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15 NBA Players Who Are Earning A Lot Of Money Without Playing

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15 NBA Players Who Are Earning A Lot Of Money Without Playing

Sometimes there are circumstances that cause a player's performance to decline after he signs a big contract with his team. Perhaps it's injury. Or maybe, it's off the court issues. Regardless, there are factors that cause a player to perform worse, and eventually, there is a possibility that they get waived and stretched. That means a team would be stuck paying them a smaller amount per year throughout a longer amount of years. That could be beneficial in the short term, but in the long term, the only thing that does is take up cap space and hamper free agency acquisitions.

HoopsHype recently compiled a list of all the players who were getting paid by a team, while not playing for them. Some of these names you may recognize and others are less recent. Without further ado, here are the players who are getting paid the most without playing.

15. Zylan Cheatham

Zylan Cheatham

Earning: $1,445,697 from the Oklahoma City Thunder

Zylan Cheatham is being paid after his contract got converted to a full 3 year NBA contract, with the first year being guaranteed. Cheatham was part of the return in the Steven Adams trade. He got traded to Oklahoma City from the Pelicans and since the Thunder needed to make cuts to their roster, someone had to go. Cheatham might not ever make it at the NBA level, but at least he got paid.

14. JR Smith

(via NBC Sports)

(via NBC Sports)

Earning: $1,456,667 from the Cleveland Cavaliers

JR Smith was part of the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship team with LeBron James. Being a shooter next to LeBron James got him paid a big deal. The Cavaliers eventually waived him, and Smith ended up signing with the Lakers and reuniting with LeBron James. JR Smith got the best of both worlds: winning a championship with the Lakers while still getting paid by the Cavaliers.

13. Josh Gray

Josh Gray

Earning: $1,620,564 from the Oklahoma City Thunder

Josh Gray was another part of the Steven Adams trade. Gray was salary filler in the trade when traded to Oklahoma City. As Oklahoma had too many players on the roster, the players at the bottom roster had to be cut to stay within NBA rules. The Thunder rotation was already crowded at the guard spots as well, meaning that Josh Gray was a casualty of that.

12. Larry Sanders

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Earning: $1,865,546 from the Milwaukee Bucks

Larry Sanders was a competent big man in the league. In his best year, he averaged 9.8 PPG and 9.5 RPG along with 2.8 BPG. Sanders was on the right track to having a successful NBA career, but injuries and off-court issues derailed his chances at staying longer in the league. While he tried to have a comeback with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was unceremoniously cut after a few games.

11. Anderson Varejao


Earning: $1,913,345 from the Portland Trail Blazers

Anderson Varejao was an okay role player during his time, notably garnering an All-Defensive selection during the 2009-2010 NBA season. Varejao actually had a fairly long NBA career, spending the first 12 seasons of it with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but getting traded to the Golden State Warriors afterward.

Perhaps Varejao is notable for playing with both the Cavaliers and the Warriors during their contention era, but not winning a ring with either during the playoffs. Varejao did get his championship ring but wasn't part of the playoff roster in 2017. Overall though, Varejao was a good role player: if you stay in the league for that long, you must be doing something right.

10. Monta Ellis


Earning: $2,245,400 from the Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers initially acquired Monta Ellis from the Golden State Warriors for his scoring. Ellis was a good a shooter as any; at one point there was a debate between who the Warriors should have kept, Ellis or Stephen Curry. The Warriors traded Ellis, and the rest is history.

At his peak, Ellis was a high usage scorer who greatly benefited from being one of the only scoring options on the team. He grew out of favor in Indiana, leading to this situation with the cap. The Pacers waive and stretched Ellis' contract resulting in him being on the dead salary list.

9. Andrew Nicholson


Earning: $2,844,430 from the Portland Trail Blazers

Andrew Nicholson wasn't a particularly remarkable player during his time in the NBA. The Trail Blazers waived Nicholson in 2017. Despite that, they have to pay for his contract throughout the duration of the next few seasons. Financially, Nicholson has got it covered: yearly checks from the NBA while still being able to play in another league like the CBA.

While you may not have known who Nicholson was until today, Nicholson's contract is well known to the Trail Blazers front office; he is just one of the many bad contracts that they've had to deal with in order to keep their books in order.

8. Dewayne Dedmon

Credit: USATSI

Credit: USATSI

Earning: $2,866,667 from the Detroit Pistons

Dewayne Dedmon has actually been a very serviceable role player in recent years. During the 2018-2019 season, he appeared to be developing a good jumper, shooting 38.2% from 3PT range for the season. That made him into a valuable stretch 5, or it would have had his jumper not cratered. Dedmon hasn't shot above 25% from 3PT range since that 2018-2019 season.

Dewayne Dedmon lost a lot of his value to teams over the last few years. Perhaps it was the trade from Atlanta or another reason; what is obvious is that with his jumper gone, he can't be a viable stretch 5. Dedmon has come back to the Hawks though, so perhaps they can re-ignite his ability to shoot. Somehow, Dedmon gets to play with Trae Young, while still getting paid on top of that by the Pistons.

7. Jon Leuer

Jon Leuer

Earning: $3,169,348 from the Milwaukee Bucks

Jon Leuer is a big man who has been on a lot of teams. Due to his ability to stretch the floor (32.8% career from 3PT) he could be valuable to a team who would want to play him spot minutes on the bench. Leuer didn't stand out much besides that though, being a bench player for most of his career.

Leuer spent his career in a few different franchises but hasn't had a spot since the 2018-2019 season. Perhaps some team with a spare roster spot will take a chance on him as a bench player: but if not, he's getting a very good amount of money not to play.

6. Luol Deng

luol deng

Earning: $5,000,000 from the Los Angeles Lakers 

Luol Deng was once an All-Star on the Bulls while playing with the MVP Derrick Rose. Those years seem like they are far back in history. After a stint with Miami where Deng clearly wasn't an All-Star anymore, the Lakers offered him a big contract. Deng of course took it, and we can probably connect the dots from there. At his peak though, Deng was a two-way force at the wing position.

While Lakers fans mostly have bad memories of Luol Deng due to his contract, he was actually a valuable player overall, and unfairly maligned because of his contract. During those last few years, he was relegated to sitting on the bench and doing nothing, even though he could play. Eventually, he got an arrangement with the Los Angeles Lakers and finished his career under Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota

5. Ryan Anderson

ryan anderson

Earning: $5,214,583 from the Miami Heat

Ryan Anderson was the 2011-2012 Most Improved Player. Throughout most of his career, he was a good scorer at the PF position, with one of the best shooting strokes for a big man during his time. Anderson's biggest deficiency during this modern NBA era was his defense. Anderson was a big man who wasn't very good at switching, and too slow to guard quicker players.

Unlike a lot of players on this list, Anderson actually had a productive career and had significant roles on a lot of teams. While he didn't win many personal accolades, Anderson's long career is a testament to his value on a variety of teams. Big men who can shoot are a commodity, but sometimes they don't work out, leading to this situation with dead money.

4. DeMarre Carroll


Earning: $6,119,676 from the San Antonio Spurs

During his heyday, Carroll was known as a combo forward who could shoot the three very well. DeMarre Carroll has a 35.8% from 3PT range for his career. He's played for playoff teams from the Eastern Conference like the Atlanta Hawks in 2015 and the Toronto Raptors in 2016 and 2017. Carroll's reputation as a good role player landed him with the San Antonio Spurs in the hopes that he could space the floor for them.

Carroll ended up being a bust for the Spurs as they waived him so he could go to Houston. He didn't have a prominent role in Houston and looks like he could retire soon. Carroll was once a gifted 3 and D player, but age and injuries have slowed him down.

3. Joakim Noah

joakim noah

Earning: $6,431,667 from New York Knicks

Joakim Noah is another Derrick Rose era Bulls player that is on this list. Like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah was once an All-Star and a DPOY. His prowess on the defensive end led the New York Knicks to give him a huge contract despite the fact that he was already declining. That didn't work well for them, and now they're stuck using a sizeable part of their cap space to paying him, while he plays for other teams.

While this amount is a huge amount of dead cap for Noah, he was once a terror on the interior. Noah was a role player for the Clippers last season; perhaps someone will take a chance on him this year.

2. Nicolas Batum


Earning $9,043,478 from the Charlotte Hornets

Nicolas Batum has been well known as a "bad contract" for a few years now. A once talented 3 and D wing, the Charlotte Hornets gave Batum a max contract in order to contend for the playoffs. Batum could have developed into something more, but being injured didn't help and he fell way short of deserving max money. He took the money and that's respectable, but his on-court performance didn't match up with the money being paid.

Batum has recently been acquired by the Los Angeles Clippers after clearing free agency. While he's no longer the promising youngster he once was, he could still fill some value on a contender by spacing the floor for a star.

1. Dion Waiters

(via Sports Illustrated)

(via Sports Illustrated)

Earning $12,650,000 from the Memphis Grizzlies

Dion Waiters takes home the award for the largest amount of money paid, without having to play for that team. Waiters has had a tumultuous NBA career, arguing with head coach Erik Spoelstra, while also being suspended during the season for an incident relating to a THC gummy. Perhaps Memphis didn't want to deal with the off-court issues, causing Waiters to get waived.

Getting waived was actually good for Waiters: he found a spot on the Los Angeles Lakers. Waiters had a surprisingly good scoring output for his role, averaging 11.1 PPG. His year culminated in winning the championship with LeBron James. Dion Waiters hit the peak: getting paid by two different teams while still winning the NBA championship.


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