It’s hard to judge how players will develop over the course of their contracts, but sometimes these organizations just completely miss the mark on the salaries they’re paying their players.
Why do these players get overpaid so much, and how can organizations stop overpaying these players so much?
Reason #1: Regular Season Success (Examples include: Ben Simmons, Kristaps Porzingis)
Players that fit into this mold are extremely successful in the regular season. They’re often perceived to be All-Star caliber because of how great they seem to play, and the teams they’re on are seen as much better with them playing.
Yet when they’re given opportunities in the playoffs, their games are just entirely shut down. In the slower, more half-court-centric atmosphere that the playoffs bring, their style of play is easily figured out by opposing teams and they’re turned into weaknesses.
These weaknesses are compounded by ineffective coaches who can’t properly hide these players where they’re weak, which allows them to be exploited in the playoffs extremely easily and lose games that should be easily won.
Reason #2: Past Play (Examples include: John Wall, Kevin Love)
A lot of the guys who fall into this category were extremely great in their primes. John Wall used to be an amazing playmaker and defender. Kevin Love was one of the most fearsome rebounders in NBA history in his prime.
The problem here is that they are clearly NOT in their primes anymore.
John Wall suffered injuries that kept him out of the NBA for two consecutive years. Kevin Love deteriorated extremely quickly into basically a three-point shooter and nothing else. These guys are far from superstars, yet they’re still receiving superstar contracts because they were paid as they were declining.
Reason #3: Necessary Roles (Examples include: Otto Porter Jr., Tobias Harris)
I don’t think the teams in this scenario would call these players overpaid per se, but they definitely receive more money than normal for a player of their caliber.
See, when you build a team around a certain player and go all in around that player, you have to get guys who fit around that player well. To do that, it’s sometimes necessary to pay more than regular market value so you can surround that player with the necessary pieces.
It’s hard to judge this as “overpaid” because of situational value, but these players get way too much money for their skill level.
In certain cases like that of Khris Middleton, the overpay can bring a championship, whereas in cases like CJ McCollum, it just sticks the franchise in no man’s land.
Reason #4: Positional Market (Examples include: Buddy Hield, CJ McCollum)
This sorta ties in with reason #3, but these guys get the bag solely because of how lucrative having a player who plays like them is. In today’s age of three-point shooting, having a guy who can shoot at insane volume or an elite shot creator can prove to be extremely valuable.
While these guys are very good at their specialties, they are extremely weak in other areas, causing their teams to be somewhat hindered by the amount they’re paying for that specific skill.
Reason #5: Empty Stats (Example: Andre Drummond, Enes Kanter)
Despite the numbers these guys put on the stat sheet, watching a basketball game will tell you that they have little-to-no positive impact on the game, but they still get high contracts from teams who think they can bring something to the table.
They’re often called “underrated” because of basic statistics like rebounds or steals/blocks, but in reality their games just don’t do much for their teams. They’re hard to build around, and their talent level doesn’t justify the lengths you have to go to just to stay competent with them on the court.
Reason #6: Misjudged Potential (Examples include: Andrew Wiggins, Kristaps Porzingis again)
These guys were some of the most intriguing prospects in years when they got the contracts they’re currently on. Regarding the two players I noted as examples, Wiggins was developing into one of the best young players in the league, and Kristaps was a “unicorn” who was routinely knocking down threes as a 7’3 freak of nature.
However, after getting these contracts, both began to stagnate and even regress some. Wiggins never broke through to the next level, and Kristaps suffered injuries that were unavoidable due to his frame. This has resulted in extremely awkward contract situations for the teams they’re currently on, as these players haven’t unlocked their potential yet are paid like they have.
Honorable Mention: Large Cap Space Increases (Examples include: Nicolas Batum, Chandler Parsons)
When the salary cap is loosened in significant amounts, a lot of teams have no idea how to use that extra space, so they immediately spend that money on middling players who otherwise wouldn’t sniff the contracts they got.
It’s extremely hard to see how a lot of these situations develop, and a lot of teams have made similar decisions that resulted in amazing contract value rather than the overpays listed in this article. There’s no real way to prevent ever egregiously overpaying a player, but it happens for quite a lot of reasons.