hornets might have both a years and dollars problem with Batum.
9. Ian Mahinmi (3 years/$48 million): The summer of 2016 is going to go down in history as “The Summer Marginal Centers Got Paid”. Mahinmi is the first on this list, but he’s joined by a couple of other fives who got overpaid, and a handful of others just missed. Mahinmi was supposed to give the Wizards some rim protection and rebounding to complement Marcin Gortat’s more offense-focused game. Instead he only played 31 games last year and this year is playing just 14 minutes per game off the bench. His defense has slipped a good deal from his Indiana days and he’s not the rebounder he once was either. Mahinmi also can’t make a shot outside of the paint, as over 94 percent of his shots come from the basket area. And he’s already 31 years old. Only the fact that he provides some modicum of defense keeps him from being higher on this list.
8. Danilo Gallinari (3 years/$64.8 million): It’s not a good sign when the player is only halfway through the first year of his contract and lands on this list. Never a bastion of health, Gallinari has played in just 11 of 47 games for the Clippers this year, as of this writing. For his career, he’s appeared in more than 70 games just twice in 10 years, including missing the entirety of the 2013-14 season. When he has played this year, Gallinari has shot under 35 percent overall and under 26 percent on three-pointers. For a player who is supposed to provide a stretch element at the forward position, this isn’t going to get it done. The Clippers spent the entire Chris Paul era searching for a small forward and it seems that search continues.
7. Timofey Mozgov (3 years/$48 million): This is the part of the article where you say “But Mozgov just got traded this past summer!” and then you remember that it cost the Lakers D’Angelo Russell to dump him. He’s another center who got overpaid in the summer of 2016, when the Lakers inexplicably made him a priority free agent at midnight on July 1st. Brooklyn didn’t acquire Mozgov for anything he can do on the court, but as a means to get Russell. Considering Brooklyn is still in rebuilding mode for the next couple of seasons, they are one of the few teams who can eat Mozgov’s deal without much worry. If the Nets end up ready to move forward quicker than expected, they’ll struggle a bit to work around this contract.
6. Omer Asik (3 years/$33.9 million, last year Player Option and $3 million guaranteed): Asik continues to have one of the more confounding deals in the NBA. When the Pelicans signed him to this contract, they already had Anthony Davis and also signed Alexis Ajinca. Since then, New Orleans has traded for DeMarcus Cousins and Asik has dealt with injuries and illness. Asik is again available to play, but still barely sniffs any court time for a team that has very little depth up front. In another year, his contract won’t look as bad, as team could acquire him as a de facto expiring contract and eat the relatively small guarantee on the last year. But for now, Asik remains relatively unmovable.
5. Brandon Knight (3 years/$43.9 million): Knight was on this list last year, and that is when he was healthy and could conceivably still play a role as a backup guard. In the last year he’s been benched entirely and then tore his ACL prior to this season. He’s still only 26, but with the slippage in his play and coming off a serious injury, the Suns would have a hard time moving Knight in a trade. Phoenix is still a couple years out from contending for the playoffs, but when they are ready to push things forward, Knight could be an albatross on their cap sheet.
4. Mike Conley (4 years/$126 million, last year Player Option and $22.4 million guaranteed): Conley used to be the title holder of “Best Player to Never Make an All-Star Team”. Over the last two full seasons, Conley has played in 56 and 69 games and this season will appear in just 12 games, as the Grizzlies have shut him down for the year. He’s had a host of injuries over his career from facial to back to knee to his Achilles/heel. At an average annual value of over $30 million, and already 30 years old, Conley is going to be a tough sell to move. The lone saving grace in the deal is that the finally season may never fully guarantee, as Conley has to hit some games played marks in prior seasons for the guarantee to fully vest.
3. Joakim Noah (3 years/$55.6 million): Phil Jackson did a lot of questionable things in his tenure leading the Knicks and giving Noah this contract is at the top of the list. Noah had played just 29 games in his final season with the Bulls and had lost his starting role. Yet, Jackson signed him a four year, $72.6 million dollar contract. For that money, New York has gotten all of 53 games over the last two seasons. Noah is now healthy enough to play, but with several better center options, the Knicks have no intention of him seeing the floor. This deal is yet another product of the centers who were overpaid with the 2016 cap spike. It looks even worse when you realize New York has just one more year of Kristaps Porzingis on his rookie scale contract and could have been in a spot to add another talented player alongside their prized big man before having to extend him on a max contract.
2. Chandler Parsons (3 years/$72.3 million): When the Grizzlies signed Parsons, the natural inclination was to flinch, as he had some injuries in his two years in Dallas. Then you looked at the gaping hole Memphis had on the wing, and the fact they were committed to Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. The Grizzlies had to do something to try and push their team forward in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, they are now handicapped with one of the worst cap situations in the NBA. We already covered Conley above, but Parsons’ situation is even uglier. He’s played in just 60 total games for Memphis and averaged just 7.3 points per game. Parsons can’t play in back-to-back games due to knee and back issues and he turns 30 early next season. With an average over $24 million due to Parsons for each of the next three years, the Grizzlies have one of the NBA’s worst cap clogging contracts on their books.
1. Luol Deng (3 years/$54 million): Almost as soon as the Lakers finished talking with Timofey Mozgov, they doubled down by inking Deng to an even worse contract. Los Angeles signed him, even though they already had Julius Randle and had just drafted Brandon Ingram, who play the same positions as Deng. At the time it was sold as Deng would serve as a mentor to both youngsters. Instead, he played in just 56 games that first year, before being shut down with a combination of injuries and the Lakers wanting to play younger players. This year, in year two of his four year, $72 million deal. Deng has played 13 minutes in one game. He was almost immediately shut down, as the Lakers smartly chose to focus on youth at the forward spots.
We mentioned above, that some of these deals aren’t bad for their current teams because they are rebuilding. So, why is Deng’s contract so toxic for the Lakers? They are rebuilding, but hope to fast forward that process this summer by bringing in one or two max free agents. With Deng taking up $18 million in cap space in July, his deal could crush the Lakers dreams. It has been reported that teams are asking for two first round picks in return for eating Deng’s contract, or one pick and one of the Lakers prized youngsters out of Ingram or Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers could stretch the cap hit owed to Deng, and Eric Pincus of even suggested a creative option of extending Deng on a partially guaranteed contract before stretching him. But there really isn’t a good option here for Los Angeles. No matter what, they are going pay a hefty price to move on from yet another really bad summer of 2016 mistake.