NBA owners would have us believe they are incapable of controlling costs. The outrageous contracts of players like Rashard Lewis and Joe Johnson are to blame for this. The owners feel this is easy evidence that a bidding war for mediocre talent is costing them their shirts.
Of course, that turns out to be a lie. Player salaries are fixed at 57% of NBA revenue under the previous CBA, so the owners insulated themselves from Joe Johnson’s outrageous contract. The real victim are players on rookie scale contracts (e.g. Kobe made more than the starting 5 of Oklahoma last season)
There is an element of truth to the owners’ claim though. They don’t know how to spend their money. Today we’ve decided to look at the most reckless franchises operating under the last CBA. If the owner’s claims were true, this is evidence that they are bringing financial ruin on to themselves.
We set up some simple criteria to find these offending contracts: A team had to sign or trade for a questionable player after the start of the 2005-2006 season. This questionable player also had to have at least 3 years left on their contract and one year remaining with a salary of $10 million or more.
We ended up with the top 10 offenders! Let’s check them out:
1) The New York Knicks.
- Owner(s): Madison Square Garden Inc. (James Dolan C.E.O)
- Reckless Contract Values: ~$285 Million
Fans of this blog shouldn’t be surprised to see Isiah Thomas’ handiwork at the top. With four reckless transactions the Knicks take the cake! Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony are the major culprits the Knicks overpaid without getting production. Thanks to their virtual lock on the New York market they barely feel the burn of all this reckless spending.
2) The Washington Wizards.
- Owner(s): Abe Polin, Monumental Sports & Entertainment (Ted Leonsis C.E.O)
- Reckless Contract Values: ~$225 Million
You know what you should do when you have a mediocre team of injured players? Pay them top dollar of course! Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison are the main reason for the Wizards’ spot on this list. Of course the Wizards managed to get rid of Arenas but at the cost of Rashard Lewis. The Wizards did have a big three in terms of wasted spending but not in any other sense.
3) The Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Owner(s): Dan Gilbert, Gary Gilbert, Dan Katzman, Usher Raymond, Gordon Gund
- Reckless Contract Values: ~$165 Million
For seven years the Cavs had the best forward since Grant Hill and they could never seem to win it all. It turns out that despite being lucky in the draft they were terrible at signing other big names. Even leaving out Ben Wallace (he was injured and old) the Cavs still signed a mediocre Big Z to long term extension and also traded for Antawn Jamison (who they are still stuck with). Larry Hughes had one good year but his career had been poor otherwise.
4) The Orlando Magic.
- Owner(s): Orlando Magic, Ltd. (RDV Sports, Inc., Richard DeVos, Chairman)
- Reckless Contract Values: ~$150 Million
Just like the Cavs this team was graced with an all-time great at a bargain for many years. Their decision was to surround him with overpriced mediocre players. Rashard Lewis is the main culprit. Unfortunately swapping him out for Gilbert Arenas leaves them in the same spot. Despite having a chance to let Hedo Turkoglu walk they eventually traded to get him back and put themselves in the top 5 for reckless spending.
5) The Toronto Raptors.
- Owner(s): Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (Richard Peddie, CEO)
- Reckless Contract Values: ~$103 Million
They signed Andrea Bargnani to a long term deal that will eventually pay him $10 million or more a season. They signed an aged Turkoglu to a big deal. This team has no clue how to spend its money. It’s not surprising no one was shocked when Bosh walked out the door.
6) The Detroit Pistons.
- Owner(s): William Davidson
- Reckless Contract Values: ~$92 Million
The Pistons just skirted the rules with Charlie Villanueva (he won’t make $10 million). That said, their decision to pay Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon insane contracts (for the same position!) gets them to the top of the list. I think we can accept that Joe Dumars has no clue what he is doing. Let’s hope new management reigns in the poor spending.
7) The Denver Nuggets.
- Owners(s): Kroenke Sports Enterprise (Stan Kroenke)
- Reckless Contract Values: ~$118 Million
In 2008 the Nuggets gave Carmelo Anthony a long term extension and as a result traded Marcus Camby for nothing. This was right after trading Andre Miller (a top point guard in the league) for Allen Iverson. This team cannibalized its best players for overpaid scorers. Luckily the people responsible have been sacked.
8) The Atlanta Hawks.
- Owner(s): Atlanta Spirt LLC (Michael Gearon, Jr., Bruce Levenson, Ed Peskowitz, J. Rutherford Seydel, Todd Foreman, J. Michael Gearon, Sr., and Beau Turner, Bud Seretean)
- Reckless Contract Values: ~$189 Million
I get to count the Hawks as repeat offenders for overspending. They signed Joe Johnson to a huge contract in 2005, even though he had never been worth it. They repeated that mistake in 2010 They make the list for being dumb enough to make the same mistake twice.
9) The Phoenix Suns.
- Owner(s): Robert Sarver
- Reckless Contract Values: ~$93.3 Million
The Suns had a great run in 2007 with a core of Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash and Shawn Marion. In 2008 Amare, Nash and Marion were playing great so the logical decision was to trade Marion for a beat up Shaq. Their next move to try and win Nash a title was to trade for Hedo Turkoglu. These reckless moves cost the Suns another run at the title and cost them a pretty penny as well.
10) The Los Angeles Clippers.
- Owner(s): Donald Sterling
- Reckless Contract Values: ~$112 Million
For a franchise that is known for being both terrible and frugal it’s a bit surprising for them to end up on this list. They signed Chris Kaman to a big contract despite the fact that he had only played one decent year in his rookie contract. They traded for Zach Randolph, which was equally bizarre. They then traded off Randolph and kept Kaman. Confusing right?
If the NBA owners are really losing their shirts thanks to outrageous player contracts, then these are the specific teams and decisions hurting the NBA the most. Maybe the rest of the owners should be holding them accountable instead of the players!
-Dre and Jeremy