Worst contracts of 2019 NBA free agency: Hornets, Kings weren’t only teams to hand out bad deals

Early in the 2016 NBA offseason, it became clear teams were passing out crazy contracts to average-at-best players. That’s what happens when the league sees an unprecedented salary cap spike.

Over the past three years, some general managers have gotten smarter with roster-building. Teams like the Clippers and Nets smartly positioned themselves to chase game-changers like Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant. Other rebuilding organizations have used cap space to acquire draft picks or prospects as part of trades for unpleasant contracts, serving as NBA dumping grounds.

But not everyone learned from the lessons of the past.

During the 2019 free agency period, there were surprisingly lucrative deals given to a few players who don’t quite reach superstar status.

Terry Rozier, Hornets (three years, $58 million)

This signing feels worse because of the decisions that led to it. The Hornets didn’t seriously look at moving Kemba Walker ahead of the past two trade deadlines, then didn’t offer him a max contract this offseason. He left for Boston, and Jeremy Lamb, coming off a career year, agreed to a team-friendly three-year deal with the Pacers – the top two scorers from last season, gone.

Charlotte will pay Rozier nearly $20 million per season based on… what? He has shot less than 40 percent from the field in each of the first four seasons of his career, and he’s not exceptional in any particular category.

But hey, he would have been a lottery pick in this year’s draft!

Ricky Rubio, Suns (three years, $51 million)

Phoenix finally got a point guard, so hooray for that. Still, it’s hard to understand why it took $17 million per year to snag him.

Rubio is a terrific passer and solid defender, but he is never going to be a shooter opposing defenses respect. The Suns are getting this current version of Rubio or worse over the course of the deal. There wasn’t a huge market for him, either. This franchise remains confusing.

DeAndre Jordan, Nets (four years, $40 million)

If adding Kevin Durant’s close friend was necessary to sign KD, then yes, this is makes sense. However, outside of that scenario, having Jordan as one of the highest-paid players on the team isn’t ideal.

The 30-year-old center isn’t providing the same level of impact as he did during his prime Clippers years. With the Mavericks and Knicks, he didn’t move well defensively and appeared to be wearing cement boots at times. And how will Jordan’s presence affect Jarrett Allen’s development?

Perhaps playing for a winning team will inject some life back into Jordan, but this is a long commitment for a big man heading in the wrong direction.

Harrison Barnes, Kings (four years, $85 million)

Trevor Ariza, Kings (two years, $25 million)

Barnes gambled on himself by declining a $25.1 million player option. It couldn’t have worked out better for him, but Sacramento may come to regret re-signing Barnes. It was the worst contract of the 2019 offseason, according to FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO market values. Not great!

Oh, and Ariza? He’s third on that FiveThirtyEight list. Any other teams throwing out more than $12 million annually for a 34-year-old forward?

Khris Middleton, Bucks (five years, $178 million)

Tobias Harris, 76ers (five years, $180 million)

Let’s be clear – Middleton and Harris are good basketball players. Middleton earned an All-Star nod in 2018-19, and Harris had an argument for a reserve spot before he was traded to the Sixers. The lesson here is to avoid conflating “overpaid” with “trash, bro.”

With that said, Harris will start with the same salary next season as Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker. Middleton is in the same range as Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Damian Lillard. We’re talking No. 1 money for a second or third option.

The team situations put pressure on the Bucks and 76ers to re-sign Middleton and Harris, respectively. They might be the right calls now, but Milwaukee and Philadelphia could be wincing in a few years.

Whatever the Magic are doing

Orlando went with the bold strategy of running back the East’s seventh seed. The main signings: Nikola Vucevic (four years, $100 million), Terrence Ross (four years, $54 million) and Al-Farouq Aminu (three years, $29 million), plus Michael Carter-Williams and Khem Birch on short-term deals.

Factor in Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba and first-round pick Chuma Okeke, and this roster is just… weird. There is nothing wrong with competing for a playoff spot, but what exactly is the plan here? Hoard all of the available frontcourt players in a bunker? Use their limbs to construct a new ride at Disney World?

Good luck to Magic coach Steve Clifford. This is a tough puzzle.

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