The NBA’s Dead Money Dilemma
Every team in the NBA tries to put together a productive roster, but along the way mistakes are made.
Injuries, a difficult inevitability in the league, happen during the year. It’s over the summer (or via midseason trade) when teams often inflict the most damage on themselves by spending foolishly.
The Charlotte Bobcats have two players who rarely see the floor. Tyrus Thomas has two more years on his deal at $18.1 million – in addition to the $8 million the Bobcats pay him to not play this season. DeSagana Diop is finally in the last year of his deal at $7.4 million.
The Bobcats still have their amnesty clause should they decide to purge Thomas from their books, but he’ll still get his salary.
It’s still a great mystery why the Golden State Warriors used their amnesty on Charlie Bell instead of the seldom-used Andris Biedrins. The center has made 47 appearances this season but the 36.4 percent free-throw shooter is averaging 0.5 points a game.
Biedrins makes $9 million and unless he opts out of his contract, he’ll make another $9 million next year.
The Milwaukee Bucks can still use their amnesty on Drew Gooden, who hasn’t been a factor this season despite his $6.7 million salary. Gooden has $13.4 million left on his deal over the next two years.
The Brooklyn Nets (while in New Jersey) saw that Travis Outlaw was unproductive and overpaid so they amnestied his dead contract from their books. The Sacramento Kings decided to claim him off amnesty waivers so they could have that privilege. While $3 million a year through 2014-15 is better than $7 million a year, it’s still a lot to pay for an inconsistent player.
The Utah Jazz just told Raja Bell to stay away from the team this year, despite his final year at $3.5 million.
Al Harrington just made his season debut for the Orlando Magic, but his contract isn’t as bad as it seems. Harrington is owed $7.1 million and $7.6 million over the next two years, but only half is guaranteed.
Other contracts might qualify as dead money but are less damaging. Both Devin Ebanks (Los Angeles Lakers) and DeJuan Blair (San Antonio Spurs) are out of their respective rotations, but their $1.1 million contracts are done after this season.
The NBA has done its best to try and save itself with more restrictive contracts in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Contracts are shorter with smaller raises. Five -year deals are rare – two or three may become the norm for non-franchise players.
The fine print of the CBA also includes a tool that allows a team to stretch out contracts over multiple years. For example, an unwanted player on the two-year deal can be waived with his salary spread out over five seasons. The stretch provision only applies to deals signed after 2011.
Mistakes are inevitable. Not every player will live up their potential – and some seem to go into complete hibernation once they get a big contract.
The list of dead money is far shorter than it was a few years ago. The league has done its best to minimize the damage, and within a couple of years the worst will be nothing but a memory.
New bad contracts will be signed but likely on a much smaller, less damaging scale.